One of Maine’s signature charms is the classic, rambling inns perched like grand dames on the rocky coastline.
One of the originals, the Asticou Inn, was built at the head of Northeast Harbor by Augustus Chase Savage and his wife, Emily Manchester Savage, in 1883.
The Asticou is among the few remaining hotels dating from the 19th century on Mount Desert Island.
Walking up the steps of the inn’s broad, apron-shingled porch is a step back in time. In fact, the original rattan furniture still provides a seat there to watch comings and goings. Even the fine wallpaper in the dining room and many of the lodging rooms has survived.
The Asticou Inn staff wants you to come on in, even if you’re not staying as a guest at the inn.
“Warm, friendly, honest service, I think that’s what you’ll find at the Asticou,” said Tyler Gilbert, assistant general manager.
Anyone can walk in and enjoy an after-work mojito or beer. Lunch is served daily from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dinner service runs daily from 5 to 8 p.m. during shoulder seasons and until 9 p.m. in summer. Happy hour is from 3 to 6 p.m.
“We serve signature cocktails, wine by the glass and draft beer,” Gilbert said.
“We do host a number of small events and we are quite busy, so call ahead,” Gilbert said. “Reservations are a good idea.”
For several years now, the inn and restaurant have been managed by the Acadia Corp. Acadia Corp. previously managed the Jordan Pond House for years.
To that end, if you’ve been a Jordan Pond House customer for many years, you may recognize Gilbert, the general manager Will Matteson and Chef John White.
“We’ve been so excited to come here and reintroduce a new life and energy at the Asticou,” Gilbert said.
The Asticou’s rich history and old-fashioned character spurred White, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, to inject a bit of modernity into the fare.
“I try to put a new twist on old-school ideas,” White said. “I just try to have fun with the food. I want it to be interesting for me and my cooks. We try a lot of things. Some stuff works and some stuff doesn’t.”
Gilbert said the menu has a balance between fine dining and pub food.
Fine dining main courses include steamed Maine lobster, of course, as well as pan-seared duck breast topped with a dried cranberry chutney. Or, you might try a grilled vegetable stack with grilled zucchini, eggplant, portobello, tomatoes and roasted red peppers layered with fresh mozzarella and served on a tomato coulis with basil oil.
Pub fare includes a black angus burger as well as wraps, including a lobster lettuce wrap and a quinoa lettuce wrap.
There’s also a Greek veggie wrap featuring Seal Cove Farm feta cheese, which Chef White described as “beautiful.”
You’ll also find popovers a la Jordan Pond House served with butter and jam or a topping like Maine maple pecan butter or blueberry jam and lemon curd.
Cocktails include the Sun-kissed, a blend of St. Germain, vinho verde, bitters, sugar cane syrup and strawberries.
Or there are mocktails such as the grape-juicer, which includes grapefruit juice, rosemary syrup, lime juice, grapefruit bitters and club soda.
After lunch or dinner or before, walk across the street to see the Asticou Azalea Garden or walk a bit farther down the road and up a winding hillside path to Thuya Garden.
The inn also features paintings created just for the Asticou by Wendilee Heath O’Brien, who has her own gallery in Winter Harbor, called Whopaints. Many of the works are for sale.
If you are staying at the inn, be sure to talk with the desk clerk about which room or suite might suit you. There are a variety of options, 48 rooms total with 31 in the main inn and 17 rooms in adjacent properties including Cranberry Lodge, Blue Spruce, Bird Bank and the Topsiders.
Guests of the inn will enjoy a heated pool, which overlooks Northeast Harbor, a clay tennis court and Wi-Fi. For more info, call
276-3344 and visit www.asticou.com.