For those who might not know, I am a huge fan of breakfast.
I am also, as many will tell you, decidedly not a morning person. As a result, breakfast most mornings consists of coffee in my well-loved to-go mug and maybe a bagel, if I have time.
With the introduction of the Arts & Eats section, the newsroom was encouraged to seek out more food features. I figured I’d take the opportunity to profile different breakfast and brunch spots in Lincoln County and have an excuse to get out of bed before noon on the weekend.
To kick off the column, I decided to check out River House in downtown Damariscotta. Opened in 2019 by Bremen farmers and neighbors Eleanor Kinney and Jon Merry, the farm-to-table restaurant keeps things fresh and local. Their sources consist of many Lincoln County favorites, including Morning Dew Farm, Goranson Farm, Glidden Point Oyster Farms, Community Shellfish, and Straw’s Farm just to name a few.
The introduction of the brunch in November was a way to provide something for locals to do in the daylight hours, Eleanor told me when I stopped by on Dec. 19, which also happened to be her birthday. It proved to be a popular offering – they had to turn people away the weekend prior. The crush of customers also led to a dearth of coffee mugs, causing Eleanor to bring some from home to make sure everyone who wanted coffee could get some.
Needless to say, reservations are recommended.
As the joy of brunch is meant to be shared, Emily Hayes, our resident Waldoboro reporter, agreed to accompany me. We caught each other up on our weekend happenings while planning our attack of the menu. Eventually, we narrowed it down to a sweet-and-savory combination – the French toast with berries, blueberry bourbon, and whipped cream for her and the crab “Beni” for me. We made a last-minute decision when our server, Rachel, informed us that the day’s popover was filled with chocolate mousse.
While we waited for our meal, I noticed that there is not a single bad seat in the restaurant. Yes, on one side patrons have an irresistible view of the Damariscotta River; however, on the other side, one can peek into the open kitchen as chefs prepare their meal.
Since I spent a handful of teenage years dishwashing and waitressing myself, it was heartwarming to see Sarah Begin and Sam Emery working in tandem, handcrafting our meals in no time at all. After a refill of coffee, the retrieval of hot sauce, and a few photos for work purposes, Emily and I dug into our meals.
As someone who writes for a living, it’s rare that I find myself at a loss for words, but the eggs Benedict rendered me absolutely speechless. From the English muffin made by Chase Farm Bakery and Cyclone cheese from Fuzzy Udder to crab meat from Community Shellfish in Bremen and eggs from Straw’s Farm, the dish was so impeccably balanced with flavors and textures. I looked up to tell Emily we may have set the bar too high with our first brunch outing, only to find her similarly enraptured by her French toast.
And the potatoes! I am so grateful both dishes came with a side, because they were too perfect to share. Crispy on the outside and seasoned to perfection, these potatoes may have quite possibly ruined all other potatoes for both Emily and myself forever. I cannot recommend them enough, especially when paired with Jon’s homemade hot sauce.
“We didn’t go to church today, but they took us there,” Emily managed as we finished off the popover, which had the most amazing berry sauce. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
But the real end-of-dinner treat was the price. The cost of the three entrees split between the two of us was so unbelievably affordable, I had to check the menu to make sure we were charged the full amount.
Bottom line: With high-quality, locally focused meals at affordable prices, be prepared to work River House brunch into your weekly budget.
River House is located at 27 Main St. in Damariscotta. Brunch is served every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the winter.
(Maia Zewert is looking for the best eggs Benedict and cup of coffee in Lincoln County. To make a suggestion, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)