TREMONT — In 2015, after 36 years of serving fish chowder, fried haddock, lobster rolls, doughboys and other such fare at their seaside eatery overlooking the ferry terminal in Bass Harbor, Karen Godbot and her partner Jan Beal decided it was time to retire.
When Mainely Delights did not open the following Memorial Day, it broke the hungry hearts of hundreds of folks who counted on bringing home a bowl of chowder or basket of golden fried fish and fries (with homemade tartar sauce) when we just couldn’t muster up a meal for ourselves.
It was also a favorite place to send landlocked visiting friends and relatives; both to get a break from each other and at the same time know they’d be getting a real taste — both literally and figuratively— of the Maine experience.
Many a visitor has taken home tales of dining off paper plates on the little restaurant’s deck at sunset, watching the ferry make its final run of the day, lobster boats returning to the harbor for the night, and listening to Godbot yell at her cooks, “Don’t you dare boil my fish!”
Last winter at their winter home in St. Petersburg, Fla., the couple started to discuss re-opening Mainely Delights.
“But we knew we couldn’t go back to the way it was,” Godbot said. “I just couldn’t put in those kinds of hours, deal with all the changing ordinances, and with a wait staff that often didn’t turn up or left early to go back to school.”
“We said if we’re gonna do it, were gonna have to do it small,” said Beal.
A little roadside food truck in St. Pete’s provided the solution to that dilemma. It was a self-contained unit, with all the cooking, frying and anything else involving fire done separately from the dining areas. They realized that this could be the answer to some of the new ordinances that required them to comply with costly fireproofing upgrades to the restaurant, such as installing a new dining room ceiling.
The next order of business was reassembling the old team.
Diane Klosky had worked in the Mainely Delights kitchen for 16 years at Godbot’s side, learning her exacting cooking techniques. Roy Matthews had been at Mainely Delights the last four years before it closed. But he has known Godbot for decades, and, in fact, had once hired her for his own catering business.
“You know that saying about something always messing up the best laid plans?” Godbot said. “Well that didn’t happen here. Everything came together smoothly, like it was meant to be.”
Klosky and Matthews were not only happy to come on board but agreed to take over the helm of the operation.
They found the perfect mobile kitchen, had it delivered to Bass Harbor and cozied it up to the back of the existing building without a hitch, and found a few more people to complete the kitchen staff. A large waitstaff was no longer necessary.
Now customers place their orders at the big mobile kitchen window and get a buzzer to tell them when to pick up their meal at a side window, which they can carry back to tables inside the main building or on the sundrenched deck.
“I am so excited that you are back!” one customer enthused as she accepted her trayful of overstuffed crab and lobster rolls.
While Karen still helps out in the kitchen from time to time and Jan helps out with the books and opening and closing, they both feel their business has been left in good, capable hands. Now the two can enjoy such summer pleasures as tennis and pickleball without that nagging sense of guilt.
Karen says the menu is somewhat abridged from what folks may recall and they will be adding more favorites as the season evolves and customers let them know what they are missing.
The chowder is the same delicious milky, oniony brew as before, with big chunks of fish and a just few small cubes of potato.