Where to stay, where to go, what to drink

24 hours In Rockland for the 'Coffee Fiend'

The vacation-staycation locals' guide to the Midcoast
Fri, 06/21/2013 - 11:15am

    Welcome to our new summer series that provides a 24-hour guide to the Midcoast for a variety of personalities... crafted by locals who know this place inside and out. You're not going to see the most expensive and the most obvious choices here. What you will find is the best of real Maine - where to stay, where to go, what to drink.

    ROCKLAND — Coffee drinkers apparently have more personalities than Sybil, but one thing that binds them is their fierce dedication to exceptional, specialty coffee. Once you pass the "Welcome To Maine" sign on I-95, never fear, you're not resigned to trucker coffee options in flimsy Styrofoam cups. We're focusing on Rockland, a town that has earned the tagline "salty sophistication" and for the coffee fiend, 24 hours here will feel kind of like a double shot of espresso.

    Morning: Rise and Shine Darlin'

    And grab a cup of coffee, stat. The Granite Inn, one of four Historic Inns of Rockland, is a chill place to begin your vacation or staycation. With its clean, minimalist vibe, it's the perfect way to start the day, sitting on their flowered front porch overlooking the busy working Rockland harbor with a cup of locally roasted Rock City Breakwater Blend coffee. But don't go anywhere until you've had breakfast, which comes with the room. Owners Ed and Joan Hanz take a lot of pride in their from-scratch inn breakfasts where guests can pick and choose from a buffet that might include fresh fruit, blueberry pancakes, bacon or sausage, homemade applesauce, lemon or ginger scones with homemade cranberry chutney and/or a choice of quiches, occasionally including lobster quiche.

    Midmorning Activity

    From Granite Inn, hang a right and walk all the way down to the end of Main Street for a second cup of local coffee at Rock City Coffee and check out the "small but powerful" independent book store in the back area, hello hello, which is less than 2 years old, but has already been noticed by The New York Times and Boston Globe for its fiercely funny and indy vibe. (If owner Lacy Simons is behind the counter, which she usually is, you'll know her by her black glasses and the chunky Manic Panic stripe in her chestnut hair.) Tell her we sent you: she'll have the best book recommendations.

    Lunch Time, and You're Starvin' Like Marvin

    Hey, while you're there at Rock City Coffee, stick around for lunch. The goofy and endearing lunch specials they post daily on Facebook should turn into a book. Here's a typical post:

    So there I was. walking downtown, and I needed to use the phone. So I walk up to the phone booth, and there's this guy standing in front of it. So I tap him on the shoulder and say, "Excuse me! I'd like to use the phone!" And he turns around and tips his hat, like so *tips imaginary hat* And you'll never guess who it is. EMILIO ESTAVEZ! The Mighty Ducks guy! And so I was like, "EMILIOOOOOO!" Isn't that amazing?! Anyway, here are the specials for today:...

    They have a great array of sandwiches (they call "scramwiches") and wraps as well as nom nom fresh soups and salads. They have daily specials as well as grab-and-go, so if you want to combine your lunch with your next activity (below) this is a perfect way to do it.

    Mid-Afternoon Activity

    To walk off your coffee jitters or hefty lunch, the best way to spend a lazy afternoon in Rockland is to take a walk with someone you really dig and venture out to The Rockland Breakwater. With its mile-long man-made granite block walkway terminating at a lighthouse, it still remains one of the coolest walks in the Midcoast (even for locals), and happens to be the only state landmark ever nominated for Virtual Tourist's "8th Wonder Of The World". Thing is, the granite blocks are uneven and widely spaced, so leave your heels at home ladies, wear some good shoes and don't get so distracted you forget to look down, trip and hurt yourself.

    For Kicks, Try This

    For the coffee lover, there's only one thing better than the smell of fresh-roasting coffee infliltrating the nostrils, and that's the wafting aroma of freshly baked pastries and breads. Rock City Coffee Roasters down the street on 252 Main St. is responsible for the coffees you had at the Granite Inn and Rock City Cafe, and they have their own store, where all of their coffee production takes place. (Perfect place to pick up a pound).

    Atlantic Baking Co. across the street offers award-winning artisan breads and European style pastries, made by hand and made in Maine. I know, you're eating and drinking all day long, but isn't that what vacation-staycation is all about?

    Dinner Time, And What To Do After

    Sunfire Mexican Grill doesn't get as much press as other Rockland restaurants, but one friend who is from Los Angeles, Calif., says, "The quality of their food ranks up there with two of the best Mexican restaurants I've eaten at in L.A." The husband-wife team of Allan and Pam Cota started their business off as a takeout trailer, but their food became so popular, they opened a little place on 488 Main St. Affordable, fresh and delicious, that's all you need to know. Oh, and notice we've picked all these places within walking distance of your inn?

    Rockland tends to be a bar crowd type of town at night and coffee fiends tend to be morning people, so make the most of your after-dinner walk over to Lulu's Ice Cream & Gelato shack (tucked behind FOG Bar and Grill) for some kickin' gelato or of course, coffee ice cream.

    The Morning After

    Time to shove on, but there's one more place you need to check out to complete your 24 hours and that is Home Kitchen Cafe for breakfast — a local and tourist alike fave. This is run by another husband-wife duo and they recently expanded the size of the restaurant, so if you can snag a seat on the upper deck, you'll catch shimmering glimpses of the ocean. They offer brunch all day (how decadent), but if they are offering lobster bennies (that's eggs benedict), they're totally worth trying or Fred's famous buns. Fred won't mind.

    Stay tuned for our next series and enjoy your summer!

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    Kay Stephens can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com.