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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: August 26, 2015

Fine focaccias and lively atmosphere at Lil’s Cafe in Kittery

Written by: Bob Keyes
 Turkey on baguette with cranberry orange marmalade and arugula, house-made chips and a pickle. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Turkey on baguette with cranberry orange marmalade and arugula, house-made chips and a pickle. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

It’s great when things go as planned. I had the day off, and Vicki was working in a new office that I had yet to see. We agreed that I would order lunch to go and take advantage of the sunshine to eat outside.

But the timing had to be just right, because her lunch break was short.


Browse all Maine’s watering holes and eateries: Maine Restaurant & Bar Directory


We ordered from Lil’s Cafe, a delightful, earnest breakfast-and-lunch spot in Wallingford Square in downtown Kittery. Maine’s southernmost town has become a favorite of foodies because of its vibrant and eclectic eats scene. There are a lot of interesting choices downtown, and Lil’s is among them.

It has a reputation for exceptional breakfast sweets, and earns high marks for serving Portland’s Tandem coffee. We were lured in by the lunch menu that we read online. It’s a limited menu, but with compelling, thoughtful sandwiches.

I ordered two focaccias an hour ahead of time, and asked to pick up the sandwiches at 12:45 p.m., which would allow just enough time to get to Vicki’s office in York by 1 p.m.

I arrived at 12:40, and with one circle around the downtown square was able to find a parking place across the street from Lil’s. The first thing I noticed when I got out of my car was how inviting Kittery smelled. The restaurants all seemed to be doing good business, the square was filled with the aroma of well-prepared food. I was instantly charmed.

 

An old bank vault connects Lil’s Cafe with a neighboring vintage record store. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

An old bank vault connects Lil’s Cafe with a neighboring vintage record store. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

I walked into a thriving cafe. Most tables were filled, and there was a small line of people waiting at the register. Crullers, cinnamon buns, cookies, muffins and scones called my name from behind the glass counter cases. Maybe it was because I was on vacation and relaxed, but everybody seemed happy. The cafe was alive with conversation, and the place was sparkling clean.

I could not have had a more favorable first impression, and the good karma continued at the register, where our sandwiches ($7.95 each) were waiting. I added a cruller ($2.50) to my order.

We ordered the BLT with candied bacon, and ham with gruyere and dijon, and loved both. The BLT was what we expected, with crisp, well-cooked bacon. The flat-oven bread was cooked perfectly, strong enough to hold the sandwich together but chewy and not greasy. The gruyere reminded me of Swiss cheese, and in a pleasant way. Deftly melted, it countered the saltiness of the ham.

The only quibble was one that many would offer as a compliment: The ham was so plentiful, it was almost too much.

Each sandwich came with what we assumed were homemade chips and a pickle.

Vicki declined the cruller, so I ate the whole thing. It was light and airy and completely indulgent.

There was nothing about the experience we didn’t like, other than the weather. It was too hot to eat outside, so we ate our lunch in the setting of an office break space.

Even the best laid plans …

Lil’s Cafe

7 Wallingford Square, Kittery | 207-703-2800 | lilscafe.com

HOURS: 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday; 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
WAIT: My order was ready when I got there.
PARKING: On-street
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

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