Taste: Reviews: Bar Harbors

While restaurants continue to trend casual, bar food is more upscale than ever. Anyone for a round of escargots?

The first meal I ever ate in a bar was brunch, years before I was legally entitled to hoist a mimosa. It was no froufrou feast, but a pre-Pritikin bonanza of fried eggs, pork sausages and white bread crisped in a cast-iron skillet slicked with bacon fat. My memory of it is vivid because my parents owned that bar, we lived upstairs, and my mother cooked this Irish soul food every Sunday. Their small-town beer garden, the Pea Patch Inn, didn’t serve food during the week, but on the seventh day, when all taprooms in Delaware were closed, the empty barroom was our dining room.

Now I am amused and delighted to see bars serving dishes my parents never could have imagined: escargots (New Wave Café), tuna burgers (N. 3rd), and braised rabbit (an occasional special at New Hope’s Triumph Brewing Company).

I hoped to find good food when I checked out these three bars for this month’s reviews, but I also wanted to find out if they possessed the core values that make a great bar: a distinct personality, a comfortable feel, genuine hospitality, and loyal regulars. The bar my parents ran enjoyed 35 good years; I know the genuine article when I see it.