It’s been a long time since the former Montsweag Roadhouse has been called Montsweag Farm Restaurant, and the establishment has been through a lot of changes over the 60-plus years since its inception as a restaurant.
Wayne Wescott has bought the restaurant from Jenny Steiner-Johnston and Chris Johnston, who bought it in 2006. Now Wescott is bringing back some of its former glory, with modern updates and a fresh, innovative new menu.
Wescott is not new to the business of food and restaurant management. He grew up in Woodbury, Connecticut, where his parents owned an inn. “Growing up in the restaurant business, it becomes a part of you,” he said. “Once you get into it, it becomes part of your M.O.”
He started in the food and beverages business while living in Boston 20 years ago, when he went to work for a liquor, beer and wine company after managing a bar in a restaurant.
More recently, Wescott owned restaurants in Ogunquit before taking a year-long respite working in the lobster business, on lobster boats in Friendship and Tenants Harbor, where he owns a home, and delivering lobsters to Boston.
Soon Wescott realized he missed the restaurant business. “After six months working in the lobster industry I was freaking out.” He started looking around the Midcoast area for a new enterprise to sink his teeth into, and found it at Montsweag Roadhouse. “I’ve always been super fond of the Midcoast. It’s always been someplace I’ve wanted to be.”
Wescott appears to embody all the qualities of a good restaurant owner: an outgoing personality, a strong background in the world of food and drinks, and a well-balanced combination of strong leadership skills and a friendly rapport with his staff.
“I’ve always put other people before myself. I believe that the profitability will come if you take care of people you believe in. I know what it is to put your heart and soul into a place, and as long as we love what we do, it’s going to be on point.”
New head chef Mike Hutchinson cooked at Montsweag Roadhouse until it closed on March 30. Before that, he cooked at Kennebec Tavern in Bath and was the chef at Linda Bean’s restaurant in Freeport. He said he will be bringing some exciting new items to the menu, and is committed to the new owner.
Wescott said he wants to limit and refine the menu items. “There’s no reason to have nine specialty burgers on a menu. I think restaurants need to be known for something. If you have a dish that you’re known for, then people will come.
“Before we took over, the Roadhouse bar carried the facility. We need to make it a farm restaurant that has a bar in it, not a pub that has a restaurant in it. And it’s going to be more seafood driven than it’s ever been, and there will be a few very nice steaks. Back in the day it was known for its steaks.”
A new specialty Hutchinson will be making is called “chicken under the brick,” a half Bell & Evans chicken, seared on a pan sizzling with extra virgin olive oil until crispy, then flipped over and put in the oven with a brick on top of it. “It’s the most delicious chicken you’ll ever have,” Wescott said.
Wescott is focusing on the main floor now, with plans of opening on Friday, April 27, before refurbishing the second floor. Custom furniture is being built for the dining area; tables and chairs have a rustic farm theme with a modern edge. “They’re really cool, and super comfortable.”
Eventually there will be an outside patio Wescott will call The Garden, and plans are on the horizon for a stable with animals, and vegetable gardens behind the building. “I want to bring the farm back to Montsweag. It’s going to be beautiful.
“I’m excited about this,” Wescott said. “This is going to be a lifelong commitment. I hope I’m blessed enough to have a 25-year career here.”
And being part of this community is of utmost importance to Wescott. ‘I don’t feel that you can take from a community without giving back to it. It’s how I was raised.”
Built in 1939, the building was originally a barn owned by the Sewall family, who converted it into a restaurant in the 1950s before closing it in the early 1990s.
“This has turned into a passion project for me,” Wescott said. “It has been nothing but passion.”