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One of Maine’s best meals is at the end of the road.
Story and Photos by Julia Bayly
Don’t even try to order pancakes at Two Rivers Lunch in Allagash, Maine. The cooks won’t let you. They will, however, be more than happy to take an order for pancake—singular—at any point during their normal hours of 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
It makes perfect sense once you realize those fluffy, homemade pancakes are the size of a dinner plate and commonly served “lumberjack style” with baked beans, bacon and fried potatoes.
Located in the northwest corner of Maine’s Aroostook County near the Canadian border where the Allagash and St. John rivers meet, where paved Route 161 ends and the dirt roads leading into the North Maine Woods begin, Two Rivers Lunch is the kind of place that, after just one visit, everyone knows your name.
And, if you take the time to chat with any of the locals enjoying a cup of coffee during the day, they will likely remember where you are from, what you do for a living, and ask about your family on your next visit.
Two Rivers Lunch is the tiny town’s only restaurant and one of only a handful of businesses—the town boasts a single auto garage, a smattering of hunting and fishing guides and several canoe rental establishments. It’s equal parts eatery, community center and social club.
It really is at the end of the road, something in which the community’s 236 residents take real hometown pride.
This is quintessential small town Americana where for more than 40 years, Two Rivers Lunch has been the epicenter of the Allagash social and political scenes, dishing out good food, discussion and information in near equal parts.
“People come in to talk about the weather, exchange news, see how they are feeling, who got their deer or moose, or just the status of what is going on for the day,” said Darlene Kelly Dumond, daughter of the diner’s founders and current owner.
Locals arrive most often in dusty pick-ups while visitors come by car, canoe, snowmobile and even dogsled—the diner is the fourth and final rest stop in the area’s annual 250-mile Can Am Crown Sled Dog Race held the first weekend in March each year.
In the summer it’s the terminus of the 95-mile canoe trip down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. In the winter snowmobilers stop in for a hot meal after exploring the thousands of miles of groomed trails and backwoods sledding in the Maine woods.
Regardless of how you get there, it is worth the trip.
Inside, the decor is influenced by the north Maine woods. Mounted moose and deer heads peer from the walls. A stuffed bobcat mingles with a stuffed weasel on the woodstove. Photos of past hunts—most signed by the hunters and their guides—are everywhere.
The coffee pot just inside the door is rarely empty. Regulars never wait to be served, often pouring themselves a cup before setting down to order from menus memorized long ago.
That menu consists of eggs, pancake (singular), beans, bacon, stews, soups, pasta, meatloaf, burgers, sandwiches, cakes, donuts, cookies and pies, all known as “Allagash comfort food,” Dumond says, with recipes handed down by generations of Allagash women.
Residents are more than happy to recommend side trips into the North Maine Woods to places like Allagash Falls or one of the many small fishing ponds dotting the landscape.
If you’re lucky, Dumond’s father and legendary Maine Guide Tyler Kelly will stop in and your meal will come with a side of his stories of growing up in the Maine woods. Or of that frigid night in 1991 when he and a friend spent hours dodging ice floes in their canoe rescuing dozens of people trapped during a spring flood.
Oh, and as for that pancake? Don’t worry: If you’re still hungry after the first one, Darlene and her staff will happily cook up another one for you.
Two Rivers Lunch is open every day 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. except Christmas, but even on that day Dumond says the doors are left unlocked, coffee is made and her mother sets out homemade donuts if someone wants stop by.
Plan A Trip
Two Rivers Lunch
75 Dickey Road
Allagash, Maine 04774
Julia Bayly, an award-winning journalist based in Maine, writes about traveling with her sidekick Chiclet the rescue dog at travelswithchiclet.com.