The popularity of this quaint village is no more evident than on Friday nights in the summer, when the restaurants and bars along Center Street bustle with activity well into the night.
But sometimes it's nice to find a place off the beaten path that's a little more quiet, but no less fun. Hops-N-Vines Lounge fits that mold perfectly.
A wine bar by trade, it offers a nice mix of flavors from Oregon, the Napa Valley, Italy and Argentina -- and even a local favorite from Lockport.
Dave and I each tried a glass of the Dead Canyon cabernet sauvignon ($9), a rich offering from Washington's Horse Heaven Hills with a cherry and cocoa flavor. We liked that better than the Rock and Vine "Three Ranches" cabernet ($8), also from California, which was a little too sweet.
To suit its name, the lounge offers a generous beer menu as well. Drafts include Dogfish Head IPA, Stella Artois and Abita's Purple Haze. The bottled selection is much more extensive and ranges from basic lagers to the more coveted Belgian and Trappist selections and wheat favorites like Hoegarrden and Ommegang Hennepin. Prices are from $4 to $11.
Because of its location in the basement of the Casa Antica restaurant, the bar also serves a limited selection of appetizers, calzones and other Italian favorites. Actually, it's a little difficult to find the bar without first looking for the restaurant. That suits the regulars just fine, though -- they want to keep this cozy little lounge all to themselves.
The bar's niche is providing a lounge in the truest sense of the word. Dim lighting, sofas and other touches make patrons feel like they're in a basement hideaway -- albeit a classy one. Likewise, the bar itself is small and encourages conversation in close quarters.
Music draws people four nights each week. Tuesdays bring the crowds from Artpark, Thursdays are open mic night and Friday and Saturday usually feature local acoustic acts that sometimes bring their own following.
Most of the time, though, the music is at just the right level. Even though the setup of the bar means patrons are only a few feet from the acts, the tunes don't drown out the conversation.
It's also clear that Hops-N-Vines is a "winter bar" that sees its largest crowds when the outdoor patios of its Center Street competitors shut down for the season. But that's no reason not to stop down to this basement hideaway before it snows.
The cozy atmosphere -- and the wine -- are the real draw here, and both of those elements are in play all year round. Hops-N-Vines takes the Ben Franklin quote plastered onto its awning seriously: "There can't be good living where there is not good drinking."
490 Center St., Lewiston 405-7188
Scene: A cozy lounge that livens up with music on the weekends and a mix of ages.
Drinks: A decent selection of quality wines, reasonably priced; large bottled craft beer menu and smaller draft selection.
Music: Weekends feature local two-man acoustic acts that have fun with the crowd; also music on Tuesdays and open mic Thursdays.Hours: Opens at 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday.