BANGOR — Three things to know right off the bat:
1. It’s a bit of an anti-chain restaurant, what with the parakeets chirping by the door, the no-cell-phones policy, the family-style dining and the Franciscan monks behind the counter.
2. Choices are very limited. (Only one sandwich offered most days.)
3. It’s pretty tasty.
There. Now you’re all set for the Friars’ Bakehouse experience.
I met and first sampled from the friars’ back in 1997 when Brother Kenneth and Brother Donald were selling bread at roadside stands around Bangor and Ellsworth. At the time, their cinnamon bread was a huge seller; unfortunately, it’s since been spiked. Turns out Brother Donald kept burning his toes.
“The cinnamon turns into lava (in the oven) and when you have sandals on your feet…” said Brother Kenneth, who works the front end of their small Central Street restaurant.
So, no more of that divine bread, but there are other new offerings to taste.
Friars’ has four choices a day for lunch: typically, a sandwich, two soups or chowders and a casserole. Sandwich choices are printed on a menu two weeks in advance with the caveat “choices subject to change according to the whim of the cooking friar.” Everything else, you’ve got to roll with the surprise.
So, that Tuesday, chicken salad it was.
The chicken fixings had a great mix of big and little chunks with lots of mayo and nothing that doesn’t belong (celery bits or curry, for instance). It came on a softball-sized wheat bun with a bag of chips for $5.50 and I added a homemade lemonade for $1.25. The drink was smooth with just enough bite; limed lemonade also got high marks from seatmates.
Good as it was, there was no way to make it through the entire sandwich. (See “softball-sized wheat bun.” Not a joke.) I quit three-quarters of the way through and grabbed a big chocolate chip cookie for 75 cents for the road.
A friend enjoyed the chop suey, which came with sliced bread (the dish was under $5) and hailed it as tasty and filing. No one at our table sprang for the lentil soup or the fourth offering, a soup I couldn’t pronounce.
Another restaurant quirk: Meals come with little slips of paper that a friend joked read like religious fortune cookies. Mine: “Practice kindness. In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
I could have done worse.
“This is how we bring people to God,” Brother Kenneth explained later. “People that wouldn’t enter through a church can enter this way.”
Even with the notes, religious statues and a library of religious books available for browsing, the restaurant avoids the vibe of a hard Biblical sell. It’s more a relaxed, homey cafe. Even sitting with a stranger wasn’t awkward (granted, he left a few minutes into our meal, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t chase him away. That would hardly be practicing kindness.)
In the last week, sandwich choices included roast beef and Swiss and a tuna melt. Every Friday, it’s lobster roll day. Friars’ also offers fresh loaves of bread. At different times, there are flavors like dark German rye, multi-grain, anadama, honey almond oat and wheat, most for $3.50 a loaf.
Another diner couldn’t say enough about the cornbread, “not just any cornbread, amazing holy cornbread.”
How to ignore a testimonial like that?
In case you need any more, another stranger mentioned Friars’ Bakehouse’s top rank on TripAdvisor.com, where it’s No. 1 out of 40 Bangor restaurant picks.
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Friars’ Bakehouse

Tasty tidbits
What: Friars’ Bakehouse
Where: 21 Central St., Bangor; 947-3770
When: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Wednesday 10 a.m. to
5 p.m., open later for a Catholic Mass upstairs, followed by a
donation-only dinner
Atmosphere: Uber casual, and get ready to be friendly with thy
neighbor. Seating is around three tables with dinners just grabbing any
available chair.
Prices: Really reasonable, and important to note: Cash only.


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