AUGUSTA — When Antigoni Papagjika was seeking a place to put a new restaurant, she was looking for locations south of Lewiston.

Instead, she’s expected to open her third restaurant, Antigoni’s Augusta, in June on Bangor Street.

Papagjika’s restaurant is just one of four new additions expected for Maine’s capital city so far this year. It joins Kume Japanese Steak House, which opened in February in the Marketplace at Augusta; Otto’s on the River on Water Street, which is planning a May opening; and a planned Dunkin’ Donuts on Bangor Street, close to the site of an existing Dunkin’ Donuts. Also, Taco Bell — which already has one location in the city — recently opened a new restaurant on Western Avenue.

This uptick in restaurant activity is partly a result of Augusta’s standing as a service center, said Keith Luke, the city’s deputy director of development services, who is responsible for economic development for Augusta.

Thanks to the concentration of workers in Augusta, the city’s daytime population is about three times as large as the overnight population.

“And those people don’t have kitchens,” he said.

In the case of the Bangor Street restaurants, the driver was real estate.

“The price finally came down and met with opportunity,” he said. “There was a significant reduction, and the agreed-upon sale price was probably significantly lower than what had been advertised.”

Papagjika said she knows Augusta is in the opposite direction from where she was looking, but that Augusta shaped up to be a better choice.

For one thing, Papagjika said she could find no suitable space in the Portland area; and for another, she had a ready-made fan base here that was demanding to know when she might open a restaurant in the area.

“They’ve been pushing us a long time,” Papagjika said earlier this week while running errands before opening her Lewiston restaurant for the day. One couple has been giving her a running update of spaces available in Augusta, and another has been bringing menus back from Lewiston to hand out here.

Papagjika and her husband, Kastriot Xhollo, bought the property at 23 Bangor St., the site of a long-closed Pizza Hut franchise and, later, Dickie’s Barbecue Pit, in January. They’ve been waiting for the restaurant to be hooked up to natural gas. Once that happens, they’ll be able to paint and move in.

While this will be their third restaurant opening, they own only two. The business started in Turner, then expanded to Lewiston. When the second restaurant took off, they couldn’t run both, so they sold the Turner location, which retains the Antigoni’s name.

The restaurant business is very much a family affair. Papagjika’s daughter works for restaurant, as do her brother and a cousin, who recently won her green card lottery and will relocate to the United States.

“You have to love what you do,” said Papagjika, who grew up working in restaurants in Germany, Greece and in the United States before opening her own. “It’s not all about making a living and making a profit.”

When she and her family are not at the restaurant making pasta dishes, subs and salads for lunch and dinner, they are home cooking and she’s watching shows on cooking.

Across town at the Marketplace of Augusta, Kume Japanese Steak House is establishing its first foothold outside of New Hampshire, where the company operates three restaurants.

The steak house, which also offers high-end sushi and hibachi dining, where a chef prepares entrees in front of diners, apparently already has attracted a loyal following. Manager Jimmy Xiao said he encourages people to make reservations midweek for Friday and Saturday dinners. Otherwise, the wait might be up to two hours because the restaurant is booked.

In scouting locations in Maine, the restaurant owners skipped Portland and chose Augusta because Augusta doesn’t have a high-end sushi restaurant, Xiao said. Kume also serves steaks, seafood and a range of Asian-style noodle dishes.

“Some of our customers come two or three times a week,” he said.

The restaurant is planning an official grand opening for the middle of April.

For the people behind Otto’s on the River, the delays are done and the expected opening will be in about six weeks.

Wyatt Shorey, who with Steven Dumas owns Aunt Gin’s in Whitefield, said the opening was delayed longer than anticipated, but work is now underway at the Water Street restaurant in the building that developer Richard Parkhurst bought a year and a half ago to convert to market rate apartments upstairs, leaving the ground floors for commercial enterprises.

Shorey said they have been able to take advantage of a loan from Augusta’s Tipping Point Small Business Development Program, which debuted in January to finance some kitchen equipment and furniture for the dining room.

“We’re the first ones to do it, and we’re pleased to have it,” Shorey said. “It’s a great thing coming at the best possible time.”

On the to-do list is building the bar, the back bar and a wait station. Then the restaurant and lounge will be outfitted. A deck along the side of the building will open when the weather gets warmer, and eventually they hope to have a deck overlooking the Kennebec River.

But first they have to hire a staff and get the business open, Shorey said.

The concept of fine casual dining, using locally sourced food, is unchanged, he said.

Calls to the new owners of the former Tim Horton’s on Bangor Street — where a new Dunkin’ Donuts is scheduled to open — were not returned immediately. It is not clear what effect the new shop would have on the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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