Have you ever had breakfast on Mt. Desert Island in Maine? If you get a seat against a window, in a building facing the bay, your deity of choice will treat you to breathtaking views. I don’t mean “breathtaking” in the way the end of a TV show is breathtaking; I mean “breathtaking,” in that you look out at it and exert your everything to making sure you experience this morning in the fullest way possible. You hear songs you don’t hear anyplace else; bells, horns, boats coming and going; the gentle wash of the ocean up and over the rocks, then back down and out; distant footsteps here and there on the docks.
When the sun is shining, the sky glows. Maybe the boats are 100 years old and decrepit. Maybe the birds are the same ones that only rarely can be seen back where you’re from. It doesn’t matter, though, because you can’t tell, because the sky f*cking glows and everything underneath it just basks. It’s enough to bring on a lasting pause, and THAT is what breathtaking is.
If your day is a cloudy one, you may want to read into new deities. The Flying Spaghetti Monster, in particular, has never been blamed for unfavorable changes in weather. As added bonuses, it doesn’t mind having its name said in vain and believers get to wear some pretty sweet hats.
You need to have breakfast, any breakfast, on Mt. Desert Island. Any breakfast will be worth a flight out to Boston, and then a clunky flight on a Cessna to Portland, then a three-hour drive out to Mt. Desert Island.
Should you happen upon a place called Breakfast at Grumpy’s, and the sun is shining that morning, you get this view. You can dream one up if you want, but this will likely surpass it. This is a beauty you can feel.
This is the best breakfast I can remember having ever had in my life. Let me tell you about it.
The Basics: Breakfast at Grumpy’s has no website, only middling reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp. The biggest gripes are that the food is overpriced and the service isn’t always great. The good and the view, however, break strongly positive.
Before we go on, do something for me. Here’s Breakfast at Grumpy’s on Google Maps. Zoom out a bit, then move Grumpy’s near the top-left corner of your computer screen. Look at all that blue!
Now, it’s tucked away in the back of a nautical warehouse of sorts. You have to walk down a fairly steep parking lot and look for the sign, then hike a short gravel path to the entrance. When you step inside the first door, to the porch side, you’re greeted with all the ambiance and amenities of home. The door creaks under your hand, the floor creaks under your Nikes, the chair creaks under your ass, and the table creaks under your elbows. The photos and tinker toys on the wall don’t creak, but are crooked. The windows don’t creak, because there are no windows to speak of. The side of the wall facing the bay is covered by only cage wiring and mosquito nets. Grumpy’s got a more polished dining room, too, but eat in the porch. Why would you want a hard surface between you and this view?
Does the food come quickly? Apparently not. All I know is my wife executed a whole bathroom break and I earned nine stars in Angry Birds. I also know the waitress apologized for how long our food took when it came out. We told her she didn’t have to apologize. We hadn’t even noticed. I mean, have you looked outside lately? For Spaghett’s sake, stay a while.
If you’re like us, you review the menu over and over and order strategically to get as many things onto as few plates as possible. Across two trips we enjoyed corned beef hash, eggs, a bagel, toast, a lobster omelet with swiss cheese and avocado (and of course a whole lobster is used, because Maine), coffee, coffee, coffee, and the aforementioned arch-breakfast benedict. Space was never in excess at our table.
The lobster benedict was, quite simply, an error-free serving of eggs benedict accompanied by fresh-ass lobstser. For all we know, it may well have been part of the previous day’s catch. It might have been hauled in to this very bay. If you’ve never had a breakfast look back at you before, it’s an experience I highly recommend. Eaten with two slices of toast, you run out of wiping mechanisms right when you run out of yolky ooze to wipe up with them. Plating is overrated; just shut up and eat.
The toast was of bread made that morning, I’m sure. It was fluffy like bread, but toasted. Nice, thick slices, but not so … er, square … that you’d confuse it for Texas toast. You don’t use three sentences on Texas toast, that’s for sure. The omelet was a yeoman’s wet dream: eggs, meat, eggs, meat, avocado? And meat. You don’t question whether a whole lobster was used. Swiss cheese doesn’t sound compatible, but it works. One avocado contains 21 grams of fat. Avocados are welcome in here.
I asked my wife what she recalled about her corned beef hash, and she recalled quite a bit. She recalled an omnium gatherum of potatoes and protein. They were familiar flavors, but the ones you want to kick off an industrious day. Her toast had come out a bit burnt, and Grumpy himself came out to apologize. Yeah, that’s not a joke. Grumpy was there, in the back, and the fact he’s apologizing over burnt toast makes it quite clear why the food here has gone largely unscathed on the Intertoobz.
She had this meal 21 months ago.
If you want a gripe from me, here it is: coffee refills need to be free. Come on, now. It’s a mere pebble, however. Experiences like this breakfast, overlooking this bay, on a bright morning, are why I haven’t given up travelling. You can Google the view, but you can’t breathe right out of it. The lobster benedict was uncomplicated, but good luck finding one that comes out like mine did. You can eat by a window, or even a bug net, but what you have on both sides of it will not measure up to the breakfast you live on both sides of it on Mt. Desert Island.
RELATED: Read about the five meals I ate in one morning in Eastham, Mass., before heading to Maine; and about the Cessna we took from Boston to Portland.