Savoring slow food

At a revamped seaside resort
By BRIAN DUFF  |  August 1, 2007
SUNSET WATCH: Have a meal on the porch.

The Chart Room at the Black Point Inn | 510 Black Point Rd, Scarborough | 207.883.2500 | Full bar available | Visa, MC, Amex | Open 7 days | Breakfast 7:30-10 am; Lunch 11:30 am-2 pm; Tea 3:30-4:30 pm; Dinner 5:30-9 pm
The surest radar trap in southern Maine is the one the Scarborough police have set up where Route 207 enters Prouts Neck. The certainty of finding a police cruiser there requires that you slow to a legal speed akin to a preautomotive crawl. It is an appropriate precursor to a meal at the recently reworked restaurants at the Black Point Inn, a resort hotel that dates back more than a century.

It's not that things are slow at the Black Point Inn, but they are old-fashioned in a way that begs you to take your time. Recent renovations, which have reduced the Inn to its original size and feel, enhance the effect. If you can’t imagine yourself as a late 19th century guest, with Winslow Homer hard at work in his studio down the path — you did drive up after all — you might settle upon the late 1940s, around the time Humbert rolled into the Enchanted Hunters Inn and Lo pronounced it swank. The lobby has that same comfy-chaired sprawl and the porch hums with conversation between strangers.

The Black Point has two restaurants, and we chose to eat from the more casual Chart Room menu since we know Phoenix readers and their budgets — plus we wanted to sit on that snaking porch, thin in spots and bulging in others like a gorged constrictor. Charming with its wicker and flower boxes, it's one of those rare porches in Maine where (due to the Prouts Neck geography) you can watch the sun set over the ocean.

Like any good resort hotel, the Black Point offers a cast of characters. We especially liked the wealthy Anglo-Saxons who insulted each other before smiling for a family picture, the efficient orthodontured hostess quick with hiking advice, the mop-haired busboy, and the seagull who steals your toast points when you get up to see the view of Mt. Washington. That view is indicated by Peter, the earnest and engaging manager whose purple polo celebrates the restaurant’s liberation from decades of mandatory jackets.

The most important character of all is in the kitchen. The new, smaller Inn relies less on large functions and more on dinner guests from the community. To lure them they have brought on local legend Cheryl Lewis, whose Café Always is reputed to have brought contemporary fine dining to Portland several decades ago (and which belied its name by closing in the ’90s). Lewis went on to start Aurora Provisions and then revitalized Portland Lobster Co. She returns as chef at a very different sort of place. While Café Always brought the eclectic and global to a provincial town, at Black Point the surrounding demands she pay homage to classicism. But as Lars von Trier demonstrated in The Five Obstructions, it is often constraints that produce the most interesting thinking.

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