Two years after the Whig & Courier pub closed its doors, the downtown Bangor space that housed the bar and restaurant will now be home to a new establishment. Matt Haskell, owner of two restaurants in Bar Harbor and who formerly owned the Bear Brew Pub in Orono, plans to open Blaze, a wood-fired gourmet kitchen and craft beer bar.
Haskell already owns a Blaze restaurant in Bar Harbor, which opened the summer of 2011, but from the beginning wanted to bring the restaurant’s smoky flavors and locally-sourced ingredients to downtown Bangor.
“When I was building Blaze in Bar Harbor I had looked at [the Whig] space quite a bit, and I was surprised when in late fall 2011 the space was still available,” said Haskell, 32. “I started making calls, and we came to an agreement with the landlords pretty quickly.”
Haskell, who graduated from Bangor High School in 1996, has wanted to have a presence in downtown Bangor for some time now. The Whig, which was purchased at auction in July 2010 by local businessman Dan Sykes, puts Haskell right in the thick of it – West Market Square, ground zero for downtown Bangor nightlife.
“I love Bangor, and in the past few years the town has really turned around,” he said. “Between the auditorium, the casino, the waterfront and all the new stuff in downtown, it’s really booming. That’s something I’m really excited to be a part of, and I think we’re going to bring something really new and exciting to the table.”
Blaze (the Bar Harbor restaurant’s interior pictured at left) will boast what Haskell calls a wood-fired gourmet kitchen. For his Bar Harbor restaurant, he imported a wood-fired oven from France and installed a high-end wood-fired grill created by the company Grillworks. In the grill, they use hardwoods like cherry, oak and applewood to important extra flavor, while in the oven they use Maine hardwoods. The menu will feature everything from grilled pizza and gourmet tacos to steaks and seafood.
“We’ll have specialty tacos, like pork belly and duck confit. We’ll have venison steaks on the menu. All our seafood is sustainable,” said Haskell. “I’m really committed to getting as much of our ingredients from Maine and New England as possible. We’re also going to have 50 draftlines, up from the 34 we have in Bar Harbor. We’re going to have an extremely extensive selection of craft beers.”
Later on down the line, Haskell hopes to open a fish market and high-end seafood restaurant and raw bar in downtown Bangor, with his business partner, Machias native Whitney Stevens. For now, Haskell and company will begin building the interior of Blaze on July 1, and hope to have the restaurant ready to open in late August or early September. Landlord Sykes has already completed a number of the renovations needed on the building, so Haskell just needs to come in and build a restaurant on top of it.
“I’m really glad to be able to bring some good jobs to Bangor,” said Haskell. “I can’t wait to be a part of the neighborhood.”