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The plan was to scope out Biddeford, following up on my colleague Heather Steeves’ post from last week, The Williamsburg of Portland is … . Yes, once-gritty Biddeford is apparently coming up in the world, thanks in part to cheap rents and plenty of available space for restaurants, shops and breweries.
We took the slow route south, meandering down Route 1 past motels and ice cream stands shuttered for the season and Saco’s snow-covered amusement parks. Once in Biddeford, we drove down Main Street, planning to park and search out the places putting the town in the spotlight. But crossing the Saco River, we found ourselves at the Run of the Mill Public House & Brewery and since it was past noon, thought we’d fortify ourselves for exploring with a snack and a pint.
That’s where serendipity kicked in, prompting us to stay put for much of the afternoon, chatting with the bartender known as “Coach,” listening to identical twins Jan and Jean LaRiviere — Biddeford natives who we had the good fortune to wind up sitting next to at the bar — tell us about fishing for smallmouth bass in the cleaned-up Saco River, and eventually, meeting brewer Nate Duston for a tour of the brewing operation.
Run of the Mill is housed in part of what was once the largest cotton mill in the country, a sprawling complex of brick buildings on Factory Island in the river that separates Saco and Biddeford. In addition to the pub and brewery, the former mill has also been converted into offices and apartments and a satellite campus of the University of Southern Maine. On Saturdays, it is home to the Saco River Winter Market, considered by many to be one of the best indoor farmers markets in Southern Maine.
The 14-barrel brewery usually offers 6-7 of its beers on draft, plus two guest taps. We just had excellent chicken wings, but judging by the happy groups sitting near us, the food is as much of a draw as the beer. Specials on Saturday included Sunset Farms Organics greens salad with bosc pear, gouda, scallion, cranberry, cashews, Pineland Farms cheddar & honey blood orange vinaigrette and Dijon & walnut-encrusted rack of lamb with rosemary, fennel, butternut squash & a port wine reduction served with bourbon brown sugar whipped sweet potato — both good reasons to go back.