HOULTON, Maine — It has been almost a year since a fire destroyed the Elm Tree Diner in the early morning of Sept. 28, 2009. For a time, it appeared as if the iconic eatery had served its final meal.
But Gary L. Dwyer was not about to let his restaurant vision go up in flames quite so easily. Construction on a new Elm Tree Diner began before the end of 2009 and is now complete.
The Elm Tree Diner opened its doors at 146 Bangor Road on Tuesday morning, once again providing home-cooked meals for hungry patrons.
After the restaurant burned, Dwyer opened a “sister” restaurant, Elm Tree North, on the North Road in mid-November at the site of the former Governor’s-Atrium Restaurant, in late 2009. According to the owners, there are no plans to close the North Road establishment now that the original Elm Tree Diner has reopened.
Fifteen full- and part-time employees have been hired at Elm Tree Diner and some staff members from Elm Tree North will work at both locations.
Dawn Denbow will serve as the head cook for Elm Tree Diner. Denbow, who has been with the company since Dwyer took over the business in 2007, will be in charge of both kitchens.
The menu features country fried steak, slow-roasted turkey dinners, liver and onions, seafood and burgers. Fridays will include the popular “all you can eat” fish fry.
“For the time being, both restaurants will have the same menu,” said Donna Waggoner of Elm Tree LCC. “We will be working on a new menu for Elm Tree North.”
The floor plan at the new eatery, which can seat 116 people, has been opened up to provide greater comfort for its patrons. Bar stools at the counter — an Elm Tree tradition — also are included in the floor design.
“I absolutely love what they have done with this place,” said customer Margaret Coolong of Houlton. “It certainly seems bigger and brighter. The waitresses are wonderful. It’s just so homey.”
Desserts are something the Elm Tree Diner has been known for, and the focus won’t change with the new establishment. On Wednesday, the dessert board boasted a choice of pies including apple, blueberry, walnut, strawberry rhubarb, custard, raspberry, pumpkin, banana, coconut cream, chocolate, graham cracker and chocolate graham cracker. And don’t forget the whoopie pies.
The Elm Tree Diner is open 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 532-3777.