Volunteer firefighters train water from a hose on the fire at the Tan Turtle Restaurant in Northeast Harbor in 2009. FILE PHOTO

Tan Turtle eyes return

MOUNT DESERT — The Tan Turtle Tavern, a popular eatery on Main Street in Northeast Harbor before it was destroyed by fire nearly seven years ago, will open in early May in the restaurant space at the Kimball Terrace Inn.

Tan Turtle owner Rob DeGennaro said he has wanted to reopen the restaurant for some time. But it has been a slow process.

“We are still trying to settle things with the insurance company [over the fire],” he said. “But we figured we couldn’t wait any longer, so we started looking for locations and had a hunch there might be something in Northeast Harbor. We looked into it, and there we were at the Kimball Terrace.”

The new Tan Turtle space is much larger than the original.

“We’ll be upping our seating from 100 to 250 and have a beautiful outdoor patio overlooking the water,” DeGennaro said. “With that much room, we’ll be able to do weddings and special functions and fundraisers and still serve the public.”

He said the restaurant, which he plans to keep open through October, will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. The dinner menu will be as varied and extensive as the original Tan Turtle’s.

“We’ll have everything from soup, salad, sandwiches and burgers to steaks, ribs and seafood,” DeGennaro said. “I think the key to the menu is the heartwarming food like shepherd’s pie, Yankee pot roast, fish and chips, and even things like liver and onions.”

He said that, as with the original, the new Tan Turtle will offer “call ahead seating” for the benefit of year-round residents.

“If you don’t want to wait with the summer people, you could give us a call ahead, and when you get there, you get the first available table,” he said. “I think that’s so important on the island because the locals get shoved away. Come the season, it’s like we don’t count anymore.”

DeGennaro said he would start lining up staff for the restaurant shortly after the first of the year.

“We’ve had a lot of folks calling us who worked with us before and are looking forward to coming back because we treat people like family,” he said.

The Kimball Terrace Inn overlooks the Northeast Harbor Marina and Village Green.

“Because we have the Village Green right there in front of us, we want to come up with a concert series, with jazz one night, country another night and jazz another, that sort of thing, and try to bring the village alive,” DeGennaro said.

The restaurant space at the Kimball Terrace sat empty last season. From 2012-2014, it housed Emily Damon’s Watermark Restaurant and Lounge. Ironically, she was the chef-owner of a popular restaurant called 151 Main Street, which preceded DeGennaro’s Tan Turtle Tavern at that address.

DeGennaro has owned and operated several restaurants and inns including the Harbour Cottage Inn in Southwest Harbor, Pilgrim’s Inn in Deer Isle village and the Captiva Island Inn on Captiva Island, Fla. For the past seven years, he owned Nervous Nellie’s Crazy Waterfront Eatery, a 600-seat restaurant in Fort Myers Beach, Fla.

The original Tan Turtle Tavern was in business for four years before it burned in January 2009. The fire was ruled accidental.

“It was an abrupt end to a great run,” DeGennaro said. “It was a really neat locals restaurant that attracted people from all over.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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