Southern comfort, Maine flair at new Rockland eatery 3Crow

Posted April 19, 2013, at 5:56 a.m.
Last modified April 19, 2013, at 6:19 a.m.
The exterior of 3Crow, a new southern restaurant in Rockland.
Courtesy photo
The exterior of 3Crow, a new southern restaurant in Rockland.
Josh Hixson's handcrafted chandeliers, at 3Crow Restaurant in Rockland.
Courtesy photo
Josh Hixson's handcrafted chandeliers, at 3Crow Restaurant in Rockland.
A shot of the bar at 3Crow Restaurant & Bar in Rockland.
Courtesy photo
A shot of the bar at 3Crow Restaurant & Bar in Rockland.

The new eatery on Main Street in Rockland, 3Crow Restaurant & Bar, gets its name from the business that was housed in its building in the early part of the 20th century: Three Crow Spice Company. Their spice tins, sporting three crows sitting on a fence in the country, can be found in antiques shops all over the Northeast. Though that company has been defunct for decades, 3Crow Restaurant owner Josh Hixson took the name — and the old-fashioned aesthetic — to heart in creating his latest dining venture.

“If you take old things or inexpensive things, and you know what you’re doing and you have an eye for it, you can turn them into really beautiful things for not a lot of money,” said Hixson, who personally designed both the decor and the Cajun and Creole cuisine-influenced menu. “It helps to be in a beautiful location, to start.”

The building itself was fully renovated a few years ago to reflect its turn-of-the-century beginnings, but when Hixson moved in he added in his own unique touches to create an atmosphere that’s equally modern minimal and old-timey. He used wood reclaimed from a demolished Rockland building to craft the tabletops and the bar. He used more of that old wood for rustic wall art, and utilized old subway tiles behind the bar. The most eye-catching feature has to be the four metal-and-glass chandeliers hanging throughout the main dining room, each with differently shaped glass fitted with exposed filaments, which Hixson created himself and which lend a kind of steampunk aesthetic.

But even more importantly are the food and drink. Hixson took his southern roots — he was born in Louisiana — and married it to all the Maine seafood and produce that’s so abundant at different times of year. He also took the emphasis on creative cocktails that’s been a favorite part of his other restaurant, the Italian-inspired eatery 40 Paper in the Knox Mill in Camden, and brought it to 3Crow.

“Even though I moved from Louisiana when I was seven and lived in lots of other places like Tennessee and Texas, I still had those roots in Cajun and Creole cooking and I always have loved it,” said Hixson. “It’s nice to do something other than Mediterranean food.”

The “Firsts” section on the menu is comprised of smaller plates, like the warm, savory buttermilk biscuit topped with ham, sharp Cabot cheddar and greens, a chicken and andouille gumbo, and Maine oysters with toppings like deep-fried pickles. Calling it the “Firsts” menu is a bit misleading as anyone looking for a light bite will be surprised at just how generous the serving size is. There’s a “Smalls” section, which also offers much more food than is expected and at just $6 a pop, with lots of specialty southern dishes like Hoppin’ John, hush puppies, sauteed kale and hominy, and crispy shoestring deep-fried “tobacco” onions. For entrees, dig intolocal shrimp Po’ Boy, a Maine lobster etoufee, fried chicken and a luscious pot pie. Desserts, created by Hixon’s pastry chef wife Tara Barker, include butterscotch pudding and beignets.

There are 14 taps at the bar, boasting a beer list that’s about half Maine beer such as Allagash, Oxbow and Marshall Wharf, and half craft beer from around the country, with a few Belgians thrown in for good measure. Cocktails are carefully crafted, like the “T” and Tea, mixing gin, Barenjager, lemon curd and jasmine iced tea, or the Pi Dog, with Old Overholt Rye whiskey, Disaronno, lemon juice and fig preserves. Whiskey and bourbon lovers in particular will be thrilled, as 3Crow offers a wide array of the magical brown liquor from all over the country.

“A lot of places, they either do the bar really well and the food is an afterthought, or they focus completely on the food and don’t have much of a bar at all,” said Hixson. “We really tried to have both.”

3Crow Restaurant and Bar is open for dinner seven days a week from 5-9 p.m. and offers a special happy hour menu and drink specials from 4-6 p.m. The bar stays open until 11 p.m. weekdays, with Fridays and Saturdays until midnight.

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