From the time he was a kid, Drew Ryan has had an inside view into what it takes to run a restaurant.

He would often visit his father, NorthCenter Foodservice Corp. President Allen Ryan, at work, and was later employed by the wholesale food distributor for about a dozen years.

His father joked with his children that they should not go into the restaurant business, but for Drew Ryan, the advice did not stick.

At the end of July, the Augusta native and his partners opened the Maine Shack in the LoHi neighborhood of Denver, his adopted hometown.

Augusta native Drew Ryan talks about his recently opened Denver restaurant, Maine Shack, during an interview Sept. 19 during the open house reception at Huiskamer Coffee House in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Ryan, 46, remembers stopping in his father’s office on Water Street to visit, and working for him as a driver and salesman for about a decade after the company moved to its current location on Dalton Road on Augusta’s east side.

Eventually, he wanted to do something else, so Ryan moved to Los Angeles and went to work as a producer and director in the music business. Eventually, he relocated to Denver.

“I realized I could have a better quality of life there,” he said.

Ryan, who was in the Augusta area recently to visit family, had been kicking around the idea of opening a lobster pound type of specialty grocery store, and at one point was looking at properties with his brother. Then, the idea of lobster shack emerged.

That was five years ago. Ryan spent three years looking for a space in Denver’s highly competitive restaurant market, and trying drum up interest. It was an uphill battle, in part because he did not have experience in the restaurant business.

Once the space was secured, opening the Maine Shack took two more years, partly because of permitting processes and the long waits for contractors to complete work on the space.

The food is a mix of New England favorites, including different kinds of lobster rolls — using lobster shipped fresh from Greenhead Lobster in Stonington — as well as whole belly clams, scallops and roast beef sandwiches styled after those that can be found on Massachusetts’ North Shore.

Ryan has also reached into his own family’s food traditions to include his mother’s lobster pie recipes. Desserts include whoopie pies and peanut butter Fluffernutter ice cream sandwiches made at the restaurant.

Ryan said he has been trying to bring in Moxie, but has been unable to make that happen so far.

Now, he said, when people arrive, they are decked out in all the lobster gear they can find: Hats, shirts, shorts, pants and dresses. And if it is not lobsters, it is Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins or Celtics gear.

Shortly after the restaurant opened, Ryan said he was contacted by the Denver Broncos to open two lobster stands in the club/suite sections at Empower Field at Mile High.

“Broncos fans hate the Patriots, but Maine Shack is like Switzerland,” he said. “It’s neutral.”

Maine Shack is a slice of Maine food and decor transported 2,220 miles to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The walls of the casual restaurant are clad in reclaimed lumber from Maine and carry reclaimed advertising signs, lobster traps, nets and buoys. A chandelier made from seven lobster traps hangs from the ceiling.

Last winter, Ryan spent a couple months traveling around the state, searching out items to decorate the space, with the help of a couple of his friends, who happen to be from “Maine Cabin Masters” on the DIY Network.

On Thursday, Chase Morrill of Maine Cabin Masters, said Jared Baker had gone out to Denver to work on the restaurant, and Baker and Ashley Morrill and Ryan Eldridge headed west for the grand opening.

The restaurant has three televisions, Ryan said. On two, “Maine Cabin Masters” runs continuously. The third screen shows video provided by Internet personality the Downeast Cowboy.

“This is everything I love about Maine — the food, the culture, the people of Maine,” Ryan said. “It’s great to be able to bring home out to Colorado and share it with people.”


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