Sick of the library? Here are a few places in the greater Bangor area that are great for sipping, snacking and cranking out some work.
1.) The Grind House (downtown Bangor)
• Offerings: 5/5 stars
The food menu includes a variety of sandwiches, subs, wraps, salads and a few unique kinds of hot dogs. Any burger, or even their meatball sub, can also be made with the Impossible Burger “meat” instead of beef. Their drink menu includes the classics – coffee, espresso drinks and tea – as well as some delectable specialty dessert drinks, such as their hazelnut and banana latte. They also have a cooler consisting of seltzers, Maine sodas, iced teas and kombuchas. They also offer an impressive selection of craft beers and ciders.
• Interior and seating: 5/5 stars
The interior is very open, with sleek wood floors and a few large tables to sit at, perfect for a group or multiple individual customers. There’s additional seating at the windows, which cover both walls of the restaurant, and at a counter facing the exposed kitchen for customers who want to watch their food being made. Overall, the space is welcoming and ideal for conversation, studying or simply a peaceful meal.
• Noise and Music:3.7/5 stars
Despite the open kitchen, the noise level is kept relatively low and doesn’t come as a distraction when studying or doing homework. The music choice, however, is less consistent, wavering between family-friendly oldies and today’s top hits. Usually the volume level is perfect, as it can be drowned out with headphones or enjoyed without them.
• Overall Rating: 4.8/5 stars
2.) Verve (downtown Bangor)
• Offerings: 3.5/5 stars
The food at Verve is Mexican cuisine, which might make or break the choice to study here, but their menu has more to offer than just spice. Bagel Central bagels are sold here, as well as healthy and organic smoothies and some dessert items (cookies, etc.). Carrabassett Coffee Company brews are also available, which is an area for improvement, as anyone who has spent a year drinking dining hall coffee is likely sick of these flavors by now.
• Interior and Seating: 5/5 stars
This is where Verve’s Bangor location excels. The restaurant is at least twice the size of the Orono location, and the interior design is impeccable. It features brick walls, a raised floor for a section of the restaurant, comfortable seating that adheres to the unique color scheme and unique decorations such as posters that feature Mainers doing unique activities, such as sailing from Bangor, Maine to Bangor, Ireland (many featured are UMaine graduates). There is a book exchange on the raised level and plenty of window seating.
• Noise and Music:4.8/5 stars
The downside of being a very popular establishment is that in the evening, Verve can have a line to the door and it can get a bit noisy for studying during this rush hour. Otherwise, the noise level is low. The music, however, matches the cool vibe of the restaurant itself; an alternative station is nearly always playing, not necessarily always the same one, but the employees have reported that one day’s selection was from The 1975 radio on Spotify. The volume is also always kept at a reasonable level.
• Overall Rating: 4.7/5 stars
3.) West Market Square Artisan Coffeehouse (downtown Bangor)
•Offerings: 4/5 stars
Unlike the others on this list, West Market Square is primarily a coffee place, with a few food options available to munch on. Their coffee menu is extensive and what’s expected of a coffeehouse (espresso, teas, drip coffees, flavors, etc.), and the quality is very high – but so is the price, so maybe save this one for payday. The food varies by day and is typically a small selection of wraps, yogurt parfaits, salads, pastries, muffins, cakes and cookies. All are locally sourced and delicious, but the supply is finite.
• Interior and Seating: 3/5 stars
The space is undeniably perfect for studying – comfy chairs, not jarringly bright inside, lacking the hustle-and-bustle of Starbucks, and the smell of coffees and teas is always wafting in the air. The pitfall here too, though, is that there is very little available seating, and the shop is quite small, so if you get a table you’ve lucked out – otherwise you might have to head down the street to Verve.
• Noise and Music:4.9/5 stars
Adding to the perfect study atmosphere, the noise level is quite low in here and the music is soft, gentle classical music that is quiet enough that you have the option of enjoying it or listening to your own. The playlist is ideal for studying without the distraction of lyrics, and the shop is typically very quiet and calm.
• Overall Rating: 4.2 stars
4.) Fork & Spoon (downtown Bangor)
• Offerings: 5/5 stars
The selection here is one of the healthiest in the Bangor area, including many vegetarian and vegan options. Their sandwiches and salads are unique stand-outs, all of them available in vegetarian/vegan versions. For lighter fare, their pastry selection is impressive, with options like blueberry cream cheese croissants and savory & sweet scones, and their drink menu is equally vast, offering smoothies (with add ins available), juices, wines, beers and a coffee and espresso bar that includes nitro coffee on tap.
• Interior and Seating: 3.5/5 stars
The interior is very plain and simple, allowing the food and drink the most attention rather than the design. There’s plenty of seating and the space is large, open and bright, almost resembling a cafeteria. It is sometimes a little chilly – so bring layers.
• Noise and Music: 3.5/5 stars
The music playing is certainly conducive to a study environment; soft acoustic songs play quietly through the speakers at a level that can easily be either acknowledged or ignored. However, due to the popularity of smoothies and juices here, the noise level of the kitchen can be distracting.
• Overall Rating: 3.8 stars
5.) The Store Ampersand (Orono)
• Offerings: 4.5/5 stars
Ampersand is a unique place, as it’s half store, half café, so there’s plenty being sold. Their latte selection is vast and unique, with flavors like lavender and vegan green-tea chai lattes, and their cookies are thick and delicious, with the authentic and simple ingredients listed for each. Elsewhere in the store, hundreds of snacks are available for purchase, from yogurt to organic beef jerky to kombuchas to various international treats. There is also fresh bread for sale daily. It’s hard to go hungry in there.
• Interior and Seating: 3/5 stars
This is a pitfall of Ampersand – there are only a few tables available at the front of the store, so if you go at a busy time, you might be out of luck. However, there is also a cat that hangs out in the store most days, and a comfortable living-room chair or two to lounge on, so the atmosphere is very homey.
• Noise and Music: 4/5 stars
Another pitfall of Ampersand being part-store, part-café is that the noise level is somewhere between the two, as many people come in just to shop. However, the store is rarely too packed, and the noise level is kept to a low buzz. There typically is not music on.
• Overall Rating: 4/5 stars