Down by the river, hometown guys offer Old Town a new dining experience

Posted Jan. 28, 2014, at 5:29 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 28, 2014, at 12:56 p.m.

Once word got out that a couple of locals with backgrounds in the business would be opening a Maine woods-themed restaurant in Old Town, the donations of old items started pouring in. Axes. Toboggans. Vintage canoes and paddles. Cast-iron skillets. And some new-old stuff, too, such as the chandelier made out of a saw blade, an old peavey and mason jars crafted by Old Town artist Tom Gasaway.

“People just kept bringing us stuff,” said owner Luke Duplessis, who also operates Mainely Brews in Waterville with chef Matt Duque. “The word started to spread. The more they bring, the more we’ll put up.”

The Boomhouse, as Old Town area natives Duplessis and Duque have dubbed their establishment, has been open for a month now in the Main Street building that previously housed City Park Grille and the Chocolate Grille. Adorning the walls are all those antique items, reflecting the history of both Maine’s lumber industry and, more specifically, the Penobscot River that flows by the property.

“It’s pretty much the perfect spot for what we’re trying to go for with the Boomhouse,” said Duque, 34. “I mean, look at the dam right there. There were sawmills all over the river back in the day. It’s perfect.”

“We’ve had our eye on this place for a long time,” said Duplessis, 33. “The view is incredible, the building is only 15 years old, [and] it’s got great exposure in the community. There’s not a lot of restaurants in Old Town, so I think we’re filling a niche.”

Being hometown boys, Duplessis and Duque have long wanted to open a restaurant in Old Town. Mainely Brews has been an eating and drinking destination in Waterville for the past 10 years, and has been a part of revitalizing that city’s downtown. The business partners hope to repeat some of that success with the Boomhouse.

“Old Town needs a place [like this] for people to gather,” said Duplessis.

The food is a mix of comfort dishes and culinary classics, in which seafood and steaks feature prominently, and burgers ($5.99-$10.99), salads ($10.99-$15.99), gourmet pizza and decadent appetizers fill out the menu. They’ve also got a number of gluten free and vegetarian options. There’s a blackened Cajun salmon dish, served with cilantro sour cream and house made roasted corn salsa ($15.99), wild mushroom beef tips ($14.99), a tuna steak crusted in black sesame with ginger and wasabi ($16.99), and a 32 oz. Paul Bunyan steak for two ($35.99) — if one person finishes it in an hour, however, they get a T-shirt and their name on the wall.

“You can get good sandwiches, good burgers, excellent appetizers, but it’s also the kind of place where if you want to come in and have a really nice entree, you can have that too,” said Duque. “We try to source as local as we can, and we do weekly specials.”

Duplessis is a big beer lover — hence the name of his other business in Waterville — and knew from the start he wanted to offer an excellent selection of craft and local brews.

“I do love beer and I like trying a new beer every time I go out, and I think a lot of customers appreciate that,” said Duplessis. “So we have 10 rotating drafts here that are always changing. I try not to have the same brew twice.”

For now, Duplessis and Duque plan to focus on the food and the beer and the customer experience. Eventually, however, they want to offer some entertainment, as the Old Town-Orono area is currently lacking in live music venues. For now, they are offering a Wednesday night open bluegrass jam for those who want to bring their mandolins and guitars and sing and pick along.

They’re also pleased to say hello to old friends and make some new ones now that they’re situated back at home.

“It’s been great. We recognize everyone’s faces, and they recognize us,” said Duque. “It’s been a real warm welcome.”

The Boomhouse is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Tuesdays are $6 burger and fries night and Wednesdays are two-for-one pizza night. For information, like the Boomhouse on Facebook.