The vacant building at 735 Main St. in Bangor soon will have a new tenant who hopes to reverse the trend of open-and-close restaurants inhabiting the space.
Chris Jones, owner of Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant on Hogan Road, plans to open Whistling Pig Smokehouse on Oct. 16, serving up a blend of Memphis, Texas, Kansas City, Carolina and other styles of barbecue, made by chef and pitmaster Kevin Hayes.
The Main Street building has housed an array of eateries over the past 30 years, including Seguino’s, Guinness & Porcelli’s, Perrihouse, and most recently, the Market Bistro, which closed nearly two years ago. With the explosion of activity on the Bangor Waterfront and the imminent opening of the Cross Insurance Center, Jones believes the more than 200-year-old historical house tucked away near the Bangor-Hampden line is ready for its time in the spotlight.
“I’ve been here six years with Miguel’s, and we’ve been watching Bangor grow and grow — first with the casino, and then the concerts, and now the Cross Center,” said Jones. “It’s a much more favorable location to open a restaurant now, rather than three or five or 10 years ago. We originally wanted to open in Bar Harbor, but we changed course once we did more research and watched all this growth occur.”
While 735 Main St. was previously home to largely fine-dining establishments, Whistling Pig Smokehouse will be a decidedly casual, family-friendly eatery. It also will capitalize on the growing popularity of barbecue in general — Moe’s Original BBQ on Broadway in Bangor and 4Points BBQ & Blues House in Winterport both opened in the past two years.
“It’s going to be affordable, and it’s going to be something a whole family can enjoy,” said Jones. “If you look at cities just in Maine, there’s barbecue everywhere. There’s eight places in Augusta, four or five in Bar Harbor, at least 10 in the Portland area. Bangor is still a new market for it, so there’s definitely room for growth.”
Jones and Hayes plan to offer a fusion style of barbecue that won’t focus on any particular region, but which will start first and foremost with the dry rub, the smoke and the meat, much of which they plan to source locally. They’ll also offer a full bar and house-made southern-style desserts, such as peach cobbler and pecan pie.
“We just ordered a big ol’ hickory smoker than can hold 950 pounds of meat,” said Jones. “We’re going to do brisket, pulled pork, chicken, sausage, ribs, the whole array, and try to have as much of it local as we can. We’re going to be doing a dry rub, so all the flavor will come from the rub and the smoke. Some barbecue is just smothered in sauce, but we’re going to have the sauces out to try on the meat, which will already be flavorful. Bangor is ready for traditional barbecue.”