This small bistro on Great Diamond Island provides an island escape with its tropical decor and neon flamingo. The menu, designed by vegan chef Rocky Hunter, features seafood dishes like grilled oysters, New England shrimp toast, and shrimp ceviche. The carrot “lox” and bowl of fried Brussel sprouts show the chef knows how to treat vegetables, while the burger and bacon skewers show he’s not afraid of meat either. Crown Jewel closes after Columbus Day, so scope that ferry schedule soon.
Alex Wight is into creating experiences.
Owner of Great Diamond Island’s newest establishment Crown Jewel, Wight spent several years organizing the highly lauded Flanagan’s Table dinner series in Buxton, where ticketed guests seated at a single elongated table left their nights in the hands of a rotating cast of well-known area chefs. Dining in a rustic barn setting under the glow of warm, very purposeful lighting led to a transportive feeling not typical of even some of the best restaurants operating on a daily basis. The dinners felt raw, immediate and worthwhile — an opulent reminder of impermanence, if you will.
Limitations are a big part of what makes Crown Jewel great.
The brick-fronted, seasonal restaurant calls attention to some, like its rather remote location on Diamond Cove, a semi-private community on the northern half of Great Diamond Island.
For the better part of a century, the island was home to Fort McKinley, a military base built during the Spanish-American War. As need for the fort disappeared, so did the soldiers and staff who maintained the buildings. In recent decades, the abandoned barracks and station houses have been restored and converted into slate-roofed houses and businesses.
Crown Jewel occupies the former blacksmith’s shop, an active weapons workshop long since converted to a general store that still operates from the rear of the building. You’d never guess that there were once anvils and molten iron here in the pastel, pink-and-coral-hued tropical fantasy of a dining room. Today, the only thing glowing is a Neon Dave sculpture of a tiara-topped flamingo; it buzzes and beckons you to take a seat – perhaps at one of the rattan stools that fringe the turquoise bar, or perhaps on one of the palm-leaf-patterned banquette cushions. There’s a clear seaside vacation theme here, though maybe not the one you’d expect from a restaurant on an island in Casco Bay.