Jittery in Kittery

litl's cup

Crossing the border, it’s always good to know where your next caffeine fix is coming from. So before you hit the tolls in New Hampshire save a few bucks for Lil’s Cafe in Kittery.

Curious about this spot since Tandem Coffee Roasters tweeted their opening and partnership last fall, I finally made it in yesterday.

Turns out there is a side to this town that has nothing to do with Dansk outlets, discounts and parking lots. Kittery is kicking.

In a brick building, formerly home to the Community Trust Company in Kittery Foreside, Lil’s is the perfect blend of old and new.

lils insta

Old-fashioned touches like wide cups branded with the cafe’s scripted moniker, and baristas wearing L’s on their shirts, a la Laverne De Fazio, meet drop lights and salvaged countertops. The net result swings.

Run by the owners of Bob’s Clam Hut and Robert’s Maine Grill, there are serious resources at work and a feeling that Lil’s is here to stay.

On any day of the week, you’ll find Tandem’s dark and velvety Time and Temperature or Kikai Ab beans on tap. Sure signpost of quality.

Roasted days earlier in Portland’s East Bayside, this craft coffee is the most sophisticated sip to reach this seaside town since Naval officers returned home with tins of French and Italian roasts decades ago.

Lils tandem

Latte art is in evidence, pour-overs are not. Baristas don’t speak thirdwave here and that’s refreshing. “There’s no time,” said the woman behind the counter when I inquired about single-cup brews.

They do, however have time to make their own scones, crullers and bread. The latter for elevated sandwiches like meatloaf on Pain de Mie with onion relish. Attached to River Run Bookstore, you can grab your cup and browse the refined cookbook section in the back nook.

But I prefer the long counter to watch the action. It’s the perfect place to stand and down an espresso, like a Roman waiting for a train. Because the space is so appealing — exposed brick, high-ceilings, retro tunes — you won’t be dashing out any time soon.




Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.