by Nick Kaye
Special to The Weekly
BANGOR — “I didn’t think I would start a restaurant this early on,” said James Gallagher, 26, owner of the Whoopie Pie Cafe on Hammond Street, “but when I drove by this property, the opportunity was too good to pass up.”
Gallagher established La Cena, Italian Bistro, at the 621 Hammond St. storefront two years ago. When he added whoopie pies to the menu, his customers loved them and he decided to overhaul the entire business.
Now called the Whoopie Pie Cafe, the restaurant serves 25 different types of whoopie pies based on a Gallagher family recipe. The selection includes everything from the Plain Jane, a classic chocolate and vanilla whoopie pie, to the Charming Carrot, a carrot cake whoopie pie with cream cheese filling. “Our most popular is probably the Dark Seas,” said Gallagher. “It’s a dark chocolate cake with a caramel sea salt filling.”
Gallagher’s baked goods come in a variety of dimensions, from bite-size whoopie pies on toothpicks to 17-inch cake-size whoopie pies. The treats even can be tagged and customized for weddings and other events.
The Whoopie Pie Cafe will continue to carry La Cena’s full menu, including salads, pastas topped with their signature sauces, and huge sandwiches and paninis on homemade bread. “My favorite sandwich is probably the Blazin’ Britt,” said Gallagher, “which is cheddar, jalapenos and buffalo chicken that can be dipped in ranch or blue cheese [dressing].”
The cafe also has added local coffee to its menu, offering a variety of blends, such as Blueberry Hill Blueberry and Acadia Blend from Maine’s Best Coffee, based in Oakland.
“This is a busy summer,” said Gallagher. Now that the overhaul of the restaurant is complete, he’s gearing up to head to Dover-Foxcroft for the Whoopie Pie Festival at the end of the month, an annual celebration of the Maine state treat. The gathering attracts thousands of visitors who can purchase tokens to sample whoopie pies from across Maine.
The Whoopie Pie Cafe also will have vendors at the Kahbang Music, Art and Film Festival and the American Folk Festival, both in August.
Young and enthusiastic, Gallagher is a member of a new generation of business owners in Maine. He is a Bangor native who became interested in the restaurant business at Bangor High School, where he participated in the United Technology Center’s culinary arts program. In the future, he hopes to open additional Whoopie Pie Cafe locations in Orono and beyond. He has also begun to sell his whoopie pies wholesale and is looking for establishments interested in carrying them.
The Whoopie Pie Cafe is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To access its full menu and more information, visit facebook.com/LaCenaSweets or call 947-6222.