Located in Maine’s Midcoast, Brunswick is a town of about 20,000 people half an hour outside of Portland and fifteen minutes from Freeport. Home to Bowdoin College (Go U Bears!), a busy Maine Street, and numerous restaurants, cafes, and shops, Brunswick has a lot to offer.
1.) Little Dog Coffee Shop–This is my go to place to do homework on the weekends. With big windows overlooking Maine Street, it’s perfect for letting in natural light on sunny days and also taking refuge from the rain and, more likely, snow. They serve both regularly iced coffee and cold brew. They make really rich brownies and cinnamon buns which double as bricks because they’re so heavy and thick, not to mention delicious. They serve a mean garlic bagel, which I recommend with the Boursin for a breakfast that goes pow and gets your day, and studying, going. If you go later in the day, they also serve different sandwiches and paninis, all of which I’ve tried I’ve liked. It gets crowded on weekends and you have to be prepared to beeline to a table once one opens up, especially one near an outlet. They also have a rewards program. 87 Maine Street, $
2.) Frontier–This is my favorite restaurant in town, with Enoteca Athena coming in right after (and Fat Boy is another good drive-in option in the summer months with popular burgers and shakes). Frontier serves up some great American classics with a spin to cater to the offbeat college and Maine crowd around Brunswick. The space used to be a coffee shop but was converted into a restaurant during my freshman year at Bowdoin. There are huge windows which boast an incredible view of the Androscoggin and the Frank J. Wood Bridge. They have really good sandwiches (try Mozz), and their Frontier Burger is tasty and juicy and comes with incredible fries. In addition to their excellent dining options, Frontier also hosts film screenings in their theater, showing a lot of film shorts and documentaries, like The Act of Killing. There’s a great atmosphere inside, and it’s a good date spot as well. It’s a classier spot to get drinks, maybe with some live music in the background, but cocktails can run a bit more expensive and servers sometimes get frustrated and unresponsive if you don’t also order food. 14 Maine Street, $$
3.) Gelato Fiasco–Whenever I’ve had somebody visit me at Bowdoin, I’ve taken them here without fail, because you really can’t go wrong. They have thousands of flavors which they rotate through everyday, with some consistent flavors offered daily like Dark Chocolate Noir and Strawberry Balsamic. Their Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Crunch and Caramel Sea Salt flavors have been favorites of mine as well as anything with cookies. They work frequently with local businesses like Frosty’s and Wild Oats to create doughnut and Maine Wild Blueberry Crisp gelato. It gets weirder as well, with PBR, Magic Hat, and buffalo chicken flavors, which isn’t to mention all of the Dr. Who themed flavors they released one day. They keep it fun. Their affogatos are also delicious, and they do pour over coffee. To save some cash, join the Red Spoon Society to get free gelato every hundred points you earn. And for every degree below freezing outside, they discount their gelato (which can score you some great deals in Maine). There are counters, comfortable couches and chairs, and tables inside in case you go to do work, and they have some board games free for the playing. 74 Maine Street, $
4.) Eveningstar Cinema–Having lived next door to this theater, I’ve taken advantage of the great movies and prices a lot. There’s only one theater, so they show one film at a time. Though it’s not huge with stadium seating like a lot of theaters, this place has the charm of an indie theater with fewer rows and some couches and rocking chairs in the front as well. Additionally, their movies are cheap, only $8.50 for an adult ticket, but they also have a student rate. Their movies are usually a little offbeat à la Wes Anderson and Nebraska. 149 Maine Street, $
5.) Bowdoin College Museum of Art–Rounding out the Brunswick Five is Bowdoin’s art museum (for another Bowdoin museum, maybe try the Arctic Museum). I’ve written about this museum before on Coffee and Lipstick, and I think they have a lot of great things to offer, all for free. The museum recently underwent multimillion dollar renovations and has great gallery spaces and seminar classrooms. They’ve hosted fantastic Maurice Prendergast and William Wegman exhibits. I’ve gone into the museum a couple of times for classes to look at things from Käthe Kollwitz lithographs to medieval artifacts. In addition to their temporary exhibits, they also have beautiful Assyrian tablets and ancient pottery. It’s a great museum and showcases the College within the town. 9400 College Street, Free
Here are some of my other picks:
- Bohemian Coffee House–also good coffee, good place to work, not usually crowded
- Frosty’s Donuts–go at 4 AM when they open if you’re brave and looking for an adventure
- El Camino–their margaritas are highly rated
- Enoteca Athena–good Italian and Greek food, nice atmosphere
- Little Tokyo–not necessarily authentic Japanese food, but the bento lunch is a lot of food for your money
- Little Saigon–Vietnamese food on Maine Street, make sure to come with an empty stomach because a small order of the pho is a big undertaking, enjoy the sprouts that come along with it.
- Brunswick Diner–cheap diner a little out of the way. Good pancakes
- Big E Burritos–solid new burrito place where Flipside used to be on Maine Street.
- Big Top Deli–great place for hearty, homey sandwiches on Maine Street
- Fat Boy Drive-In–drive-in fast food near Cook’s Corner. Good burgers and shakes
- Wrappers on the Mall–food truck on the Mall, good lemonade but overpriced
- Trattoria Athena–limited menu and awkward location on a side street near the highway, but good food (recommend the olive oil cake and the buffalo mozzarella).
- Union Street Bakery–cute neighborhood spot for homemade baked goods
- Two Hands Crepe and Juice Bar–a new place in town with good crepes (possibly permanently closed)
- Sea Dog Brewery (Topsham)–right on the Androscoggin, garlic burger is good
- Blueberries (Topsham)–located in the same plaza as Sea Dog, Blueberries has tasty breakfast and incredible pancakes
- Mae’s Cafe and Bakery (Bath)–nice and open cafe, the coffee wasn’t anything incredible, but the pancakes were good and all the baked goods looked awesome
- Cafe Creme (Bath)–Better coffee than Little Dog and cozier, more put-together inside. Try the Au Lait
- SchoolHouse Cafe (Harpswell)–Best place for breakfast in the area
- Shere Punjab–good Indian restaurant in town popular with students
- Tao Yuan Restaurant
- Kopper Kettle (Topsham)–not popular with students, but a good, homey diner with great pancakes
- Androscoggin River Bicycle Path–good, multi-use path and park
- Yankee Lanes–great backlight bowling (free Thursday nights during the academic year for Bowdoin students)
- Watson Arena–don’t miss the Bowdoin vs. Colby hockey game
- L.L Bean (Freeport)–go around Christmas and get in the holiday spirit, it’s a thing to go in the middle of the night (it’s cool but nothing really exciting is happening except that people are cleaning up)
- Bart and Greg’s DVD Explosion–one of the last DVD rental stores really anywhere, $3.50 per rental but they have a lot of DVDs which is good for when Netflix fails you and when you want to go old-school and rent a movie
- Peary MacMillan Arctic Studies Museum–a quick museum to visit, free to the public, and you can even touch a narwhal tusk
- Gulf of Maine Books–a nice, independent bookstore though with a small inventory
- Local and Wyler’s–nice shops on Maine Street. They’re both expensive, but Wyler’s has creative cards for really unique occasions or sentiments
- Giant Stairs (Harpswell)–beautiful spot on the Maine coast.
- Crystal Springs Farm Farmers Market or Fort Andross Winter Market–both good farmers markets with great produce
- Morning Glory–organic food store with good inventory
- Nest–a favorite of the moms: home/decor shop with good selection of crafts and decorations though pricy
Brunswick nightlife is limited, but as far as small towns go, there is a lot to do. As far as bars go, a couple dot Maine Street like Benchwarmers, but Joshua’s is the main local haunt. Frontier is another good option and My Tie is something of a joke as it’s a “club” located in the basement of Aki, one of the two Japanese restaurants in town. If you’re so inclined, it amounts to the basement of a frat house with a conveniently located bar inside. Gelato Fiasco is open until 11, so you can hang out there to study or play board games, plus Eveningstar makes for a fun, relaxed night out. A drive away from downtown Brunswick, Ebenezer’s Brew Pub is a bar a step up from Joshua’s with better, craft beer.
If you’re looking to get to Brunswick, the Amtrak runs a Downeaster service from North Station in Boston to Maine Street in Brunswick (with several stops in between). The train is nice, but I recommend Concord Coach Lines. The bus leaves from the visitor center next to the train station and only stops in Portland before going to South Station and Logan Airport in Boston. As a side note, if you catch the bus from Portland they give you free bags of pretzels and water. The bus and train cost about the same, but I’d recommend the bus because it’s faster and has fewer stops.
There’s a lot right to do right on Maine Street, but if you’re looking for other ways to get around town, there’s the Brunswick Taxi which runs around town. Additionally, the Brunswick Explorer is a bus service that runs a loop around town.
Brunswick is full of wonderful restaurants, and the only place I haven’t liked is the Broadway Delicatessen.