LEWISTON — The 42 black cast-iron stools look like they’re out of another era. Dozens of vintage-style bulbs hang from the ceiling. Wide barn boards cover the bottom of a long soapstone-topped bar and the walls are exposed brick.

A short menu includes an Elvis-inspired sandwich, and word is you can catch the chef singing at the grill.

Sonder & Dram, the city’s newest bar, is unexpected and it’s been busy.

It opened June 23 on the bottom floor of 12 Ash St. after a five-month renovation

Peter Flanders, one of nine principals behind the business, said they wanted to hearken back to the speakeasy and create an early 20th-century vibe. 

“All I know is everyone who comes in says it’s comfortable,” said chef Michael Gosselin, another principal. “I don’t think that’s something you can manufacture.”

Flanders said the partners at Great Falls Development Group, which used to have an office where Sonder & Dram sits now, wanted to get into hospitality, and last year reached out to Gosselin and Tom Ardia for help.

Ardia, bar manager and also a principal, had worked at Marche and Orchid locally and Chaval in Portland. Gosselin is the former chef at Fuel.

The space needed a second bathroom, a kitchen, the bar and everything else. For the menu, Gosselin said they went with new American cuisine and craft cocktails and beer.

There’s popcorn with the chef’s choice seasoning — in the last three weeks it’s been brown butter and thyme, truffle and oregano with black pepper and Parmesan cheese. 

He also makes an S&D Burger with a house-made bun. 

And created The King.

“(Elvis Presley) used to eat these mashed-banana-and-peanut-butter sandwiches toasted between two slices of white bread,” Gosselin said. “I was traveling earlier in the year and actually went to the home of Elvis, went to the diner where he used to order those sandwiches, sat in his booth. I was trying to put a little more local spin on it.”

So, for The King, he added Fluff, and bacon.

“People come in and go, ‘I think I want to try that,'” he said. “I just wanted something homey, you feel good, you come in, ‘I’ll have a bite of that. And a beer.'”

The kitchen is semi-open, behind the wall immediately facing patrons as they walk in, and some people like to sit at the edge of the bar to watch Gosselin cook, and ask questions.

“He sings to his hamburgers, I’ve seen him do it,” Flanders said. “Dances to his grilled cheese . . .”

Sonder & Dram’s bar has eight taps, seven of them featuring Maine craft beer. The eighth tap is Utica Club, a lager.

“(Tom’s) relationship with the craft beer industry is really invaluable,” Flanders said. “That helps us get unusual beers that other restaurants don’t have.”

One of those Maine taps, Cushnoc Brewing Co.’s Forever And A Day, which Flanders described as a peach milkshake IPA, is something people wouldn’t have yet seen locally anywhere else, he said.

There are four craft cocktails on the menu to start. One named “Sweet Tea & Bubbles” includes black tea, lemon, sugar, soda and sparkling wine.

“It’s true mixology,” Flanders said. “It’s crafting cocktails, not just pouring liquor, which is a very big difference.”

The bar is open from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday to Saturday. There’s no table service — orders are placed and picked up at the bar. After the unexpectedly hot start to summer, new air conditioning units will arrive over the weekend.

“There are a lot of traditional restaurants that have bars, but there’s not a lot of bars that are just bars and also still have food, too,” Flanders said. “It’s become what we hoped, which is a place for people to hang out and be comfortable.”

Michael Dostie, chairman of the new Downtown Lewiston Association, mentioned Sonder & Dram at the association’s kickoff Thursday as one of four new businesses that have opened or will open soon downtown.

“A year ago, if you had told me that you were going to open a bar and restaurant in a basement below Subway, I would have laughed,” Dostie said. “They’ve done a phenomenal job. They’ve really utilized the space and transformed it, and it’s helping transform our downtown. Sonder & Dram, great job guys.”

[email protected]

Tom Ardia, left, and Michael Gosselin, right, at the newly opened Sonder & Dram in downtown Lewiston. The men are two of the nine partners behind the business.(Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Sonder & Dram’s S&D burger, a beef patty with American cheese, onions, homemade pickles and Dram sauce on a house-made bun with an order of fresh-cut french fries. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

The vintage-style bar stools filled quickly on a recent afternoon at Sonder & Dram at 12 Ash St. in Lewiston. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: