Whether you are a prospective student, in town for Family Weekend, or just passing through Brunswick, the town has a lot to offer. The Orient editors picked a sampling of some of their favorite restaurants, sights, activities and places to stay near Bowdoin.
Despite being a small town, Brunswick has a big restaurant scene. The restaurants cover a range of ethnicities, from inventive modern and international cuisine to classic Maine grub.
Fat Boy | 111 Bath Road, Brunswick | facebook.com/fatboydriveinAlthough the waitresses aren’t roller-skating to your car, Fat Boy is as old school as it gets. The ’50s style drive-in is a seasonal affair, with its fast food available from mid-March to mid-October. Try out a lobster roll, onion rings, and a 20 oz. frappe—a milkshake, for non-New Englanders—all for under $15. Don’t try to go on an opening weekend, as the parking lot gets packed—but that’s just a testament to how good it is.
Open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Cash Only.
Frontier | 14 Maine St. Mill 3 Fort Andross, Brunswick | explorefrontier.comFor visitors looking for a farm-to-table feast with great views and a laid-back vibe, look no further than Frontier. This open-floorplan restaurant in Fort Andross that doubles as an art gallery and overlooks the Brunswick dam is a favorite among Bowdoin students and Brunswick residents. Everyone can find something to eat on this diverse menu. Dietary restrictions are also accommodated, as the menu has a detailed key for vegan, gluten-free, and antibiotic free choices. The selection ranges from simple sandwiches and burgers—which come with a healthy portion of sweet potato fries to substitute at no extra cost—to globally inspired charcuterie “marketplates” and larger entrees. Some of their best dishes include the taco trio of fried fish, barbeque pulled pork and Jamaican jerk chicken and the Frontier burger, replete with pepperjack cheese, shallots, and applewood smoked bacon. For the above 21 set, Frontier offers an inventive cocktail menu with items like the Mule 2.0: beet-infused vodka, ginger beer, and lime. Frontier also houses a small movie theater that shows independent films.
Open Tuesday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Shere Punjab | 46 Maine St., Brunswick | sherepunjabme.comStroll down Maine Street for long enough and you’ll find yourself observing diners in the windows of the always-busy Shere Punjab. The restaurant offers a wide variety of Indian food and drink in a cozy, intimate atmosphere, and take out is popular too. Customers choose a spiciness level for each of their dishes from 1-10, and the portions are generous. The saag paneer, a spinach dish, and punjabi naan, a bread with coconut, saffron and other spices, are highlights. The owners also sell their delicious spices in a store upstairs. If you’re in a large group, reservations are recommended—most tables are for two, and the wait for the larger ones can be long, especially on weekends.
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (except for Tuesdays, when the hours are 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.). The lunch menu is available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Little Tokyo | 72 Maine St., Brunswick | littletokyomaine.comIt’s a slow Saturday night in town and you’re craving teriyaki chicken with a side of edamame...and maybe some avocado maki to boot. Little Tokyo, conveniently located right next to Gelato Fiasco, is the place to go. With affordable prices and delicious spices, this classy Japanese-style joint attracts Bowdoin students nearly every night of the week. With quaint tables for two, tables for larger groups, and the much sought-after Tatami room (perfect for parties), Little Tokyo has the dining facilities for every occasion. Need a tasty, healthy lunch on the go? Call and order a Bento Lunch option, which offers a wide variety of Asian cuisine in one affordable and delicious box. Little Tokyo brings a slice of Japan to Brunswick, Maine, with flair and teriyaki sauce. Don’t wait to satisfy that miso soup craving.
Open Sunday-Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Gelato Fiasco | 74 Maine St., Brunswick | gelatofiasco.comNo dinner (or lunch, or breakfast) out on Maine Street is complete without a quick (or not-so-quick) trip to Gelato Fiasco’s flagship store. Gelato and sorbets range from the classics, like chocolate, vanilla and cake batter, to flavors like pomegranate chocolate chunk and caramel sea salt. My go-to flavor combination is dark chocolate noir and strawberry balsamic, but flavors rotate every day so there's always something new to try. You can taste as many flavors as you want, and the staff will pack any number of your favorites into any size dish. Make sure to join the Red Spoon Society (free gelato on your birthday!), and don't be afraid to make the trek down in the snow—you save one percent on your order for every degree that it is below freezing. If you're too cold for gelato, the hot chocolate is to die for, and it comes with a homemade toasted marshmallow.
Open daily 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Enoteca Athena | 97 Maine St., Brunswick, ME | enotecaathena.comWhether you’re looking for small bites or a full meal, Enoteca Athena never disappoints. Using locally-sourced and sustainably-raised ingredients, this restaurant transports you to the Greek Isles and Italian countryside with dishes such as cheese and olive platters, dolmathes, gyros, and pasta. Customers dine underneath the warm, soft glow of string lights, and for those over 21, the wine bar offers a delicious selection of wines, cocktails, and draft beers.
Open Monday-Saturday 3:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Visit Trattoria Athena, Enoteca Athena’s sister restaurant, at 25 Mill St., for more tastes of the Mediterranean.
Wild Oats | 149 Maine St. & 25 Burbank Ave., Brunswick | www.wildoatsbakery.comCome for the baked goods, stay because sometimes they forget to charge you for avocado. Wild Oats Bakery & Café’s Tontine Mall (Maine St.) location makes it the closer of the two locations to campus and an ideal weekend afternoon workspace. Students flock to the surprisingly well-spaced restaurant (outdoor seating available, weather permitting) for fresh, vibrant salads and sandwiches (ready made or made to order), smoothies (don’t get turned off by the kale one), soups (gluten-free and vegan options galore), and, of course, the sweets (you know you are truly loved when there is a Wild Oats Carrot Cake waiting for you on your birthday). The friendly and quick service is perfect for anything from a cookie on the road or a sit down meal with friends. Don’t stay too long, though, or you’ll end up with a delectable but four-times-too-large cupcake. Also, check out the smoothie bar at Wild Oats’ new, second location at Brunswick Landing (Burbank Ave.).
Maine St.: Open Monday-Saturday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.Burbank Ave.: Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Sundays.
El Camino | 15 Cushing St., Brunswick | elcaminomaine.comIf you’ve ever gone to the terrible website Yelp.com and looked up a Mexican restaurant in Maine, you’ve seen the following comment: “It’s a Mexican restaurant in Maine, so it’s clearly not authentic!” Is El Camino Cantina’s cuisine authentically Mexican? I have no idea. It’s delicious, though.
Just down the street from fellow Polar Bear haunts Beach Day Tanning and Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union, El Camino draws in local sophisticates with kitsch-chic décor and "locally grown and sustainable raised produce, meats and seafood.” My friends and I go to eat a half-pound of nachos and get drunk on award-winning margaritas. Never before has cheesy, meaty goodness been this appealing to a discerning palate—especially this far north of the border.
Open Tuesday-Thursday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Visit Flipside, El Camino’s sister restaurant at 111 Maine St., for local, organic pizza by the slice or pie.
See & Do
Winter, spring, summer or fall, there is always something to do in or around Brunswick. If the weather cooperates, you can take in the great Maine outdoors but if it's a frigid winter's day, there is plenty to do inside too.
Farmer’s Market | The Mall in Downtown Brunswick | brunswickfarmersmarket.comWhen the snow melts away and spring breathes life back into the previously crinkly grass, the farmer’s market moves from Fort Andross to the lawn on Maine Street. Less than a 10-minute walk from the Polar Bear statue, the Farmer’s Market is the perfect place to enjoy some fresh air and support local business and farm to table foods. Representing over 30 different vendors, the market sells crisp produce, homemade breads, aged cheese, and artisan coffee. Spend time wandering among the decorative booths while eating fresh baked banana bread and chatting with the vendors before stocking up on snacks for the week. Just make sure to bring a reusable bag and plenty of cash, as most vendors do not accept credit cards.
Open Tuesday and Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. May through November.
Gulf Of Maine | 134 Maine St., Brunswick | gulfofmainebooks.blogspot.comEvery college town needs a good independent bookstore. In Brunswick, Gulf of Maine fills the role perfectly. While the store is tucked into a corner at 134 Maine St., it boasts an impressive amount of depth. The front of the store has a hippie, Maine outdoors vibe, featuring a interesting mix of postcards from local artists. Travel further inside to find an extensive collection of fiction, a large poetry section, plenty of children’s books, a variety of material from Maine writers, and much more. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and always happy to discuss books. Whether you’re looking to drop in for a peek or devote an afternoon to perusing the collection, Gulf of Maine is a consistently rewarding trip.
Open Monday-Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The Bowdoin College Museum of Art | 9400 College Station, Brunswick | bowdoin.edu/art-museumWhen you’re wandering the Bowdoin quad, saunter on over to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. The entrance isn’t too hard to find—just look for the Louvre-inspired modern glass building. Once inside, head on into the galleries, which you can access for free or with a donation. The gallery on the first floor changes every few months, and is always worth checking out. Most recently, the exhibition has featured trippy sci-fi and space travel-inspired art from Latin America. However, some real gems lie within the permanent collection, which is displayed upstairs. Be sure to take a look at the Assyrian reliefs from King Ashurnasirpal II’s Nimrud temple—one of them, depicting the king, was brutally defaced and roughly graffitied by 7th century BCE conquerors. Walk around and take a look at Bowdoin’s collection of Winslow Homer paintings, ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, and decorative arts—including an 18th century air pump. On your way out, stop by the gift shop which has a surprisingly good collection of jewelry and reduced-price posters from past exhibitions.
Open Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.. Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Simpson’s Point | The end of Simpson’s Point Road, BrunswickOn a tour of campus, you might hear that Bowdoin is so close to the ocean you can smell the salt water sometimes. But when you’re looking for a glimpse of the sea, there’s no better place to go than the Simpson’s Point landing. Located four miles away from campus at the end of a scenic road, Simpson’s Point is a popular destination for runners and bikers (and students with cars) looking to escape the stress of campus. Take a plunge into the water in the warmer months or camp out on the coast with a burger, milkshake and good company on a starry summer evening (don’t forget the bug spray). In the fall, watch the sun set over the water and swim with the glowing bioluminescence. In the winter, venture out across the frozen surface on skis or snowshoes or plain old Bean Boots. And when spring comes around, take a seat on one of the rocks, feel the ocean breeze on your face and let your thoughts wander wherever they desire.
Rocky Ridge Apple Orchard | 38 Rocky Ridge Lane, Bowdoin | rockyridgeorchard.comRocky Ridge Apple Orchard, nestled in the midst of idyllic hay fields, epitomizes all that an ideal fall afternoon in Maine has to offer. From late August through October, Rocky Ridge offers sprawling orchards, laden with tasty apples of all kinds, ripe for the picking. Simply taking a stroll along the shady paths between the apple trees would make a trip worth it, but the fact that you can also take home a bag bursting with fresh apples only adds to the experience. However, Rocky Ridge doesn’t only do apples. The orchard also boasts a quaint cafe, stocked with homemade baked goods, quality sandwiches, and, wait for it, Cote’s ice cream. It’s also a great place to get Maine-made merchandise, including honey, maple syrup and hand-made soaps and hand creams. If possible, try to visit on a weekend, when Rocky Ridge offers horse drawn wagon rides around the orchards. Plan to end your trip just sitting on the patio soaking up the view of the orchard, while the kids play on the barn swing.
Open June-August on Friday-Sunday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Late August-October every day 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Downtown Freeport | freeportusa.comIf you’re getting tired of sleepy Brunswick but don’t want to drive 30 minutes to Portland, the next small Maine town on your radar should be Freeport. About half the size of Brunswick, Freeport’s biggest attraction is the massive L.L. Bean flagship store and factory. Not only can you take a totally non-cliche photo sitting on the gargantuan Bean Boot outside, you can do it at any time of the day or night. The L.L. Bean store has your warm winter gear needs covered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Contrary to what people’s Instagram photos would have you believe, Freeport does extend beyond the L.L. Bean store, including a robust series of shops and outlets and the beautiful Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park. Freeport also has a Amtrak Downeaster stop in town, making it extremely accessible to Brunswick even if you do not have a car.
Bull Moose | 151 Maine St., Brunswick | bullmoose.comMedia junkies of all ages will find something they like under the blue awning of Bull Moose—perhaps no store in Brunswick crosses eras better than them. With an extensive collection of vinyl, as well as video games and Blu-rays, Bull Moose can nurture your inner hipster without sacrificing good graphics. Not a tech junkie? No problem. Bull Moose also carries books and board games, and single-handedly supports the gaming habits of the contingent of Bowdoin students who play Magic cards. Rotating racks of witty magnets will keep you entertained while you wait to check out, and the collection of bizarre gift items can hold you down for any White Elephant gift party. If you’re in Brunswick, Bull Moose is a must.
Open daily 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and until 12:30 a.m. on Mondays.
There are more than a handful of places to stay in and around Brunswick, but if you're coming during a busy campus weekend, make sure you book way in advance.
The Brunswick Hotel and Tavern | 4 Noble St., Brunswick | thebrunswickhotelandtavern.comRenting a room in The Brunswick Hotel and Tavern is about as close to campus as you can get without sleeping on a first-year’s futon. Situated on Maine Street just across from the north end of campus, the location can’t be beat. Opened in 2011, this hotel offers a more modern take on a rustic Maine retreat. It’s on the larger side—48 guest rooms and four suites—so slightly easier to get a reservation. If you’re here during the winter and can’t brave the short walk to town, the attached Tavern offers hearty comfort food (try the Lobster Risotto bites). As with most hotels in the area, rooms here fill up fast for graduation and parents weekend, so book far in advance.
The Brunswick Inn | 165 Park Row, Brunswick | brunswickbnb.comAfter sitting by the fire in the front parlor of this quaint New England inn, sipping coffee and gazing out on the town green, you’ll never stay anywhere else in Brunswick. Located only a few minutes from campus on foot, The Brunswick Inn is so cozy it almost feels like home. When you wake up, enjoy a delicious, complimentary breakfast, and before bed, unwind with a beer or glass of wine at the bar. The bedrooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, but there are only 16, so make a reservation well in advance.
Contributors: Julian Andrews (Bull Moose), Olivia Atwood (Little Tokyo), Sarah Bonanno (Farmer's Market), John Branch (Gule of Maine and Shere Punjab), Garrett Casey (The Brunswick Inn), Ron Cervantes (Downtown Freeport), Sam Chase (El Camino), Cameron de Wet (Rocky Ridge Apple Orchard), Jono Gruber (Wild Oats), Natalie Kass-Kaufman (Fat Boy), Emma Peters (The Brunswick Hotel and Tavern), Meg Robbins (Simpson's Point), Nicole Wetsman (Gelato Fiasco), Emily Weyrauch (The Bowdoin College Museum of Art) and Kate Witteman (Frontier).
Photography: Kate Featherston, Eliza Graumlich, Matthew Gutschenritter, Hy Khong, Meg Robbins and Parikshit Sharma.Interactive: Grace Handler and Matthew Gutschenritter.