George

When you enter Maine from Quebec and ask for a restaurant recommendation, you’ll be told to stop at the Old Mill Pub in Skowhegan. Yes, they are well regarded all the way to the border.

The Dore family purchased the pub four years ago, and two brothers and their wives work there. Eric Dore is the manager and spends a lot of time going up and down the stairs, delivering the food. His wife, Sarah, was our friendly and professional server. Ben Dore is the kitchen manager, and his wife, Christin, is a server and bartender.

The pub’s selection of Maine brews is impressive, starting with Bigelow and Oak Pond breweries right there in Skowhegan. I’ve been a fan of Oak Pond’s brews for many years, so I started off with their Oktoberfest ($4). Oak Pond’s brews are used in several of the pub’s recipes and sauces.

While I hankered for the spinach and artichoke dip, Linda insisted on a single appetizer. I have to admit, her choice of chicken wings was terrific.

The menu is extensive, particularly for a pub, so we asked Sarah what some of the more popular choices are, leaving me with a very difficult decision. So many sounded so good: the crab-stuffed haddock, the bangers and mash, the maple chipotle salmon. But I went with an old favorite, the fish and chips ($16) — Atlantic haddock filet beer-battered and fried to a golden crisp, served with a huge portion of pub fries and coleslaw. The filet was just as advertised, with a crispy exterior, and it was huge. I ate it all, leaving only a few fries on the plate.

For a Wednesday evening, the pub was very busy — with one large table of women, and another table that appeared to be two families with children. Yes, children are welcome here and have their own menu.

Eric is very proud that from January through August, the pub got more five-star ratings on TripAdvisor than all of central Maine’s restaurants, and has risen from No. 16 in the region to No. 2. That is impressive, and now we know why.

Linda

Our recent visit to The Old Mill Pub showcased everything a good pub should be. There was a good selection of beer and a menu that would please a variety of palates.

We noticed the well-lit, two-story brick building right off as we crossed over the bridge into downtown Skowhegan. It is located on the river with two entrances off Main Street to access parking beside the restaurant.

There is seating downstairs in the bar area and a nice space upstairs as well. We got there just before darkness settled in and caught the beautiful view of the Kennebec River from our window table. There is a large deck that is popular in the warmer months. It doubles the pub’s seating space and customers love sitting out there.

There is an array of tempting starters including mussels and pub pretzels. But it was the chicken wings that interested me. One pound of wings in a variety of flavors for $9 seemed like a bargain. The portions here are large and the prices reasonable. We split an order of wings and tried two flavors — barbecue and Buffalo. The wings were cooked to perfection and well-seasoned. The Buffalo wings were served with blue cheese sauce. Eric told us that the barbecue sauce is house-made, using Oak Pond’s Nut Brown Ale. It was double-napkin messy and so yummy.

Eric sat to talk with us, and you could hear the pride in his voice as he spoke about the pub and his local suppliers. He credits the growth and success of the restaurant to maintaining consistency and sourcing as much as possible locally. The local bakery, The Bankery, for example, is their source of breads, pretzels and desserts.

Sarah and Eric recently moved to the area after commuting from Windham for four years. After saying how impressed we were that several family members are involved in the pub, she quickly set the record straight. “The grandparents watch the kids. They’re the real stars of the show, because without them there wouldn’t be any of this.”

There are so many food choices here: an extensive sandwich list, 10 salad choices, homemade soups, pub favorites (including lobster ravioli and seafood alfredo) and a bunch of entrees. I went with the build-your-own burger, a half-pound patty with lettuce and tomato ($9). One could choose grilled chicken, fried chicken or a veggie burger instead. My Swiss and mushroom burger didn’t need mustard or ketchup because it was already perfect. The roll was special, and all this came with handcut fries.

What a great find this pub is.

MAINE HARVEST FESTIVAL

We’re looking forward to the Maine Harvest Festival on Nov. 19 and 20 at the Cross Center in Bangor. From its cooking demonstrations to 55,000 square feet of booths featuring Maine grown and produced products, this is a fantastic event. Join us there!

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