As any New Englander will tell you, the town of Kennebunkport is a very well-known spot, in part because it’s where the Bush family (yes, THAT Bush family) has its summer home, and in part because it is a beautiful place with a charming town center and countless historic buildings. As you might expect, it can get rather crowded, with its restaurants and shops often packed with people in the peak summer months as well as during its Christmas Prelude festival.
A short distance from Kennebunkport village, however, is a section of town called Cape Porpoise, which feels more like a remote fishing village, with a tiny commercial district and a “main” road that dead-ends at the water. At the end of this road is a hidden little spot called The Ramp Bar & Grill.
There is an upscale restaurant above the basement bar under the same ownership, but The Ramp is quite a bit different from that restaurant. Decked out like a true sea shanty, there are lobster traps outside, a bar area where you’re required to get cozy with your neighbors, a handful of tables tightly packed together, creaky wooden floorboards, lots of memorabilia on the walls, and views that almost make you feel like you’re on a boat. The clientele at the bar is quite diverse, with wealthy folks from Kennebunkport mixing with local fishermen, often-loud barflies, and a few in-the-know tourists.
The menu is limited but the food is excellent, with above-average pub grub and seafood items offered. A few highlights include a hearty split pea soup; some of the best clam chowder in the area; a nicely-presented meze dish with hummus, grape leaves, and more; addictive onion strings; an old-school spaghetti and meatballs plate; outstanding fish and chips; a juicy burger with Vermont Cheddar cheese; savory chicken taquitos with salsa; and, of course, a classic Maine lobster roll. Drinks include a few craft beers and hard liquor, which is often consumed in impressive quantities by some of the more boisterous folks at the bar.
The Ramp is a place that is full of character (and characters), and is a terrific option for those who don’t want to fight the crowds in Kennebunkport village. Add to this the tremendous water views, a friendly wait staff, and easy parking, and you have a real winner in this incredibly interesting part of southern Maine.
Marc Hurwitz is the founder of Boston's Hidden Restaurants, a website that focuses on lesser-known dining spots in the Boston area and elsewhere in New England.