Street Smart: Rockland’s Main Street
Check out the best of this main thoroughfare that blends small-town New England charm with scores of cozy cafes, art galleries, and boutiques.
Located no more than a 10-minute driving distance south of Samoset Resort, Rockland, Maine’s historic Main Street, oozes old New England charm. The street’s Historic District, established in 1978, is lined with century-old-or-older brick buildings, many of which were built after a fire devastated the town in 1853. Today, a diverse mix of restaurants, coffee shops, organic markets, and other boutiques make this bustling nerve center of Midcoast Maine a natural spot to spend a day exploring. We provide a few suggestions on what to go, see, and do, starting from the north end of the street and working your way south.
Home Kitchen Cafe [650 Main Street]
Essentially the all-American diner depicted in popular culture (the type of place where you’re likely to be called “dear” by the wait staff), this warm and cozy café specializes in comfort food, with a touch of Southwest flavor. You can’t go wrong ordering one of their omelets, like the Pigs Boogie (applewood smoked bacon, roasted red peppers, and Cooper sharp cheese), or Downeast (locally smoked salmon, cream cheese, carmelized onion, fresh tomatoes, and capers).
Fiore Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegars [503 Main Street]
Your biggest problem when you visit this lovely little shop? Settling on what to buy. Specializing in a wide selection of extra virgin olive oil from around the world and aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy, the shop boasts a knowledgeable staff and provides the opportunity to sample everything at your own pace – so don’t be surprised if you find yourself moving between the blood orange olive oil and the Paradiso fig balsamic vinegar before deciding to simply purchase both. You’ll also leave with a refined palate and a better understanding of all the ways you can use the vinegars and oils to enhance your favorite dishes at home.
The Grasshopper Shop [400 Main Street]
It’s hard not to miss this gift store, a staple of the downtown shopping scene since it first opened in 1997. That’s owed to the towering, 94-foot-long pastel-hued mural that plasters the side of its brick building, depicting colorful Maine interpretations of buoys, fish, gulls, and other wildlife. Once onside, you’ll remain just as wide-eyed: The family-owned boutique boasts a vast – yet well-organized – inventory, everything from jewelry and cosmetics to pottery and clothing for men, women, and children. Patrons tend to be most surprised by the kitchen goods section, offering unique gadgets and housewares for the kitchen and dining room.
Farnsworth Art Museum [16 Museum Street]
While this nationally recognized museum’s address is technically not Main Street, it might as well be, as it’s located right on the corner of Museum and Main. Celebrating its 75th anniversary all through 2023, the landmark is more than worth a visit with 20,000 square feet of gallery space dedicated solely to showcasing Maine and American art and artists. More than 15,000 pieces – by famed creators like N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth; Georgia O’Keefe; Rockwell Kent; and Fitz Henry Lane – make up the collection and date from the eighteenth century to present day. Seasonal exhibits, like “Alvaro’s World: Andrew Wyeth and The Olson House,” rotate in every few months.
Strand Theatre [345 Main Street]
While it underwent a major renovation in 2005, the Strand Theatre – registered as a historic landmark and a rare example of Egyptian Revival architecture – retains all the nostalgic charm that its 100 years (yes, this landmark is also celebrating a big year in 2023) would suggest. The theater, offering a more intimate viewing experience than the megaplex you may frequent, regularly screens independent and mainstream movies, hosts musical concerts and comedy shows, and features other special events on the stage and screen. And in honor of its centennial, the Strand is running a special film series, called “100 Years of Movies,” all year long, with each film being introduced by a local film historian. Check its calendar to see what’s on deck next.
Primo [2 Main Street]
© Greta Rybus
Executive Chef and two-time James Beard Award winner Melissa Kelly refers to her establishment as a “full-circle kitchen.” Others call it farm-to-table. Whichever you prefer, Primo (with a season that runs from May through early January) embodies the idea of a restaurant embracing sustainable agriculture with produce grown in the restaurant’s garden and animals raised on the property. The harvest each day includes honey, fruit, vegetables, eggs, fresh chicken, and house-cured and smoked meats – and what isn’t grown at the restaurant is brought in from other sustainable farms in the area. The result? Satisfied diners who savor the restaurant’s cozy ambiance and delicious dishes like the pork chop, grilled swordfish, and backyard chicken and dumplings.