Chances are, if you ate at Paul’s Restaurant in Bangor, you met Terry Chase. She waited tables with military precision at the iconic Hogan Road eatery for the entirety of its 29-year existence.
You may also have met her husband, Lowell Chase — he was a little more behind-the-scenes, working in the kitchen there from 1975 until 2000. But being a gregarious, talkative sort, he’s hard to forget once you’ve made his acquaintance.
You may have even met Steve Chase, their son, who grew up running around the fast-paced kitchens and bustling dining rooms, and later cooked at Paul’s until it closed in 2004.
“I remember hearing the pots and pans, people shouting, watching the food go out,” said Steve Chase. “When I was little, I thought ‘Why would anyone want to do this?’ But I knew I wanted to do it. I kind of couldn’t not do it.”
Restaurants are in the Chase family’s blood.
The Chase family has owned and operated Chase’s Family Restaurant and Hide-Away Lounge on Outer Hammond Street in Bangor for the past eight years, serving up crowd pleasers like hot turkey sandwiches, burgers and fish sandwiches alongside Steve’s many and ever-changing Italian-inspired specials.
“It’s just good food,” said Terry Chase. “And we’re nice to everyone. Everybody’s welcome.”
It took Lowell Chase, 64, a number of years to convince 60-year-old Terry Chase to take the leap into owning their own restaurant. He left Paul’s in 2000 to go work for Eastern Maine Medical Center, and after Paul’s closed in 2004, Terry Chase worked at Geaghan’s Restaurant in Bangor. Steve Chase cooked at Evo, a short-lived Italian restaurant on Hogan Road, and the Chocolate Grille in Old Town, both owned by the Gervais family, who also owned Paul’s.
When the former Westside Restaurant on Outer Hammond closed in 2007 and the building went up for sale, however, the Chases decided to go for it and went into business with their son. In February 2008, Chase’s Family Restaurant opened its doors.
A few months later, the Great Recession hit, sending prices on everything from fuel oil to food soaring, and the restaurant’s customer base with far less money to spend on things like a nice dinner out.
“It was really, really bad. I honestly don’t know how we made it,” said Lowell Chase. “We barely got out of it. Those first couple years were very tight.”
But Lowell Chase, who proudly states that he’s never bought food on credit and never missed payroll once, and Terry and Steve Chase made do. They cut corners where they could — including by reducing their own pay. And by 2011, the ship began to turn around, through some local advertising and — most importantly — through word of mouth.
“I think people just tell other people that we’re here,” said Terry Chase. “There really aren’t a lot of other family-style restaurants left around here. We’re one of the last ones.”
“I think it’s great what’s going on in downtown, but we’re not downtown,” said Lowell Chase. “We’re not high end. That’s not what we do.”
The word “family-style” in reference to a restaurant can mean a lot of things, but it usually means that an eatery is affordable and accessible, as is the case with Chase’s. Cheese steaks and tuna melts will always be on the menu, with fries or shoestring onion rings, the breakfast menu is simple, and the Wednesday night fish fry is one of Chase’s most popular offerings.
With Steve Chase’s flair for Italian cuisine, however, and his penchant for fancy touches like the cranberry reduction on his autumn chicken dish and his Allagash White and citrus-marinated hanger steak, just a little bit of that more contemporary edge does sneak in sometimes.
“You’ve got to have stuff that people want to eat, and not everyone’s adventurous,” said Steve Chase. “But I also make our own tiramisu. And people love our chicken marsala. I love to try new things. We try to appeal to everyone.”
In reference to Chase’s, family-style also means that it’s not just the food that’s good for the family — it’s the family that keeps the place going, whether it’s their blood family, or the many servers and other staff members that they’ve worked with on and off for 40 years.
“We have people who went to Paul’s when they were kids that come to us now. People who brought their kids there, and now they’re grandparents, and they come here,” said Lowell Chase. “We have people we see multiple times a week. It’s that kind of place.”
Steve Chase and his father engage in friendly kitchen banter all day, from breakfast right through dinner, often within earshot of customers.
“With us, you get dinner and a show,” said Lowell Chase.
But father and son alike will both say that the person that keeps everything going is Terry Chase. She manages the restaurant. She remembers everyone’s name (and probably their order). She even bartends sometimes. She’s the heart of the business, and the family.
“She keeps the crazy train going,” said Steve Chase. “None of this would happen without her. We wouldn’t have done this without her blessing.”
Though they are both now nearing retirement age, Lowell and Terry Chase each routinely work 14-hour days. They don’t see retirement happening anytime soon.
“I take three days off a year — the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Terry Chase. “But that’s just what we do. And we’re all family anyway. We’re a family here.”
Chase’s Family Restaurant and Hide-Away Lounge, located at 1575 Hammond Street (Outer Hammond), is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.