Roost Café and Bistro, Cape Neddick
After 14 years of running a successful restaurant in New Hampshire, partners Rob Pinkham and Aldo Vallecillo moved to Maine and opened Roost Café and Bistro in Cape Neddick. Ever since it opened in 2009, the restaurant has been a place for Rob and Aldo to share their love of food, design, and entertaining with guests.
Roost is unassuming from the outside; located on Route 1, it looks like a small house with string lights and a painting of a rooster on the facade. But inside is an extraordinary space, designed with thoughtfulness and whimsy. Rob greets me and my dining companion warmly, and we walk through the dimly lit, cozy dining room to the bar area. Aldo mixes drinks behind the bar and the room is bright with natural light. There’s a tree in this roomits branches fill the space above our heads and it’s decorated with ornaments and lights. The walls are a warm yellow and there’s wood from floor to ceiling. Even the tabletops are gorgeous; Aldo made them from salvaged barn clapboards.
Our server Ann Marie tells us about the drinks, specials, and the Thursday throwback menua “blue plate special” reminiscent of food from Rob and Aldo’s past. Tonight they offer chicken enchiladas, baked cavatappi Bolognese, or pan-roasted haddock. Each special comes with a choice of black bean soup, clam chowder, tomato bisque, or salad.
The regular menu has a little bit of everything; there are salads with a variety of protein options, a pub section with sandwiches and fish and chips, and appetizers like calamari and egg rolls. Entrees include chicken fried chicken, lobster and asparagus risotto, and Cuban pork with rice and beans.
I love a restaurant with a sense of humor, and reading the menu I see Rob and Aldo enjoy what they do. The Cuban black bean soup is “made by our own Cuban” Aldo himself. The mood in the restaurant is laid-back and lighthearted. My dining companion and I find ourselves talking with two other bar customers and soon we’re all laughing and sharing stories.
I’m impressed by the large selection of vegetarian and gluten-free options on the menu. Seven of the eight entrees can be prepared gluten-free and there are homemade gluten-free desserts. The menu has local fish and lobster, but there’s also an Asian and Cuban influence.
We decide on the enchiladas and the tomato bisque from the Thursday throwback menu, and the blue crab cakes and slow-roasted, soy-glazed tofu from the regular menu. The two crab cakes are plump, slightly browned, and full of luscious crab meat. A dollop of slightly spicy sriracha cream adds a punch of flavor, and cilantro is a nice herbal accompaniment. The creamy bisque also has a slightly spicy kick, and the basil oil drizzled on the surface of the soup adds another layer of flavor.
The three chicken enchiladas are smothered in a homemade mole sauce and I taste a blend of spices, sweetness, and heat. A squeeze of lime brightens the dish, and I find it hard to share. The tofu dish is completely different; the enchiladas are the epitome of satisfying comfort food. It’s sophisticated, but no less delicious. Each bite offers a different texture from the roasted tofu, lo mein noodles, crunchy vegetables, and crispy wontons. The miso ginger broth ties the flavors together.
As if we didn’t have enough, Rob brings us small portions of the black bean soup, the clam chowder, and the Cuban pork shoulder. If not for Rob, I would have missed out on the most succulent, flavorful pork I’ve had since I lived in North Carolina. The pork is braised in mojo, a garlic and citrus marinade made with sour orange, lime, and cilantro. After hours of slow cooking, the meat is fork-tender and juicy.
Aldo makes all the desserts and I’m excited to try a few, especially the caramel and coconut flan with caramel sauce. It’s dense, creamy, and smooth and I understand why it’s the house specialty. We also sample the gluten-free warm chocolate mousse with a liquid caramel center. This dessert is eye-rolling, over-the-top good, as is the carrot cake. Aldo makes his with pineapple, coconut, pecans, and raisins, and the cream cheese frosting is just sweet enough.
Rob and Aldo thoroughly enjoy what they do, and it shows in their food, service, and decor. They make strangers feel like friends, and regulars feel like family. The space is quirky, artistic, and truly captures their personalities and charm. Roost is a perfect name for this restaurantit’s a place to sit, visit, relax, and enjoy a home cooked meal.
1300 Rt. 1 | Cape Neddick | 207.363.0266 | roostcafeandbistro.com