Not every city has food items that are synonymous with the spirit of the town, but Bangor sure does. Though some claim the brownie was invented here — a claim that has yet to be definitively proven — other delicacies not only originated in Bangor but are hard to find anywhere else.
Here are six food items that, for whatever reason, scream “Bangor.”
Coffee Pot sandwiches
In sandwich taxonomic rank, the Coffee Pot sandwich belongs in the same genus as the Italian and other cold subs. But the Coffee Pot, or “Copy” Pot, or Legacy Sandwich, is a uniquely Bangor species of sandwich.
Originally served at the Coffee Pot Cafe, a longtime State Street lunch spot that closed in 2009 after nearly 80 years in business, a Coffee Pot sandwich consists of ham or salami (or both), American or provolone cheese, tomatoes, green peppers, oil, salt, crushed red pepper, pickles and, most importantly, onions. Lots of onions. Served on a Brick Oven Bangor Rye roll. It’s an aromatic, utterly unique-to-Bangor kind of sandwich.
You can get a Coffee Pot (or a virtually identical sandwich with a slightly different name) at Coffee Pot Sandwich Shop on Broadway, the Legacy Sandwich Shop on State Street and the three WeeBeez Deli and Markets locations in Bangor.
Brick Oven rolls
The aforementioned rolls made by Brick Oven Bangor Rye Bakery on Hancock Street have been a staple of Bangor kitchens for more than a century.
Originally founded by the Cohen family — the family of former U.S. Sen. and Secretary of Defense William Cohen — the bakery was sold in 2011 to brothers Paul and Peter Huston. The Hustons have since dramatically upped production of the bakery’s signature bulkie rolls and sub rolls, selling them in supermarkets and stores all over eastern Maine.
What makes them special? It’s the texture and the flavor. They’re fluffy and dense at the same time, able to stand up to a juicy burger but also tasty with just a spread of butter. Subtly sweet and yet totally savory, they’re a Bangor classic.
Red hot dogs
Technically, other Maine meat purveyors have produced the iconic red hot dog — including Jordan’s in Portland and Kirschner in Augusta — but only one Maine producer keeps on cranking out red snappers today. That’s W.A. Bean and Sons, right here in Bangor.
For those who are not familiar with the red hot dog, the name pretty much says it all. It’s a hot dog that’s been dyed red. Why is it red? The story goes that the dogs were dyed red to make them stand out from the rest of the frankfurter pack, but the true reason is largely lost to history. The taut, natural casing “snaps” a bit when you bite into it, hence its nickname, the red snapper. It’s as synonymous with Maine food as Moxie and Allen’s Coffee Brandy.
Bagel Central bagels
Purists will say the bagels made at Bagel Central on Central Street in downtown Bangor aren’t really bagels. Unlike “real” bagels from New York City or Montreal, which are chewy and dense and boiled before being baked, Bangor bagels are soft and fluffy and baked until just barely golden.
But do we really care what other people think, when Bagel Central bagels are so darn tasty? And if you’re a Bangor native who has moved away from town, is it not one of the first things you hanker for, upon coming back for a visit? It’s a round roll with a hole in it. It’s a bagel, and we love it so.
Orono has Pat’s Pizza. Ellsworth has Finelli’s. In Bangor, there are several local pizza favorites, including Tesoro, Angelo’s, Papa Gambino’s and Jason’s. But for a seriously Bangor-specific pizza, Tri-City Pizza, at the intersection of of Center Street and Broadway, takes the cake (er, pie).
Why is that? What is it about Tri-City’s super-thin, mildly flavored crust, its slightly sweet tomato sauce, its oddly tiny pepperonis that inspires such loyalty in folks living on Bangor’s east side? People who come to Bangor from outside Maine remark about how peculiar, yet delicious, it is — not a New York-style pizza, not Greek, not a traditional thin crust, not hand-stretched.
It’s slightly similar to Pat’s Pizza, sure, but only in the thin crust. For more than 50 years, this neighborhood joint has been cranking out its unique Queen City pizza, and we hope it never changes.
Pilot’s Grill Cheese Spread
It has been closed for 16 years, but people in Maine still long for the days of Pilot’s Grill, a beloved Bangor restaurant that for more than 60 years catered to locals and tourists alike. One of the few remaining vestiges of the restaurant is Pilot’s Grill Cheese Spread — a variation on mayonnaise-based pimento cheese that’s popular in the Southern U.S. or beer cheese that’s popular in the Midwest.
There’s no mayo or beer to be found in Pilot’s Grill spread, however: just cheddar, cream cheese and cottage cheese, plus finely chopped pimentos, onions and green pepper, and Tabasco, Worcestershire and garlic to taste. These days, you can buy it at Hannaford, Leadbetter’s, Tozier’s and other stores in eastern Maine.
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