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A tank away

It doesn’t feel like a tourist town

Still, visitors will find no shortage of fun ways to spend their time

Above: the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Below: the Belgian frites at Lion’s Pride Restaurant & Brewery, and creels and lures at Cabot Mill Antiques. Above: the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Below: the Belgian frites at Lion’s Pride Restaurant & Brewery, and creels and lures at Cabot Mill Antiques. (Photos by Jonathan LEVITT FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)
By Jonathan Levitt
Globe Correspondent / November 30, 2011
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There is no harbor here, no wooden sailboats, no weathered wharves, no lobster in the rough. The vista viewers and steamer clam feasters drive right through, hurrying along to the island-studded bays and coastal mountains just down the road. Their loss. Unlike so many of Maine’s more picturesque villages, most of Brunswick, possibly because of its lack of scenery, does not feel like a tourist town. The downtown, full of grand old houses and specimen trees, sprawls between the old mills and Androscoggin River rapids to the ivy and tweed of Bowdoin College. The Fort Andross Mill complex, a 100,000-square-foot former cotton mill, still stands on the shore of the river facing the wild falls, and is now full of artist, yoga, and dance studios, restaurants, and a giant antique market. Along Maine Street perch shops and restaurants galore - places for artisan bread and raw milk, old records and refurbished players, backyard composters and stoneware crocks, good coffee and fine cigars. For lobster key chains, keep on driving.

STAY

By next fall, the Amtrak Downeaster train will extend service from nearby Portland to Brunswick. The Inn at Brunswick Station (4 Noble St., www.innatbrunswickstation.com, 207-837-6565, standard king $159) will be there waiting. The six-month-old inn is crisp and contemporary - adjacent to the train station and a short walk from Bowdoin College. For something a little bit more “ Victorian,’’ the 150-year-old Brunswick Inn (165 Park Row, www.thebrunswickinn.com, 207-729-4914, queen room $170 includes a full breakfast) is right on the town green, just down the hill from the college and close to everything in town.

DINE

One thing about nearly all New England college towns is that food offerings tend toward the eclectic. El Camino Cantina (15 Cushing St., www.elcaminomaine.com, 207-725-8228) is a roadhouse fantasy of black velvet, chrome, and groovy California Mexican food made with local Maine ingredients. The lights are low, and the music is loud. Don’t miss the margaritas or the fried-to-order tortilla chips with guacamole and chipotle salsa. Trattoria Athena (25 Mill St., www.trattoriaathena.com, 207-721-0700, reopens tomorrow) is the place to feast on hearty Greek- and Italian-influenced home cooking: fried artichokes with lemon-garlic aioli ($8); hand-made pappardelle with duck ragu and porcini mushrooms ($18); and keftedes, goat meatballs with mint and garlic, wrapped in caul fat and served with creamy Greek yogurt ($7). On Sunday nights dinner is served family style. The Gelato Fiasco (74 Maine St., www.gelatofiasco.com, 207-607-4002, a small scoop of gelato is $4.50) makes its rich and airy gelato from scratch with Maine milk and natural-cane sugar. The glass case is crowded with exotic flavors: espresso chip made with locally roasted coffee, toasted coconut with coconut cream and flakes, chocolate cinnamon with plenty of cinnamon. Get it scooped into a homemade waffle cone.

DURING THE DAY

Art lovers will not want to miss the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (9400 College Station, 207-725-3275, www.bowdoin.edu/art-museum, admission is free), a hushed chamber of world-class works. There are 18,500 objects in all, ranging from pre-Columbian terra cotta figures, to Gustav Stickley chairs, to paintings by such masters as Winslow Homer and Rene Magritte. For some, no trip to Maine would be complete without shopping for antiques. Cabot Mill Antiques (14 Maine St.,www.cabotiques.com, 207-725-2855) is 16,000 square feet of curiosities and collectibles. About 160 dealers fill their displays with all things old and interesting: taxidermy, folk art, cast iron, split ash creels, country primitive furniture. Yearning for the sea? From Brunswick it is a short drive to Reid State Park (375 Seguinland Road, www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/index.pl, 207-371-2303) in Georgetown, where visitors will find a mile and half of wide white sand beaches and rocky headlands.

AFTER DARK

Frontier Cafe (14 Maine St., Mill 3, Fort Andross, www.explorefrontier.com, 207-725-5222, menu items $5-$15) in the mill, with big views of the river, is a bright and airy cinema, club, gallery, cafe, pub, and meeting place. It has been closed but will reopen with a new bar and restaurant the week of Dec. 6. Go there to hear acoustic, jazz, world music, or poetry, watch feature films or opera and ballet live in HD, check out rotating works of art, drink coffee, and stare at the river, or sample craft beers from all over the world. And speaking of beer, with 35 hand-blown glass taps, and 700 bottles, Lion’s Pride Restaurant & Brewery (112 Pleasant St., www.lionspridepub.com, 207-373-1840, beers start at $4) is a must for the beer aficionado. It specializes in Belgian beers and hand-cut Belgian style frites but also pours all the good local brews. Eveningstar Cinema (149 Maine St., www.eveningstarcinema.com, 207-729-5486, evening shows are $8 for adults) is a classic independent cinema showing first-run independent films.

Jonathan Levitt can be reached at www.jonathanlevitt.com.

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