The first thing you will notice about Maine Street's latest cafe, Little Dog Coffee Shop, is the space. Unlike Bohemian Coffeehouse or Wild Oats, its nearby competitors, Little Dog gives patrons more than ample elbow room, cushy couches, and a nice view (don't tell me you like looking at the Hannaford's parking lot, friends!). There is so much room, in fact, that the place seems almost spare.

Though operation is a bit less than smooth and the goods aren't extraordinary, Little Dog does fill a niche. Its relaxed pace and spaciousness encourage lingering, and I intend to frequent it this semester?I've never really felt like I could sit and do work at other local cafes because they were so cramped. After trying to guess what was behind that brown paper in the window all last year, I'm happy finally to be able to enjoy Little Dog (at least until I ship outta this place in May?alas!).

If I could, I would order my cuppa joe at Bohemian, sneak it into Little Dog (in a Sustainable Bowdoin resusable mug, of course?wouldn't want to offend), and then, after claiming a couch in the corner, order a Little Dog Carrot Cake Cookie. That would be the ideal sequence of events.

But I know I have to go all or nothing, and think if I just stuck to the Mocha Latte I had on a recent visit, I could be a happy Little Dog convert. The mocha's mug, a size small, was actually the size of a large toad, and it filled me up for a few hours. The brew itself was smooth and slightly chocolatey, and, though it was made with skim milk, had body.

The accompanying chocolate chip cookie, dry and crumbly, was perfect for dipping. I counted five or six whole almonds, which made it taste like a king's cookie. On a subsequent visit, I sampled the Carrot Cake Cookie, an idea I'd like to steal. A thin spread of cream cheese snuggled between two little mounds of carrot cake. It was a good complement to the Chai.

I had been told that Little Dog's hot chocolate was good, so I tried that on another visit. Well, the whipped cream on top sure was fun, but there was nothing special underneath. The liquid was gray and watery?I kept fruitlessly stirring it with my spoon to see some if some chocolately muck from the bottom needed to be dredged up and incorporated. The pumpkin-chocolate chip cookie I ordered alongside was too cake-like and spongy. But maybe it was just a bad day at the Dog.

There are a lot of other pastries and savory goods on sale to try. The chocolate-dipped peanut butter cookie, oatmeal-chocolate cookie bar, and three-inch thick quiche?all made off-site at a local bakery?were tempting. A vegetarian soup of the day, the occasional pizza slice, and some Stonyfield Farm yogurts fill out the menu.

When the afternoon rush flew in, Little Dog was somewhat overwhelmed, but any mishaps were quickly remedied with a smile. A few times, the barista even brought my order to me! Service like that?combined with the promise of breathing room and very reasonable prices?will keep me coming back.