Love it or hate it, this Friday is Valentine’s Day. Flowers, chocolates, teddy bears and conversation hearts decorate the aisles of grocery stores and pharmacies in town. Whether you’re looking for a night out with your significant other or a dinner with friends, there are a few locally-owned spots in Bangor that might be the perfect setting for this Feb. 14.
Located right in West Market Square, a central spot in downtown Bangor, Blaze brings its own twist on pizza and beer. With a tap lineup featuring local Maine breweries such as Orono Brewing Company, Bissel Brothers, Maine Beer Company and more, the huge selection of 50 craft beers on tap has something for everyone. The brick oven pizzas on the menu range from classic Margherita to more exotic flavors, such as a Greek pizza or the “Chorizo Manzana” featuring apples and cheddar. But pizza and beer are just the beginning; the drink menu contains a huge selection of cocktails and wines, and the food extends far beyond just pizza: specialty tacos, a wide selection of unique paninis, sandwiches and burgers and a handful of entree options can also be found on the restaurant’s huge menu. Aside from the food and drinks, Blaze is perfect for a night out due to its sleek, modern decor featuring dark colors and dim lighting. With reasonable prices for a more upscale spot, it can be a romantic evening over dinner and wine, or a night out for cocktails and apps (like duck fat fries, spinach artichoke breadsticks or pork belly lollipops) with friends. Either way, an evening at Blaze is worth the 20-minute drive into downtown Bangor from Orono.
A quick google of 11 Central, located in downtown Bangor a few doors down from Bagel Central, will bring up a brief description of 11 Central’s food as “American fare” – but let me be clear: this is no burger-and-fries type of place. 11 Central, like many locally-owned restaurants in Bangor, prides itself not only on sourcing as many ingredients as they can from local farmers but also making everything in-house, from desserts to dressings and sauces. Their menu consists of uniquely prepared seafood and meat dishes, such as “JK’s Spicy Duck Alfredo,” as well as a list of appetizers that look just as appetizing as the entrees themselves, like a smoked salmon plate. The interior of the restaurant is decorated with artwork from local artists, all of which are for sale, and the dimly-lit interior with exposed brick walls makes a perfect setting for such a classy meal. Given the quality of the food, it’s a little pricier than your average night out, so an occasion like Valentine’s Day might be the perfect time to go. The restaurant is open for dinner from 4-9:30 p.m. on the 14th.
Located in a space that used to be a bank just across from West Market Square, Evenroods is a sleek, American fine-dining restaurant with very reasonable prices. The menu boasts a long list of sandwiches, pastas, seafood and meat dishes, similar to that of 11 Central but priced slightly lower. Appetizers like Evenroods’ two takes on mussels, the Thai-inspired spicy mussels and the classic wine and butter flavor are standouts, as well as pan-roasted buffalo cauliflower with gooey gorgonzola and ranch sauce on top. The interior is dark and modern, and with a frequently rotating list of creative cocktails as well as various wines and local craft beers, the drinks pair perfectly with the food. If you want to bring in a group, call ahead and reserve “The Vault,” a space that, as the name implies, used to be a vault in the bank and now is a space set just slightly apart from the rest of the restaurant for groups to enjoy a meal. If you’re craving seafood above other things, this might just be what Evenroods does best, so reserve a table ahead of time because you probably won’t be the only one.
Looking for a couple more casual spots, or don’t want to spend too much? Check out these other downtown Bangor spots:
Portland Pie Company
This option has a great variety of pizzas, sandwiches, salads and pastas, with a full bar and a selection of over 20 craft beers with draft and can options.
Paddy Murphy’s Irish Pub
For a more casual dining experience, with burgers, sandwiches and plenty of apps to share, Paddy Murphy’s is the place to go. And, of course, there are a number of drinks to choose from as they tout a mix of domestic and craft beers, as well as a full bar.
Sea Dog Brewing Company
Sea Dog is another Maine brewery serving great beers and a wide variety of pub fare available.
Pepino’s Mexican Restaurant
Classic Mexican fare, delicious margaritas and a bar, Pepino’s is reasonably priced and nice enough for a date any day of the year.