The Maine State Music Theater is a state treasure, so we were not surprised that the performance of “Gypsy” was one of the best we’ve ever enjoyed. But we were surprised by our dining experience at Frontier Cafe — and by the fact it, too, is driven by its owner to perform — by connecting the world through food, arts and culture.


We had never seen “Gypsy” and it was amazing. And we hadn’t attended a performance at Maine State Music Theater for years, forgetting what a great venue it is, and how the theater attracts some of the best talent in the country.

Charis Leos, who performed the role of the mother of the show’s central character, Gypsy Rose Lee, just blew us away. What a voice! What a performance! There are a lot of actors in this musical and every one was wonderful — including our old friend Glenn Anderson, performing at MSMT for his 20th consecutive season.

The theater’s seating is intimate and includes a balcony. There are no bad seats. The staff is friendly and helpful. And if each performance is anything like “Gypsy,” we need to get here more often. We heard that the previous musical, “Les Miserables,” was also fantastic.

Mary Poppins opened last night and runs through Aug. 24. That should be a good one, too. But we were really intrigued by “Footlight Follies,” scheduled for the night of Aug. 12, and billed as “an evening of the best (and hilarious worst) of talents provided by community members, our own MSMT acting company, staff and Board of Trustees as well as surprise guests.” Sounds good!

Nancy Heiser, a Maine Sunday Telegram restaurant critic, gets credit for drawing our attention to the Frontier Cafe. Nancy tells it like it is — the good and the bad — and when her column about the cafe came out glowing, we knew it had to be good. But honestly, it was much better than good.

Owner Michael “Gil” Gilroy led travel excursions through the Middle East and Asia until 9/11, and wanted to bring those experiences to his new restaurant, which includes art shows, a cinema and a huge space where Gil encouraged customers to linger and talk. He sees the restaurant as a discussion space. I, of course, focused on the food. And the food is what really surprised me.

Executive Chef Jason Putnam changes his menu seasonally and obviously enjoys cooking a wide array of foods. The cafe’s menu is the most unusual we have seen in our two and a half years of writing this column. This is an especially good place for vegetarians and others with a special diet — and those on a tight budget.

Curried mussels were my favorite dish, with a curry spice sauce that was fantastic. A half portion for $8 was plenty for me.


The Maine State Music Theater has all the theatrics one appreciates in a live musical performance. For me the live orchestra (housed in a pit where you can’t see them, but certainly can hear them), the lights, the costumes and those amazing voices define the experience.

We haven’t had the chance to see performances the last few years, so when we recently visited to see “Gypsy” I realized just how much I missed going. I do think Gypsy is now my favorite musical. Charis Leos, who played the lead role of Rose, stole the show by belting out songs with her powerful voice. This was Charis’ eighth season at Brunswick, and in overhearing comments as we left the show, she has become a perennial favorite with most show-goers.

The word cafe can conjure up images of a simple restaurant, or one with outdoor seating perhaps. But the Frontier Cafe has expanded my definition of a cafe. When I entered, I was astounded to see how big this restaurant is. Housed the old Fort Andross riverside mill, this is a sprawling open space with an industrial feel due to the huge steel pipes running along the high ceilings. Part of the room holds long picnic style tables where large parties fit comfortably, or sometimes sit family-style with another party dining at the other end of your table. Many smaller tables are found on both ends of the dining area as well.

After working abroad until 2001, and traveling extensively, Gil wanted to bring some of the culture, arts and food he experienced to Maine. He wants people to experience food similar to the way one might when traveling, by picking up foods like bread, cheese, meat and ethnic specialties of the area for a picnic. Thus was born the idea of the Frontier’s Marketplates, which combine regional favorites to share as a starter or for a meal. Choose from Italian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, French or create your own plate by choosing from a variety of categories.

By glancing through the menu one can see choices of Mexican, Vietnamese, Greek or good old American. What are you in the mood for? Chances are it’s on the menu here.

Their menu seemed tailor-made for sampling by choosing the single, rather than full, portions. (perfect for our column). I started with a grilled romaine Caesar salad with house-made Caesar dressing. Large pieces of thinly sliced asiago made this very nice.

We chose to split a slider (a mini hamburger made with Caldwell Farms beef), which held rosemary mayo, micro greens and a great little bun. They offer three types of sliders in the trio plate.

We loved the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Taco. Its spicy rub, along with an incredible fresh mango salsa, made this deliciously spicy and flavorful. We chose the crunchy blue corn tortilla, which I loved. A little messy to eat, but so good.

Next, we sampled Vietnamese-style food by sharing a Bahn Mi sandwich. There was a variety of texture in this sandwich to make it stand out. It held a pork and chicken pate, grilled chicken slices, pickled jalapeno and a slaw of carrot and daikon radish. All this came on a crunchy baguette.

Our knowledgeable waitress, Karen, suggested this as her favorite and we thank her for that.

We probably wouldn’t have ordered dessert, but the people sitting next to us talked us into it. It was vegan panna cotta (made with agar agar instead of gelatin), and it was probably one of the prettiest desserts we’ve seen in a while. I don’t know what the nondairy milk was, but the custard was cold, creamy and delectable. Dragon fruit and red currant berries made a tangy counterpart to the sweet panna cotta. What a perfectly light delicate dessert. And a very nice finish for a wonderful afternoon and evening.

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