New England On A Budget - Eating Out

Eating out was our second most expensive part of our trip. The price of food in New England is overpriced.  I don't know how the average person affords to eat out in this region of the United States. 

Note about saving money at restaurants: 

  1. Get a junk email account and join every restaurant club you can.  Go on the Internet and find your favorite restaurant's website and sign up for their club. If you travel the same time each year, make that time of year your "birthday" in the club.  I did this and get all kinds of FREE food from my favorite restaurants for my "birthday".  This really helps cut the cost on our trip.
  2. Eat breakfast at your hotel. Try to stay at a hotel that offers FREE breakfast. At the FREE breakfast grab a banana or apple to take with you for a snack during the day. If they do not offer breakfast then buy Nutri-Grain bars and pop tarts and keep them in your room.  Grab a milk from a convenience store and you have a cheap breakfast.

As I had done for hotels, rental cars, and airplanes I researched the best restaurants for each area we visited.  I read reviews and looked at menus and was still concerned about being able to stay in budget on this trip. I even tried to find church benefit suppers we could attend thinking the price of the benefit would not be as expensive as the restaurants. Sadly I was unable to successfully find a church supper during the time we were visiting.  It's worth looking into that for future travels though.  Think about it, have you ever been to a church benefit with bad food?  The answer is no because the church ladies are going to bring their best dish for everyone to eat.

So where did we eat?  I must preface the rest of my blog with giving you a bit of knowledge about me - I don't really like seafood.  There I said it... I know it is hard to believe but it is true! I will eat it but it is not my favorite.  However, if you do like seafood then you will love New England.  I, on the other hand, really wanted a good steak by the end of our trip.  They must get their beef shipped from Texas up there based on the prices they charged for beef!

Regina Pizzaria North Boston, Massachusetts

Boston: We spent a total of 2.5 days in Boston.  It was the most expensive place we ate with mediocre food.  Maybe it was because we did not shell out $50+ per plate for food. Remember I am budget conscious and $50+ times 3 is NOT in my budget!  The restaurants we ate at in Boston included:
  • Regina Pizzaria North End: One of the top rated restaurants in Boston - for a reason. We ordered a large pizza that was WONDERFUL. The cost was "reasonable" considering where we were.  The pizza and 3 drinks cost $30.  There were no free refills. I found this to be true all over New England. You get a souvenir Regina Pizzaria cup to take home.  I still have mine.. makes me want some more of that pizza even today! Cost: $30 Recommend it? Yes!
  • North End Mike's Pastry:  According to Trip Advisor, Mike's Pastry's claim to fame is the "best cannolis in all of Boston".  I ordered a cannoli, my husband ordered the Boston Cream Pie (when in Boston you must  try it right?) and my son ordered gelato. The staff was incredibly rude. I tried asking questions about which item I should select and the woman seemed less than happy to answer my questions. The Boston Cream Pie was pretty good.  The gelato was mediocre.  The cannoli was not very tasty. Cost: $12 for only the pastries, no drinks. Recommend it? I don't think so...
  • Mccormick and Schmick's: This is a chain restaurant that specializes in Irish cuisine.  The food was average and prices were too high. Cost: $48 for 2 adult meals, 1 kids meal, and 3 waters. Recommend it? I don't think so...
  • Flour Bakery Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Flour Bakery Cambridge: Flour is one of the top rated restaurants in all of Boston - not sure why... The reviews were spectacular and there was a line out the door at 11:30 A.M. when we arrived.  This SHOULD have been a sign I had made the right choice for lunch. It was not... My son ordered the kids meal pizza (the strangest pizza we have ever experienced), my husband ordered the honey mustard roast beef sandwich, and I ordered the horseradish roast beef sandwich. None was tasty in the least. My sandwich had so much horseradish on it that it burnt my nose when I was eating it.  I can still taste it today, nearly a year later... Cost:$30 for 2 sandwiches, a kids meal, and 3 waters (very small cups of water) Recommend it? Nope.

Maine: We spent 6 days in Maine and tried some food we had never tried before. The restaurants we visited included:
    Libby's Market Brunswick, Maine
  • Libby's Market Brunswick, Maine: After reading the rave reviews on Trip Advisor, we decided we would have our first ever lobster roll at Libby's. Don't let the exterior looking like a gas station or having to leave the main highway to find it stop you from going. Some of the nicest people you will ever meet own Libby's Market.  We spent time visiting with the owner who gets the lobsters each day from the lobster traps and brings it fresh to the store. She took the time to show my son how the lobsters are cleaned. While we waited on our sandwiches we waited outside at the picnic table on a lovely summer day.  The owner brought us a game to play and even took the time to explain how to play it. If you happen to be near Brunswick, Maine you must stop in at Libby's Market! Cost: $30 for 3 lobster rolls, we brought our own drinks. Recommend it? Yes!

  • Denny's Rockland, Maine: There are not a lot of restaurant choices in Rockland, so we chose Denny's.  I would not normally bother to review it but it was the best Denny's we have ever visited.  The food AND service was good.  In Texas I don't think I have ever been to a Denny's where the food AND service was good.  To top it off it was well within our budget. Cost: $30 for 2 meals and 1 kids meal and drinks. Recommend it? Yes - good food and decent prices.
  • Harbor Gawker Vinalhaven, Maine
  • Harbor Gawker Vinalhaven, Maine: Vinalhaven is a small lobster village located on one of Maine's thousands of islands. You get there by ferry service that only runs twice per day.  There are less than 5 restaurants or lobster pounds to choose from In Vinalhaven. We chose the Harbor Gawker. I had the BEST clam chowder ever at this restaurant.  The rest of the food was fried seafood and was pretty good.  If you find yourself in Vinalhaven you will not be disappointed eating at the Harbor Gawker. Cost: $30 for 3 meals with drinks. Recommend it? Yes - especially the clam chowder.

  • Thirsty Whale Bar Habor, Maine: Bar Harbor is a tourist town.  There are plenty of restaurants from which to choose. The price of these restaurants rival Boston.  After looking at several menus the Thirsty Whale was one that fit within my budget. It is a tavern that serves typical tavern food.  I had the clam chowder and thought it was okay.  My husband had the haddock sandwich and my son had fried shrimp. The portions were not overly large and the quality of food was good but not great. I would not eat here again because I found a better restaurant in Bar Harbor, West Street Cafe.Cost: $35 for our meals. Recommend it? Probably not.
  • Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound Trenton, Maine: Prior to visiting this lobster pound I researched online and decided this lobster pound would be the one we would try. It had the best reviews so I thought it would be worth a visit. I was WRONG. We got to the pound around 4 PM to avoid the rush. When we arrived there were a couple of people ahead of us. We had never visited a lobster pound and were curious about the offerings and how to order. I found the staff to be rude and not very helpful. They seemed annoyed that we did not know what we were doing. The Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound is located on the outskirts of Acadia National Park, I am quite sure there have been other tourists who were just as confused as we were so this could not be the first time they encountered this... When we were about to order I stated to my husband that we should share a lobster since we did not know if we liked it or not. The next thing I know the guy grabs a BIG lobster and says it will take about 25 minutes for it to cook. So we pay $38.65 for this lobster before I know what happened. Get this... BUTTER costs 80 cents. REALLY?? Butter does not come WITH the lobster. We had a HUGE lobster and literally 2 tablespoons of melted butter to dip it in. Had the people been nicer to us we would have paid (begrudgingly) for more butter, but did not because of the staff. I also ordered clam chowder. It was literally milk, melted butter, and WHOLE clams. I felt like I was eating grub worms and the flavor was awful! The HUGE lobster finally came and guess what? It was tough. I have a feeling that lobster was probably dying of old age when he landed in the lobster trap. Had we had more time when we were ordering we would have thought of that possibility and ordered 2 small lobsters instead of 1 HUGE one. Overall this was the WORST place we ate during our 11 day vacation.Cost: $55 for the tough lobster and a bowl of clam? chowder. Recommend it? Never..
  • Take your own lunch: We spent 4 days in Acadia National Park.  Each day for lunch we would have lunchables and summer sausage with crackers that we had purchased at Walmart in Ellsworth, ME that morning. I also purchased an inexpensive lunch kit at Walmart and used ice (from the hotel vending machine) in a Ziploc baggie to keep the food cold while we were in the park.  We did this for lunch in New Hampshire when we hiked the White Mountain National Forest. This a great way to save money and works well when you are not near a restaurant.
  • West Street Cafe Bar Harbor, Maine: The food was wonderful! The service was top notch. Do not miss out on the blueberry pie ala mode. I had the tarragon chicken and my husband had the crab cakes, both were excellent. My son had the kid's shrimp basket. We were very surprised at the quantity of shrimp on the kids meal! This was the BEST meal we had during our travels throughout New England. Cost: $45 for all our meals and drinks. Recommend it? Yes!!! I wish I had some of the blueberry pie today - yum.
West St. Cafe Bar Harbor, Maine

West St. Cafe's Yummy Blueberry Pie!
New Hampshire: We spent 3 days in New Hampshire and ate at the following restaurants:
  • Dairy Queen Grill & Chill: We chose to eat at Dairy Queen because it is one of our favorites in Texas. In New Hampshire the menu is slightly different but the food was just as good.  The prices were somewhat higher than in Texas but not terribly high.Cost: $20 for three meals, blizzards, and drinks. Recommend it? Yes.
  • May Kelly's Irish Pub
    North Conway, New Hampshire
  • May Kelly's North Conway, New Hampshire:  North Conway has lots of choices of restaurants because it is a tourist town. There are many fast food restaurants.  The sit down restaurants tend to be pricey.  After reading reviews I chose May Kelly's, an Irish pub. I had Gaelic Chicken, my husband had the Ploughman's Dinner, and my son had the kids meal fish 'n chips.  The food and service was really good. We especially liked the Irish potato cake.  Can't get that in Texas! Cost: $55 for our meals and drinks (my husband had a Guinness - you have to at an Irish pub right?) Recommend it? Yes!!