The picturesque harbor view from Bunker’s Wharf has been one enjoyed for eight generations of the Rice family, one of whom now co-owns the popular eatery.
“Bunker’s Harbor typifies the lobster industry and generations of people making their living on the ocean,” said Dana Rice Sr., who lives in the home where he grew up in the neighboring Gouldsboro village of Birch Harbor.
His son, Dana Rice Jr., and his son’s partner, Kristen Giroux, bought the harborside restaurant last fall and reopened it last Thursday evening after it had been shuttered for several years.
The younger Rice is a lobster fisherman and Giroux is an award-winning chef.
She managed Bunker’s Wharf early in her career and said owning the restaurant has been a longtime dream of both her and Dana, who met there.
“Food is my passion,” Giroux said. “The only reason I know where Birch Harbor is located is because of Bunker’s Wharf. I have felt drawn to this place right from the start.”
The chef, Angelo Amendola, trained for three years with his father and uncle, both chefs, in the family-owned restaurant on the Isle of Capri.
Amendola’s wife, Ashley, knows Kristen from their school days and is tending bar at Bunker’s Wharf.
“I want to make something different from the usual dishes,” said Amendola, “something to let people taste a new experience.”
He said Giroux showed him a proposed menu and asked for his ideas, which include, among others, carciofi, long-stem marinated artichokes sautéed in garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese.
Ashley was equally eager to offer inventive drinks that she learned over a decade of tending bar in Maine and Florida.
“I want to have fun with it,” she said. “I like making drinks that people oooh and aaaah over.”
Diners can arrive by car or boat at the East Schoodic Drive restaurant in Bunker’s Harbor.
A floating dock is available for those who want to tie up there or others can moor their boat in the outer harbor and will be ferried in.
Dana Rice Sr. is a lobster dealer in Bunker’s Harbor. His great-grandfather and his wife Barbara’s grandfather at one time lived in the Pound House on Bunker’s Harbor. They were what was known as “pound keepers.”
“You have to put soft shell lobsters somewhere in the fall and feed them every day,” Rice said of the days when shipping was more of a problem. “If you didn’t feed them, the feed was usually herring; they would eat each other.”
In the cold winter months, lobsters are dormant and feed very little, if at all.
Years ago, a boat known as a “smack” would sail to Downeast Maine from midcoast Rockland and load up on lobsters.
Today lobsters are shipped by tractor-trailers to airports and can be on a table in a Paris restaurant the following day.
The area remains very much as it was in the last century —modest dwellings overlooking the harbor that were built by fishermen and their families.
Rice said Birch Harbor drains out at low tide while Bunker’s Harbor has adequate water levels despite the tides with enough space for 15 to 20 fishing boats.
Bunker’s Harbor also has easy access to the open ocean. The harbor is about 1.5 miles from Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park.
“Once you’re there, it’s straight out to the Gulf of Maine,” Rice said.
Bunker’s Wharf is located on East Schoodic Drive in Birch Harbor. The restaurant is open June 1 through September. Dining is nightly from 5 to 9.