In New England: Cafe, cinema and gallery combine in Maine college town

Christina Tree

For eight years Michael Gilroy traveled ancient trade routes through the Middle East and Asia, leading cultural expeditions and thinking about how to share what he saw, tasted and heard.

``I wanted to bring it all home to a community, but in a way that wasn't as elitist as a gallery or even an art house would be,'' Gilroy said. The resulting Frontier Cafe, Cinema and Gallery in Brunswick, Maine, is a winning combination - a culinary and cultural meeting spot.

Gilroy calls it ``a crossroads.'' And it is literally at a crossroads of busy Rte. 1. The complex fills 10,000 square feet in the rear of a former textile mill. The cafe's 12-foot-high industrial-style windows overlook the Androscoggin River, and the gallery divides the Cinema from the Cafe.

Food, Gilroy said, is what first gets people in the door. The all-day menu features panini wraps and antipasti, mixing local and exotic ingredients. There are also Italian, French and Middle Eastern combination plates. The top-priced ($12) Cheese Market Plate is a palate pleaser with three cheeses, dried fruits, nuts, olives, fresh fruit, Belgian chocolate, a baguette and crostini. Beer and wine is available.

Patrons order and then wander through the Cafe, eyeing the artwork, thumbing through reading material in a living room-like corner, taking in views of the river from counter stools along the windows.

The artwork changes frequently. A recent Japanese Festival included an exhibit of kimonos and prints, along with Japanese music, film and food.

The Cinema is equipped with a digital projector and 75 seats salvaged from a movie house. It is the venue for art and foreign films, locally produced projects and high-definition concerts ranging from Bruce Springsteen to La Scala opera.

The schedule at Frontier Cafe also includes visiting authors, poets, pundits and storytellers. A Frontier Passport series highlights various regions of the world for kids.

The Frontier isn't the only reason to visit Brunswick's premier college town. Long, lively Maine Street leads to the handsome campus of Bowdoin College and its museums, including an outstanding, recently renovated Museum of Art. Freeport, home of L.L. Bean and more than 100 outlet stores, is less than seven miles south.

Frontier Cafe, Cinema and Gallery, Fort Andross, 14 Maine St., 207-725-5222; (Parking is at the front of the mill).