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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: September 12, 2017

207 Tavern scores with hearty bar food and a festive atmosphere

Written by: Bob Keyes
Friday night dinner at 207 Tavern in Eliot: A burger and fries and chicken fingers. Photos by Bob Keyes

Friday night dinner at 207 Tavern in Eliot: A burger and fries and chicken fingers.
Photos by Bob Keyes

During college, I worked one summer as what we refer to today as a sous chef. Back then, people just called me a cook, and part of my job was flipping burgers — big, juicy burgers adorned with many different toppings and served on a doughy bun that we baked ourselves — in a trendy suburban Atlanta indoor-outdoor restaurant and bar.

My appreciation for an oversized, decadent burger grew exponentially as I threw myself into the art of cooking for one stressful summer. My specialty, and my go-to meal during break, was a bacon-swiss burger with crispy bacon and lightly melted cheese. The combination of tastes appealed to me, as did the texture of the soft bun, a medium-cooked hamburger patty and the interplay of cheese and bacon.

Ever since, the bacon-swiss has been my burger of choice.

A month or so ago, my wife and I discovered a new bar and grill on Route 236 in Eliot, the 207 Tavern. It used to be an ice cream place and was refashioned as a roadside tavern with a big bar, big TVs and a big menu to match. We loved it the first time and have been back three times since. It’s always busy, and each meal has been excellent — overflowing plates of bar food that shows attention to detail in its preparation. The steak tips were well-marinated and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The chicken fingers were crispy, the salads fresh and fried haddock light and flaky.

Chicken fingers were nice and crispy but not overdoneand with a fresh salad.

Chicken fingers were nice and crispy but not overdone and with a fresh salad.

It wasn’t until our fourth visit that I opted for the bacon-swiss burger ($10 for the burger and another $2 for the bacon). It’s been 30-something years since that summer behind the grill, and I’ve spent most of them in search of a burger better than those we served in Atlanta. I have found a few along the way, and the burger at 207 Tavern is right up there with the best. It was served almost exactly as I asked, with the burger cooked medium, a bit of mustard, a leaf of lettuce, bacon and lightly melted Swiss. The burger was slightly pink but not so juicy that it became a mess. The bun was soft and the lettuce fresh. Even the bacon was as I like it: crisp but not burned.

My wife knew I liked it, because she noted how slowly I ate it. I savored it, enjoying each bite.

The fries also were crisp and not salty. My wife’s chicken fingers ($10.95), which she has ordered nearly every time we’ve been, were exceptionally good — again, crisp but not overdone and with a variety of dipping sauces.

The decor at 207 Tavern is clean and casual, with a woodsy, cabin-like feel. It feels like a sports bar, although I had to ask for a TV to be turned to the Sox game on a Friday night. The Sox were on one of four TVs, but I couldn’t see it from our table. The others were on CNN, a tennis match and soccer. I’m all for giving people choices, but when the Sox are on, the Sox are on. We shouldn’t have to ask.

It’s not a large place, with a half-dozen tables and 16 or so bar stools, and it fills up quickly on weekend nights with a boisterous crowd and a festive atmosphere, thanks to good food, a well-stocked bar and a decent selection of taps.

207 TAVERN

WHERE: 811 Dow Highway (Route 236), Eliot. 748-1790
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday to Saturday.
WAIT: 15 minutes
PARKING: On site
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

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