A familiar midcoast building is looking a little bit different these days.
The formerly bright green with blue and neon pink accents building is now an earth-tone hued home to a new restaurant, The Hoot. Owner Anna Wagner, 25, opened the restaurant at 144 Bayside Road in Northport offering up hearty, simple breakfast and lunch items, made from mostly local, mostly organic ingredients. Wagner operated Wag’s Wagon in downtown Belfast last summer and is capitalizing on its success in her new venture.
“I just love the idea of serving people good food. Farming has been in my life for a really long time. Fresh food is very important to me, and I want to provide that to other people,” Wagner said.
The building last housed Dos Amigos, a Mexican restaurant, which closed in 2012.
The Hoot opened June 15, with a breakfast menu that includes everything from eggs, toast and bacon, quiche and traditional waffles, to cornmeal rye waffles with berries, eggs on sauteed greens and fried polenta cakes, and huevos rancheros. There were also Wag’s Wagon items that made it over, like the breakfast burrito and breakfast sandwiches.
“I took what was a hit at Wag’s Wagon and brought it over here,” she said. “Plus, there aren’t that many breakfast options in the area. There are a few, for sure, but not much that’s everyday. … I think we try to offer both diner-style classics and some other kind of elevated stuff and some healthy stuff and vegetarian and vegan stuff. I want to please a wide array of people.”
For lunch, three other Wag’s Wagon favorites made it over alongside newer sandwiches and salads: the Curry Chicken Salad, available as a salad or wrap; the Wagswich, composed of turkey breast, avocado, bacon, greens and lemon chive mayo on sourdough bread; and the Mean Meatball, consisting of beef and pork meatballs topped with cheddar cheese, pesto and a tiny bit of red sauce, on sesame scali bread. A small beverage list of coffee, tea, sodas, beer and wine rounds out the menu.
Most ingredients are sourced locally, from local greens, berries and maple syrup, to bread from Knox County-based Brazen Bakery, to meat that comes from Breludin, her family’s farm. Although she’s not putting her hands in the dirt anymore, Wagner’s love of local food and local farms has only gotten stronger as she’s entered the restaurant industry.
For the summer, Wagner plans to stick to the breakfast and lunch menus, though she’s not ruling out a handful of pop-up dinners like a burger night or a fish fry. Down the line, she might start serving dinner regularly as well — she’s in no rush.
While The Hoot’s menu couldn’t be more different from Dos Amigos — not a margarita or chimichanga to be found — in her first month open Wagner has nevertheless had a few people wander in asking if it was still the old Mexican standby.
“It’s like, doesn’t the fact that everything looks completely different clue you in?” Wagner, a Scarborough native who has lived in Waldo County for the past three years, said. “That’s why we’re not doing anything Mexican at all. Except for the breakfast burrito. But I feel like that’s OK.”
Wagner grew up in Scarborough, helping to tend her family’s large gardens, where she learned to appreciate how food is grown and harvested. She attended college at Humboldt State University in California, where she studied soil science, and returned to Maine after graduation to work in agriculture. Her family had since moved to Northport, where they launched Breludin Farm, raising cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry and vegetables.
By 2016, however, she was looking for something different to do in the summer. Her friends Seth Whited and Sarah Waldron had closed their food truck, Good n’ You, in anticipation of opening their brick-and-mortar restaurant, Neighborhood, in downtown Belfast. Wagner jumped at the chance to rent it from them, and for four months last year she and her cousin Henry operated Wag’s Wagon, serving up gourmet sandwiches and breakfast items.
“Low overhead, four months out of the year. My cousin did it with me. It was perfect,” Wagner said. “Of course, it was insanely hot in there. It was way harder than I thought.”
By the end of her first and only summer, Wagner knew food truck life wasn’t for her. She had her eyes on a bigger prize: a real restaurant. With her father, she began exploring properties in the area, though the former Dos Amigos — just a few miles down the road from where she lived — was at the top of her list. Dos Amigos closed in 2012, and the building had been empty and slowly falling apart for four years. When father and daughter walked in to check it out late last year, there were holes in the ceiling and snow on the floor.
“I had all sorts of people tell me, ‘It’s a dump. You can’t do anything with it. It’s beyond repair,’” she said. “So the two of us went in, just to be sure, and we both realized, ‘Oh, we can totally fix this up. This is totally doable.’”
With her dad and his 25 years of experience in construction and carpentry, the pair spent January through May 2017 renovating the building, including replacing the roof and floors, re-shingling the entire exterior, putting up new drywall and installing a brand new kitchen. The building still boasts the expansive, sun-dappled patio, as well as the soaring high ceilings — made all the more airy by clean white paint and blonde wooden accents.
The renovations naturally drew the attention of locals, some of whom pulled into the parking lot over the course of the winter and walked inside to ask what they were doing.
Now the familiar building looks entirely different and has a fresh menu to match.
“This place is huge. There’s a lot of room for expansion. It’s definitely one thing at a time right now,” she said. “One thing I know, though, is no Mexican. At least not for a while. Not until people are good and used to us.”