Somewhere between the parking lot and the front door of The Good Table in Cape Elizabeth there is a time warp. Outside it’s Wi-Fi, Beyoncé and the not-so-new millennium. Inside it’s track lighting, Frank Sinatra and the kind of classic comfort food that takes you back. Fish & chips ($16)? Check. Mixed grill ($18)? Check. Hot turkey dinner with stuffing and gravy ($17)? Check, check, check. The Good Table may not be surprising or innovative, but it is reassuring and familiar. Or, as the sign says out front: “Honest food. Honest prices.”

Sit down on one of the blonde wooden chairs in the dining room (your mother probably had a set in the ’80s), and you can take in the entire restaurant at a glance. The bar is tucked into a corner near the front door. A heated, enclosed porch out back offers extra seating. Families with kids and groups of older couples fill tables near the big blackboard on the wall. There’s a pleasant buzz as the friendly and irreverent young waitresses welcome customers and joke with one another.

The menu’s heavy on the popular and the predictable: mussels, chowders and salads for appetizers; beef, chicken, fish and pasta for entrées. But there’s also a growing list of seasonal specials and a few offerings “from Greece” – including spanakopita ($16), a gyros platter ($15), and vegetable and lamb souvlaki ($18) – a nod to owners Lisa Kostopoulos and her father, Tony, whose parents emigrated from southern Greece and settled in Massachusetts.

“Chef Ryan Weeks and I have been cooking together for seven years now,” says Lisa Kostopoulos, “and we both love cooking seasonally. Whenever the farmers market is open, we’re there leaning on a crate and writing our menu to reflect what we find. And we pride ourselves on sourcing as much as we can locally from Maine farms and Maine meat and seafood purveyors. Buying our vegetables, meat and seafood here keeps customers happy and ensures good quality from start to finish.”

Humming along to Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me,” our waitress arrives at the table to start us off with tin pails of “Irish-style” mussels ($12) steamed in white wine, shallots, garlic, lemon and herbs, and finished with sweet butter. Poured out into large white bowls, the mussels are succulent and piping hot, with a buttery broth that begs for a large soup spoon and an extra hunk of baguette. (This may be an appetizer, but it’s really a meal. If you’re planning to order a main course, stick with a half-order of the mussels ($6), a baker’s dozen immersed in plenty of that delicious broth).

Equally filling, if not quite as fragrant, are the clam chowder and haddock chowder, both creamy and satisfying and available in cups or bowls ($3.75-$6). They’re among the standard items that have kept regulars coming back to The Good Table since it opened in 1986.


It’s smart to stick to the basics when eating here, opting for entrées like the grilled Good Table burger ($10) topped with sweet-savory bacon jam and slices of frizzled purple onion that had me licking my fingers and searching for more beneath the bun. Also solid are the fish and chips: large chunks of fresh haddock from the Gulf of Maine, lightly dusted, deep fried and served with tartar sauce, fries and a side of excellent house-made coleslaw. In too many restaurants, coleslaw seems like an afterthought, but not at The Good Table. Here, long ribbons of fresh cabbage are blended with matchsticks of crunchy carrots and enveloped in a tart, vinegar-laced dressing that’s creamy, not cloying. This is slaw that gives cabbage a good name once again.

On a chilly night last week, the thick-cut pork chop ($20) special also proved delicious. Perhaps because of that time warp, or because Kostopoulos buys good local meat, the pork at The Good Table actually tastes like pork. The tender chop, seared and slightly smoky tasting, was pleasantly fatty and juicy, the bone marked with crisp edges. And while a side of sweet potatoes was unremarkable, a serving of local kale braised with apple cider vinegar and chunks of bacon was outstanding – the slightly bitter leaves tenderized by vinegar and a long cooking process. I could have made a meal of the greens alone.

The Good Table does have its limits. A lobster risotto special sounded rich and appealing, but proved a disappointment. The lobster tasted watery and the rice, which should have been creamy, was just plain runny. Ditto an available-for-extra side order of onion rings ($5) at lunchtime that arrived over-battered and bland, tasting like a basket of blanched vegetables that lost their heads and hooked up with a box of pancake mix. (Suggestion to the kitchen: Nix the onion rings and push the frizzled purple onions instead.) It’s smarter to forgo the fancy and the touted extras here and stick to basics. In fact, a friend of mine suggested the restaurant change its name to “The Basic Table … that’s why you come to The Good Table and that’s what you can count on.”

And if you go soon, don’t miss the honey-ginger-pumpkin pie that just appeared on the seasonal menu. The chunks of crystallized ginger folded into the filling enhance the otherwise plain pumpkin puree and add a punch of spice that you can either savor alone or tame with a dollop of whipped cream. Me? I’d skip the cream and go for another generous slice of pie. It’s that good.

The next time I’m feeling nostalgic for a classic chop or burger, or a platter of basic haddock baked Greek-style with tomatoes and bell peppers ($17), I’m heading back to The Good Table with pleasure. The old-fashioned feel of the place, the warm welcome, the vintage black-and-white photographs on the walls, Frank crooning from the speakers … Fancy it isn’t. But good? That it is.

James H. Schwartz has covered food, travel and architecture for The Washington Post, Down East, Coastal Living and Southern Living magazines for more than 30 years. Long a commuter between Portland and Washington, D.C., he retired from his job as vice president at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2013 and relocated to Maine.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.