a growing foodie scene
Just one visit to Maine’s Kennebec Valley and you’ll discover a vibrant and growing local food and beer scene. And it all began with bread 13 years ago in Skowhegan. In response to a new “locavore” movement, community members established the Kneading Conference and Artisan Bread Fair. Based in part on its success, founding partners Amber Lambke and Michael Scholz would go on to start the Somerset Grist Mill and Maine Grains in the next few years.
It is no surprise that the Skowhegan area is now a foodie hub for the region and the state. In addition, it is no secret that Somerset County is the largest producing county of Maple Syrup, anywhere. Locally made but nationally available, Gifford’s Ice Cream runs seasonal stands in Waterville and Skowhegan—both offer a side of mini-golf as well.
Breweries and Distilleries
The region is justing busting at the seams with craft breweries, brewpubs, distillers, and beer-centric events. You’ll find Cushnoc Brewing Company in Augusta and the nearby Bateau Brewing in Gardiner. Oak Pond Brewing and Bigelow Brewing are worth a taste in Skowhegan or sit down for a pint at the historic Old Mill Pub. Stop by Waterville Brewing Company in the Hathaway Creative Center (look for the food trucks out front). Down in Hallowell, The Liberal Cup offers an ever-rotating menu of English-style, house-made beers and The Quarry Tap Room is nicknamed “Maine’s deepest watering hole.”
Summer offers the inaugural Snow Pond on Tap and Augusta’s well-established Kennebec River Brewfest, Labor Day weekend marks the Annual Skowhegan Craft Brew Fest, where you can sample dozens of Maine-made beers.
Looking for something a bit harder? Tree Spirits makes wines, absinthe, and a hand-crafted maple spirit in Oakland. Gardiner’s Sebago Lake Distillery is creating small-batch craft rums and in Pittston, the Doom Forest Tasting Room serves Chadwick’s Maple Craft Spirits.
Diners and Lunch Spots
Belly up to the counter, grab a coffee and dig into eggs-any-way, home fries, and then some. These are what diners are supposed to be. Downtown Diner and Augusta House of Pancakes sling classic diner fare, as do Farmingdale’s Hi-Hat and Dave’s Diner in Gardiner. Try Bee’s Snack Bar in Winslow, Purple Cow House of Pancakes in Fairfield, and Wentworth’s Country Diner in Norridgewock.
Don’t skimp on lunch. Go big with plate-sized sandwiches at Big G’s in Winslow, enjoy Jersey-style bagel sandwiches at Augusta’s Bagel Mainea, or try the Red Barn for the best fried seafood around. In Gardiner grab a slice (or two) at Gerard’s or stop into Lisa’s Legit Burritos. You can easily drive by Thompson’s in Bingham unless it’s mealtime when the street is lined with the cars of hungry patrons. Skowhegan’s Miller’s Table is always packed, and Heritage House has pleased locals and visitors for years.
“The Taste” alone is worth a trip to Maine’s Kennebec Valley.Sally B., Andover, MA
With a robust food scene, the region’s must-eat event is “The Taste” in Waterville. Each August, the city sets the table for the region’s only dining-focused festival; it’s great food served up street style. From iconic Maine lobster rolls to classic New England entrées and hip comfort food.
Gardiner’s tidy little downtown offers up a few of our favorite dinner spots, including, A1 Diner or The Depot. With downtown Augusta on the rise, we want to tip our cap in the direction of Otto’s on the River and The Black & Tan. Sweet Chili located at the Augusta Airport surprises for a tasty Thai dinner. Hit the jackpot in Waterville at 18 Below’s raw bar, Amici’s Cucina for Italian, or the Proper Pig for a unique selection of pork dishes and craft beer. Fairfield’s newly opened Meridians Kitchen & Bar offers farm-to-table plates and conscious cuisine. In Belgrade, the Village Inn’s duck is famous, while Sunset Grill is a more casual dining favorite. In The Forks try Hawk’s Nest, The Boatman’s Bar and Grill, or Riverside Pub for river views.
Frosty’s is Gardiner’s donut destination. For an impressive array of hand-crafted desserts and custom cakes head to The Bankery in Skowhegan. Want a whoopie pie? Grab a dozen at Wicked Whoopies in Farmingdale or Al’s Pizza in Skowhegan. In Waterville visit the sinful Christopher Hastings Confections and head to Holy Cannoli, which offers up delightful baked treats like nobody’s business. Stop by Hello Good Pie in Belgrade and grab one to go. Finally, if you are all the way up in Jackman, stop in Bishop’s Store for some traditional homemade fudge—in a variety of flavors.