You’ll love the sense of community as well as the great food at The Badger Café and Pub in Union

Linda

Whether it is visiting daughter Rebekah, son-in-law Patrick and grandsons Addison and Vishal at their home in Union, attending our grandsons’ sporting events throughout the area or on our way to Rockland, we often find ourselves in Union. We love The Badger Cafe and Pub located on the common.

Christy and Michael Badger-Greer have owned this restaurant since 2007. Michael categorizes the food here as pub-style — with a twist. The lengthy list of local businesses providing fresh seasonal food for The Badger is impressive. The community feel of this restaurant is palpable. By 6 p.m. the restaurant was just about full. Neighbors greeted neighbors, with many patrons clearly regulars here.

Even though it was full, it was not too loud, allowing tables to enjoy conversations comfortably.

Prices here are very reasonable, ranging from $7 to $10 for sandwiches (which include fries), and entrees from $12 to $18 (which include a salad or a veggie side dish). They offer an impressive array of pub fare and appetizers as well — again at reasonable prices.

I loved the bruschetta appetizer. Thin crispy toasts were topped with homemade pesto, chopped tomato and a thick slice of fresh mozzarella. I don’t know if avocado was added, but something made this pesto spectacular. It came on a platter and was certainly large enough to share.

Patrick, Rebekah and Christy all informed us that the spring rolls appetizer was great. These were hands-down the best spring rolls I have ever had. The crispy outside had the texture of phyllo dough, the filling of fresh veggies was very light and the sweet chili dipping sauce all combined to create perfection. The menu lists this as a house favorite, and now it’s mine as well.

I’d tried the Homemade Falafel Burger here quite a while ago, and it was so good that I found myself craving it once again. So even though it was dinner, I went with the burger. I love that The Badger’s menu is flexible and you don’t have to order a large entree if you want something lighter. The burger is a vegan blend of chickpeas and spices.

George was commenting negatively on a burger without meat until he tasted it and his eyes got big. The sandwich comes on a challah bun with toppings of tomatoes, onion, lettuce and garlic aioli. Add their great sweet-potato fries and you have a terrific plate of food.

George

I asked Rebekah to focus her thoughts for this column on the kids, even though they did not join us for this dinner. Here’s what she had to say.

“The classic comfort food is available in kids’ meals, too, with a nod to the health-conscious parent, since they include a fruit or veggie option. Breakfast is probably our favorite meal to enjoy at The Badger with our family. Our kids’ breakfast favorites include the predictable pancakes and sausage, although Chef Michael sometimes indulges our youngest in his request for spaghetti and meatballs at breakfast.

“On the adult side of brunch, try the local favorite — the surprisingly refreshing Appleton Ridge Mimosa comprised of Pabst Blue Ribbon and orange juice. But breakfast is not the only time for a family meal. We have often enjoyed a meal with several families at once, including post soccer game festivities. Best to call ahead when you have a large group so that you can be sure they can accommodate you.”

With the full lunch and dinner menu always available here, it’s always hard to choose. This homemade and wholesome food is filling and fun. I was especially impressed that the entire dining room was served by Heather, with a bit of help from Christy who also works in the kitchen.

Michael is a beer guy and his beer list is astonishing — one of the best I’ve ever seen. I started with a strong German Dopplebock, dark and full bodied, and then enjoyed a lighter Local Harvest IPA on draught. I could easily become one of what Christy calls the “Bar Creatures,” who gather at the small bar to watch sporting events. I’m pretty sure I could become one of them!

The bruschetta was spectacular, both in appearance and taste, and I also loved the spring rolls — could have eaten a lot of them — but I was particularly intrigued and delighted by the Scotch Egg, a hardboiled egg inside a crispy breaded sausage, served with spicy aioli. Patrick and I shared it and it was really good.

I was hooked when I read the sign just inside the entrance that listed the night’s specials. I read, “Beef stew with blue cheese, dark beer and mushrooms, served over smashed potatoes.” Well, that’s five of my favorite things, I thought. Got to have it. And I did.

Chef Michael told me the specials give him a chance to be really creative, so I wanted to see what he could do with beef stew. Turns out, he could do a lot! The stew included a couple of flaky biscuits on top. The beef was tender. The blue cheese delectable. Carrots and other ingredients added flavor. Memorable.

I have to admit Rebekah’s vegetable mixed grill looked very good, too. But I was too focused on my beef to try it.

Desserts included a very tasty and very large bowl of pumpkin ice cream, and a delicious chocolate shortcake with cream cheese frosting. Patrick, Rebekah and I made short work of the shortcake.

Linda and I love community cafes like The Badger. The owners are “in the store,” cooking and serving, eager to please their customers. Local people linger, visit with each other, not rushed to turn over their tables. The Badger’s food is well above what you’d expect in a small town cafe and pub. And did I tell you about the beer list?

The Badger is just three miles from Patrick and Rebekah’s home, giving us many excuses to stop there. And for you, it’s only a half mile off Route 17 when you are traveling from central Maine toward Rockland, right on the Union commons. Stop there soon!

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.