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 might not have realized that the inn’s restaurant was also open to the general public.
The Youngtown Inn’s new owners want to change that.
A new restaurant will open there this summer, with a new name and new style of cuisine. Aster and Rose will focus on locally sourced ingredients and offer a slightly more casual vibe than the inn’s previous restaurant, which was a classic French-style fine dining experience.
“There is, and I guess has been, a big common misconception of people who live in the area that the restaurant wasn’t open to the public and that it was [only] open for guests,” owner Michael Nowak said. “Differentiating the restaurant from the inn, giving it a new name, will help with that to let people know this is a stand alone public restaurant attached to the inn.”
Nowak and his wife, Karrie, purchased the Youngtown Inn last summer after selling their restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, and relocating with their three children to Lincolnville.
The Youngtown Inn was previously operated by Manuel and MaryAnn Mercier since the early 1990s.
The Nowak family had been considering relocating to Maine after spending years vacationing on the coast. On a trip in 2019, they stumbled across the Youngtown Inn, which was for sale, but didn’t think seriously about buying the property until their restaurant in Cleveland sold last year.
While they weren’t initially looking to operate an inn, the property offered everything else that the couple was looking for when it came to starting their next venture.
“We knew we wanted to open a restaurant. We were not looking for guest rooms, we weren’t looking to run an inn, but we weren’t opposed to it either. We wanted a little acreage, I really wanted a colonial home. So we got all of that plus, like I said, a little bit more with the inn,” Nowak said. “It just felt right. We really fell in love with this area.”
The Nowaks moved to Maine last summer, taking over operations at the Youngtown Inn in September. Nowak said operating the six-bedroom inn for about two months before closing for the winter allowed him and his wife to get some experience before their first full season.
Initially they had planned to modernize and upgrade the majority of the furniture in the rooms, but Nowak said they heard from guests that they enjoyed the antique and eclectic feel that the existing furnishing offered. So changes made over the winter focused on repainting rooms, replacing mattresses and box springs, and upgrading the inn’s internet system.
“We had lots of different ideas of modernizing the property and then when you get in here and you’re standing in this old historic property, all those ideas just didn’t seem right,” Nowak said.
The biggest change will be noticed within the inn’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 food. We have 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 taken down a notch, doing away with things like the white tablecloths.
Aster and Rose will offer what Nowak ― a classically trained chef ― describes as contemporary American cuisine, with a focus on locally sourced 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 focus is to really make those relationships grow with the local purveyors, bring in their produce and what they’re growing, making and catching and making the best of what we can do with what is available to us,” Nowak said.
Aster and Rose will open once they have fully staffed their back of the house operations, which Nowak hopes will be sometime next month. Updates on the opening date can be found on the restaurant’s website.
Once open, it will offer dinner Wednesday through Saturday, as well as a Sunday brunch service starting a bit later in the season.
By distinguishing the restaurant as a standalone entity, Nowak said he hopes people who didn’t realize it was open to the public will consider making the scenic drive into the Camden Hills to check it out.
“It’s five miles from downtown Camden and it’s a really pretty five mile drive,” Nowak said.
The restaurant will be open to the public year round, but Nowak said whether or not they will operate the inn as a year round or seasonal endeavor is still to be determined. The inn will be hosting its first guests of the season next weekend.
While operating an inn wasn’t entirely what Nowak and his wife envisioned, he said they are looking forward to forming connections with their guests and local community.
“For me the hospitality industry is a lot about relationships and meeting people, taking care of people’s needs and getting to know people,” Nowak said. “I’m looking forward to making new relationships, with farmers and guests and meeting people and becoming a part of the community, [that] is all really important to us and it’s what we’re really excited about.”