BELFAST — Bell The Cat, a popular breakfast and lunch spot that used to be located at the plaza on Starrett Drive in Belfast has moved to the building on Belmont Avenue that once housed Pizza Hut.
Not only has the restaurant gotten a new, prominent location, the building has been completely renovated.
With stylish seating out on the deck and a contemporary decor transforming the interior, Bell The Cat looks like a completely different restaurant. Owner JoJo Oliphant, who purchased the restaurant nearly three years ago, saw the opportunity to purchase the building as well once Pizza Hut vacated.
“I wanted to have a restaurant to own and not just rent anymore,” Oliphant said.
He’d always been interested in the restaurant industry, even in high school.
“I wanted to go into hotel and restaurant management in college, but the University of Maine didn’t offer that track, so I got my degree in business,” he said.
Prior to owning Bell The Cat, he ran a popcorn business and sold at concerts and festivals.
The new space makes sense on numerous levels.
“At the old location, we had limited parking and had to share 15-20 spots,” he said. “Here, we have more than 40 parking spots.and the space is larger with a capacity of 85 inside with 24 seats outside whereas the old location could only host 66 seats.”
It took two-and-a-half months to completely restyle the interior with glossy concrete floors, live edge wood countertops, wood-and-stainless steel booths and industrial-chic lighting. Digital menus are prominently displayed over the order counter
“It’s been a great transformation and when people walk in here, they love it,” said Oliphant. “Our business has definitely picked up. People are actually surprised how contemporary it looks.”
And the decor is not the only thing that has transformed. When it originally opened in 1994, Bell The Cat was primarily known as a homemade sandwich spot. Oliphant has expanded the menu to include a breakfast starting at 6:30 a.m., more lunch options and even staying open for dinner hours until 7 p.m.
“At our old location, we were only able to offer breakfast sandwiches, because we were somewhat limited with what we had,” he said. “We now offer a full breakfast with eggs any style, sausage and gravy, pancakes, omelettes, a New England red flannel hash and chicken and waffles.”
The extensive sandwich menu uses Maine-made Borealis Bread with imaginative recipes such as Ducktrap Smoked Salmon, a Crispy Procsciutto Panini and a Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burger. The menu also includes a wide variety of salads, daily soups, a kids’ menu and even dessert.
Since purchasing the business, he has always tried to source as much as they could locally.
“People support me, so I will support them,” he said.
Oliphant, who not only works the front of the house, also pitches in to cook, when needed. Currently the restaurant is processing the paperwork to get a beer and wine license.
“So, eventually, you can have a Mimosa with your breakfast,” he said.
They will also make use of outdoor seating for a happy hour crowd.
For more information on Bell The Cat, visit: bellthecatinc.com
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com