Bobby Morgan, owner of El Ancla Mexican Restaurant, on the Public Landing in Camden, has been operating his new restaurant for six months and described his summer as challenging. Serving Mexican food in Maine is not the easiest venture, but the biggest issue has been finding help, an industry-wide problem for businesses and restaurants during the summer.
“Serving the food was a definite challenge,” he said.
“Our executive chef, Adrian, is from the interior of Mexico,” said Morgan. “The food is not spicy nor over-spiced and I believe that works very well with the Maine palate.”
However, he found that many tourists were from the U.S. Southwest, who were used to Tex-Mex. On the other hand, many people from southern California who visited the restaurant were impressed.
“With the leaf-peeping season we still had a lot of tourists who know Mexican food,” he said. “They were happy with the authenticity of the food.”
“The challenge of the summer was getting tourists in here,” he said. “The majority of the people who are walking down to the landing are looking for seafood. We have a niche here because you can’t eat seafood seven days a week. I believe the niche is needed year-round.”
Morgan said the restaurant was filled with local residents two weeks prior to Memorial Day.
“It was great,” he said. “We really felt like we were onto something, but Memorial Day weekend went by, the locals stopped coming and the tourists arrived. I get it. I grew up in a tourist town in New Hampshire and locals stay away from places like the Landing in the summer time and it’s mainly due to parking.”
Morgan said that with summer over he’s afraid locals have forgotten he is there.
“We named the restaurant the anchor because I intend to be here for the long haul,” he said. “The void I feel I can fill right is with the lunch menu. A quick, fast, healthy burrito is the answer. Call in the order, pull up in the alley and run in and it’s waiting for you. My goal right now is get at least on burrito a week in every person’s hand.”
Morgan has several ways to try and make his burrito program work:
“I contacted the high school and put an ad in their newspaper to give $1 off to students,” he said. “November 12 we’ll offer $1 from every burrito served to Full Plates, Full Potential, a Portland based nonprofit, and that dollar will stay here in Knox and Waldo counties.”
The donation goes towards feeding hungry children of Maine.
“We are having a kick off party on November 12,” he said. “We’ll have five or six guest chefs. It’s $20 a head for all the tacos you can eat and we’ll have a dessert table set up. There will be rice and beans and salad with two or three guest chefs on the first hour and the same for hours two and three.”
“I agree with the money staying in Knox and Waldo counties,” he said.