HAMPDEN, Maine — The owners of a popular 73-year-old seasonal eatery that has served up hamburgers, hot dogs, onion rings, ice cream and other fare at Hamlin’s Marina for the past two decades are looking for a new home.
Warren Caruso, who owns the business with his wife, Nicole, said Thursday that Dana’s Grill at Dockside will not reopen at its location along the Penobscot River this this spring.
Dana’s Grill first opened in Bangor in 1938, putting it the among the oldest continuously operating restaurants in the area. Over the years it has become an institution, serving generations of hungry people from Greater Bangor and beyond.
Caruso plans to move the restaurant’s equipment into storage sometime next week and begin planning for the next phase of Dana’s Grill.
Patrons can expect to see Dana’s Grill reopen at a yet-to-be-determined location in Bangor next spring, Caruso said.
While the decision to part ways with the Hampden marina was a difficult one, Caruso says that it creates the possibility for new opportunities for this legendary Bangor-area establishment.
Caruso said he and his wife decided to move to a new location because redevelopment plans for the marina location don’t mesh well with their vision for the grill’s future.
Hamlin’s Marina General Manager Dave Higgins said Thursday that early next month, the company will move its showrooms to a more visible site, the former Sterns Lumber building just up Main Road North.
The move, he said, will free up a larger restaurant space at the marina itself. Hamlin’s wanted a larger restaurant that offered inside seating and alcohol service, among other things, Higgins said.
Caruso said Hamlin’s offered him first dibs but he and Nicole wanted to keep their operation — well known by its tag line “Everyone’s Favorite Summertime Place” — small and seasonal, with an emphasis on outdoor seating.
“Bangor is a city rich with possibility,” Caruso said. “We have a beautiful waterfront, a vibrant downtown, a growing university community and many success stories throughout the city. We’re looking forward to researching our options and moving to a new location within a year. With one door closing on the legacy of Dana’s Grill, another one will be opening. We will be back.”
For Caruso, the planned move to Bangor represents a return to the restaurant’s roots.
Dana’s Grill was founded in 1938 by Dana Ward. Since then, the grill has changed hands a few times and has had locations on Summer Street and on State Street in Bangor, which was open year-round, as well as its location at Hampden’s Turtle Head Marina, where Hamlin’s Marina operations are located.
Warren Caruso’s involvement with the business goes back to 1981, when he was a junior at Bangor High School. He and his father, Richard, leased it as a summer job for Warren. Caruso
acquired the eatery from his father in the mid-1980s and at one time ran operations in three locations.
The changes at the marina are part of a larger waterfront redevelopment plan being undertaken by the town of Hampden that will include, among other things, additional boat slips and a public park, Higgins said.
The departure of Dana’s, however, doesn’t mean that boaters and other visitors to the Hampden marina will go hungry.
Higgins said Thursday that McLaughlin Seafood in Bangor is opening a new location there later this spring.
Efforts to reach McLaughlin Seafood owners for details were not successful Thursday.
CORRECTION: Dana’s Grill was founded by Dana Ward.