The Travelin Maine(rs), George and Linda Smith of Mount Vernon, have spent their lifetimes enjoying all that Maine has to offer. Now they’ll tell you all about it — their favorite inns, restaurants, trips, activities, experiences, and travel books and websites — in their own personal style. They’ll be offering anecdotes, tips and all the details you need. So join them in exploring, experiencing and enjoying the great state of Maine.

If Luke Duplessis could turn every post office location that is closing into a Mainely Brews,
people would happily forget about the mail.

After several friends and readers of this column told us how much they like Mainely Brews Tavern, in Waterville’s old post office, we scheduled a visit last week. This is a fun place with a great pub atmosphere, superb micro-brews, and a surprising (and enticing) menu.

Home for Christmas last week, our youngest daughter Hilary, who works at a high-end restaurant on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., joined us for our adventure at Mainely Brews.

Hilary

The atmosphere at Mainely Brews is what will bring you in — jovial, warm, and lively — but the food is what will keep bringing you back. Walking into the well-lit basement tavern with Mom and Dad just a few days before Christmas, I was surprised by how many families had chosen this place for a holiday dinner. This is not your average bar in central Maine.

The layout of Mainely Brews is great — something for everyone, with a horseshoe bar, large wooden tables fit for large groups, and cozy leather booths scattered around the oddly shaped historic basement. You can even have a private dinner or event in the old mail vault, a separate room adjacent to the tavern.

The history of the building makes for an authentic, charismatic restaurant with real Maine character.

The live music from a five-piece band was upbeat and a perfect accompaniment to the meal, without overwhelming the conversation.

The food (and beer) is what will keep you coming back for more. We were thrilled with the lobster stew and Southwest chicken rollups as appetizers, and blown away by the steak tips entrée and Mediterranean baked haddock entrée special.

These were all washed down with $3.50 pints of Maine microbrews that the tavern pours from taps.

My favorite was the Drop Dead red ale, high-alcohol amber that was both smoky and delicious. Dessert was not to be missed — the peanut butter pie is a real standout.

We were too full from all of the aforementioned food to try their burgers and pizzas. I was sorry to miss the London burger with black pepper and blue cheese. It would have been great with a Post Office Porter.

Incredibly delicious food, for surprisingly low prices, with some pretty spectacular locally brewed Maine beer. Mainely Brews is a long way from Washington, D.C., but I will be back.

Linda

The story behind Mainely Brews Tavern is a good one. Luke Duplessis bought this bar when he was 23 years old. I wonder if he could have even imagined how successful his restaurant would be now, eight years later.

The first thing you’re apt to notice is the beautiful old brick walls. Sconces and hanging lights give it a warm, welcoming feeling. One might think this is just a bar, but it actually is a restaurant serving great pub food — including burgers, appetizers and pizzas — and delicious entrees.

It was hard to choose from all those appetizers. The warm spinach dip included large pieces of artichoke, and was served with just-fried tortilla chips. Beware because those chips are addictive!

If you want something different, and enjoy a spicy sauce, order the Southwestern chicken rollups ($6.99). These are tiny burritos filled with corn, black beans and chicken, and then fried. It was the spicy ranch sauce that made these spectacular. Next time I go, they are likely to be my dinner! Luke told us these are very popular and I see why.

A friend was raving about the beef tips, so I knew we had to try this dish. A good portion of beef (perfectly cooked), mushrooms and onions, were served in a delicious, wild mushroom demi-glace.

Order their great mashed potatoes with this and you have comfort food at its best. The $13.99 price included a delicious Caesar salad. This entrée was incredible.

George

Hilary’s restaurant experience helped us evaluate some of the key ingredients for a good restaurant, and Mainely Brews had them all — from friendly, knowledgeable servers to appropriately timed delivery of food.

My perfectly cooked (flaky) haddock had a topping well-chopped so that you got all of the taste with each bite, and was served in a baking dish that kept the food hot (although I gobbled it up so fast it had little time to cool!)

After we’d finished our desserts, our very accommodating server (and also the front-of-the-house manager) Sandra gave me paper copies of all their menus — including the “Bear Skinny” health and fitness guilt-free menu. Much to my astonishment, my haddock dish was on that menu! I asked Lin if that meant I could order another dessert. You can guess the answer!

The micro-brews are provided by one of my favorite breweries, Black Bear in Orono, and both dark beers — the porter and the stout — are superb.

After a bit of begging, the girls allowed me to describe the desserts, a scrumptious peanut butter pie (the soft center was amazing) and a crème brule cheesecake that combined two of my favorite things into perhaps the tastiest cheesecake I’ve ever had. Hilary agreed.

Desserts are made by Luke’s friend at Carriage House Confections in Veazie (who makes desserts from some of our favorite restaurants including Fiddlehead in Bangor).

Conclusion
You’ll get real value here, where low prices are combined with good food served in a great pub atmosphere where everyone around us — including families with small kids — was obviously having a great time. Good grub. Great pub. Who needs the post office?

Visit George’s website: www.george
smithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.