Linda

Downtown Lewiston now boasts many great eateries and shops, and the newest one we’ve discovered is Forage Market. We popped in for a quick look several months ago after a friend recommend it. We were impressed with their focus on locally farmed produce and dairy, not to mention the wood-fired bagels and breads (I counted 12 varieties on their website) made there. So on a recent Sunday we headed there for lunch before a visit to The Public Theater.

One step inside told us the market has a strong following. It attracts Bates College students and patrons who look for great, freshly made food. There was a long line of customers ready to place orders, and all the tables were full when we arrived. They all seemed to know how to go about it. We did not, and needed to head up to the menu board to get a grasp of what was being offered that day.

On weekends they extend the breakfast menu from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. During the week it is served from 7 a.m.-10:30 a.m. The owner had told us how popular the breakfast sandwiches were, so we certainly wanted to try one. Gorgeous plates of huge bagel sandwiches streamed out of the kitchen while we waited. Unfortunately for us, they ran out of bagels before we placed our orders.

Ah well, I continued to spy delicious sandwiches being served on their bread. That day’s bread was Levain, a French style bread made with a wild yeast starter. So I went with a lunch-style hummus sandwich served on that freshly baked bread with local greens and tomato. I loved it and would certainly order it again.

I ordered the Chicken Bulgar Soup to go with this, and was glad I did! What an amazing homemade soup … hearty, due to the chicken and bulgar, but so tasty due to the scrumptious broth. It was a large bowl and I thought they’d brought us the wrong size, but the server confirmed that it was indeed the eight-ounce small portion. I was afraid I couldn’t do my meal justice, but shouldn’t have worried. I ate every morsel.

There is a great selection of produce and products from many local farms in the grocery section. I recognized the Emery Farm from Wayne and the Pietree Orchard in Sweden we’d visited for apples and baked goods just two weeks before. The cheese selection alone will tempt you.

Forage Market is a good place to visit, and many customers lingered over coffee and conversation in the relaxed atmosphere. We will certainly be going back, and we’ll plan to be there in time to try those bagels!

George

I was worried as we entered Forage Market, because we had only one hour to eat before heading to the Public Theater farther down Lisbon Street, and two dozen people were in line at the counter waiting to place orders.

But I needn’t have worried. Hannah, a Bates College student taking orders at the counter, was superb — processing the orders quickly but not hurrying anyone. She is well-acquainted with the food and helped us make our choices.

I confess I had a difficult time with my choices. Most of the food is made from scratch, and both breakfast and lunch items were available. The soups sounded really good. And the desserts, filling a case to my immediate left, looked awesome. They even have dozens of coffee and tea choices. And the cheddar ham scones looked really yummy.

I eventually chose the Cordon Bleu soup — onions, celery, ham, potatoes, Swiss and provolone cheese. My eight-ounce bowl, with bread, could have been enough for lunch.

I opted for a breakfast sandwich with a thick English rasher bacon, on their special Levain bread. It was fantastic, despite my disappointment at missing out on the wood-fired bagels.

While Linda was busy finishing up her lunch, I wandered the market, discovering a great selection of meat, cheese, produce, wine, beer, freshly baked bread and pastries, take-out, pre-made sandwiches and much more. There is one checkout for market purchases and another for meals.

I lingered over beautiful heirloom tomatoes from The Bluebell Farm, checked out the extensive selection of beer and wine and thought about calling John Nutting, a former State Senator and dairy farmer who recommended we visit and write about Forage Market, to thank him.

Instead, I grabbed a Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie, the perfect dessert for me, but Linda saw me and I had to share it. Boy, was it good!

The historic building includes a gorgeous tin roof, and the front of the market is filled with tables, including a special kids’ table near the window, complete with games and a chalkboard table top. For adults, there are newspapers and other reading material.

But you won’t have much time to read. Our meals were delivered to our table promptly, by Amanda, a local high school student enjoying her first job lives close enough to the market to walk to work. We were able to leave right on time at 1:30 p.m. Our total bill was $22.03. Yes, food is inexpensive here.

We’ve been subscribers to Lewiston’s outstanding professional theater, The Public Theater, for eight years and have loved every show we’ve ever seen here, with just one exception. That’s a great track record for any theater. That day’s presentation of “The Cocktail Hour” by A.R. Gurney was hilariously entertaining.

For the second year in a row, The Public Theater was voted “Best Theater in Maine” by Down East magazine’s readers. Tickets for individual performances are reasonably priced at just $20 for adults, and annual subscriptions that include four shows and a free bonus ticket for a friend cost $80. They also offer group rates, lower prices for kids, and present special performances at Christmas and other times.

If you haven’t been to Lewiston’s Lisbon Street lately, you won’t believe the interesting shops, galleries and restaurants there. Now, we’ve added Forage Market to our favorites.

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.

Other Nearby Restaurants

Three other restaurants are always on our list when we are headed to a performance at Lewiston’s Public Theater:

DaVinci’s is a long-time favorite, a place where we often ate before we started writing travel columns. A few years ago, the restaurant moved to a new location at 150 Mill St. in the Bates Mill Complex. The space is huge — 330 seats. The menu is as large as the restaurant, offering everything from brick-oven pizzas to creative pasta dishes.

Fuel on Lisbon Street offers a special dining experience. Our dinner there in April was spectacular. We’d eaten there twice before, but the travel column visit gave us a chance to try more items through the tasting menu, and each item was creative and tasty. Fuel has met with wide acclaim, and rightly so.

Hurricane Cafe and Deli on Route 202 in Greene is a hard place for us to drive by. From their great homemade soups to George’s Cuban Grill of Pork Loin (ok, it’s not named George’s, but it is my favorite), everything here is good and inexpensive. They also have a nice deli, and we like to take some of their soup home.


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