There are few things as inspiring as a completely open-air bar situated directly on the docks of Casco Bay. I mean, that’s basically the whole point of living in Maine, correct? So you can throw on a pair of pressed khakis, wrap a pastel-colored sweater around your shoulders, and gaze wistfully out to sea while enjoying a cool glass of buttery Rombauer Chardonnay.
OK, that may be pushing it, but it’s hard not to get a little bit caught up in the Maine fantasy upon your first visit to the Dockside Grill in Falmouth. The sprawling mahogany and stone bar is illuminated by wall-to-wall glass garage doors, left completely open to the sweeping ocean breeze in the warmer months. Housed in the former location of the Falmouth Sea Grill, the Dockside Grill falls far from the stereotypical Maine waterfront eatery. Of course, they offer updated versions of the prerequisite lobster roll as well as fish and chips, but beyond that there is creative transformation taking place.
Andrea Casanueva’s family owns Handy Boat Marina, which it is on the same plot of land as the Grill. Casanueva had been a previous employee of Falmouth Sea Grill, as well as other restaurants, and had even tried her hand on the decks of lobster boats that provided steady supplies of bugs to the restaurant. When it became apparent that the Sea Grill was moving on, she sat down with the owner and her father to discuss the logistics of taking over the operation. In September 2013 her vision came to life.
Casanueva’s primary obstacle was maintaining a long list of diehard regulars, while updating the restaurants image and drawing new clientele, primarily from Portland, where there are inexplicably few restaurants that boast unobstructed views of the ocean. Doing this would require maintaining the aforementioned classic Maine fare, while streamlining the rest of the menu. They also began to book live music acts to draw a following from neighboring towns.
The food is not overcomplicated, as is the case with a simple autumn chopped salad of romaine, bacon, dried cranberries, bleu cheese, and poached pear accentuated with crunchy walnuts and tangy champagne vinaigrette. The classic scallop wrapped in bacon is modified slightly, employing instead crispy prosciutto, which blankets some very plump diver scallops with a crunchy and slightly bitter salad of apple and frisee on the side.
I particularly enjoyed the nod to the old-school steakhouse, or ocean liner, with their preparation of filet mignon Oscar-style. Filet, with its hefty price tag, is very tender but tragically lacking in fat, which is where the flavor comes from. To remedy this, they top the meat with sweet, succulent crabmeat, then a liberal amount of decadent béarnaise. The result is something I’d be happy to consume on a daily basis. Also of note is a perfectly seared halibut filet served atop Spanish rice with a refreshing tropical salsa to impart acidity and lighten up the overall dish.
The bar crew has constructed a cocktail list that is appropriate to the setting, running the gamut from tiki-style offerings like the Casco Painkiller, with mango-pineapple infused rum, coconut, and guava, to more austere tipplers like the Clapboard Sidecar, made with Bulleit Bourbon, Cointreau, and Meyer lemon essence. A recent expansion to the draught system ups the beer selection to 10, all of which are a brilliant accompaniment to selections from the extensive raw bar.
The wine list leans heavily towards the New World and there are gems to be unearthed, such as the Aviron Julienas Cru Beaujolais, a red to drink with fish that will change any old codger’s mind, regardless of how they may have spent their whole life being told doing so is the ultimate culinary sin.
Though it feels like you are far away when you’re at the bar at Dockside, it is less than a ten-minute drive from Portland, and a short boat ride (dock your boat for free). In the cooler months, the focus shifts to the upstairs dining area, which boasts the same breathtaking views.
I am excited to see the direction they take in the coming months. I’m told the menu is constantly being tweaked and re-worked, and as Casanueva and crew persist through the unavoidable trial and error that is the restaurant business, they will hopefully establish themselves as a premier destination for waterfront dining in southern Maine.
215 Foreside Rd | Falmouth | 207.747.5274 | thedocksidegrill.com