It’s a dreary, Wednesday night, but as soon as I enter the yellow house on Main Street, the chill is gone and warmth envelops me. Although it’s only been open a few weeks, Gather already feels cozy, lived-in, and familiar.
Perhaps it’s because people have been gathering here for decades. Originally a historic Masonic Hall built in the late 1800s, it has been a place to shop, work, and catch up with friends and neighbors. It’s fitting then that owner Matt Chappell has recreated the communal dining experience of the past by making the centerpiece of the room a 16-foot, family-style table.
The restaurant is one big room with an open kitchen located a few steps up on a stage. The bar lines one wall, booths line the other, and the communal table—made from maple bowling alley lanes—takes up the middle of the dining room. There’s a play area in one corner with toys and books, and a lounge area near the kitchen with a couch and overstuffed chairs.
There’s nothing pretentious about the ambiance, the food, or the service. Kate, our server, is friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive. She talks about the evening’s specials, menu selection, and beverages with ease. I can tell she understands and enjoys the food.
I’m tempted to order one of the four regional beers available on tap, but decide to start with a glass of dry sparkling wine, a Cava Rose. There are ten wines by the glass, and a selection of bottles ranging from $19 to $46. The kid’s meals—grass-fed beef burgers, chicken skewers, or macaroni and cheese—come with homemade sodas made by executive chef Chad Conley using blueberry, lime, or mint syrups and carbonated water.
I begin with the corn and crab fritters, beets and goat cheese salad, and chicken dumpling soup. The fritters have a crunchy coating and the crab and corn filling is airy and delicate. The sambal chili mayo sauce has a kick, but isn’t too hot. For a chilly fall night, the chicken dumpling soup hits the spot. The broth is perfectly seasoned, the vegetables are fork-tender, and there’s a doughy dumpling in every bite. The salad is lightly dressed in a buttermilk citrus vinaigrette, and smoky pumpkin seeds give the dish added depth and texture.
As I enjoy the homemade bread—spongy, with a great crust—I have a chance to look around the dining room. There’s a large party celebrating a birthday, a father and four boys eating pizza, a group of women enjoying a girls’ night out, and a few professionals winding down at the bar. The walls are decorated with old farming tools, baskets, and birdhouses. Of the 80 seats, about 50 are taken, and the room is filled with music, laughter, and chatter.
I pass on the 12-inch, thin crust Neapolitan-style pizza, although the pie of the day—bacon and potato—–is tempting. I’m intrigued by the salmon with yogurt-dill puree and Gulf of Maine hake with fingerling potatoes and creamed spinach, but that ensures a future visit.
Instead, I order the black bean and quinoa veggie burger. Conley says he wants the veggie burger to be just as succulent and mouth-watering as a hamburger, and he achieves that by adding cumin and coriander and using nutritional yeast and tamari—a Japanese, gluten-free soy sauce. Thanks to the addition of pan-fried mushrooms and poblano peppers, the burger has a roasted, hearty flavor. It’s served with avocado slices and alfalfa sprouts on a homemade wheat bun, with french fries and pickles.
The portion sizes are substantial, and even though I’m satisfied, I order the cookie plate and a warm brownie with ice cream and caramel sauce. The cookies—lemon cardamom, ginger snap, and chocolate sugar—are tasty, but the brownie transports me back to my childhood. The center is cooked in that gooey, just-out-of-the-oven way, and the edges are a little chewy, just like I remember. The vanilla ice cream on top of the brownie instantly melts, making a runny caramel and vanilla sauce.
I finish the meal feeling comforted and full, and I know that this is more than just a new restaurant—it’s a place for friends and families to share a meal, a conversation, a bottle of wine. It’s the place to go for a homemade meal when you have no time to cook. It’s a place to congregate after a sporting event, a school board meeting, and a long day at the office. With a seasonal, locally focused menu, I know I’ll be back with my friends and family to experience this sense of community again and again.
189 Main St. | Yarmouth | 207.847.3250 | gathermaine.com