It was all Ireland for this great visit to Waterville.

Mainely Brews and the Waterville Opera House provided a great St. Patrick’s celebration — even if you are not Irish.

Linda

We are not Irish, but some St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are too good to pass up. I associate holidays with food so it’s a given that I will crave corned beef and cabbage by mid-March. When we found out that the Waterville Opera House was featuring an instrumental group from Ireland on March 14, we figured out a very special way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year — dinner at Mainely Brews followed by a performance by Lunasa at the Opera House.

The restaurant had already embraced the upcoming holiday with a menu featuring several Irish dishes. Corned Beef and Cabbage, Bangers and Mash, the Dublin Burger and a Reuben were front and center. We decided to start with an appetizer, giving me more time to decide on entrees.

The Roasted Red Pepper and Gouda Dip is a new item so we gave it a try. It is served with carrot and celery sticks and their own pita bread wedges. The Gouda lent a nice smoky taste, while you could still taste the red pepper. It’s baked to a golden brown and full of cheesy goodness, making this a nice addition to their already great menu.

I shot George a dirty look when he asked for a small sample of the Guinness Beef Stew. I wish to apologize for that dirty look. One taste of that sample convinced me I needed to order a bowl for my dinner!

Who knew the addition of Guinness would take beef stew to a whole new level? I couldn’t have guessed how much richer and more flavorful the broth could be. Theirs held a pleasant peppery flavor as well. The small crock was deceptive — there was plenty in there for a very nice dinner. ($6)

The staff here is very personable. Our server, Paula, has worked here for nine years. She told us that they had a great team working here and that they were great people to work with.

The only problem I have at Mainely Brews is trying to decide what to have because their menu offers so many tempting choices. There are pizzas (the toppings list goes on and on), great sandwiches, paninis and impressive entree dishes.

There are 10 styles of burgers, from Amsterdam to Shanghai. They all sounded super and, if one can judge by the number of burgers I saw going by, must be pretty popular. I can also highly recommend the Wild Mushroom Beef Tips from prior visits. Mmmmm. Portions here are generous and the prices are reasonable.

This big restaurant is hopping on a Friday night, and when we left at 7:30 there was a sizable waiting line. The secret is out: Mainely Brews offers great food and an impressive selection of beer and wine.

We don’t get to the Waterville Opera House nearly as often as we should. It is so elegant now thanks to the recent renovations. This time I noticed that the main floor slants toward the front of the room providing graduated seating. As a small person, I really appreciate not being blocked by the person in front of me. The people in back of us were speculating about rolling a marble down from the back to see what would happen. It’s an entertaining thought.

Lunasa’s concert was a celebration of sounds. This group specializes in instrumental Irish music and I found myself wondering what some of those instruments were! With an array of tin whistles, electric guitar, fiddle, flute, piccolo, double bass and uilleann pipes, we were treated to some of the most beautiful music I have heard in a while. Uilleann pipes are a toned down version of the bagpipes I am familiar with, and the air is forced into the instrument by pumping your elbow. These are the national bagpipes of Ireland and, since they are quieter, are usually played inside. The Irish pipes player was incredible and, in fact, plays with Bruce Springsteen.

It was an evening of impressive entertainment and a foot-stomping good time.

George

I am blessed with a wife who enjoys microbrews and good pub food. So it’s no surprise that Mainely Brews is one of our favorite restaurants. In fact, the food is decidedly better than most pubs. And owner Luke Duplessis knows his beers.

Mainely Brews features microbrews from Orono’s Black Bear Brewery — both on tap and in bottles — but also offers an intriguing selection from the Netherlands, Jamaica and other countries. They have two of my favorites, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout and Shipyard’s Black IPA.

Prices are a bargain for some of the Black Bear choices, starting with 10 ounces for just $2.50, a pint for $3.75 and a 22-ounce glass for $5.50. If you have to ask what I ordered, you have not been reading this column long!

As I was strolling around taking photos, a young fellow recognized me and called me over to say, “This is the best place!” Shawn and Denise Stevens and their daughter, who live in Oakland, were enjoying a meal with their friends. “You get a fancy meal here,” said Shawn. “And it’s not too expensive.”

“Don’t write about this place,” he concluded. “It’s already hard to get a table here!”

I took eight pages of notes about the food, and can’t possibly do it justice now. But we did go all-Irish this time. When I noticed that you could order an entree and add a half-rack of ribs for an additional $9.99, Lin exclaimed, “That’s alarming!” And she concluded, “That’s two meals.” Alas, I was allowed only one meal. But I’ve had the ribs before and can tell you they are yummy.

Mainely Brews also offers a substantial array of healthy choices, including many vegetarian dishes (I am wondering what the “Gardin of Eatin” might be), and the “Bear Skinny Health and Fitness” menu featuring “guilt-free pub fare.”

The Brews’ crew teamed up with Bear Skinny’s Lauren Downey to create this interesting and unique menu. Lin pointed to one item, “Skinny Dips,” and reported, “It’s your favorite.” And, lest you get the wrong idea, she was talking about my favorite hummus — roasted red pepper. It’s served here for $8.99 and includes fresh veggies.

The Guinness beef stew was fantastic, as Lin noted, but after enjoying a sampling of that in addition to lots of the awesome cheese appetizer, I was focusing on the bacon, goat cheese and steak entree until Lin forbid it, saying, “That’s a heart attack on a plate!”

So I went with the Bangers and Mash, always a favorite of mine, and this one was superb: traditional Irish banger sausages, grilled and served over mashed potatoes, topped with a rich onion gravy and served with a choice of vegetables, for just $12.99.

Of course I loved the sweet sausages and mashed potatoes. The onions on top added a lot of texture and taste. But I also really liked the smoky taste of the roasted veggies and the pita bread that I dipped into the gravy. I didn’t come close to eating it all.

By the time I waddled up the street to the Opera House, I was ready to sit still and be entertained. Lunasa was perfect for the occasion — all Ireland — and peppy enough to keep me awake and my feet stompin’.

The Waterville Opera House is now rated as having the best acoustics in New England, making it a fantastic place to listen to music. In addition to the multi-million investment in renovations, the Opera House has made a major commitment to increasing its programming. There are three times as many shows and performances here as there were last year.

The Opera House is driving the downtown economy, bringing people to Waterville from all over the state. We often recommend a visit to Colby’s art museum followed by dinner and one of several great restaurants in the city topped off with a performance at the Opera House. Fun!

We’ve now seen a stage performance, a play and a concert here, and all were superb. While Linda and I won’t be able to get to all 160 events, we’ll do our best! How about you?

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.