WHITEFIELD — Steven Dumas said the kitchen at his restaurant, Aunt Gin’s, is the cleanest in Whitefield — though, he joked, his restaurant is the only full-service eatery in Whitefield.

Aunt Gin’s, named after Dumas’ aunt, Virginia Smith, opened last summer along Route 17. Dumas, 52, and partner Wyatt Shorey, who have operated Steven Dumas Catering since 1997, originally planned to open their restaurant in May last year, but a number of problems delayed the opening several months.

Shorey, 55, said the restaurant went though some growing pains in the beginning, including getting a crew that works well together.

“Things are really going well, but it was a really rough start,” Dumas said. “We are just starting to advertise, and our online (platform) has been great.”

The restaurant prides itself on serving fresh home-cooked food. Dumas said they don’t use any canned or boxed foods and don’t use a microwave.

“We get as much of our ingredients as we can from local farmers,” Dumas said. “We go to all the markets and stores and stands on the sides of the road. Everything is fresh, homemade and local, and it’s a big hit.”

A lot of the recipes, Dumas said, were courtesy of his mother, Linda York, who was instrumental in helping him get the business started. Other recipes came from Aunt Gin and from patrons who offer suggestions about existing menu items or provide their own meals for the restaurant to try.

Father and son John and Bill Tebbetts, of Gorham, and friend Forest Gagne, of Portland, were enjoying lunch there Thursday, including a pulled pork sandwich and fries. Bill Tebbetts said it was their third time at Aunt Gin’s, and the quality and freshness of the food keeps them coming back.

One of the most popular menu items is a prime rib that is smoked before it goes into the oven. Dumas said the meal, prepared by his cousin and one of the restaurant’s chefs, John Dumas, is becoming popular.

“It’s very different than any other place around,” Steven Dumas said. “John does all the smoking, and he does incredible work.”

The restaurant employs more than 20 people and is open year-round, though the number of staff members will grow to more than 30 during the summer. Dumas said they had big crowds on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and he anticipates Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day will be busy as well.

Aunt Gin’s is hosting a Valentine’s Day brunch buffet featuring a carving station and made-to-order omelets, and later that night, the restaurant is planning to offer a couples’ special.

Aside from continuing to grow the restaurant and increase its customer base, Dumas and Shorey have big plans for the property, which they said is more than 100 acres. By spring, the parking area should be paved, and Shorey just received permission from the Whitefield Planning Board to put a deck in the back of the restaurant.

“Whitefield is a great town to do business in,” Shorey said. “They are really good to deal with.”

The partners rent the building from Steven Smith, and they hope that once the improvements are made to the parking lot, deck and lounge area, they can buy the property.

“The opportunity for expansion is just so great,” Dumas said. “We really want to give back to the community, and the property will allow that.”

Dumas envisions holding fundraisers, charity events, games and car shows. Shorey said he could see an events center on the property someday.

It was easy to name the restaurant after Smith, Dumas said.

“She’s just an incredible, generous and wondrous lady,” Dumas said. “She is the type of lady that whenever you go to her house, you have to sit down and eat.”

Aunt Gin’s, which has a fully licensed bar, is at 48 Augusta Road. It is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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