It was well past lunchtime on an especially cold winter day when I went looking for lunch in downtown Biddeford, where there is no shortage of options these days. The scent of grilling burgers emanating from the Cowbell Burger Bar made my decision easy.
The restaurant was opened last June by Jim Albert, owner of the popular Jimmy the Greek’s in Old Orchard Beach and the newly opened Uncorked on Main wine bar across the street from the Cowbell. My local friends tell me it quickly became a favorite among people looking for great burgers and a fun pub atmosphere.
The restaurant is open and spacious, with tall ceilings and a large L-shaped bar under a row of flat-screen TVs. Wood floors and a red phone booth draw attention to the charming architectural details of the older building. A couple pub tables in the front window afford a nice view of Main Street.
My lunch date and I settled into a cozy booth near the end of the bar to peruse the menu. There were plenty of pub-style appetizers like fried pickles, a solid selection of sandwiches and a few salads. But burgers really are the star of the show at Cowbell.
The restaurant offers a wide range of specialty options and a “create your own” menu. Patty options include steak, all natural, grass-fed, Wagyu top quality, chicken, turkey, salmon or veggie. The Cowbell has all the toppings you’d expect, plus special extras like local goat cheese or ghost pepper cheese. (Gluten-free buns are also available.) Most burgers are in the $10 to $12 range and come with fries or sweet potato tots.
I spent several long minutes debating which of the specialty burgers to try. The Aloha Burger marinated in teriyaki spice and topped with pineapple salsa was tempting, as was the Opa! Burger with feta, arugula, onion, tomato, cucumber and tzatziki sauce. The Crazy Ex – topped with bacon, cherry peppers, smoked Gouda and bacon aioli – is a favorite among regulars who love that it’s a little spicy and a little sweet, according to an employee who enthusiastically recommended it.
I settled on the Jack in the Box ($11.88), and I was glad I did. The patty was seared in brown butter and cooked to the temperature I ordered, then topped with American cheese, mushrooms and bacon. The brioche bun – soft on the inside, toasty outside and a tiny bit sweet – was branded with the restaurant’s “C” logo. The flavorful Jack in the Box required no condiments.
My lunch companion enjoyed his barbecue bacon burger, but was underwhelmed by a cup of clam chowder ($4.88) that was a touch too salty and mostly broth. We agreed the generous portion of hand-cut fries had just the right amount of crisp and salt. We’ll definitely be back.
The Cowbell also hosts trivia on Tuesday nights, live music on Fridays and Saturdays and a happy hour with $4 drafts from local breweries from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
WHERE: 140 Main St., Biddeford; 284-2355; eatatcowbell.com
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (may close early some nights)
WAIT: 20 minutes or more
PARKING: On street
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes