Looking for a one-of-a-kind culinary experience in Coastal Maine? Put down the lobster roll and head on over to Bandaloop- a dining adventure in flavorful innovation, thoughtful ambiance, and playful decor. Much more than a restaurant, an evening at Bandaloop can only be described as a feast for the belly and for the soul.
Bandaloop has been a staple in the Maine community for 20 years. Owners Bridget and Scott Lee recently moved the restaurant from its original home in tiny downtown Kennebunkport to a new space in Arundel, Maine- a massive wooden barn built in the 1700s. Conveniently located right off of Route 1, the three floors of this much larger venue allow for a broader functionality of the establishment.
Patrons can enjoy a fabulous meal in the gorgeous, wooden dining room, or relax with a signature cocktail in the bar. Visit the lovely To Go market counter for soups, cakes, or a container of the mouth watering house-made pistachio cilantro pesto (found in many of Bandaloop's dishes). The upstairs level of the barn is the more intimate space, perfect for larger gatherings and special events. A charming outdoor patio is also available when weather permits.
Bandaloop is a place where people are encouraged to linger, as I did, when I was lucky enough to enjoy a leisurely, delectable, four-course meal in this special restaurant.
Walking into Bandaloop is like entering someone’s very cool, artsy home. Thoughtfully adorned with greenery and unique decor, owner Bridget Lee has impeccably designed this lively atmosphere to feel expansive yet somehow cozy and intimate at the same time. A palpable element of mystique floats in the air at Bandaloop, like walking into a magical forest.
The friendly, upbeat host showed me to my table, a delightful spot right next to the fireplace in the main dining room. At 4:45 PM on a Tuesday, there was already a steady stream of people trickling in to eat. My waitress Renee, could not have been friendlier or more knowledgeable about the food and drink offerings, and believe me-the menu selections are extensive. Bandaloop takes pride in offering choices to all diners, happy to adapt any meal to dietary restriction or preference, including vegan, gluten-free and allergen-friendly dishes. The menus at Bandaloop are interesting and diverse, combining local Maine produce with global flavors to create some truly inspired dishes.
While signature favorites are available all the time, Bandaloop always offers something new on the menu, seasonally, weekly, even nightly. They are committed to using local and organic ingredients as much as possible while providing innovative and delicious selections.
I started off my culinary journey with a signature cocktail, the Hibiscus Sour. This dynamic drink is made with Vida Mezcal, Pisco, Hibiscus, Lemon, Agave, and Acqufaba. Fun fact, Acqufaba is a chickpea brine used in cocktails as a substitute for egg whites, so this concoction is friendly for those who don’t eat eggs. Deep purple in color with a gorgeous dried orange floating on the surface, the smoky flavor of the tequila, the sweetness of the Agave and the sour pucker of the lemon made this drink a complete knockout.
For my next course, I decided to try the Roasted Red Pepper-Coconut Bisque (gluten free and vegan). Chef Scott Lee has developed a cult following among locals and travelers alike for his out of this world soups. I could eat this soup for every meal for the rest of my life. The creamy texture was absolute perfection, and the slight heat in every spoonful from the poblano peppers could not have been executed better by Chef Lee.
Next up was the signature Bandaloop Egg Rolls. These vegetarian bad boys were filled with caramelized red onions, toasted walnuts, and gorgonzola, with a port wine reduction on the side for dipping pleasure. The crunch on the outside was light and tasty, and the flavor combination of the cheese, nuts, and onions was outstanding.
For my main course, I went for the Sesame Grilled All Natural Bell & Evans Chicken Breast. This entree came with both Asian Peanut Sauce and the famous Pistachio-Cilantro Pesto. Served on the side was a saffron Basmati and a perfectly cooked medley of lemon glazed spring vegetables. The chicken was cooked to perfection, and the flavor profiles of the two sauces on this dish blended together perfectly.
I briefly chatted with the couple at the table next to me as they enjoyed one of the specials for the evening- a cornmeal crusted soft shell crab. These diners were regulars, and raved about Bandaloop. They happily make the three hour drive from their home in Connecticut whenever they can.
Now I certainly couldn’t leave without dessert. I opted to try the Vanilla Orange Cake and Pistachio Pastry Cream Trifle. The layers of flavor of strawberry coulis, toasted pistachios, fresh fruit and mint was absolutely divine. I paired the trifle with a glass of prosecco and it was a superb ending to my meal.
Also worth noting, as if they don’t do enough, is the fabulous pastry chef on staff at Bandaloop- Missy Maidana. Missy was previously the pastry chef at “Pure Food and Wine,” a restaurant featured in the Netflix hit- Bad Vegan. Special order dairy and egg free cakes are available and can also be made gluten free. Missy makes all of the vegan (and sometimes raw) desserts at Bandaloop.
The history of the grounds of Bandaloop is fascinating. Legend has it that an elephant named Strabo died in transit to the circus grounds in this area in the 1900s, and is said to be buried behind the restaurant. The elephant has even earned a spot on Bandaloop's drink menu- the Strabo cocktail (a corpse reviver).
The owner, Bridget Lee, playfully ties in this mysterious history in other ways, through the artifacts and decor found throughout the establishment. For example, the giant wooden elephant sculpture mounted above the fireplace in the back bar.
Interior design and art is clearly a passion for Bridget and she has masterfully created a harmonious and special ambiance at Bandaloop. I enjoyed walking around with Bridget as she pointed out some of her favorite pieces, most notably the mural of Sonny and Cher in the back hallway connecting the third and second floors. Painted on the wall of her parents house by her father, Walter R. Broadbent Jr., this mural was salvaged after a tree fell down on their home during a hurricane.
My dining experience at Bandaloop was an incredible adventure. I have never been to a place like Bandaloop, and I am positive that nowhere else like it exists. What Bridget and Scott Lee have created is nothing short of magnificent. Bandaloop is a truly special, one-of-a-kind place, and I cannot wait to return. For an immersive culinary experience like none other in Maine, do yourself a favor and visit Bandaloop.