That’s the vibe these days at Rails, the popular Lincoln Street eatery in Lewiston, as it begins its third year.

New food. New drinks. New art and music. A new bar area. A recently added manager. And, technically, even a new owner.

Ileshea Stowe, the restaurant’s director of operations and public relations from the beginning, is acquiring ownership of the restaurant from her parents, Claire and Stephen Dick.

And according to Stowe, she is most definitely “up to the challenge” of creating something that’s new and hip.

The change is a bit of a role reversal for Stowe and her mother. Previously juggling the high demands of being a farmer with the equally high demands of running a restaurant, Stowe admits, “Although I love farming, I can’t give it the time it needs. So, when it was time to disassemble my farm, my mother, Claire, took my sheep and has since grown to love them.”


In fact, Claire plans to add beef critters to her farm as well, and many will end up on the plates at Rails, supporting her daughter’s farm-to-table efforts.

But that’s just the beginning. Asked what’s new on the menu, Iman Poeraatmadja, Rails’ recently added manager and marketing specialist, replies, “The entire concept! It’s a new look, and based on the entire experience! We’ve got new dishes that we are presenting in an entirely new way, starting with featured beverages, moving to the first courses, called ‘small plates,’ and then, of course, the entrees.”

One example is Rails’ carbonara risotto, a creamy parmesan risotto made with crumbled local bacon and peas. Most diners choose to add grilled shrimp, herb-seared salmon or pan-fried chicken as a protein and complementary finish.

“What makes this risotto so delicious,” says Poeraatmadja, “is the bacon and cheese that we use in the blend, so you get a really savory and rich risotto.”

Perhaps the most popular meal on the new menu is the baked haddock. It’s “a panko-encrusted haddock filet baked in drawn butter and finished with a white wine sauce over garlic-and-herb mashed potatoes,” explains Poeraatmadja. Cue Stowe, who adds, “It’s always a full-stop, off-the-rails, whistle-blowing delight!”

When it comes to the unexpected, the restaurant’s Cedar Street cauliflower pizzette is a delightful addition to the new menu. It’s a cauliflower steak that’s been lightly breaded in chick pea flour and covered in a marinara-style sauce with a triple-cheese blend, served under lightly dressed spinach, red onion, olives and spritzed with lemon.


“It’s surprising how satisfying it is,” says Stowe. “The beauty of this presentation is that this is a vegetarian — and easily could be a vegan — meal.”

“Nodding to Lewiston’s heritage,” adds Stowe, “we still have tourtiere (a somewhat traditional meat pie) and salmon pie,” which forgoes the bottom crust in favor of the flavorful filling and flaky top crust.

Diners looking for something lighter and more sharable can have a tapas experience with Rails’ new small plates, says Poeraatmadja, “which allow diners to experience a variety of the flavors that Rails features.” Those flavors range from poutine and creton to lobster rangoon and seasoned chicken wings.

Rails has also added breakfast- and brunch-style foods, including “Rails Bennie,” to its Saturday menu. Rails Bennie is a couple of poached eggs served with slabs of locally raised Canadian-style bacon on top of a slice of thick house-made toast and finished with hollandaise. Another option: “The Brunch Stacker” offers two fried eggs and braised pork over mashed potatoes, bacon, cheddar cheese and roasted corn salsa.

“But when it comes to new, we’re not stopping at food,” says Poeraatmadja.



Patience Baker, Rails’ barkeep, has created new drinks and pairings to further the celebration of new.

“The creme brule martini was done to complement our dessert menu. It’s vanilla vodka, kahlua, frangelico and a splash of heavy cream, garnished with grated cinnamon and rimmed with raw sugar to get the crunch that you would find in a creme brule,” explains Baker.

“And the habanero lime margarita, made with Ancho Reyes — an ancho chili liqueur from Mexico — has a kick making it both beautiful and unexpected,” she adds. “You can smell the pepper and the cinnamon, and the glass is rimmed with a chili sage lime salt.”

Meanwhile Baker’s pink sangria incorporates the flavors of pomegranate and pink grapefruit, employing a white moscato wine for carbonation and sweetness. “I came up with a flavor profile that celebrated more of the obscure fruits that you wouldn’t find in a sangria,” she says. 

Providing a venue for local art is also one of the new themes at Rails.

Jared Lussier is doing triple duty as waitstaff, curator and artist-in-residence, creating a gallery to surround and entertain diners.


By enlisting artists — all from Maine (often from Lewiston), such as Stan and Genevieve Hollenbeck (pen and marker on paper, and collage art), Kate Cargile (oil on canvas) and photographers Charles Dufour, Trevor Liick and Lussier — “we’re supporting the local arts community and using our walls as a dining gallery to create a sense of community,” said Lussier.

Live music has also been added to the Rails’ offerings.

“It’s a wide variety,” says Stowe, “with everything from Christine Areola, who does a jazzy cocktail hour, and the Younger Bloods out of Norway, who do a funk-jazz-blues fusion, to other artists who perform country music and classic rock.”

Rails will also feature return visits by the soulful Canadian singer-songwriter Apryll Aileen. “When Apryll comes to the United States this is often her first stop,” says Stowe. And as the weather turns nice, the musical acts will move outside to Rails’ patio near Simard-Payne Park.

The interior of Rails will remain a “nod to the industrial era of the area,” says Stowe, with benches that are intentionally reminiscent of a train station and decor that speaks to the building’s one-time use as the train station that serviced the rail line connecting Lewiston to the larger Montreal-Portland railroad. Starting in the 1870s, the line transported nearly 25,000 migrants, particularly French-Canadians, from Canada to L-A to work in the mills and shoe-making factories along the Androscoggin River.

But the bar, says Stowe, “will be expanded, due to popular demand, and we’ll be making use of the leftover bits of the old St. Patrick’s church, including what will become the bar top.”

In keeping with the restaurant’s tag line, the new offerings at Rails are “Local-Motive” dining at its best. “Our local experience starts from the core,” says Stowe, and is “thoughtfully sourced in every way. . . . We’re local from the heart out, and I think this is a great thing for Lewiston.”

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