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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: March 12, 2018

In Biddeford, range over to Rover for fresh bagels

Written by: Bob Keyes

Rover at 111 Elm St. in Biddeford operates in a converted gas station and convenience store.
Photos by Bob Keyes

At Rover Wood Fired Bagels & Pizza, there’s no confusion about what’s on the menu: bagels and pizza. The restaurant on Elm Street is small but mighty, offering a limited menu and excelling at it.

I stopped in the morning after the storm last week, detouring off the turnpike in Biddeford en route to work in South Portland. Rover has an excellent reputation for its bagels, and I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. It’s the only place for freshly made bagels in Biddeford, and it draws people from around the region because of the eight flavors of daily-baked, woodsy-flavored, chewy bagels that it produces.

Rover operates in a converted gas station and convenience store, and the first thing I noticed was the lumbering wood-fired oven behind the counter and the stacks of split wood along the wall. There was a small pallet of bagels on the counter, and dozens more on a wire rack just behind. There were also a few pre-made breakfast sandwiches on the counter, in a small food warmer, some sticky buns and a stack of empty pizza boxes off to the side.

Refrigerators line most of a wall – remnants of the convenience store – but most of the coolers are empty, covered with brown construction paper. In the functioning coolers are some interesting juices and a broad selection of cream cheeses and spreads.

The bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich, $7.50.

My hunger warranted a sandwich, and my curiosity compelled me to order a bagel as well. I opted for the bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich ($7.50) and a multigrain bagel, toasted with butter ($3.25). From the cooler, I chose a Jarritos pineapple drink. I debated a Tandem Coffee Roasters java, but was well-jacked on caffeine already. Nonetheless, I was pleased to see that Rover peddles Tandem, a favorite local coffee.

I sat in the dining area and began eating my sandwich as I waited for the toasted multigrain, which I asked for to go. I liked my sandwich a lot, though I was surprised it wasn’t served on a traditional bagel. Instead, it was served on what I’m going to call a bagel bun, a thick, chewy “everything” roll. The bacon was crisp, the egg fluffy and the cheese sufficiently gooey. All together, it was dense and required an effort to finish it at the table.

I was pleased that Rover uses non-disposable plates and utensils. I grabbed a knife and fork, because my first instinct was that the sandwich would be easier to eat with utensils than by hand. I was wrong. The bagel bun was perfect – chewy and still fresh and warm. At $7.50, I also thought it was over-priced.

Multi-grain bagel, to go, $3.25
STaff photo by Bob Keyes

I ate the bagel at my desk at work later. By then, I had lost my appetite and the bagel had cooled, so it wasn’t an ideal circumstance to pass judgment. But I appreciated the hint of wood flavor from the fire, and I understand the glowing online reviews.

The cream cheese spreads include lemon thyme and honey, bacon scallion and vegan chive, and there are several more. There’s also maple butter, peanut butter and strawberry jam.

Rover is low-key casual, with a menu board and counter, and plenty of space to sit and eat. I suspect most people grab their bagels to go, but the dining area was mostly full with people engrossed in conversations. Rover serves sandwiches for lunch, and on Friday and Saturday nights, it lights the fire and serves pizzas from 5 to 9 p.m.

Rover Wood Fired Bagels and Pizza

WHERE: 111 Elm St., Biddeford; or 207-494-7945
WINTER HOURS: 7 a.m. to noon Wednesday to Saturday; 8 a.m. to noon Sunday; 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
WAIT: Less than five minutes
PARKING: Plenty of off-street parking

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