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Fiddlehead restaurant - casual hangout and culinary heaven

Last week highlighted the one year anniversary of a fine olive oil supplier in Bar Harbor, this week highlights another anniversary closer to home.  The Fiddlehead Restaurant celebrated its first year on August 25th and pulled out all the stops for their enthusiastic clientele.

Here was the menu for the evening:

  • vegetarian egg rolls with dipping sauce
  • beef and mushroom duxelle wellingtons
  • chicken satay with peanut sauce
  • scallops wrapped in bacon
  • crudite platter with hummus and yogurt tzatziki dip
  • fruit and cheese platter with grapes, strawberries and local blackberries (farmhouse cheddar, smoked gouda, pepper crusted goat cheese and french marion blue cheese)
  • assorted crackers
  • homemade cornbread with molasses
  • conga bars with walnuts and chocolate

The price for this sumptuous buffet?  FREE!

If that sounds incredible, it was - but it is entirely in keeping with the generous and enthusiastic attitude of Fiddlehead's co-owners, Laura Albin and Mel Chaikin.  The two young women have both been in the restaurant business for years, but only decided to go into business on their own after meeting each other while working at Bangor's New Moon restaurant a few years ago. 

Their success shows on their faces, and on the faces of both staff and customers.  They have already made a splash in the local press, and had a glowing write up in Down East magazine's August issue.

When I asked how they got the idea to open a restaurant together, Laura spoke with infectious enthusiasm about their joint venture.  "It's kind of a girlie thing," she said, laughing.  They were well into their 20's, but like a couple of teenagers filled with a rose-colored dream of their future doing their favorite thing together.  "If you look at us, we don't seem alike...we're like polar opposites in every other way, but we mesh exactly in this business."

Mel and Laura rejected everything they disliked and incorporated all the best of the restaurant business.  Mel, chef extraordinaire, creates cuisine worthy of upscale restaurants like the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor and the New Moon in Bangor.  The space that they occupy offers the sophisticated warmth of brick walls, natural wood, and soft lighting.  And yet - it is a casual dining home.

The bar is a place to linger with friends; the staff is relaxed and friendly.  Water is served in mason jars.

"All we want," Laura explained, speaking about the atmosphere they hoped to achieve, "is to be the neighborhood hangout...that's why we chose to put the staff in jeans."

They are succeeding.  Customers become regulars in the course of a week or two, whether they show up in business suits or cargo pants.  "Most of our clientele are people who wanted a place to hang out anyway, and now they have a place to go and do it."

Some special events are in the works for the coming year.  This fall, Fiddlehead will be holding a wine dinner once a month.  The next will be an "All American" wine dinner on September 22nd. 

Mel changes the menu every three months, so stay tuned for the fall menu which will come out in October.  At some point they also hope to offer an "all-star" menu, including a collection of the most popular menu items.

Laura and Mel also plan to serve the Bangor community in other ways.  Last Halloween night Fiddlehead closed for regular dining in order to do a benefit for the Special Olympics.  Attendees paid  a donation at the door.  Fiddlehead's owners hope to offer similar fundraising events to other local charitable organizations.

Stop by the Fiddlehead restaurant on Hammond St. in downtown Bangor.  They're open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, and you can check out their menu and their tantallizing cocktail menu on line.  But be sure to call for a reservation.  It has become a very popular place, with customers who feel the same way about it as its owners.  When I asked Laura how everything feels after completing their first year, this was her reply:

"It's awesome!"

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If you enjoyed this article, you might like to browse Bangor's everyday people examiner page to see more writing by Robin Wood. For future alerts when Robin publishes a new article, click on the subscribe button at the top of this page (it's free!). Thanks for visiting.

I am always glad to hear from anyone in mid-Maine with ideas ofr this column. Send in your suggestions, and I'll share the stories of the many-sided people and places of Maine.
You may contact me at: robin.everyday@gmail.com

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