If you’ve never been to Maine, you might not quite get it. Is it a gorgeous coastal destination where everyone feasts on fresh seafood, or a flat inland expanse where people live off the land? It turns out: it’s both! If you’re planning a trip to Maine and want expert advice on where to eat and what to do between meals, here’s how to follow the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Maine.
Tony spends the episode strolling the streets, sailing, snowmobiling, and – of course – eating. Guided by a crew member who calls Maine home, this episode combines the best of both worlds: city eats and family meals. After seeing this episode, you’ll have an understanding of how dynamic the dining scene is in Maine – from the characters in the kitchen to those dining across from you.
Bourdain visits Maine in season 6, episode 12 of No Reservations. This is the only time he visits Maine during any of his shows. In the Maine episode, Tony follows his cameraman, Zach Zamboni, to his home state of Maine. Visiting in the late autumn, there’s already snow on the ground in the Pine Tree State by the time they visit.
Their food- and family-focused itinerary takes Bourdain and Zamboni from the largest city of Portland to Rockland on the Midcoast and finally to the inland town where Zamboni’s family still lives, Milo, Maine. Along the way, Anthony meets Mainers – and non-Mainers – who share insight into what life is like in this little-visited and culturally unique state.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Wabanaki, N’dakina (Abenaki / Abénaquis), and Penobscot peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in June 2021, and was updated for accuracy in March 2023.
Where Anthony Bourdain Ate in Maine
During his visit, Anthony Bourdain explored a decent amount of Maine; this was a delight for many Mainers as it’s a state that often gets overlooked even within its region – and especially as a food destination. You can use the map above to explore each spot, and read on for more details about what Tony and Zach ate during their travels together here.
1. J’s Oyster (Portland)
Bourdain and Zamboni start their tour of Maine in Portland – the largest city and where Zach claims there are more restaurants per capita than San Francisco. Their first meal is a Bourdain no-frills classic: J’s Oyster, where they enjoy steamer clams with clarified butter and mussels.
2. Street & Co (Portland)
For his second meal in Portland, Tony is less impressed with his dinner at Street & Co. While he doesn’t show it on camera, the voice-over narration is less than enthusiastic as he guides the audience through a series of dishes including Maine shrimp with olive oil and lime; Monkfish with sauteed leeks, ankimo (monkfish liver) and red pepper; a cuttlefish dish that does win praise; and Linguine Vongole.
3. Primo Restaurant (Rockland)
Note: Thanks to Mike, I’m able to confirm that Primo is a summer seasonal restaurant. Be sure to call and confirm if they’re open when you plan to visit.
Heading north from Portland, Tony, Zach, and the crew head to Rockland on the Midcoast of Maine. For context, Rockland is about halfway between Portland and Bar Harbor, which is the gateway to Acadia National Park – a popular tourist draw for visitors. Most people breeze through Rockland on U.S. Highway 1, but both food stops Bourdain makes will convince you a stop is worthwhile.
First up is Primo, a restaurant run by lauded chef Melissa Kelly. There, Bourdain dines with the chef and her sous as well as her partner. They enjoy pea soup with ham hock and pigs ear salad; farmer’s salad with bacon and poached egg; pate, mortadella, Ciccioli, and Merguez sausage with bourbon and cider mustards; pork courgette with quail egg; foie gras on panettone; and smoked pork rib chop to cap the evening’s conversation of farm-to-table dining.
4. Conte’s 1894 Restaurant (Rockland) (CLOSED)
Note: This restaurant is permanently closed; not sure why I didn’t note it in previous versions of the article! 😅
After an afternoon foray out sailing – why is Bourdain so bad on boats?? – and a warming meal of Nduja sausage, haddock stew and bread again made by Chef Michelle Kelly, Tony is back on land for the rest of the episode.
For his second dinner in Rockland, Bourdain dines with John Conte, whose eponymous restaurant serves food that’s “free jazz with screamingly fresh ingredients.” There, Tony and Zach dine on Diver scallops; steamed mussels with garlic tomato sauce; halibut steak; octopus with lemon and garlic and butter; and finally – of course – steamed lobster. It’s a parade of seafood that sells even the most land-loving on trying a dish or two.
5. Spring Creek Bar-B-Q (Monson)
For his final restaurant meal, Tony rides snowmobiles to meet up with Milo locals at Spring Creek Bar-B-Q. This restaurant is made from converted railroad cars and makes ribs, roasts, and other proteins to keep you warm on the trails.
For the remainder of the episode, Bourdain dives into the local culinary culture of inland Maine, attending a bean supper and enjoying Zamboni family meals including partridge in bacon fat with venison and eggs for breakfast, rabbit stew and scrapple, plus trying grilled moose and bear.
Maine Food Tours You Might Enjoy
Based on this episode, it’s obvious that Maine is a great food destination – especially for those who love seafood. Here are a few food tours you could book to do your own sampling of the coastal culinary scene.
No matter what, you can’t go wrong with ordering fresh seafood wherever you eat!
Have other questions about what happened to Anthony Bourdain in Maine? Let me know in the comments below!