Asian Noodle Bowl has opened recently at the Marketplace at Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — With the snip of a ceremonial ribbon, Asian Noodle Bowl opened its doors a few days before Thanksgiving at the Marketplace at Augusta.

The fast casual restaurant is the latest eatery to open at Augusta’s open-air retail center, and it will be joined by Jersey Mike’s Subs, a sandwich shop franchise chain based in Manasquan, New Jersey, which is expected to open in March.

Both restaurants are extensions of already-existing operations.

The owners of Asian Café at 53 Bay St. in Winslow opened the restaurant in Augusta in November, focusing on the cuisine of East and Southeast Asia.

Anima Nikonthet, who refers to herself as the lady behind the scenes, said she opened the restaurant with her business partner, Sourasay Senesombath, who she said excels at operations and whose father has run Thai restaurants across Maine and in Vermont, including Thai Star 2 at the Augusta State Airport, before opening Asian Café.

Nikonthet said the property manager at the Marketplace at Augusta had contacted her years ago about opening a restaurant there, but the timing was not right. But when the space that had been occupied by Elevation Burger came available, it was the right time.


Nikonthet, whose family members operate nearly a dozen Thai restaurants throughout Maine, said the recipes the restaurant uses are well-honored recipes from her boyfriend’s family, who ran a popular restaurant in Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam, but they are adapted to the tastes of central Maine.

Nikonthet said the reception to the restaurant has been strong, drawing customers from offices and medical facilities across Augusta.

And while Asian Noodle Bowl is a fast casual restaurant, Nikonthet said dishes are prepared to order and it is not the same as a fast-food restaurant.

“The soup we serve, we have to prepare it today to be able to serve tomorrow,” Nikonthet said. “It takes eight hours. So when we run out, we cannot sell it until the next day.”

As the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to wane, residents across Maine continue to resume normal activities, including dining out.

Matt Lewis, president and chief executive officer of Hospitality Maine in Augusta, the state’s only nonprofit trade group representing the hospitality industry, said investments in these and other new restaurants is a positive sign.


“We’re thrilled to see the new restaurants coming in,” Lewis said.

Maine residents like to try new restaurants, he said, and they do not mind traveling to try them.

“Surveys from the National Restaurant Association still show that people very much enjoy going out, whether it’s themselves or their families or their friends,” Lewis said. “I think that bodes well.”

But that does not rule out restaurant closures in the coming year, he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic was hard on the restaurant industry, with closures and limits imposed on the number of customers allowed to be served to preserve social distancing recommendations or requirements.

“I have no idea if it will be many or a few,” Lewis said, “but we’ll see restaurants close that will be upsetting to us to see because, in some cases, they will have been successful for many years in Maine.”


Chris Brown owns the Jersey Mike’s Subs franchises in Maine and New Hampshire, including the one in Scarborough that his New Hampshire-based company, Century Restaurants, acquired last week and the one scheduled to open at the Marketplace at Augusta.

“We start construction next week (in Augusta),” Brown said Thursday. “A March opening is more than reasonable.”

Jersey Mike’s Subs is expected to open in March next to former site of Chipotle Mexican Grill at the Marketplace at Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Brown also has restaurants in Auburn, Bangor, Brunswick and Windham. Other shops are under construction in Topsham and Saco, and plans are in the works for a shop in Thomaston.

He said he is also considering other locations in southern and western Maine.

Brown, a transplant from Savannah, Georgia, said he got involved with Jersey Mike’s Subs because he believes in the product — a selection of subs made from freshly sliced ingredients and grilled options made to order.

“I’ve been doing this for 15 years,” he said, “and I’m not tired of it yet.”

Following the company’s philosophy of giving back, Brown said his Augusta shop will partner with a local school and will donate 100% of the first day’s sales.

“We really want to continue to support the community,” he said, “and bridge the gaps where needed.”

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