An expanding culinary scene, hundreds of acres of city-owned forest near downtown, and an outdoor concert venue drawing big-name acts during the summer months make the Queen City a worthwhile weekend excursion.
6:00 p.m. @ Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway
After we park in the attached garage, a cheery receptionist greets my wife, Caitlin, and me and gets us the key to our large, clean, and comfortable room. Let’s see what Bangor has in store.
7:00 p.m. @ 11 Central
Our taxi driver delivers us to a packed restaurant. The downtown eatery doesn’t take reservations, but luckily we are able to snag two seats at the full-service bar. The cocktail list is robust and daring. I order the Atticus Finch, made with Hornitos tequila, Domaine de Canton, and lime, and my wife enjoys a New York, New York with rye, apricot brandy, and orange juice, up with a twist. The menu features a lot of unusual meats—elk, lamb, and venison— and the walls are adorned with rotating local art.
8:45 p.m. @ Nocturnem Draft Haus
We walk in to the sights and sounds of a DJ spinning vinyl. We enjoy a pint of Allagash Brewing Company’s new Hoppy Table Beer (along with a few other brews) from the formidable tap and bottle list, populated with beers both local and imported.
10:15 p.m. @ Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway
We hit the casino floor for a couple of hours at the roulette table. The atmosphere transports us away from Maine, and, for a minute, we feel like we’re in Vegas. Our dealer is friendly and encouraging. We win some, we lose some, but we leave in the black, and we’re happy with that.
8:45 a.m. @ Paul Bunyan statue
After a bit of a late start due to our time at the roulette table, we scramble across the street for an obligatory selfie with the famous statue of Paul Bunyan, who is enjoying some crisp morning light.
9:00 a.m. @ West Market Square Artisan Coffeehouse
We find our way here on the recommendation of a friend. This warm, comfortable coffee shop is connected to the historic Charles Inn in a beautiful nineteenth-century building right in the center of town and serves Tandem Coffee from Portland and Tea Maineia from Winterport.
10:30 a.m. @ Mason’s Brewing Company, Brewer
Our search for brunch takes us across the Penobscot River to Brewer. The salmon Benedict over house-made biscuit with home fries is remarkably satisfying without being too heavy, which is no small feat for a Benedict. It pairs perfectly with a pint of hefeweizen, which is lightly sweet, a little tart, and profoundly drinkable. The space is sprawling and beautiful, due in no small part to huge windows that give a view of downtown Bangor across the river.
11:45 a.m. @ Stephen King’s house
We drop by for a look at one of Bangor’s most beloved landmarks, the home of the master of horror, Stephen King. His house, at least from the outside, is exactly what you’d expect, complete with gargoyles on the gate. We are not, however, invited in for refreshment.
12:15 p.m. @ Bangor’s European Market
A greenhouse made of first-growth cypress in the 1920s now serves as home to the farmers’ market, which features local meat, dairy, and produce, as well as world cuisine. We talk with Sunset Acres Farm’s Bob Bowen as he enjoys a hard- earned cup of chili before heading out to make his deliveries to the restaurants downtown.
12:45 p.m. @ Ingrid’s German Gift Shop
Owner Ingrid Perkins scurries around her shop, which is filled floor- to-ceiling with handmade European treasures
and delicious German chocolates. She gushes with pride explaining how all the ornaments are handmade in Europe, and are rare due to how difficult they are to acquire.
1:30 p.m. @ Rolland F. Perry City Forest
This nature preserve provides more than nine miles of trails in the scenic wilderness, just a couple of miles from downtown. The city-owned land is comprised of around 680 acres of working forest and wildlife habitat, including great horned owl nesting areas.
2:30 p.m. @ Mount Pleasant Cemetery
This historic, hilly cemetery offers one of Bangor’s most stunning, albeit somber, vistas. Rolling hills stretch as far as the eye can see, framing centuries- old headstones and mausoleums.
3:00 p.m. @ Bull Moose
We take a few minutes to paw through Bull Moose’s impressive selection of music, books, and films. I pick up a rare copy of the La Planete Sauvage (Fantastic Planet) soundtrack on 180-gram vinyl, as well as a Criterion Collection Blu-Ray of the film. Bull Moose is my personal danger zone. I get off cheap today.
3:30 p.m. @ Northern Kingdom Music
Here we swap stories with the locals and look through a beautiful selection of acoustic, vintage, and electric guitars, as well as some handmade by staff members. A highlight is a rare and beautiful 1957 Gibson ES 225 semi-hollow electric guitar. It’s something you could picture Chet Atkins or Carl Perkins playing.
4:00 p.m. @ Thomas Hill Standpipe
This historic structure was erected in 1897 with the use of a portable sawmill and blacksmith shop. The riveted steel tank is encased in a wooden structure. It holds some 1.75 million gallons of water and stands at 110 feet. The standpipe continues to provide water storage and regulates downtown Bangor’s water pressure.
4:30 p.m. @ The Rock and Art Shop
This place is a haven for curiosity lovers. Tastefully filled wall-to-wall with semiprecious stones, fossils, taxidermy, gifts,
and unique jewelry, it also has a gallery showcasing breathtaking artwork. Owner Tony Sohns takes us to the basement to show us a dinosaur skull and a Tesla coil. If you’re looking for a fossilized trilobite, a pair of hand-hammered scissors, a raccoon pelt, or a necklace that has a telescope on it, this is the place for you.
5:15 p.m. @ Mexicali Blues
A visit to Bangor wouldn’t be complete without a stroll through Mexicali Blues. The store has been keeping the citizens of Maine zenned out for over 20 years with its selection of tapestries, clothing, incense, and chill-lifestyle and Eastern- culture-themed gifts.
5:45 p.m. @ Bangor Wine and Cheese Company
It’s all in the name, folks. Bangor Wine and Cheese Company presents a broad offering of fine wine, local and imported beers, artisan cheeses, cured meats, olive oils, and assorted kitchenwares and gifts. It’s a one-stop shop for a dinner party.
6:00 p.m. @ Brahma Grill
Modern meets rustic here, with generous space surrounding each table and a laid-back and friendly staff. The menu boasts wild boar, mussels, a wedge salad that’ll knock your socks off, and a creative Slaughter Plate, where you build your own platter with a la carte proteins and sides.
7:45 p.m. @ The Fiddlehead Restaurant
Located next door to the Bangor Wine and Cheese Company, Fiddlehead’s menu features genre-bending mashups, a complementary, extensive by-the-glass wine list (which is a rarity), and diverse lists of craft cocktails and bottled beers, all underscored by a warm hardwood and brick atmosphere. The meal is a fine bookend to our day.
11:00 p.m. @ Seasons Restaurant and Sports Bar
In a surprise turn, we learn that Maine’s own Mallett Brothers Band is playing a set downstairs at Seasons, an intimate venue with a well-lit dance floor that is full of locals cutting a rug to the Malletts’ upbeat country-rock jams.
8:30 a.m. @ Bagel Central
This morning meeting spot is busy, and for a good reason. Yesterday we found a handwritten sign explaining that Bagel Central would be closed for the day for a well- deserved staff party. We are relieved that they are open today. Dozens of flavors of delicious house-made bagels, schmears, and sandwiches are served in a spacious dining room with high tin ceilings.
9:15 a.m. @ West Market Square Artisan Coffeehouse
We grab one more cup for the road. Given our breakneck-speed tour of Bangor, there is more to do and see than we could squeeze in this time. The downtown center has a warm, old-city feel and the streets are rich with history, with each old, repurposed storefront telling a story of its own. We’re looking forward to our next visit.