48 Hours in Lewiston + Auburn
Proudly preserving Maine’s industrial heritage, the twin cities look to the future with lively, varied offerings in food, drink, and the arts.
A river runs through it
On a sunny late-fall afternoon, my husband, Ted, and I take the scenic route to Lewiston and Auburn, just a little over 30 minutes from our home in Yarmouth. The drive takes us past farms, fields, trees aglow with autumn colors, and finally into Auburn, where our first view of Lewiston is from the balcony of our sixth-floor suite at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch. With a stylish lobby, a bar and restaurant, an indoor pool, a gym, and attentive service, the hotel is a comfortable home base for our weekend, and ideally located right on the picturesque Androscoggin River. We catch the sunset from our top-floor perch before heading across the river for the evening.
DaVinci’s Eatery is the first of several places we will visit in the historic Bates Mill Complex during our trip. The cavernous Italian restaurant is packed, but we luck out with a seat at the bar and a chance to check out the menu while sipping perfectly mixed negronis. Bicycles and vintage Vespas decorate the brick-walled space, which is cozy and warm despite its size. After devouring a basket of buttery garlic knots and mussels steamed with Baxter Brewing Company’s Pamola session ale, we dig in to generous bowls of pasta then finish our meal in classic Italian style with a chocolate-dipped cannoli.
Bagels and bedspreads
We’ve been to the new Portland outpost of Lewiston’s Forage Market, but we are eager to visit the original on Lisbon Street, the city’s main thoroughfare. Forage’s sourdough bagels are baked in a wood- fired oven and have been cited by Saveur magazine as some of the country’s best. Accompanied by Bucklyn Coffee from Blue Hill, they live up to their reputation.
After driving around downtown to get our bearings, we stop in at Museum L-A, located in Mill No. 1 of the Bates Mill Complex. The mission of this museum is to tell the stories of the mill workers who made the famous Bates bedspreads as well as shoes and bricks. Our guide takes us upstairs to an enormous section of the mill that once housed hundreds of thundering looms; the outlines are still visible in the oil-stained floor.
Local brews, global art
For lunch, we cross Canal Street to another section of the mill complex, which houses The Pub, newly opened by Baxter Brewing Company adjacent to the brewery. The bright, modern taproom and restaurant offers salads, sandwiches, and a full bar in addition to Baxter brews. While it’s tempting to head back to the hotel for a nap, we drive through the city to the Bates College campus, where the Bates College Museum of Art has just been reopened following a renovation. The three exhibitions, all of which are in place until March 23, include Peter Turnley’s searing photos of refugees, sculpture installation artist Amy Stacey Curtis’s remarkable drawings, and Anthropocenic: Art about the Natural World in the Human Era. We wrap up the day with a return to Lisbon Street, where we visit Quiet City Books, a charming used bookstore, The Vault, which offers an impressive selection of wine and beer, and Bear Bones Beer for a pint of the brewery’s Buck’s Season session ale.
Out on the town
Paul and Kate Landry opened Fish Bones Grill in 2005, and their welcoming, collegial restaurant remains a hotspot. Because we’re in the heart of Maine’s French Canadian culture, we can’t resist starting with poutine, served in a cast-iron skillet and appropriately decadent. Ted proclaims his fish-and-chips are spot-on, and my duck breast with pumpkin tortellacci and garlic-sage cream is autumn on a plate. We share a slice of rich dark- chocolate torte before walking the short distance to the cocktail bar Sonder and Dram for a nightcap. The subterranean place, which opened in June 2018, has a speakeasy feel, and it’s hopping with locals sipping libations mixed by co-owner Tom Ardia. From a tiny kitchen, his business partner, chef Michael Gosselin, serves snacks, including rotating flavors of buttered popcorn.
Never enough bacon
A short walk from our hotel, House of Bacon serves breakfast and brunch by day and comedy by night. We’re there for the former, when more than a dozen flavors of bacon are promoted on a chalkboard above the bar. I make a beeline for the make-your-own Bloody Mary station, choosing a slice of crisp bacon and a celery stick from the multiple garnish options. I also go for the crème brulée French toast with bacon jam and, yes, more bacon on the side (smokehouse-maple, which our server tells us is the most popular flavor). Post-porkfest, a walk along the river is in order. To reach it, we wander through Festival Plaza and admire the River Cascade, a sculptural water feature that includes bronze shoes on a series of steps, a tribute to the area’s shoe- manufacturing history.
Another historic chapter
In 1965 Lewiston was the unlikely site of a historic prizefight in which Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston in the first round. We stop by the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, as the championship venue is now known, and meet a helpful employee who unlocks the snack bar so we can see the framed newspaper tributes to the fight that are displayed on its walls. Our final destination is Thorncrag Nature Sanctuary, a 450-acre preserve recommended to us by a longtime Lewiston resident. We have its forested paths all to ourselves, and the quiet environment provides a serene, calming finish to our weekend.