There’s lots of tasty items on the menu, cocktails at the bar and games of bocce to be played on the patio at Three Tides, on the Belfast waterfront. There’s also more than 20 varieties of beer — from IPAs to Scottish and German styles — at Marshall Wharf Brewery, adjacent to the eatery. But if there’s one thing the Belfast establishment goes through in huge quantities on a nearly daily basis, it’s oysters. Sweet, briny, Pemaquid oysters, grown and harvested in Damariscotta.
“We went through 15,000 pounds of them last year,” said David Carlson, who opened Three Tides in 2003. “We have a shell midden that’s got nine years worth of shells in it, just to give you some perspective. And we use exclusively Pemaquid oysters.”
For more than 25 years, oysters have been farmed in the Damariscotta River by Pemaquid Oysters Company, which started in 1986, and have since become some of the most sought-after oysters in the Northeast. In addition to Three Tides, they can be found at restaurants including Primo in Rockland, Francine Bistro in Camden, the Damariscotta River Grill, and The Lost Kitchen in Belfast.
In the fall, seeds are planted in the river, where they grow over the winter, feeding on the plankton-rich water. Once they’re big enough, they’re brought out to Clark’s Cove, right in the Atlantic Ocean, to sit in the super-cold, super-briny, super-clean waters, which give the oysters their distinctive bright, salty taste.
“They have a really unique, distinctive flavor,” said Carlson. “There’s nothing else like them out there.”
In addition to oysters, Three Tides serves up small plates like crab quesadillas, paninis, stuffed mushrooms and salads. Oh, and the Marshall Wharf beer. Lots of beer — from the perennially popular Weisse Grip Hefeweizen and Illegal Ale-Ian, to more experimental beers like the Deep Purple Rauchbier, a smoked German beer, and seasonal varieties like Cornholio, a Welsh Blonde Ale, and Sexy Chaos, a vanilla and oak aged Russian Imperial Stout. Marshall Wharf is a beer geek’s paradise, and though you can get everything at Three Tides and in the tasting room, you also can try certain varieties at places like Nocturnem Drafthaus in Bangor, McKay’s Public House in Bar Harbor and Novare Res in Portland.