Diner, Pie, Sandwiches

This past January I spent the better part of a week barnstorming around the frozen tundras of Northern Maine in search of new business. It may have been smack in the midst of the winter doldrums, but my travels did fortuitously present me with a handful of opportunities to inject a little warmth into the proceedings by sampling some old-fashioned country hospitality, diner-style. My colleague Joel and I were touring Marden’s Surplus stores all over Vacationland, a trip which enabled us to make some key investments in the S & P (that’s “S”andwiches and “P”ies, for you uninitiated diner devotees).

Rolling out of Presque Isle (the “hub” of Maine’s colossal Aristook County) on our way to Houlton, we stopped at a diner called Al’s in Mars Hill recommended to us by the friendly crew at Mardens.

Al's Diner (outside)


Adorned with homey décor (the wall says “The Gathering Place”), Al’s is the kind of spot where guests chat from one table to the next, and what comes out of the kitchen is more sublime than simple for sandwich fans.

Al's Diner (inside)

I ordered up a Kim’s burger, which is a cheeseburger with mozzarella, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed peppers, and “petal” sauce on thick sliced homemade bread.

Kim's Burger at Al's Diner

What’s Petal Sauce, you ask?

why it’s only a delicious condiment combining the sweetness of thousand island dressing with tart punch of horseradish. Al’s is a good 6 hours away from my house, but my first bite left me wondering how soon I was coming back. The buttery crunch of the grilled homemade bread, the blend of melted mozzarella, juicy beef, and Petal Sauce sauce mixed with the just enough  mushrooms and peppers so the whole thing didn’t turn into a greasy, soppy mess and left me smiling with each bite.

Closeup of Kim's Burger at Al's Diner

I asked for homemade potato salad (Aristook is tater country, after all) and received a healthy scoop of a fresh, flavorful concoction with a mix of some egg and celery as well as a hint of something sweet. Nice.

Potato Salad at Al's Diner

Joel ordered the chicken tender wrap with shredded cheddar, lettuce, tomato, mayo and bacon (kind of a chicken tender club in a wrap, if you will). He got the recommendation from our colleagues back at Mardens, and he wasn’t sorry. The tenders were homemade, ensuring their hot crunch and  juicy, fresh flavor. The blend of all the ingredients made for a tasty, wholesome lunch. The homemade fries were crispy on the outside and filled with tender dense potato within.

Chicken Tender Wrap at Al's Diner

Al’s was so good we didn’t want to leave, but duty called, and so almost before our Al’s experience had begun we found ourselves headed down the road to our next stop.

That night, we two hungry, weary travelers ventured forth from the warm confines of Ivey’s Motor Lodge into the frozen air (12 below for those of you wondering) in search of comfort food and came across the Elm Tree Diner on the outskirts of town.

Elm Tree Diner, Houlton Maine

I hungrily devoured a turkey dinner with all the fixings,

and Joel kept pace with a Chicken Supreme (grilled chicken and cheddar with broccoli over a layer of fragrant, dense stuffing).

Chicken Supreme, Elm Tree Diner

The warm, fresh bread was a wonderful addition to the proceedings, but the real stars were the fresh made desserts.

I mentioned earlier that Northern Maine is known for its potatoes, but it’s also known for its wild blueberries, which make for an awesome blueberry pie. The combination of the flaky crust, the dense, warm, blueberry filling and the sweet, creamy scoop of vanilla ensured every mouthful was a put the kind of smile on my face that steeled me against the fierce, swirling cold that awaited just outside the door.

Blueberry Pie a la Mode, Elm Tree Diner

Joel had an apple cobbler. A fragrant, sweet mix of apples, oatmeal, and ice cream made for a welcome treat prior to braving the elements and heading back to Ivey’s for the night.

Apple Cobbler at the Elm Tree Diner

The following day, en route to another Mardens store in Rumford (a paper mill town in the eastern part of the state), Joel and I had the opportunity to experience Uncle Moe’s Diner in Sabattus (sounds like an eighties hair metal band, doesn’t it?).

Uncle Moe's Diner, Sabattus, ME

Uncle Moe’s is a modest two story brick and yellow siding structure set on the side of a busy two-lane road. Once inside, the colorful tile and warm hospitality of the servers clues diners in to the treat they are about to experience food-wise.

I ordered a grilled seasoned chicken and cheddar sandwich on Texas Toast with a side of cole slaw,

Grilled Seasoned Chicken Melt, Uncle Moe's Diner

and Joel asked for the Super Melt, a burger with melted mozzarella, mayo, lettuce and tomato downstairs and a grilled cheese made with swiss on (Texas Toast included)!

Super Melt at Uncle Moe's Diner

We went half and half on the sandwiches when they arrived, and for the second time in a week I found myself planning a trip back this way after the first few bites. The chicken sandwich was a wonderful blend of buttery crunch, tender seasoned chicken, and the sharp taste of melted cheddar. The slaw was creamy and chopped, make each delicious bite easy to handle and also a nice complement to the seasoned chicken cheddar melt.

As for the the Super Melt, well, did you ever eat something that was so good you carefully rationed out each bite?. Well I have many times, and I’m adding Uncle Moe’s Super Melt to that roster of sandwiches. A wonderful blend of ingredients and flavors, the gooey cheese, the sautéed peppers and onions, the buttery grilled bread, it all spelled delicious in every bite. And the fresh made fries with the skins still on them – this was a diner experience of the highest order.

Grilled Seasoned Chicken Melt, Uncle Moe's Diner

When am I headed North again? Not soon enough!


Posted in Diner, Pie, Sandwiches

4 comments on “Mainely Dining in the Great White Northeast

  1. Where is the brown gravy for the fries? -It was the Mars Hill Diner (as we called it) that introduced me to that Aroostook County delicacy in the 1980s!

    • Gravy fries? Hmmmmmm. Love’em. Especially Gravy fries with melted cheese. Think I’m gonna have to make a return visit… By the way, Carol, thanks for the read!

  2. Thank you for stopping by Uncle Moe’s. So glad you enjoyed your visit. Hope you are able to come back soon.
    Staff member from Uncle Moe’s Diner

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>