Midcoast restaurant in 200-year-old farmhouse embraces ‘eclectic’ interior for unique dining experience
For over 30 years, a 200-year-old Colonial-style farmhouse on Route 52 in Lincolnville has served as a quaint bed and breakfast. But some people may not have realized that the hostel restaurant is also open to the general public.
The new owners of the Youngtown Inn want to change that.
A new restaurant will open there this summer, with a new name and a new style of cuisine. Aster and Rose will focus on local ingredients and offer a slightly more casual ambiance than the inn’s previous restaurant, which was a classic French dining experience.
“There is, and I suspect there has been, a big common misconception from people who live in the area that the restaurant was not open to the public and that it was [only] open to guests,” owner Michael Nowak said. “Differentiating the restaurant from the hostel, by giving it a new name, will help let people know that this is a stand-alone public restaurant attached to the hostel.”
Nowak and his wife, Karrie, bought the Youngtown Inn last summer after selling their restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, and moving with their three children to Lincolnville.
The Youngtown Inn was previously operated by Manuel and MaryAnn Mercier since the early 1990s.
The Nowak family was considering moving to Maine after spending years vacationing on the coast. On a trip in 2019, they came across the Youngtown Inn, which was for sale, but didn’t seriously think about buying the property until their restaurant in Cleveland sold last year.
Although they weren’t initially looking to run an inn, the property offered everything the couple were looking for when it came to starting their next business.
“We knew we wanted to open a restaurant. We weren’t looking for bed and breakfasts, we weren’t looking to run an inn, but we weren’t against it either. We wanted a small lot, I really wanted a colonial house. So we have all that more, like I said, a little more with the hostel,” Nowak said. “It was just fine. We really fell in love with this area.”
The Nowaks moved to Maine last summer, taking over operations of the Youngtown Inn in September. Nowak said operating the six-room inn for about two months before it closed for the winter gave him and his wife some experience before their first full season.
They originally planned to modernize and upgrade the majority of the furniture in the rooms, but Nowak said he’s heard guests say they like the antique, eclectic feel offered by the existing furniture. Changes made over the winter therefore focused on painting the rooms, replacing mattresses and box springs, and upgrading the hostel’s internet system.
“We had a lot of different ideas to modernize the property, and then when you walk in here and stand in this historic old property, all of those ideas just didn’t seem right,” Nowak said.
The biggest change will be noticed in the hostel’s restaurant, where every surface has been repainted and every piece of furniture and lighting has been replaced.
“For 30 years, the Youngtown Inn was a white-tablecloth restaurant that served classic French cuisine. We totally flipped the switch on that,” Nowak said.
The new restaurant will still be closer to the fine-dining side of the spectrum, Nowak said, but scaled it down a notch, removing things like white tablecloths.
Aster and Rose will offer what Nowak―a classically trained chef―describes as contemporary American cuisine, with an emphasis on local ingredients from Maine farms and food producers. Nowak said the abundance of local farms was one of the things that drew him to the area.
“For us, the goal is to really grow those relationships with local suppliers, to bring in their products and what they grow, to make and catch and make the most of what we can do with that. which is available to us,” Nowak said. .
Aster and Rose will open once they have fully staffed their backend operations, which Nowak hopes to be next month. Updates on the opening date can be found at the restaurant’s website.
Once open, it will offer dinner Wednesday through Saturday, as well as a Sunday brunch service starting later in the season.
Distinguishing the restaurant as a stand-alone entity, Nowak said he hopes people who didn’t know it was open to the public will consider taking the scenic drive to the Camden Hills to check it out.
“It’s five miles from downtown Camden and it’s a really nice five-mile drive,” Nowak said.
The restaurant will be open to the public year-round, but Nowak said whether or not he would operate the inn as a year-round or seasonal business remains to be determined. The hostel will welcome its first guests of the season next weekend.
While running a hostel isn’t quite what Nowak and his wife envisioned, he said they were eager to bond with their guests and the local community.
“To me, the hospitality industry is about relationships and meeting people, taking care of people’s needs and getting to know people,” Nowak said. “I look forward to building new relationships, with farmers and guests, meeting people and being part of the community, [that] is really important to us and that’s what really excites us.