WATERVILLE — The general public will get a long-awaited first look at the regal new building downtown as Front & Main restaurant at the Lockwood Hotel opens to dinner guests Thursday.

The restaurant, which serves a menu of locally sourced food and drinks prepared by a local chef, is located on the ground floor of the Lockwood Hotel.

“It’s been a long road to get here and there’s been some delays over the last year due to COVID-19, so it really feels good,” Lockwood Hotel General Manager Jordan Rowan said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of excitement amongst the team here, and it feels like there is in Waterville, too.”

Maine native Jesse Souza recently returned to the area after spending time in Seattle and is the restaurant’s executive chef. Waterville native John Phillips-Sandy is the director of food and beverage at The Lockwood. Rowan, who is not local, said 90% of the approximately 30-person restaurant staff hails from within a 30-minute drive of the hotel. Once the hotel opens in late summer or early fall, the staff will likely double.

 

“This is not a big box hotel, a branded hotel, and really, it’s not even a city hotel,” Rowan said. “We’re a small-town hotel, and the relationship with the community is the most important aspect of what we do … Hiring local, that’s critical. We’re not going to be successful if I don’t do that.”

Local food and drink producers are featured heavily on the dinner menu, served seven nights per week, as well as the weekend brunch menu. The dinner menu features classic tastes with unique twists, such as maple lacquered salmon and caramelized root vegetables or lobster bucatini with shiitake and uni cream. The brunch menu includes traditional breakfast items and specialties such as ployes with cinnamon mascarpone.

Crooked Face Creamery in Skowhegan is supplying Front & Main with fresh and aged cheeses in addition to beef for its burgers. Amy Rowbottom, owner of the creamery, said Rowan came by the creamery last year. After sampling, a relationship developed.

“I’ve been there to deliver a couple of times and started to see it take shape. It’s pretty magnificent,” Rowbottom said. “I think it’s a unique experience because they’re traveling to farms to meet their vendors, see their facilities, see their property … This has been pretty incredible because they seem to want to get to know me and get to know my business.”

Server Dan Leipow, center, serves bar patrons Monday during the start of a soft opening of the new Front & Main restaurant at the new Lockwood Hotel in downtown Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

The blueberry vodka mule cocktail uses vodka from Cold River Vodka in Freeport.

“More and more we’re seeing restaurants do local, local, local,” Cold River Vodka managing partner Chris Dowe said. “Knowing they’re going to start with one of ours on the drink menu is great support.”

Front & Main is using gin from Bangor-based Devil’s Half Acre Distillery. Larry Murphy, director of sales and marketing at the distillery, which launched this past December, reached out to the restaurant and went to the hotel to do a taste testing of Jigger & Jones gin with the staff last month.

“They tried it. They really liked it,” Murphy said. “They said, ‘We’ll bring this in on the bar.'”

Skowhegan’s Maine Grains, 3 Level Farm in South China and Universal Bread on Temple Street in Waterville also count themselves among Front & Main’s product partners. All liquor is purchased through Damon’s Beverage, but the meetings with producers help set up relationships and the menu.

The restaurant features indoor and outdoor spaces. There is a formal dining room, communal lounge and bar, and an outdoor patio soon-to-be fitted with fire pits. Work by Maine artists, curated by the Colby College Museum of Art, is featured throughout the restaurant.

Dinner will be served 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Brunch will be served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Front & Main will initially seat up to 24 people with additional seating at the bar, lounge and private dining room. Curbside pickup will also be available.

The $26 million Lockwood Hotel is owned by Colby College and is housing Colby students for this academic year. Charlestowne Hotels is managing the property.

College officials said last week the 53-room hotel is slated to begin hosting guests during the 2021-22 academic year. After students leave in May, temporary furniture and carpeting will be removed from the building as rooms will undergo a transformation into hotel guest rooms.

Front & Main will extend serving periods when guests are in the building, likely with expanded hours during the week.

“I definitely want people to know this is a restaurant open to the public, and we want anyone or everyone to come in,” Rowan said. “We’re the newest dining establishment in Waterville, and we want to be the best. We’re really making a committed effort to bring in high-quality ingredients and celebrating the bounty that’s in the area: It’s here.”

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