SEARSPORT—‘Hey Sailor’ is serving a definite vibe, which, simply put, is “TACOS+. ART. BOOZE.”
The newly opened bar and restaurant on 25 East Main Street is the latest venture of the owners of The Hichborn in Stockton Springs.
Kirk Linder and Charlie Zorich opened Hey Sailor in late February after purchasing the building in 2019. However, the pandemic waylaid their plans for quite awhile. Early in 2020, they ripped everything down to the studs and slowly built out a kitchen, then began the work to recreate the space into their vision of the kind of hangout they both like to go to on a day off.
“We wanted something that is completely different from The Hichborn,” said Zorich. “Not everyone wants to commit to a three-hour meal. There are a lot of food-savvy people around who like to try different things and that’s what we were going for.”
By three p.m. on a drizzly Thursday afternoon, a half dozen people stood outside on the sidewalk, waiting for the doors to open. Within minutes, the entire place was full, which just shows how well received this newest hang-out is in the sleepy town of Searsport.
Inside, the retro hues of teal and orange dominate the decor, a welcome pop of color on a grey, March day.
“The building here has one foot in the past, but also one foot in the future,” said Zorich. “The space has 1960s mod facade that drove the interior design. Both of us have a love for mid-century modern and 1970s modern, so we went for a 1970s mod look.”
Though Gen Xers themselves, Zorich said the restaurant is attracting all kinds of clientele from Gen Z to Boomers.
As seasoned professionals in the industry, the Hey Sailor crew will be expanding when The Hichborn re-opens this summer. Eric Walczek, the former chef de cuisine from Portland’s Street & Co. will be taking over as head chef at Hey Sailor and Zorich will return as the chef for The Hichborn during high season.
The menu is divided into innovative bar snacks, tacos, salads, and desserts.
“We do west coast style tacos and some of our customers from California and those who come from the west have said that they love the bold flavors,” said Zorich. “The bar snacks side of the menu is driven by global street food and some of it is influenced by one of our chefs, Nattapat Niamnud whose nickname is ‘Ninja. ’ Ninja, who is Thai, is infusing some Thai flavors into the menu, as well.”
With oyster mushroom empanadas and Pulpo Enamorado, which is an octopus salad with avocado, radish, scallion, Fresno chilis, and saltines—these aren’t your typical bar snacks.
“I think we might have the best calamari on the coast, but the LAABB (crispy rice paper, chili flake, fish sauce, and mint) is very popular too,” he said.
The restaurant also aims to be a working gallery, debuting their neighbor, Frederick Kuhn’s artworks at their opening. Kuhn’s saturated complementary colors fit right in with the decor.
“The artwork will change every couple of months,” said Linder. “We’ll have quarterly shows with a summer and a fall show already lined up with local artists. I’m working with another gentleman who will help operate the gallery and we’ll start putting out a call for artists to submit work. We’re working on an artist in residency grant to bring artists in from all over the world. We’re also working on a mural program in the restaurant, which will change every couple of years.”
The theme of the cocktail menu is arranged around bodies of water, which reflects the restaurant’s name.
“The town of Searsport built sailing ships here for many years and we’re honoring the seafaring history of the town, so the cocktails are inspired by ports of call around the world,” said Zorich.
Each region on the menu has a sweet, savory, and classic style. So, for example, for New England, they offer a Searsport Switchel (local rum, ginger, apple cider vinegar), a Blueberry Brownie (blueberry rum, almond, brown sugar, chocolate) and Under The Apple Tree (bourbon, apple, cider, cinnamon, egg white). That’s in addition to local craft brews on tap and in the bottle/can as well as a select wine menu.
It’s a sign of the times that a hip little place is opening in one of the quieter Midcoast towns. For more information visit their website: Hey Sailor.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com