Bangor, Brewer, + Orono
48 HOURS-November 2012
Photographs + stories by Maine magazine staff:
Sophie Nelson, Susan Grisanti + Joe Hebert
Joe Hebert, Online Editor
4:00 p.m. @ Portland Transportation Center
I hurry out of work to pick up my friend Alex—a Bailey Island native visiting from Boston—before we begin the trek up to Bangor. I’m excited to take part in my first 48 Hours weekend, and Alex is pumped to get out of the city for a few days. As we drive, we can’t help but notice the first orange leaves and other early signs of fall.
6:00 p.m. @ Hollywood Casino, Hotel and Raceway
Turning off the Interstate, we find ourselves practically at the front door of Hollywood Casino, which will be our home away from home for the next few days. I’ve never set foot in a casino, let alone stayed at one, and I’m excited to see Bangor’s big new addition.
6:30 p.m. @ The Sound Stage Lounge
We wander around the slot machines, admiring the neon signs. Before long, we’re settled at the bar, watching tonight’s band set up sound equipment on the stage directly above us. While we enjoy our beverages, a singer croons some famous country tunes.
8:00 p.m. @ Nocturnem Draft Haus
I’ve heard a lot about this place from our friends on the Maine magazine Facebook page, and I made sure to claim it as my Friday night dinner spot. We snag a table close to the bar and begin talking with our waiter Zach who helps us pick out a few beers to go with the artisanal meat and cheese appetizer we order. We go with the Atlantic Leafpeeper Red Ale and the Dieu du Ciel Peche Mortel—an intense dark stout. The Leafpeeper is ridiculously good. Alex’s Dieu is too rich for me—and at 9.50 percent ABV, it’s way too strong for his weekend chauffeur. We order two lighter beers, and when Zach brings them over he informs us that the keg kicked right before he finished pouring. For this reason, he’s reducing the price. Or, in Zach’s words, “you pay less for more foam.” I could imagine myself frequenting this place far too often if I lived closer. We decide we have to try the Brats and Kraut—do the same, and you will not be disappointed.
9:30 p.m. @ Paddy Murphy’s
We meet editor-in-chief Susan and her friend Melissa Coleman at this awesome bar just down Main Street from Nocturnem. A woman sporting heavily tattooed arms and a rocking voice croons from the corner. We enjoy a beer before heading back to the casino for the night. I take a peek at the menu and notice some great vegan and gluten-free options. I imagine that Heidi, our resident gluten-free colleague at Maine Home+Design, would be proud of me for noticing.
10:00 p.m. @ The Sound Stage Lounge We head back to the Sound Stage for one last cocktail (I can already tell that this weekend is going to do a number on my liver), and decide to take a crack at gambling. When we cannot quite figure out what to do, we determine that the luckiest thing for my bank account is for us to turn in for the night.
8:00 a.m. @ Hollywood Casino, Hotel and Raceway
We wake up early and I pause for a moment to take in the view of Bangor. From way up high in the hotel, the city looks like it just might be ready for us. First stop, food.
8:30 a.m. @ Giacomo’s
We decide on egg sandwiches to fortify us for the long day ahead. Alex goes with the Spicy Egg—peppadew, pepperoncini, cheddar and goat cheese on a bagel. I go with the much safer Lady Bouncer—sausage, egg, swiss, and spicy mayo on a croissant. We bump into Susan, who scores with the house favorite: breakfast pizza.
9:00 a.m. @ Old Town Before exploring Bangor, we take a drive over to Old Town. I lived there with my family when I was little, and I’m curious to see how much the neighborhood has changed. Miraculously, I remember the way to my old house. Unsurprisingly, it’s a lot smaller than I remember. My infamous sandbox—which helped me fill my dad’s car with sand—is gone.
10:15 a.m. @ Friars’ Bakehouse
Run entirely by the friars from a nearby monastery, this bakery is cash or check only. Without doubt, order a whoopie pie.
10:30 a.m. @ The Rock and Art Shop
We spend far too much time wandering around this store, but between the beautiful plant displays and skeletons, I’m hooked on the Rock and Art. I pause to look at the jewelry, and I can’t help but think of how much Susan and Sophie would ooh and ahh over the great pieces. A set of rings made from used skateboard parts catches my eye, but I don’t think they would look quite as good on me as they would on the girls.
11:00 a.m. @ Central Street Farmhouse
This store is my number-one recommendation for anyone visiting Bangor. Even if you aren’t planning on joining one of their classes—or if making your own beer, wine, and cheese isn’t your thing—drop by and talk with whomever is working.
11:30 a.m. @ The Bangor Museum and Center for History
My co-worker Leanne told us about the current Women in War exhibition at this museum. We ring the doorbell and a museum attendant answers the door to welcome us. There’s only one person working today, Jenna, and she’s one of the nicest people we’ve met in Bangor. We wander around the museum and read about the different roles women had during the Civil War. On our way out, Jenna gives us a copy of their Sanitary Fair Cook Book, which is chock full of recipes from the Ladies’ Sanitary Fair in 1864. I know that our assistant publisher—a baker extraordinaire—will get a kick out of it.
1:00 p.m. @ Stephen and Tabitha King’s Home
It’s sort of tricky to find this spot because the city avoids publicizing their address. Luckily, we at Maine magazine don’t mind stopping to ask for directions. We find it without incident. This gothic-looking home, complete with an ornate wrought iron fence, is definitely a must see—if you’re not too frightened of the ghost rumors, that is!
1:30 p.m. @ Sea Dog Brewing Co.
We score a table looking over the river and immediately order a sampler of beers. After wonderfully cheesy artichoke dip and a caprese grilled cheese sandwich—which I’m quick to recommend to our lunchtime neighbors—we’re hard-pressed to finish the whole selection of microbrews. Alex does most of the grunt work. I’m particularly fond of the Gollywobbler and the Riverdriver Hazelnut Porter.
4:00 p.m. @ Pepino’s Taco Stand
After a beautiful drive through the outskirts of Bangor, we convene with the rest of the 48 Hours crew at this hole-in-the-wall taco stand. The margaritas are ice cold and made to order. The chips and salsa tide us over until our reservation at the Fiddlehead Restaurant tonight.
5:00 p.m. @ Geaghan’s Pub
We’ve heard word around town that this place is on the up-and-up. Geaghan’s recently opened its own brewery, and the bartender recommends the IPA. I’m not disappointed. There’s only time for two beers before we hurry back to the casino—located within walking distance—to change for dinner.
7:00 p.m. @ The Fiddlehead Restaurant
Susan went to this restaurant on Friday night and couldn’t stop raving about it. We’ve been indulging all day and have nearly hit the wall. Luckily though, the smaller dishes are just as delicious as the main courses—or so we heard from everyone on Facebook. Alex goes with a clam chowder and house salad, while I opt for the baked sticky rice in coconut milk and the walnut and goat cheese salad. At the recommendation of our server Rachel we share the toasted-coconut custard pie. Paired with homemade whipped cream, words cannot even begin to describe how good this pie is. Alex and I both go for the last bite at the same time. Unfortunately for me, he wins.
8:00 a.m. @ Bagel Central
We have plans to meet with Sarah Smiley, a Bangor-based author, and her three kids. Over delicious bagels and coffee, we chat with them about the area and Sarah’s forthcoming book, which chronicles the family’s experiences having guests fill Sarah’s husband’s seat at the dinner table while he’s away on a yearlong military deployment to Afghanistan. (The project is called “Dinner with the Smileys”—check it out on Facebook). The entire family is warm and kind, and we all fall in love with the boys—especially the little heartbreaker named Lindell.
11:00 a.m. @ Downtown Bangor
After a long, relaxing brunch with the Smileys, Alex and I begin the trek back to Portland. On our way out of town, I notice the Maine Discovery Museum, a children’s museum featuring creative, hand-on activites. After some quick internet sleuthing, I realize that it is indeed the same museum in which I recorded a truly horrible, but simultaneously awesome, music video to the long-lasting classic, “Who Let the Dogs Out.” On that note, I’m happy to leave Bangor behind. But only for the time being.
8:30 p.m @ Thistles Restaurant
After the drive from Portland to Bangor, my partner Max and I are eager to stretch our legs and hungry for dinner. The restaurant is packed, but the bar—our dining location of choice—is open. I’ve heard the general manager and owner, Juan Santiago Rave, and his father, the executive chef, are Argentinean, so Max and I split the steak dish bearing their native country’s name. The Argentinean Style Steak with a chimichurri sauce of red peppers, garlic, parsley, scallions, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar is one of the best steaks we’ve ever had.
10:30 p.m. @ The Lucerne Inn
We wind our way through Brewer and Holden to Dedham, home of the grand colonial inn overlooking Phillips Lake (and only 15 minutes from downtown Bangor). I’m not surprised to learn that the Lucerne has intrigued onlookers for over two hundred years. Before becoming a “halfway house” for folks traveling between Ellsworth and Bangor, the inn was a family home. Can you imagine? Our room is spacious and decorated to underscore the inn’s classic feel.
7:00 a.m. @ The Lucerne Inn
Phillips Lake and layered blues of distant mountains fill the windows. What a way to wake up.
8:30 a.m. @ Eagle’s Nest Restaurant This greasy spoon is known for lobster rolls, river views, and eagle sightings. The lucky couple enjoying pancakes in front of the bay window spots two bald eagles, and I overhear the server say it’s rare to see them so early in the morning. The place quickly fills with locals, one of whom orders a lobster omelet “like a tourist,” he says.
10:00 a.m. @ Hose 5 Fire Museum
Cruising State Street toward Orono, a red fire truck catches my eye. Matt Michaud and Joey Betts, who are both in seventh grade, give us a tour of the former fire station, which was in operation from 1897 until 1993. Matt and I agree that the 1917 Garford Pumper, Old Town Fire Department’s first motorized fire engine, is the coolest truck on the premises. Matt wants to be a firefighter when he grows up and has volunteered at the museum for four years. The museum is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon, May 1 through October 31. If you miss them this year, be sure to stop by this spring.
10:30 a.m. @ Downtown Orono
We park the car near Woodman’s Bar and Grill—the place to go for a great burger, I’m told—and make our way down Mill Street. On another occasion, I intend to try Pat’s Pizza, a local favorite, and a breakfast burrito from Verve. My friend Nathan tells me a big bowl of noodle soup from Thai Orchid is the best way to warm up during the winter. At Parks Hardware, Max purchases a few useful items while I ogle things I have no need for—cucumber seeds, a rocking horse, paint samples. Ampersand is warm and smells like essential oils and just-baked goods. Max and I buy a chocolate chip cookie “for later.” Shopping at Metropolitan Soul is like getting permission to rifle through a friend’s jewelry boxes, card collections, and closets. Orono as a whole has that youthful, progressive feel that typifies college towns. On our way back to the car, we cross paths with a running group. The cross country team perhaps? The air is like vaporized seltzer water—cool and specked with rain. Perfect running weather, if you ask me. As we head out of town, we pass by beautiful old homes, some coated with ivy.
12:00 p.m. @ Mexicali Blues + Antique Marketplace and Cafe
I find three teeny tiny blue stud earrings at Mexicali Blues, my go-to spot for sterling silver jewelry and—random though it may seem—chair cushions. At our next stop, two floors of antiques keep Max and me busy for a while. He buys screwdrivers and wrenches for his classroom. I talk myself out of buying a Pendleton wool blanket and a bright-red hot dog.
1:30 p.m. @ BookMarcs Bookstore
Max and I peruse the contemporary and classic fiction section and the wide variety of used books and magazines on the shop’s second floor. On the staircase landing, I’m distracted by a poster with a quote reading: “The time may soon arrive when the three great cities of North America—Bangor, New York, and San Francisco—shall be representatives of the wealth, populations, intelligence, and enterprise of the eastern, central, and western divisions of our country.” Over 150 years ago, Bangor was known as the “lumber capital of the world” and was home to one of the nation’s first trolley systems. Despite the great fire of 1911 (which Matt from the Hose 5 Fire Museum spoke to me about at length), much of the city’s nineteenth-century wealth and splendor is still evident in its preserved architecture.
2:00 p.m. @ Yoshi’s Japanese Restaurant
To start, we order spring rolls packed with fresh matchstick-cut vegetables and slathered in a peanut-spiked sweet-and-sour sauce. The crab roll topped with crispy fried noodles and eel sauce, and the udon noodles with vegetables that follow, make for an all-around yummy meal.
4:00 p.m. @ Pepino’s Taco Stand
While Max rests at the Lucerne Inn, I meet up with Joe, Alex, Susan, and Leanne, our co-worker who joins us, at Pepino’s Taco Stand in Brewer. We have margaritas and Dos Equis with lime and fill each other in on our adventures thus far.
5:45 p.m. @ Kosta’s Restaurant and Bar
On our way to dinner, Max and I stop by Kosta’s in Brewer for a drink. We’ve heard great things about the new Greek restaurant, and tease ourselves by deciding what we would order on another occasion. The game proves too much for us to take, so we try the bacon-wrapped scallops appetizer. It’s delicious.
6:45 p.m. @ Thai Siam Restaurant and Lounge
We make our way to one of the many two-tops running alongside the restaurant’s walls of windows, where I secure a great view of a bustling Bangor intersection. I order a Tsingtao beer and a bowl of tom kha soup with vegetables and tofu. I’m pretty sure that if I lived in Bangor, I would be a regular here.
8:00 p.m. @ Penobscot Theatre Company
The cowboys who hold the theatre doors open for us turn out to be members of the Bodacious Bobcats, Patsy Cline’s backing band. The musical Always… Patsy Cline tells the story of the relationship between Cline and her cranky, country-loving friend Louise from Houston. Becky’s New Car, running at the Penobscot Theatre from October 17 through November 4, promises to be a great time as well. After this night’s performance, I take artistic director Bari Newport at her word.
10:30 p.m. @ The Charles Inn
We’re intrigued by the goings on in the chandelier-lit inn and decide to do a little recapping and people watching over hard cider before calling it a night.
8:00 a.m. @ The Lucerne Inn
I’d read about Lucerne Inn’s “lake walk” online, and after nibbling on fruit and baked goods from the ample continental spread, Max and I take a walk through the woods to Phillips Lake. The lightly worn path is spotted with mushrooms. We come upon a train track and then signs to the lake’s public access area. A light breeze ruffles the crystal clear water, and we stay put for a while.
10:00 a.m. @ Bagel Central
Upon arriving at this downtown staple, my old friends introduce me to their new friends, Sarah Smiley and her family, whose “Dinner with the Smileys” stories range from heartbreaking to hilarious. Joe and Alex can’t say enough about their bagels, which are topped with fresh herbs and onions. The Smiley boys, meanwhile, make an attempt to eat black and white cookies as big as their heads. We ask them about their favorite places to go in Bangor, and the answer is unequivocally Moe’s Original Bar B Que. Ford is partial to the smoked turkey sandwich, ribs, and mac and cheese. Alright, then. I’m on it.
12:00 p.m. @ Dysart’s
Prior to this weekend, Dysart’s was the only place in Bangor I had been. This 24-hour truck stop kept me and some friends fueled for a hike up Mount Katahdin the summer before last. With a less grueling day ahead of me, I try a cup of their haddock chowder accompanied by a heavenly hybrid of a baking-powder biscuit and dense homemade white bread. Talked out, Max opens his new book, purchased at BookMarcs. I attempt to reenter a short story, but am distracted by the friendly crowd and the way thought solidifies into memory at the end of a 48 Hours trip. I am happy to head home, but happier still for having discovered yet another great part of the state with a charm all its own.
My friend, and Maine magazine writer Genevieve Morgan is in my passenger seat, catching a ride to Bangor. The plan is for me to drop her at the bus station where she’ll continue on to Bar Harbor for a weekend visit with friends. The two-hour drive is an easy one, straight up the turnpike—and it flies by as we catch up, talking the entire way.
5:00 p.m. @ Bangor Wine and Cheese Company + State St. Wine Cellar We’re in search of special wines for Gen to bring to her hosts, and for me to add to my budding collection. Both shops have enticing selections of wine and other scrumptious offerings—including a tasting bar of Fiore olive oils and vinegars at Bangor Wine and Cheese. We head toward our next stop with several bottles that run the gamut from Old World to New World.
5:30 p.m. @ Ilya Askinazi’s Home + Studio
For me, a trip to Bangor would not be complete without a visit with fine-art photographer Ilya Askinazi. He is extraordinarily passionate and prolific—piles of work are everywhere! I am honored to have an inside peek into such a gifted artist’s space.
6:20 p.m. @ The Charles Inn + The Big Easy Lounge
Music from a jazz trio drifts from the hotel’s Big Easy Lounge. I check in and quickly drop my bags in my room. On my way out, I pass through corridors lined with the inn’s extensive collection of original art.
6:30 p.m. @ The Fiddlehead Restaurant
Our friend Melissa Coleman (also a Maine magazine writer, and the former 48 Hours columnist) joins Genevieve and me for dinner. The bustling dining room is warm and relaxed. The hardwood floors, big windows, and exposed brick are a great representation of what I have been noticing about downtown Bangor: grand architecture from a bygone era being revitalized by imaginative and talented business owners. Everything from the cocktails to the dessert is stunningly delicious and skillfully prepared with a plethora of special ingredients from local purveyors. And the camaraderie between the regulars and front-of-house staff is easily felt. We linger over our meal, in no rush to leave this special spot.
9:30 p.m. @ Paddy Murphy’s
Genevieve catches a cab to the bus station, and Melissa and I stroll through town where people are milling about in the streets, and live music is playing at several venues. We decide to dip in to this lively pub to meet online editor Joe and his friend Alex. It takes me some time to realize that it’s karaoke night because everyone I hear singing sounds so good! This couldn’t just be the affect of the beer, could it?
8:20 a.m. @ Giacomo’s
I run over for a quick bite before I head out of town for the morning. A slice of tomato-basil breakfast pizza, a mocha latte, and a quick visit with Joe and Alex give me the jumpstart I’m looking for. I’ve heard from several sources that I must return for a panini at this highly recommended cafe.
8:45 a.m. @ The Bangor City Forest
With community radio WERU providing the soundtrack—Hot Buttered Rum, Billy Stewart, Toughcats—I’m happily driving just a few miles past the Bangor Mall area to a location that seems like a world away: 680 acres of forest that has more than nine miles of trails for running, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. I park the car and walk the East Trail until I reach the 4,200-foot-long Orono Bog Boardwalk. Tall oak and birch trees, ferns, and other plant life common to Maine forests flank the beginning of the boardwalk, but it’s not long before I step out into the wide-open bog—a place out of Oz or a Dr. Seuss book. The only trees in the vast bog are scrawny pines in shades of green and gray. The boardwalk loops in a circle around the center of the bog before it brings you back to the trail system of the City Forest. I pass two women on horseback, a couple walking with their young daughter on a tricycle, and a running group. By the time I reach the parking lot, hikers galore are piling out of cars and heading into the forest.
11:00 a.m. @ The Rock and Art Shop
I head back to town amped up to hit as many of the shops that dot downtown Bangor as I can. My first stop is already a favorite, and I carefully browse each and every unique item. I walk away with a bag full of purchases: a kit for a cardboard animal head, a Maine pendant necklace, two shell nightlights, a Venus flytrap, and a couple of greeting cards.
11:25 a.m. @ Downtown Bangor
I continue down Central Street and pop into the Briar Patch, a charming toy and children’s book store, and Epic Sports, a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. On Main Street, I wander through American Retro’s new and recycled fashions, and at Frock Affair, a women’s clothing store, I find a vintage wool kilim bag. At Valentine Footwear, I lust after a pair of handmade Italian flats, and at Best Bib and Tucker Clothiers I try on a beautiful green cashmere sweater with a distinctive cut. Next, I’m at Blue Heron, a home furnishing and accessories shop on State Street. On Harlow Street, I make my way through BookMarcs Bookstore before I spot a place I’ve been really looking forward to visiting. Whew!
12:40 p.m. @ University of Maine Museum of Art
Another example of Bangor’s grand architecture, the museum sits on a foundation of granite bricks that hold it above the canal that surrounds it. Short bridges cross over the canal and connect to a brick façade decorated with lovely patterns. I’m catching the last day of a show featuring Richard Haden’s astonishing hyperrealist sculptures and Arnold Mesches’s powerful paintings, drawings, and collages. I also take in extraordinary art from the museum’s permanent collection, including works by Richard Estes, Neil Welliver, Andrew Wyeth, Paul Caponigro, Andy Warhol, and David Hockney. The museum’s next show—paintings by Alan Bray—will be open through January 5, 2013. Through the generosity of numerous collectors, over 20 works of Bray’s will be assembled at once in the gallery—something I will definitely return to see.
2:15 p.m. @ Park + Harlow Streets
At Michael Shyka’s design studio, which is not open today, I peer through the windows and drool over his hand-painted fabric dresses. Next door, One Lupine features an assortment of crafts and gifts, as well as a tremendous selection of hand-dyed and spun yarns. I am hurrying back to the inn to change so that I can be on time to meet my friend, and our events director Leanne, but I spot Maine Jewelry and Art and decide to quickly breeze through. I’m drawn to a metal cuff bracelet designed by Amanda Coburn and fun chunky key rings by Deb Rollins.
3:00 p.m. @ Nocturnem Draft Haus
Leanne and I decide to grab a quick bite before we meet up with our friends in an hour. A Shriner’s parade is in full force on Main Street. We duck in to Nocturnem, and decide to split the delicious grilled ahi-tuna sandwich.
3:30 p.m. @ School House Antique Mall
If there is a treasure hunt, Leanne and I are on the case. We have more fun oohing and ahhing our way through this place, pointing things out to one another at every turn. We’re especially gaga over a 1950s swiss dot dress and a pristine vintage chenille bedspread. But the find of the day is an antique ladder that I’ll use as a bookshelf.
4:00 p.m. @ Pepino’s Taco Stand
On the advice of Leanne’s cousin who comes back to her hometown of Brewer just for the Mexican food, we’ve made Pepino’s our designated meeting spot to rendezvous with Sophie, Joe, and Alex. We compare notes over tasty margaritas.
5:45 p.m. @ Luna Bar and Grill
Back in downtown Bangor, this restaurant and bar is full of happy patrons. And it isn’t long before Leanne and I are hanging with the locals. We spend the next couple hours sipping scrumptious house-infused spirits and hearing all about community politics and other news from the friendly crowd.
8:30 p.m. @ Massimo’s Cucina Italiana
Leanne and I are starved, and lucky for us, our timing is right—we’re able to snag a table for two. We fill up on their renowned bread and pasta. Full and happy, we are ready to call it a night.
9:30 a.m. @ Bagel Central
The 48 Hours crew spends the better part of the morning eating delicious bagels and drinking up the strong sense of community in this Bangor landmark—it’s the perfect setting for us to meet with Sarah Smiley and her three precious boys. We hear all about their “Dinner with the Smileys” project—they invite a guest every week to fill Sarah’s husband’s empty seat at the dinner table while he serves overseas.
10:45 a.m. @ Metropolitan Soul
I make one last pass through town on foot, and I find a sunny spot on a bench on Hammond Street. I sit and let the experience with the Smiley family swirl around my mind and settle in, taking a lasting place in my memory bank. Behind me, I hear a door opening and I decide to wander through. Colorful items from around the world, and plaques and books surround me with reminders about living in the moment and feeling gratitude. It’s time for me to head home, and take my place at Sunday dinner with my family.