Linda

Skowhegan has a bustling cafe that is a real gem. Eleven years ago, owner Kelly Rossignol opened The Kel-Mat Cafe in a smaller building on busy Madison Avenue, then moved to this charming historic house with lots of parking out back, where the entrance to the restaurant is located. I knew as soon as I entered that this was a unique sandwich shop. I looked up to find a large board that covered the wall with a huge selection of menu choices. Sandwiches numbered 1-23 were all priced at $6.95. Gluten-free bread is available for all sandwiches. About half the items on the list are wraps.

For $7.99, there were two sandwiches for “bigger appetites.” You’d better be really hungry if you order one of those! Items 26-35 were paninis ($6.95).

If you want an idea of the creative menu choices, sandwiches included a Thanksgiving, an eggplant parmesan, a portabella mushroom and a meatloaf panini, along with many more traditional offerings.

And as if those are not enough, the menu goes on to include toasted naan varieties, flatbread pizza, cafe sandwiches, soup, and 11 salads. Tough choices! Once you have narrowed down your choice, walk up to the counter to order, then find a table in one of the three charming rooms, to await the delivery of your order.

You will enjoy the atmosphere in each of the rooms and be entertained by taking in all the folk and country art that adorns the walls and shelves. Kelly does the decorating and even makes some of the items herself.

We ate there on a hot day, and the restaurant was a cool oasis with the air conditioning and ceiling fans going. I detected a light citrusy smell, which was peasant.

My roast beef wrap included marinated mushrooms. It was a large garlic wrap with lots of thinly sliced roast beef, greens, Swiss cheese and mayo. But it was those delectable mushrooms that topped it off. I couldn’t quite finish the wrap, but I did seek out and consume every marinated mushroom.

This is a friendly place — you feel it as soon as you enter. Customers visited with us, and the friendly table of ladies dining next to us asked George if he wanted to photograph their food before they ate. Kelly and the staff were busy but still took time to visit with guests, and were quick at getting the food out.

George

Kelly and her partner, Matt Smith, remodeled this beautiful house, adding an entrance and extending one side of the building, upgrading the kitchen, and setting up three dining charming rooms for their customers. I especially was enamored with the decorations, both old items that Kelly gathered and some things she created, including a wreath that encouraged guests to “Simplify”.

Well, Kelly sure didn’t do that with the menu. Linda and I would have to eat here once a week for more than a year to try all the options on the menu.

Upon entering, a group from a local bank walked in and started telling us how much they all love the cafe, and that they eat here often. Other customers joined in with enthusiastic praise.

I particularly was pleased to see that they feature a great group of Maine microbrews, including my favorites made by the Geaghans in Bangor. So, of course, I had to have their Smiling Irish Bastard (named for their cousin) with my Reuben panini.

The panini was massive, with Swiss cheese, red onions and sauerkraut on toasted marble rye bread. But what impressed me the most was the large stack of thinly sliced and tender corned beef. Kelly’s dad slices all the meat, and he does a great job. There was so much packed into the sandwich that I had trouble biting into it — even with my big mouth!

The cooler full of pies and other desserts, all made in house, was tempting, but we were super full after our meal.

But the best thing of all is this: Linda and I pass by Kel-Mat Cafe every time we go up to, and return from, our north woods camp. We’ll be eating here often — and next time, I’m starting with dessert.

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.

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