Whether you’re a lifelong Bangor resident or hail from elsewhere, the No. 1 question on your mind when you head out the door for a day or a night on the town is probably, “Where should we go to eat?”
There were some obvious answers to that question in decades past. That’s still true today, though the names, owners and menus have changed dramatically over the years. Here are five Bangor restaurants from the past that are certified classics — and five current eateries that we think constitute contemporary classics.
We’re only including sit-down, locally owned restaurants on this list, though we all know how much people loved places like the original Coffee Pot, and still love take-out places like Tri-City Pizza. These are all within the Bangor city limits, with just one exception.
Do you disagree with our list? Think we missed a restaurant either past or present? Send an email to email@example.com, and if we hear from enough readers, we’ll follow up. Bon appetit!
5 classic restaurants from the past
Albanian immigrant Paul Zoidis opened Pilot’s Grill in 1939, catering to service members stationed at what would become Dow Air Force Base and to Mainers looking for a special night out. Though the restaurant had to move twice due to runway expansions, it was always located just outside what would eventually become Bangor International Airport in 1969.
For more than 60 years, it was the creme de la creme of dining experiences in Bangor, offering up a spectacular view of planes taking off and landing as people dined on steak and lobster. It was the site of hundreds of weddings, birthday parties, business lunches and community events in its 250-seat ballroom. Pilot’s Grill was an integral part of Bangor culture until it closed on Dec. 31, 2002, still under the ownership of the Zoidis family. Today, the building houses Bangor Escape Rooms, and the recipe for its famous cheese spread is still used by Bangor families who remember the restaurant’s glory days.
For decades, if you attended an event at the Bangor Auditorium, there was a high likelihood that before or after, you’d tuck into a plate of food from the massive all-you-can-eat buffet at Miller’s Restaurant, just down the street on Main Street. The Miller family — Sonny Miller at first, followed by his son John — kept multiple generations of basketball tournament fans and concert-goers alike fed and happy.
You could have your fill of roast beef or fried fish, or indulge in an array of ice cream, cakes and pies. Or, if you wanted something a little more refined, you could eat in the Red Lion — Miller’s fine dining room. Either way — from the time it opened on Washington Street in 1951 until the day it closed on Main Street in 2005, to be replaced by a temporary location for what would become Hollywood Casino — Miller’s was a staple in Bangor’s dining scene. Today, that location houses Season’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, which carries on the tradition of locally owned, family-friendly dining in Bangor.
There were other Asian restaurants in Bangor, but for the nearly 30 years it operated, none had the colorful cachet of Sing’s, which opened in 1969 in the then-new Penobscot Plaza on Washington Street. Tom and Janet Sing ran the Cantonese and Polynesian restaurant first, followed by their son, Gene, offering classic dishes alongside more traditional Chinese fare.
Richly decorated inside, the restaurant had a massive, ornate fountain in the lobby and a tiki-style bar that kept the mai tais and zombies flowing. The restaurant closed in 1998, and today, Hero’s Sports Bar and Grill serves up wings and pub grub in the same location.
This Italian American restaurant started life in 1933 as The Baltimore, operated by Jimmy Carparelli and Rita Baldacci at 15 Union St. In the late 1940s, it supposedly was the first restaurant in the Bangor area to offer the then new-fangled delicacy of pizza. In 1970, During the urban renewal era, the family built a new restaurant at 193 Broad St., renamed Momma Baldacci’s. Today, that building houses a credit union.
The Broad Street restaurant operated for a few years until the family built another new restaurant on Alden Street, off-Broadway, and moved Momma Baldacci’s there in 1975. For the next 33 years, three generations of Baldaccis doled out spaghetti and meatballs — Bob and Rosemary Baldacci, their son, Paul Baldacci Sr., who died suddenly in 2006, and his son, Paul Jr. It was also a Maine Democratic Party stronghold, with John Baldacci being elected to several local and state posts including Maine governor in 2002, and his brother Joe elected to state senate in 2020. The family still holds spaghetti dinner fundraisers locally.
The restaurant closed for good in 2008, but Paul Jr. continues the family legacy with his southern Maine-based food truck, Momma Baldacci’s.
Paul’s Restaurant and Speakeasy
The first restaurant to open off Hogan Road, Paul’s Restaurant started off as the 95er Restaurant, opened by local trucking company Cole’s Express not long after Interstate 95 opened in Bangor in 1963. In 1975, longtime manager Paul Gervais bought the business and renamed it Paul’s Restaurant and Speakeasy. Three years later, the Bangor Mall opened nearby in what was once a cow pasture, bringing with it thousands of new customers.
Easily noticeable by its bowler hat logo, Paul’s served up classic American food and survived the gradual encroachment of chain restaurants like the Olive Garden for a number of years before finally closing in 2004. The short-lived barbecue restaurant Smokey Bones moved into the location, followed by chain restaurant Longhorn Steakhouse, which still operates there.
5 contemporary classics
The original truck stop restaurant is technically in Hermon, but it’s just over the town line from Bangor so we’ll give it a pass. What’s not to love about Dysart’s? Pies, cakes, giant diner breakfasts and that famous buttery, flaky crust on its pot pie. Whether it serves hungry truckers or local families, or at its original location or the newer one on Broadway in Bangor, it’s been an area staple since 1967.
Geaghan’s Pub & Brewery
Since 1975, the Geaghan family has supplied Bangor with chicken wings, burgers and Irish dishes, in addition to Celtic music and a rip-roaring place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. In 2011, it began making its own beer in-house, and today, Geaghan Brothers Brewing is one of Maine’s most popular craft beer labels. It runs the pub and its brewery all in the original location on Bangor’s waterfront.
The longest-running Chinese restaurant in Bangor, Oriental Jade opened near the Bangor Mall in 1979, and over the decades has expanded to include menu items such as sushi and pad thai, in addition to egg rolls and lo mein. It also has a sister business, Bangor Beer Co., allowing the restaurant to offer craft beer in addition to an eclectic mix of Chinese, Japanese and American dishes.
In 1978, Richard Zabot began making bagels out of a small storefront on Central Street. After a fire in 1983, he moved his business, The Bagel Shop, to 1 Main St., at the corner of Hammond and Main, in 1984. There, it cranked out its distinctive take on bagels for the next 13 years, until it was purchased by Sonya Eldridge, who moved it in early 2000 to its current location at 33 Central and renamed it Bagel Central. Though it’s undergone lots of changes over the years and it’s now owned by Scott Bryson, it’s still the bustling heart of downtown.
Sea Dog Brewing Co.
When the Sea Dog on Front Street in Bangor opened in 1995 — the second location for the brewery and restaurant after its first one in Camden — it was a really big deal. It was Bangor’s first microbrewery, opening in a long-empty former shoe factory. It was also the first new restaurant to open on Bangor’s waterfront in 20 years, which at that point was still early in its transformation from industrial wasteland to city park and entertainment destination. Twenty-eight years later, there are many craft breweries in the city — but the Sea Dog was the first.