ROCKLAND — After a few test dinners, a massive hurricane and the usual issues to smooth out before a grand opening, Fog Bar & Café, on Rockland’s Main Street, will be opening for its first full week starting Wednesday, Oct. 31.
Fog Bar & Cafe is largely a family affair. Partners Ashley Seelig her mother, Sherrie Gibson, father Warren Seelig and her fiance, Josh Cardoso, have been working out the plans for this restaurant for more than a year. Each person in the partnership brings an artistic background to the project. Seelig’s parents own the building (in which Gibson also runs the design store, Black Parrot). While Gibson has experience with interior design and had a major role in Fog Bar & Cafe's overall décor and look, Warren Seelig (an artist and professor), built the eclectic bar and dining shelves out of a patchwork collection of reclaimed hardwoods such as ash, walnut, maple and cherry.
Initially, when Rock City Café moved out of the space last year, the family was left with several options: lease it to a new restaurant, convert it into an art space, or start a restaurant themselves. After much thought, Seelig and Cardoso decided on the latter.
“We all have a lot of transferables, but Ashley is the one with the most experience with restaurants,” said Cardoso, noting that Seelig has about 10 years of experience of front-of-the-house experience in several Manhattan restaurants. Cardoso, whose background is also in art, was responsible for opening the Win Wilder Hall gallery located behind Fog Bar & Cafe.
Fog Bar & Café intends only to be an evening establishment, with the kitchen opening daily from 4 p.m. and staying open to 10 p.m. for the late night dinner crowd. The bar will remain open until 11 p.m. Chef Nick Krunkkala, a southern Maine native who worked in New York City for nine years before moving back to the Midcoast, is running the kitchen. Krunkkala, who previously spearheaded Rock City Café’s funky, gourmet dinner menu, has shaped Fog's new signature style.
The menu is described as “French and Southern-inspired contemporary comfort food” and the bar will offer a variety of craft beers (from Maine as well as imports) and some of the best spirits Seelig and Cardoso have found on their own culinary journeys.
"Josh sourced some of the best beers in the world, including those in Maine, and we made a special effort to get those on tap," said Seelig.
They currently have eight specialty beers on tap and are looking to expand to at least 16 taps by next summer.
The menu tucks into the $10-$30 range. With Duck Nachos as a starter (duck confit on house made chips with pomegranate marmalade and finished with a Maine-made Lakins 42 Opus cheese), and Fog Bar Burgers (house-made potato-stout roll and bacon jam atop an all-natural beef burger, with Tabasco-soaked onion rings) it’s a high-low concept that matches down-home tastes with elevated style.
“The food basically comes down to the same policy as the beer we serve,” said Cardoso. “We have such incredible food and ingredients in Maine, so we go to that first. But, if there is something that we choose to put on the menu that we have to get from somewhere else in the world, you can bet it’s damn well worth it.”
Beyond the food, Seelig and Cardoso are striving to provide a contemporary hang out space that appeals to the creative economy mindset. At the back of the restaurant, a digital projector will constantly screen silent black and white movies, as well as anime for background atmosphere. Eventually, this space will also be used for bands, documentaries and videos and other artistic events.
“It’s literally the place that I was looking for when I first moved here,” said Seelig. “What I love about Rockland is that people all hang out together from my age range (25-35) up to 70. For example, the Friday Night Art Walks is a perfect example of this and that’s what we’re striving to offer; the same kind of atmosphere for that kind of crowd.”
“It feels really nice and comfortable and you can indulge in the food and drink without being somewhere that feels too pretentious or costs an arm and a leg,” added Cardoso.
Going forward, they will only be closed on Tuesdays. And they have power! Check out Fog Bar & Café or visit their Facebook page.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org