PITTSFIELD, Maine — Downtown Pittsfield will have a new sit-down restaurant in the coming weeks that the new owners said fills a void they’ve heard about from numerous people.
Vittles will take over the former Main Street location of Nick’s Whistle Stop Cafe sometime in early May. The space has been vacant for more than a year.
Robert and Kathleen Phelan, who live in St. Albans, said they can succeed where others have failed thanks to meticulous planning and ensuring that the 10 or so people they’ll hire take pride in everything from the food to the service. About 25 people, all of whom have at least five years of food service experience, applied for the positions.
“It was quite an experience to interview people who haven’t had a job in a year or two,” said Robert Phelan. “I wanted to hire every one of them.”
The Phelans, who moved to Maine from Connecticut a few years ago, are registered nurses with full-time jobs. Their son Richard LeRose will be the restaurant’s head chef, and the Phelans will fill in as their schedules allow. The husband-and-wife team look forward to what will undoubtedly be a rigorous schedule.
“We’re going to spend a lot of time here,” said Kathleen. “We won’t be absentee owners and the plan was never for us to draw a paycheck.”
Part of the restaurant’s strategy will be fast and efficient service. The Phelans have upgraded the kitchen to accommodate two chefs at once and are filling the menu with family favorites they have cooked for each other for generations. Her Italian meatballs and his homemade baked beans will be among the offerings. LeRose, a culinary school graduate, said most dishes will be traditional American food, but usually with a twist that diners don’t necessarily expect.
The restaurant will be open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and will serve breakfast beginning at 7 a.m. or so on weekends. Current plans are to serve dinner on Friday nights with a core menu and weekly specials.
“Anyone who eats here on Friday nights will see things offered that they didn’t see the previous Friday,” said Kathleen.
Another focus will be using as much local produce and farm products as possible and staying away from processed and frozen ingredients.
“I’m very proud to show people how small our freezer is,” said Kathleen. “We think there’s a lot of potential here.”
The Phelans, with the help of friends, have been preparing the restaurant for several weeks. As word has spread about their venture, they’re finding more people knocking on the door with questions.
“I had one guy just come in and shake my hand,” said Robert. “He just said, ‘Thank you.’”
Asked why they want to add to their full-time schedules, the Phelans said opening a restaurant has been a life-long dream. In fact, the restaurant’s name, Vittles, traces back to Kathleen’s childhood and her Louisiana-bred father.
“He was a real basic guy,” she said. “Every day he’d come in from work and say, ‘Babe, I’m going to get me some vittles.’”
The Phelans intend to have Vittles open by Mother’s Day.