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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: December 8, 2014

At Winnegance General Store in Bath, old-world character remains and food is even better

Written by: Bob Keyes
A shaved rib eye steak sub with peppers, onions, mushrooms and melted cheese awaits delivery at the Winnegance General Store in Bath, as Tricia Santi and Aram Aslanian from Phippsburg savor their soup.  John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

A shaved rib eye steak sub with peppers, onions, mushrooms and melted cheese awaits delivery at the Winnegance General Store in Bath, as Tricia Santi and Aram Aslanian from Phippsburg savor their soup. Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

It’s been fun watching the progress of the Winnegance General Store.

And I’m not talking about just in the last few months, since it reopened after several years closed. I am talking about over the half-century (or so) that I have been alive.

My family has a place in Phippsburg, and we often stopped in to pick up things on the way down the peninsula. I remember the old-world feel of the place, which was built in the early 1900s. I recall worn wood floors, rugged display cases and an old-style cash register.

The building fell into disrepair, and the store eventually closed. Last year, it was declared one of Maine’s endangered buildings.


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No more.

It has reopened as a general store and restaurant and is well worth visiting.

I was delighted when I walked in the other day to see that a recent restoration project left intact many of the old boards and charm. The character remains, even if the display cases look a little sparse.

Improved is the food.

Built in the early 1900s, the store, below, has been updated, but the century-old charm remains. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Built in the early 1900s, the store, below, has been updated, but the century-old charm remains.

Winnegance is not a formal restaurant, but an excellent place for breakfast and lunch. I stopped in for late lunch, after a long day of work on the road to midcoast Maine. I ordered a shaved steak sandwich and cup of clam chowder at the counter, and settled down at one of eight tables in the front of the store. I admired contemporary watercolor paintings of local scenes, as well as historic photos of the old store.

One couple was finishing lunch, and a steady stream of customers picked up food, beer and wine to take home. The conversation flowed easily. I got the impression everyone knew each other as neighbors.

A courteous and polite young server – I believe the operators’ daughter, based on the conversation I overheard – brought my chowder first, and then my sandwich. Both arrived within 10 minutes.

The chowder was piping hot. It was a generous cup for $5.95, brimming with fresh clam meat, chunky potatoes and a thick cream. It was among the better servings of clam chowder I’ve enjoyed this year. My only complaint was the temperature. It was super hot, I burned the roof of my mouth.

The sandwich ($7.95) was excellent. It came with peppers, onions, mushrooms and melted cheese. I opted out of the mushrooms. The rib eye was thinly sliced and dripping with freshness and taste. The onions and peppers were cut into small pieces, which I appreciated, and grilled to a soft texture so I could bite them easily into smaller bits. I liked this because I got plenty in most every bite. The cheese was perfectly melted. Most important, the roll was soft and chewy.

The menu is not extensive, but larger than I imagined it would be. Winnegance opens daily at 6 a.m., and breakfast is a big part of the operation. The jumbo breakfast sandwich has my name on it: two eggs, ham, sausage, bacon and cheddar on wheat berry bread, for $6.95. If that’s too much, a breakfast sandwich with one kind of meat is $3.95. Or how about pan-blackened scallop tacos with eggs and cheddar for $12.95?

There are omelets and pancakes, as well, all reasonably priced.

For lunch, the menu offers Italians, tacos and wraps, as well grilled pastrami, corned beef, turkey and chicken. The Winnegance BLT is “piled high” with hickory-smoked bacon, according to the menu. Except for the seafood, most lunch items cost between $6 and $9.

For reasons of history and nostalgia, I’m thrilled Winnegance is back in business.

Let’s hope it stays that way for another 100 years.

WINNEGANCE GENERAL STORE

WHERE: 36 High St., Bath | 207-443-3300 | facebook.com/winnegancegeneralstore
HOURS: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday; 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
WAIT: Five to 10 minutes
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes. Ramp at back door.

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