TOWNSHIP 1 RANGE 8, Maine — Matthew Polstein had a choice: move his restaurant from Rice Farm Road in Millinocket to his proposed $65 million resort site at his Twin Pine Camps, or lose it, eventually.
He chose the former.
“We had to move our restaurant or it would have closed. It couldn’t have continued as a standalone,” Polstein said. “We are very excited about how it has turned out. We think it means we will have a stable … environment for the restaurant for many years to come.”
The new River Drivers Restaurant, which is several miles north of Millinocket off the road to Baxter State Park, has done good business since it opened at its new home in September, said Wendy Polstein, Polstein’s wife and partner in the restaurant.
It has several advantages over its former site, she said.
“We designed this place to be a restaurant. When we built the Rice Farm [site] we built it for other things and it became a restaurant,” Wendy Polstein said. “This is designed in mind for diners and outdoor dining whereas the other place became that by default.”
The restaurant relocation is part of ongoing plans to finish the resort. Called Ktaadn Resorts, the ecotourism site would consist of a community center and a residential and mixed-use subdivision totaling 35 residential lots and 12 mixed-use town houses on 1,450 acres of the township along Millinocket Lake.
Polstein has estimated the resort would create at least 100 full-time jobs, spur at least 60,000 visitor-days in the Katahdin region and draw 17,000 tourists to his resort for about 3½ days each.
Construction and opening of the hotel and other major facilities has been delayed for several years due to a lack of financing, but the Polsteins have managed to assemble many components of the resort themselves since Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission unanimously approved rezoning 244 acres for the resort in June 2006.
Besides the restaurant move, the Polsteins are expanding their resort’s cross-country skiing trails. Four miles of trails designed by Olympic biathlete John Morton have just been finished, Wendy Polstein said.
And the Polsteins have finished a $2.1 million “totally green” upgrade to their Twin Pines Camps by the lake. In this case, totally green means that cellulose made from recycled newsprint fills the walls, and heat recovery ventilation systems guarantee proper air quality within the buildings, which are propane-heated and have metal roofs.
And the buildings’ walls consist of huge blocks of polystyrene encased in oriented-strand board, making the cabins virtually airtight, like miniature submarines — hence the need for ventilation systems.
But the decor of the restaurant and cabins is folkish and upscale. Almost all of the restaurant’s interior wood is decades-old timbers recovered from Quakish Lake: literally the remains of the work of river drivers who moved logs down the Penobscot River.
The Polsteins are finding that Twin Pines customers enjoy having a restaurant in their midst. The eatery hasn’t stopped them from visiting other restaurants in Millinocket, and many Millinocket residents are regulars at the new restaurant.
“We are looking to expand our hours once there is snow on the ground. It has been good,” Matthew Polstein said last week.