It’s hard to believe how different the downtown Bangor space that now houses 11 Central looks as compared to how it appeared at this time last year. The owners of the new eatery, which opened the last weekend in October, took their time transforming the location from a cafeteria-style lunch spot into a casually hip late-night restaurant. In previous incarnations, the Central Street space has been everything from a diner to a Mexican restaurant.
The renovation took nearly six months and more than doubled the seating and kitchen space inside and added a big, rounded bar in the middle of the floor. It was a labor of love for the three business partners, and it also was the cause of a lot of discussion around downtown — what was going in there? What on Earth were they building?
“Oh man, those old vinyl walls? The suspended ceilings? The tiles? You would never have known that underneath that there was brick and wood and all this space. We cleared so much stuff out of here,” said Brett Settle, executive chef, who owns the place with Ann Marie Orr and Mark Sampson. Settle also owns Giacomo’s, the lunch spot next door.
“With a little bit of work you can do just about anything,” he said. “I think a lot of people walk in here, and forget what this place used to look like.”
11 Central’s focus is on fresh and simple comfort food with a Mediterranean flair, paired with creative cocktails and a lively atmosphere. For $25, you can get a gourmet pizza and beer for two.
For a bit over $50, try the Honeysuckle cocktail — a tart and delicious blend of passion fruit nectar, apple juice, honey and whiskey — and a couple of entrees, such as the decadent scallop carbonara, or the strip steak cooked with Ann Marie’s Secret Sauce, owner Orr’s multipurpose marinade she has been selling nationwide for years.
Though it’s just as easy to order a handful of appetizers — try the generously portioned beer and thai chili steamed mussels, or the wilted spinach with scallops.
And though they change daily, don’t forget the desserts, which Orr makes herself.
“There’s a little bit of everything going on,” Orr said. “This has been something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, and we knew that we had to be in downtown Bangor. That was probably our No. 1 priority. And so far, so good.”
Another element to the restaurant that separates it from other downtown eateries is the fact that they serve late. The full menu is available until 10 p.m., and pizza and appetizers are available until midnight, Wednesdays through Saturdays.
“This town has a heartbeat now, and people are out and about later at night. You can come here after the theater or a party or before and after cocktails, and we’ll feed you,” Orr said. “That’s something that’s pretty new for downtown, and we’re really happy to offer it.”
11 Central does not take reservations, and in its first few weeks of being open, there’s routinely been a 45-minute wait on the weekends for a table.
It’s open from 4 p.m. to midnight, Wednesdays through Mondays; it’s closed on Tuesdays. For information, find 11 Central on Facebook.