Check out Bethel’s Briar Lea

Here’s my new fave spot in Bethel, the Briar Lea. Jenni and Richard Frederick’s inn and pub is a week bit of England in Maine’s western mountains. Go ahead, bring your kids, bring your dog, it’s one big family here.

Downstairs is the Jolly Drayman, modeled on a proper English pub and as comfy and casual as one. Sit in the cozy bar, or in one of two dining rooms, or on the couch in front of the fire, order a pint of cask-conditioned ale, then choose from the internationally flavored menu (the spring rolls with Buffalo bleu cheese and Asian sauces are a house specialty; Jenni literally had to sell her house to get the recipe). The menu represents favorites culled from the Frederick’s world travels: from beef vindaloo to bangers and mash, an authentic Greek salad to fish and chips.

Speak of fish and chips, that’s the all-you-can-eat $13 special on Thursday nights. Another don’t miss special is $5 burgers and fries on Monday nights, when there’s also a darts tournament in house. Other don’t-miss action are trivia nights and when the Swamp Donkeys play. Really, that’s the kind of place this is, just put up your feet and stay a while comfy. Nothing too pricey on the menu, and the portions are generous.

Upstairs are six unpretentious guest rooms, each with TV/DVD, coffeemaker, and private bathroom ($99-$159). Rates include a full breakast, but if you’re coming midweek and want to save a chunk of change, forfeit breakfast. You can always pick up quick and cheap eats at the Crossroads Diner before heading up to Sunday River’s trails.

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