The tavern across from Bowdoin College attracts residents and tourists, and its patio is especially popular in summer.
Three years ago, The Inn at Brunswick Station opened at the intersection of Noble and Maine streets in Brunswick. This is right where the long stretch of restaurants and shops ends and Bowdoin College begins.
However, as of this past May, the hotel now goes by The Brunswick Hotel & Tavern – although even Google Maps hasn’t updated the change yet.
On first inspection, the bright white building with manicured lawns might not look like a place to stop in for a drink and live music, but as the sign out front – “Public Welcome” – suggests, The Brunswick Hotel & Tavern is actually quite nice for a summer evening cocktail and half-priced appetizers during happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday).
The tavern entrance isn’t entirely clear, but pick a door and the tavern is easily found. You’ll likely be greeted by an attentive staff member, but don’t be surprised if most of the patio seating is already taken – this is where everyone wants to sit on warm nights.
General manager Rick Martin says that despite the 52-room hotel, most of the tavern’s clientele is made up of local residents and tourists looking for good food and drink, and live music.
“In a community that has many great restaurants, we wanted to make sure to offer an exceptional experience – with exceptional food and drink at a great value,” Martin said. “We’re an everyday restaurant with anything from chili to steak and lobster.”
In addition to the patio seating, there’s room for 76 inside, including a private dining room, and a 1,900-square-foot banquet hall that’s frequently used for holidays, weddings or other events.
“We have fun with what we can do,” Martin said, mentioning some of the creative ways the staff tries to bait the public. “Every year we host a ‘Robert Burns Day’ on Jan. 25 – we serve Scotch eggs, cock-a-leekie soup, haggis and some of us even wear kilts.”
Or, on a recent day, the bar staff wanted to light up a rainy afternoon, so they created their own pina colada recipe with fresh ingredients and put it on the menu.
The specialty cocktail list is made up of five drinks ranging in price from $9 to $12, the most expensive being the Cucumber Basil Gimlet and the least expensive the Tavern Punch.
The Orange Mint Julep (amusingly spelled Julip on the menu) is $11 and very strong. Made with fresh mint, oranges, mint simple syrup and Knob Creek, the drink was unsatisfactory. While the best of ingredients were there for a top-notch cocktail, it wasn’t balanced – too much whiskey, not enough orange flavor, and perhaps too much mint.
Fortunately, there are six rotating microbrews on tap and new beers are featured quarterly during the tavern’s “Beer vs. Wine” dinners.
“I’m a beer drinker,” Martin said, “but my wife likes wine and these dinners are a great way to experience the two things we love together. That’s what I hope to provide for guests as well.”
Live music includes the Jason St. Pierre Trio for Jazz Mondays, Lee Sykes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Lady Rogue and the Dreamers on Wednesdays, and Randy Lindsey during Sunday brunch.
While maybe not the hippest restaurant in town, The Brunswick Hotel & Tavern offers a peaceful getaway for diners looking for quality fare and nightly entertainment. And a place to wear your kilt.
WHERE: 4 Noble St., Brunswick
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for lunch Monday-Friday; 5 p.m. to close seven days for dinner; 7 to 11 a.m. Monday-Friday for breakfast; 7 to 10 a.m. weekends for breakfast.
SPECIALS: Happy hour 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday; ask server about daily menu specials; six local microbrews on tap; specialty cocktail list; special events listed on website and in email newsletter.
AMENITIES: Outdoor patio seats up to 40 with two larger tables outfitted with gas fire pits, comfortable seats at bar, private dining room for parties, 1,900-square-foot banquet room, 52 rooms in the hotel to choose from, live music nightly.
PARKING: Free parking lot.
BOTTOM LINE: The Brunswick Hotel & Tavern serves breakfast, lunch and dinner 365 days a year. The sign out front of the 52-room hotel says “public welcome,” and it’s true: most of the tavern’s clientele is made up of local residents. While the hotel looks fancy, the tavern is more of an everyday restaurant with microbrews on tap, quality specialty cocktails and exceptional food at a good value.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes.
Claire Jeffers is a Portland freelance writer.