You Need a Postcard and Lots of Luck to Try This Maine Restaurant and Its New Cabin

The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine keeps it (very) old school.

Smack-dab in the quietude of Freedom, Maine, a renovated grist mill serves as home base for a famed food-of-love project accessible only by lottery: The Lost Kitchen. Reservations at this beguiling restaurant are open just once a year in April, and only obtainable via a postcard lottery (seriously, an actual paper postcard).

Owner Erin French set out to create a sublime little eatery with just a handful of reclaimed wooden tables, beautifully mismatched tableware—often sourced from yard sales—and the very best of the area’s daily harvest and foraging. Her rustic haven gained popularity quickly since debuting in 2014, and she ultimately eschewed the idea of the overly sanitized, emotionless efficiency of online reservation systems. Instead, people from all over the country and all walks of life mark their calendars each year to send her a postcard for the annual randomized drawing.

Upon arriving, patrons cross a footbridge over the rushing water of Sandy Stream and are greeted with a drink to sip while entering the mill. There’s just a simple counter separating the kitchen from the dining space and a typical evening includes the meal unfolding over five hours. Though each guest receives a printed menu, French and her team zealously create new morsels in the hours leading up to the meal—all based on what looks good that day.

Freedom still has some old-timey laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol by restaurants. However, French operates a separate wine cellar nestled within The Lost Kitchen’s stone foundation of the mill where bottles can be purchased for the evening.

On paper, it all sounds lovely, but there’s also an intangible energy at play—the culmination of the pastoral elegance inherent to the pristine-yet-unfussy space, the extraordinary way ingredients are honored, and perhaps most of all, French’s irresistible authenticity.

Where: 22 Mill Street, Freedom, ME 04941
Get there: About 3 hours and 20 minutes to drive from Boston to Freedom

What to know about the postcard lottery system:

French and her team (which includes her mom) begin to pull postcards for the lottery on the 1st of every April. If your card is pulled, they’ll reach out to arrange a reservation—with the earliest recipients getting first dibs on dates.

The postcard sender is also responsible for filling their selected table with guests at $250 per guest. If your postcard is not selected, don’t fret. It goes into the waitlist lottery, and you can even still mail in one to be added to the 2023 calendar (which is fully booked).

Where to rest your head in Freedom, Maine:

Where to stay? The Lost Kitchen’s newly-opened Cabin Stays, of course! The exposed beam, natural light-filled mini wonder, is a direct extension of French’s belief that less is more, but it books well in advance. As a backup, and in keeping with TLK’s local-is-love mantra, you can also check out local Airbnb listings like this Freedom Camping Cottage Retreat or Charming Freedom Cabin with its own pond.

Where to grab breakfast like a local in and near Freedom, Maine:

Well, in a perfect world, you snag a dinner reservation during the summer when, on Tuesdays, The Lost Kitchen hosts a farmers’ market. There you’ll find fresh baked goods, cheeses, fruits, and other local provisions. Otherwise, head to the local favorite, Ralph’s Café, about nine miles east in Brooks.

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Melanie Carden is a private chef turned travel writer. She’s equal parts adrenaline-seeker and Golden Girls vibes. You can find her trying new things, thrifting for treasures, grinding it out on a trail, or lounging on a picnic blanket—Aperol spritz in hand. She's fickle about social, but the sporadic nuggets are worth the wait—cricket tacos, anyone?