Wednesday, February 25, 2015

York, Snowshoeing, and Oysters in Portland

We're coming to what we hope is the end of a hard winter.  The snow is still deep, and every few days we are blessed with a little more.  And it's still cold.  But there are hopeful signs all around us in Maine.  The sun is getting stronger, and doesn't set until well after 5:00.  And Sunday it got above freezing for the first time in forever.  Next week we'll see Daylight Savings begin, and then it will really feel like we've turned a corner.

Until then, we've been fighting cabin fever.  Damon had a big snowshoe race last weekend, so I tagged along and we made it into a little escape.  We stayed in York overnight, just so I could sit by the fire at the Ship Cellar Pub and have a few glasses of wine.  (It was great, but I forgot my camera and my cell phone wasn't up to taking photos in the dim light.)  On Sunday we tried to tackle the Fisherman's Walk along York Harbor.  In summer, it looks something like this:

But last weekend it looked more like this:

Note, this is the same location as the photo above -- you can see the stone wall.  Except the snow is about 5 feet deep in there.  Hopeless, even with snowshoes.
So no snowshoeing for us in York.  Luckily, we'd been thinking of checking out the East Coast Greenway, and picked up the trail in Scarborough.  It was warm, and the sun was out.  A path was nicely packed down, so it was pretty easy going.  Boredom set in pretty quickly, though, since the path is straight and level.  Like most Americans, I know what to do when bored -- eat.  So we packed back into the car, stripped off our wet snow gear, and headed to Portland.  Damon was craving some oysters, and with the sun shining it seemed like a great time to hit the waterfront.

First stop, DeMillo's.  I admit that I've never been there before.  DeMillo's always seems so touristy to me; plus the main point they make in their radio ads is "parking is free while you eat" -- which doesn't seem a very good reason to eat there.  But heck, why not check it out, if for no other reason than we got to take a look at the ice scraping up against the boats at the docks.

Our thirsts quenched, it was time to hit one of our faves:  J's Oyster.  J's is a classic hometown dive.  Don't go for the ambiance.  The yellowed ceiling tiles, crappy carpet, and dated paneling hold very little appeal.  The spirit of the place is in the people, the food, and the location.  You know it's going to be good when a guy in Grundens comes out the door just as you get there.  Inside, the seats are always filled, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a table right away.  The crowd is hometown, and in a city full of foodies, there is a happy dearth of hipsters.  Not a lot of skinny jeans and lumberjack beards; no one asking for the latest microbrew.  Just regular folks looking for the best old-school food on the waterfront.  Some of them look like they've been sitting on their bar stools for years; and probably that's not far from the truth -- the regulars are always out in force at J's.

We have a saying in Maine:  "Cold as a clam-diggers crack."  Apparently it's colder than that.
What do you have at J's Oyster?  Oysters, of course.  Damon started with a half-dozen on the half-shell, while I had the sampler.  Both came with a side of cocktail sauce and horseradish, and they went down too quickly.  Fortunately, sandwiches weren't far behind.  A classic lobster roll (you know I can't resist) and haddock for Damon.  All of it washed down with a coldie as we peered out at the ice covering Portland Harbor.

Classic oyster plate.
The sampler.
The best way to eat an oyster!

I love this graffiti:  "I love J's Oyster Bar."  "Who doesn't?"  "Oysters?!"
The giant pile of oysters, on ice, in the middle of the bar.
Alas, it had to end eventually, and we headed back to the car and our regularly-scheduled winter.  The sun had weakened behind thin clouds and the chill was back in the air.  But it felt like the we'd moved beyond the endless winter that seemed to face us a few weeks ago.  Of course it'd snowed a few inches while we were away on our trip, but Bobby our neighbor had plowed our drive with his ATV.  And it's bitter cold now, but I just peeked at the 10-day forecast, and we were right:  winter is starting to lose its teeth.  There are a lot of thirty plus degree days in our future.  Things are looking up.  But if it doesn't get much better soon, maybe I'll just take the advice on the sign board at Ri Ra's:


  1. Great post the tour! Those oysters look awesome..I'm gonna' have to travel down that way come summer and check out the Fisherman's Walk..maybe wet a line with my grandson..

  2. and by the're eating them just right!

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