When Cindi Hooper, the owner/host at Bridgton’s Noble House Inn, recommended The Black Horse Tavern for dinner, I didn’t expect much. Pub food with a good selection of beer and I would have been satisfied.

But I was blown away by the beautiful interior of the tavern, the exceedingly friendly staff and customers and the extraordinary meal we enjoyed there. But let’s begin at the beginning.

The tavern is big, with seating to the right and left as you enter, and a bar straight ahead. The bar was already full and quite a few tables, too, when we arrived at 6 p.m. on a Monday. We took a table for two near a fireplace in the small room on the far right. Christmas decorations were beautiful, the fire blazed and the manager, Mike (who also is a server) was very quick to introduce himself and advise us on drink options.

I immediately felt at home when I found that they serve Tented Kilt beer brewed by Hallowell’s Liberal Cup — my “office” in the Augusta area. As you would expect, the tavern offers lots of drink options from cocktails to after-dinner drinks. The wine and beer list is not long, but there are plenty of good choices.

A large family group took the big table at the far end of our room and included folks from away, here for Christmas with their family and kids. At a nearby table, a local couple who eat here often spoke with us, and let me take a photo of their very colorful Tijuana Pasta — sauteed Bay Shrimp and Bay Scallops with Andouille sausage in a mildly spicy cream sauce on linguini ($14).

The menu is extensive including soups and chowders, salads, burgers and lots of choices of chicken, fish, lobster, scallops and Black Angus steaks and ribs. There’s a big selection of side dishes too, all priced at just $1.50. Most of the entrees are priced between $16 and $24. Everything here is fresh including the fish. They had recently featured a fresh cusk dish, said Mike. Sorry I missed that! I love cusk.

The tavern hosts Mexican Monday Specials and they were tempting, but we wanted to try regular menu items and that’s where Mike really came in handy. We were having a hard time choosing from several enticing appetizers (Linda insisting we could only have one). When Mike said the Fritters ($7.99) were his favorite, he made our choice easy.

The spicy pepper jack, bacon and corn fritters drizzled with salsa verde were superb, unusual and very tasty but not too spicy.

The Black Angus Meatloaf — bacon wrapped and topped with a Maine tomato relish and served over smashed potatoes and Demi-glaze ($16.99) — was calling my name until Mike said his favorite entree was the Black Angus Steak Tips. Given that his appetizer recommendation was so good, I went with the streak tips.

By now, my Tented Kilt had been lifted, and I tried the Sebago Runabout Red. It was really tasty.

When the steak tips arrived, I was astonished by the presentation and portion. The steak was perfectly cooked to my “medium” request, the tips were large (many took three bites), the gravy was delicious and I’d been oohing and ahing with every bite for quite a while when Linda looked at my plate and asked, “Is there potato under there?” And there was! I just hadn’t gotten down to it yet.

Without exaggeration, these were the best steak tips I’ve ever had. They were marinated in bourbon and served over mashed potatoes with a compote of bourbon, apples and cranberries. Oh, oh, oh.

Linda said my dish was enough for 2 or 3 people and she was right. I was only able to eat about a third of it, but I brought the rest back to the inn where we stashed it in the fridge. I was so looking forward to having it again for dinner the next night, when we got home.

Alas, about halfway home, Linda said, “Oh, no, we forgot our leftovers in the inn’s refrigerator!” If it hadn’t been over an hour’s ride back, I’d have returned for those steak tips. When we got home, I emailed Cindi to alert her to the leftovers and, knowing she’s a vegetarian, told her that if she couldn’t find someone to enjoy the tips, she could feed them to her four rescue dogs. And she did! Boy oh boy. Those were some lucky dogs!


The Black Horse Tavern in Bridgton was quite a find. I was immediately struck by its nice atmosphere — just enough light, not too dark, and perfectly cozy. Then I opened the menu … What a lot of choices! Lots of great sounding appetizers, soups, hearty dinner salads and more choices of entrees than I possibly could have imagined.

The Tavern’s Buffalo Chicken Tenderloins sounded much like the ones we love at Geaghan’s Pub in Bangor. I later overheard a customer say, “You know what I’ve been craving? Those Buffalo Chicken Tenders, they’re so good!” And that was just what she chose for her dinner. It was labeled on their menu as a customer favorite, and it seems that was an accurate claim.

But the appetizer that really intrigued us was the Spicy Pepper Jack, Bacon and Corn Fritters. We got an order to split, which was just right. These were packed with flavor, and a perfect complement to the salsa verde served with it. They were not overly spicy at all — a truly great starter.

I like going to restaurants where it’s okay to have a burger for dinner if that’s what you are feeling like. From the six tempting choices of Black Angus burgers, I went with the Gouda Cheese Burger. This was a large burger topped with sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions and bacon. I was craving a really good burger, and this one more than delivered. The combination of Gouda cheese piled high with all of the toppings was a great one. Even the bun was great. Alongside all this were perfectly seasoned fries — crispy outside and soft in. Yum! I couldn’t finish off the burger, but almost.

It was chilly out so I grabbed the seat next to the gas fireplace. I was very happy to have that warmth on my back. Sometime into the meal, off came my sweater. Then, when I started to sweat, George offered to swap places with me. In no time at all he too was hot, but he’s much smarter than I because he thought to ask Mike if the fire could be turned down. Problem solved.

The Black Horse Tavern is open every day for both lunch and dinner. The lunch menu looked great. The burgers were there as well as a variety of very tempting sandwiches, and even a few entrees.

Each day, the tavern offers a special menu featuring: Mexican, seafood, Chinese, all-you-can-eat ribs, prime rib, surf and turf, and Roast of the Evening. Mike told us that they sell a lot of ribs here — eight and a half tons of ribs last year! That’s 17,000 pounds of ribs in a year. Holy cattle!

It’s apparent that there are plenty of choices offered here. The combination of hearty portions of nicely seasoned food, reasonable prices and the fact that they are open every day, makes this restaurant a real find.

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

Cafe Nomad

When Linda and I ran into Elizabeth Miller, of Parris House Wool Works in Portland, she’d recommended Cafe Nomad in Norway for great breakfasts and lunches, so we put that in our plan for the return trip from Bridgton after our stay at the Noble House Inn.

I knew we were in the right place when I spotted Erica Jed, the owner of Norway’s wonderful bookstore, Books-N-Things, located just down the street from the cafe. Erica was having lunch here with her son Lee. I needn’t have been surprised to see her here, because the cafe features an extensive collection of books and other reading material, along with comfortable couches and chairs in the back room. A young lady was knitting in one of those comfy chairs while she enjoyed her bowl of soup.

I enjoyed a Cuban sandwich ($7.99) with a really spicy mustard. Linda had a spinach and potato pureed soup ($4.99). “Just the ticket to take off the chill of this very cold day,” she said. The soup came in a beautiful deep bowl.

From the very friendly staff, to the wooden floors, to the impressive menu featuring soups and sandwiches and lots of coffees and other beverages, to the open kitchen where we could hear them grinding coffee beans, to the eclectic collection of art, we really enjoyed lunch here at what is clearly a community gathering spot. Cafe Nomad will be on our list whenever we pass through Norway.

Waterville Opera House


We’re looking forward to a performance of “Kitchen Witches,” featured at the wonderful Waterville Opera House Jan. 22-24 at 7 p.m., with a 2 p.m. performance on Jan. 25. Given that we love cooking shows, the description of “Kitchen Witches” was very enticing: Isobel Lomax and Dolly Biddle are two “mature” cable-access cooking show hostesses who have hated each other for 30 years. When circumstances put them together on a TV show, the insults are flung harder than the food!

We can’t wait! Tickets are only $20, and $18 for seniors and youth. Call today for yours! 873-7000.

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