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Chances are, if you’re walking the streets of Bar Harbor during the summer, a good portion of the people you see will have an ice cream in their hands. Is there a more ubiquitous food there, aside from perhaps lobster? In honor of one of the island’s favorite sweet treats — and in honor of the official first day of summer — myself and two fellow BDN reporters decided to take on the difficult job of embarking on an ice cream tour of Bar Harbor.
Bill Trotter has reported on Bar Harbor and surrounding environs for the BDN for a combined 11 years, and spent summers on the island as a kid, while Ellsworth-area reporter Mario Moretto graduated from MDI High School. Both are also big ice cream fans. We opted only to visit ice cream joints that are within walking distance of one another in downtown Bar Harbor, and that make their own ice cream, for the sake of brevity.
Our first stop was CJ’s Big Dipper, a colorful, always-busy spot across the street from the Village Green on Main Street. CJ’s serves Shain’s of Maine ice cream, which is based in southern Maine, but they also make their own gelato. We opted to try the Maine Wild Blueberry gelato, which is packed with blueberry flavor and covered in lots of frozen blueberries.
Next up was Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream Co., which has two locations — one on the Village Green, and a second farther down the way on Main Street. They also have a shop on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port. MDI Ice Cream opened in the mid-2000s and quickly became notable for its unusual flavors, including Indian Pudding, Blackstrap Molasses and Banana and Blueberry Basil Sorbet. They also were put on the international map when the Obama family visited in the summer of 2010. We tried a new flavor — Butterscotch Wicket, a rich blend of butterscotch and mascarpone cheese — as well as one of their most popular flavors, the Maine Sea Salt Caramel. MDI Ice Cream is the foodie’s ice cream. We recommend getting a “flight” of flavors if you’re having a hard time choosing just one.
Then came Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium, a beloved Bar Harbor business that has been on site for decades. There’s always a line out the door at Ben & Bill’s, and while some of those folks are there for the peanut brittle, truffles and other handmade candy, in the summer they come for the ice cream. Ben & Bill’s goes straight for the sweet spot, with lots of over-the-top combinations of chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, cake, pudding, salty things, you name it. We tried Husky’s Lover — vanilla malt ice cream with pretzels, peanut butter and chocolate swirls — and their famous Lobster Ice Cream. Yes, lobster. It has big chunks of lobster in a buttery ice cream base. It is an acquired taste, but if you like lobster, then that’s certainly a flavor for you.
Finally, we stopped at Jordan Pond Ice Cream & Fudge Shop, a small shop near the water on Main Street. They’re a little less flashy than the other three, but their handmade ice cream — the same stuff that’s sold at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park — is a surprise treat. We tried their Mocha Oreo, a blend of wickedly chocolate ice cream with concentrated espresso and Oreo crumbles. We saw some scoopers ladling hot fudge onto a sundae, and if we hadn’t just eaten a crazy amount of ice cream, we probably would have tried that, too.
A note to the wise: As fun as it sounds to try four ice cream shops in the span of one hour, be forewarned that you might need a nap afterward. Followed by a hike up Cadillac Mountain to burn off the excess calories.