Looking for a place where you can take down a heaping plate of house-made nachos while delicately sipping on a bottle of Opus One? Look no further. The Oak Street Bistro in Alfred does it all — and does it well.

When you first walk in, you wonder whether you’re in a restaurant or a lamp shop. The answer to that question is “yes,” because you’re in both. The restaurant is not only a solid Americana eatery, but is a sales gallery for mission-style lamps.

And does it work? Absolutely.

Owner James Marchese has an eye for ambience, taking a potentially awkward business combination — let’s say lamp store meets bar, for example — and making it seamless. That’s probably because the entire lounge is tastefully done with classic mission-style chairs, tables and lighting, right down to the patterned carpet that runs throughout the restaurant. But the crowning jewel of the place is the massive stone fireplace, reminiscent of ski lodges and old-school hunting camps. The fireplace alone makes the trek to Alfred worthwhile.

But then, of course, there’s the cocktail and wine list.

The Oak Street Bistro wants to make sure that you feel welcome, cozy and right at home from the moment you walk in until the moment you leave, full-bellied and warm. The bar menu — and service, for that matter — are fully reflective of that intention.

Take the bar lineup, for example. You might just want the usual beer — Bud, Sam Adams, Coors, etc. — or you could go for one of the specialty martinis or cocktails. Many of the cocktails are fruit juice-based, which normally I steer clear of, but I was convinced otherwise when I learned that all the juices here — from white peach to blood orange — are fresh-squeezed in-house. Or you could go with the locally improved “Alfred,” which is Oak Street’s take on the classic Long Island iced tea, combining vodka, gin, triple sec, rum, tequila, sour and apple schnapps.

If you’re feeling the need for a concoction in an up glass, go for the “Remember the Maine” martini, which mixes whiskey, sweet vermouth, absinthe and Cherry Heering. The list is creative, abundant and sure to please drinkers of any ilk.

The wine list is also nothing to scoff at. Riding a line between affordable and absurd — by-the-glass reds and whites, or a sparkling bottle of Cristal? Why not? — the bistro certainly has some fun with its selection. There is a rotating monthly feature of specific bottles and by-the-glass wines, but if you’re not a wine connoisseur, don’t worry. Each wine type is divided into user-friendly, descriptive-term categories, giving you enough information to choose something within your budget and ballpark of “likes.”

Drop by on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll probably catch local act Nancy and Richard — whose last names were a mystery to even the wait staff — who play old classics and take requests from the crowd. Or, if you’re confident in your performance abilities, they’ll even let the occasional customer get up and play the baby grand piano and/or the upright bass, which are permanent fixtures at the corner of the bar.

If you’re looking to get some solid eats, drink a few congenial cocktails by the fire, and feel right at home, pile a few friends in the car, make the drive and plan to stick around for a while. Believe me, you’ll want to.

Johanna Sorrell is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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