Expectations, New Customers, Huga

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes articles on what tourists should know and understand as they visit restaurants in our state,

I asked several Maine chefs, restaurant owners and front-of-house staff how we might be able to help tourists understand what to expect, and what we’ll be expecting from them in return. So if you’re a summer visitor, listen up: There are a few important things to know before you arrive.

an article about business models that thrived during the pandemic, and

The past year has been devastating to many small businesses in Maine, and restaurants have been among the hardest hit. But some other food-related businesses have actually done well, either because of their pandemic-friendly business models or because they were able to provide people stuck at home with what they needed, from fresh seafood to meals delivered right to their doors.

an article about Huga.

Greig and Olsen designed a heated cushion for seated outdoor activities, primarily capitalizing on people’s desire last winter to continue dining out during the pandemic, when many restaurant and tasting room customers were unwilling, or able, to eat inside. By keeping customers comfortable, Hüga cushions also helped keep those businesses alive. The business launched in January.

Erik Desjarlais at Owl & Elm

Erik Desjarlais
has been hired as the new chef at Owl & Elm (website, facebook, instagram) in Yarmouth.

At Owl & Elm Desjarlais and owner Caitlin Henningsen are planning an elevated village pub menu. Fans of the burger and fish and chips can rest easy that those items will remain on the menu unchanged as will the daily ice cream sundae. The new menu will include items like frisée salad with a duck egg, fried quail with buckwheat waffles, steak frites, fish baked in parchment and a pavé of pork belly with beans on brioche toast, with specials woven into the menu on a regular basis.

Owl & Elm opened 5 years ago and is expected to reopen in the first week of June. The restaurant is located at 365 Main Street in Yarmouth. In addition to their dining room Owl & Elm also has a outdoor dining space on their back deck.

Desjarlais was the chef/owner of Bandol, Ladle and Evangeline in Portland and went on to found Weft & Warp. Most recently he’s been the general manager and chef at the New Gloucester Village Store.

Bissell Brothers Kitchen

Bissell Brothers is in the process of renovating their Thompson’s Point tasting room with plans to relaunch it in late May or early June. As reported back in January, they have leased the adjacent restaurant space (formerly Locally Sauced Burritos) to launch Bissell Brothers Kitchen as part of their growing business.

Benjamin Martinkovic (linkedin) has been hired as the chef for Bissell Brothers. Martinkovic is a graduate of Johnson & Wales and in his 24-year career has been on staff at Central Provisions, Alinea, Benu, Chez Panisse, Atelier Crenn, and several other establishments in both restaurant and hotel settings.

At Bissell Brothers Kitchen Martinkovic will serve a menu of elevated pub fare with a strong Latin American influence but also with a degree of flexibility to explore other cuisines. BBK will be operating a counter service model—customers will place their food and beer orders and pick-up their meals from the kitchen takeout window.

Caribbean Taste

A new restaurant called Caribbean Taste opened late last week in South Portland in the Cash Corner neighborhood.

Caribbean Taste serves a menu of oxtail, curry goat, fried chicken and jerk chicken with a variety of side dishes and daily specials. They’re open Monday through Saturday, noon to 10 pm.

Food Trucks

More reporting on this year’s big expansion in the number of Maine food trucks:

Maine Calling on Maine Public radio aired a program late last week with a panel of food truck owners and other related professionals weighing in.

Maine’s food truck scene is booming, with new offerings appearing all over the state. We’ll find out how the pandemic affected business for food trucks, and how they are preparing for the busy summer season. We’ll also learn about the variety of offerings, and what the challenges and opportunities are of operating a food truck.

Mainebiz has published an article on what’s driving the expansion and the work involved in launching a mobile food business.

Welcome to the wild and wacky world of food businesses on wheels, a segment that took off in Maine — and elsewhere — during the pandemic when traditional restaurants were closed to in-person dining or forced out of business entirely. That’s opened up opportunities for newcomers like Kehoe hungry to start a business at a fraction of the cost — and hassle — of a bricks-and-mortar setup as well as new revenue streams for existing businesses.