SEARSPORT, Maine — Inside the brand new Homeport Tavern final week, it was a blur of exercise because the homeowners received prepared for opening evening on Friday, June 17.
With distributors dropping by and a eating room nonetheless beneath renovation, there was so much to do. However the child grand piano was already in place and a pot of gumbo was simmering on the range — which each appeared to suit with the give attention to hospitality and good meals that homeowners Arnaud Lessard, Allison Lessard and Kip Dixon bear in mind for the restaurant.
“We actually need to have enjoyable right here. We need to convey stay music and nice meals,” Arnaud Lessard, 45, mentioned. “This isn’t going to be a seasonal restaurant. This can be a dedication to our future and to this city.”
The Homeport Tavern, which is a part of the Homeport Inn on East Important Road, is considered one of a number of new eating places to open in Searsport throughout the previous 12 months, indicative of a restaurant increase within the small coastal city. It joins different newcomers together with Rio’s Spiked Cafe, Hey Sailor! and RasDal Falafel.
Although within the current previous, the oceanfront neighborhood has been overshadowed by its southern neighbor, Belfast, Searsport is now having a second — and he’s glad to be a part of it, Arnaud Lessard mentioned.
“I believe that we’ve received an enormous push for journey tourism in Maine, and I believe that Searsport is basically hitting its stride,” he mentioned. “There’s numerous nice issues happening right here.”
The Lessards, who’re married, and Dixon have a protracted historical past within the hospitality business. They met whereas working in the identical restaurant in Newburyport, Massachusetts, greater than 20 years in the past. Dixon, 53, who initially hails from Cellular, Alabama, is a chef. Allison Lessard, 49, who grew up in Farmington, Maine, has a level in inside design and a background in undertaking administration. Arnaud Lessaurd labored in hospitality administration for 25 years, and most just lately was a part of a staff that opened The Whitney Lodge, a luxurious boutique resort on Beacon Hill in Boston.
However the work they’re doing in Searsport, on a sea captain’s mansion in-built 1865 by Captain John P. Nichols, feels completely different. The trio bought the inn and tavern in February, after looking for a property on the Maine coast. The Italianate constructing, full with an elaborate cupola, was listed on the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations in 1983.
The Homeport Inn had been open seasonally, with the earlier homeowners making an attempt to promote it for a variety of years. The tavern — previously the Mermaid Pub — had been closed for seven years.
As the brand new homeowners received deeper into the undertaking, they discovered water harm and a normal feeling of benign neglect that they wanted to handle. One factor they haven’t been bothered by are the ghosts that allegedly hang-out the inn. Regardless of the time they’ve spent refurbishing the constructing, Arnaud Lessard mentioned they haven’t sensed any spirits.
Lengthy work days flowed into one another, and over the past 13 weeks, they’ve taken solely three days off.
“That is most likely the toughest factor I’ve ever executed in my life,” Allison Lessard mentioned.
The outcomes are value it, they mentioned.
“Individuals say ‘it seems superb,’” Arnaud Lessard mentioned. “We’re pleased with all of the work that we’ve executed. We’re reclaiming flooring that had 4 layers of paint and lined in carpet. We’re simply making an attempt to convey the sweetness and appeal again out of this constructing and hope it’s properly acquired.”
The tavern is a comfortable, welcoming area with a stone fire within the lounge space. The restaurant initially was constructed within the Eighties for an proprietor who dreamed of opening an English-style pub, and the brickwork, wall sconces and welcoming wood bar all ring true to that dream.
“It’s a spot you may come to chill out, get away and nearly disguise. It’s a hideaway,” Arnaud Lessard mentioned.
The separate eating room has a special enchantment, with black-painted partitions and the aforementioned piano.
“The vibe is black and brass and gold,” Arnaud Lessard mentioned. “That is actually simplicity in magnificence.”
It’s a superb backdrop for Dixon’s creations, which can incorporate each traditional New England flavors and Cajun, Louisiana-style favorites. There’s the mouth-watering gumbo, a savory stew that serves as a satisfying postcard from his roots. However there will even be seasonal specialities like summer season risotto and burrata caprese salad in addition to sandwiches and burgers that can be on the menu day by day. Different choices will embody bangers and mash and St. Louis minimize smoked ribs, with most meats like bacon and pork stomach cured and smoked in home.
Desserts might embody specialities like bourbon praline bread pudding.
“I’m fully wanting ahead to all of the seafood right here,” Dixon mentioned. “I need to use as many native merchandise as potential. I do need to change it up. I need to preserve folks shocked and excited.”
He’s been pleasantly shocked by the nice and cozy welcome he has discovered since transferring to Maine in February.
“I really like Maine to date. I’m fully enamored with the hospitality right here,” he mentioned. “Individuals are pleasant. It’s a breath of recent air.”
The Homeport Tavern’s eating room at 121 East Important St. in Searsport can be open from 11:30 a.m. to three p.m. and 5-9 p.m. on Wednesday by means of Sunday. The bar can be open till 10 p.m. on these days. For extra info, go to the web site homeporthistoricinn.com or name 207-548-2259.