SEARSPORT, Maine — For a year and a half, the large building in the middle of downtown Searsport was dark and shuttered, after several different restaurants located there had closed down one by one.
But beginning this month, the lights were turned on and activity hummed within as the new Route One RoadHouse opened its doors to the public. At midafternoon on Monday, the dining room bustled as people ordered from a menu that includes speciality sandwiches, salads and the popular fish and chips entree.
“A lot of people have a different feeling of what a roadhouse is,” said General Manager Keith Mackenzie. “We wanted it to be a place where anybody can go, whether you’re wearing a suit or fishing clothes.”
He said that restaurant management intends to provide fresh, reasonably priced food in an atmospheric setting for locals and tourists alike. Because the restaurant opened in November, Mackenzie said he hopes that year-round residents will take note and try it out.
“There’s a focus on the local population and what would they like to eat,” he said. “This is a working community. They work very hard. We just want to give the local population an alternative.”
The building has been owned for about eight years by Tom Sadowsky and Janice Kay, a husband-and-wife couple who live in Lincolnville. Sadowsky and Kay spent some time mulling over the type of business that would best fit in the space, and they came back to a restaurant. But this time they decided to run it themselves, with the help of a general manager. Mackenzie, who previously worked as an entrepreneur, said that all three have had a learning curve when it comes to owning and running a restaurant.
“We’re very, very strict about cleanliness, the quality of food and the people we’ve hired,” he said. There are about a dozen employees altogether.
The owners began renovating the roadhouse, which was most recently home to Rollie’s Bar and Grill, nearly a year ago. They refurbished the property, blocking off part of the large dining room to make a smaller, 52-seat restaurant with a lot of understated charm. The walls are hung with Sadowsky’s intricately created photographs of the area, and the menu was created with the intention of making diners smile.
“We tried to make it a little lighthearted,” Mackenzie said.
Towards that goal, hungry folks can feast on a grilled Spam and tomato Spamwich, an “improvised open face steak device” — not to be confused with a steak bomb — and even a “Pizza Propane Tank.”
“Meat on one side vs. vegetables on the other; black olive dividing line representing the planning board,” the menu states. “Carefully reviewed for all necessary permits. Very controversial.”
The restaurant also features a full bar. It will be open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. every day.
When it opened three weeks ago, the management did not advertise at all, Mackenzie said. But because locals had been wondering what all the renovation was leading up to, there was a lot of curiosity about the RoadHouse and many came to check it out.
“That was a lot of fun, to see people coming and enjoying themselves,” he said.