The Lincoln County News
Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over 140 years
June 22, 2022 at 1:50 pm
Grace Goldberg, owner of Savory Maine in Damariscotta, stands outside the Water Street restaurant in front of the Damariscotta River on Tuesday, June 21. After 11 years serving home-style food made with local and organic ingredients, Goldberg will be hanging up her apron after Monday, June 27. (Evan Houk photo)
Savory Maine in Damariscotta will serve its last meal on Monday, June 27 and close after 11 years serving home-style cooking made with only organic and local ingredients.
The restaurant, located at 11 Water St., will be open from noon to 7 p.m., Friday, June 24 through Monday, June 27.
However, owner Grace Goldberg has been running the restaurant as a one-woman show for the past few weeks and cautions that space is extremely limited and reservations should be made well in advance.
“I need to close before it gets busy,” Goldberg said during an interview on Tuesday, June 21.
Staffing issues have been a challenge for the past four or five years and are the deciding factor in closing, she said. Goldberg has not been able to hire anyone, even with advertising, in the past few weeks, cementing her decision to hang up her apron.
“It’s now summer. Everybody’s looking for help,” she said.
Savory Maine opened in 2011 and was originally housed on the building’s upper floor, which had a larger dining room. The restaurant used to host numerous events like dinner theaters, open mics, and art receptions.
The lower level initially housed a retail shop where diners could purchase the ingredients Goldberg uses in her cooking. The downsize happened about four years ago because Goldberg “got tired of going up and down steps,” she said.
Prior to Savory Maine opening, Goldberg had been cooking using only local and organic ingredients.
“I would say 90% of my food was local. I would just eat what’s in season in Maine,” Goldberg said.
A view of a takeout order of Annettes meatloaf marinara from Savory Maine in Damariscotta, with the white building of the restaurant showing in the distant background, on Sunday, June 19. The dish was the first recipe Savory Maines owner and chef, Grace Goldberg, learned from her mother when she was young and it is still on the menu. (Evan Houk photo)
Goldberg, who said she is not a professionally trained chef, had the idea to spread the joy she felt eating local to the wider community and opened Savory Maine.
“I wanted to show people that we could eat year-round with what we grow in our backyard,” Goldberg said. “We have this great crop of young farmers that are growing organically and I wanted to support them.”
It all started with Annette’s meatloaf marinara. That was the first recipe Goldberg learned from her mother when she was young. The meatloaf is still on the menu.
“It gives me pleasure to serve people what I think is really good food and take care and intention,” Goldberg said.
For a time, Goldberg did work as a cook at The Keeper’s House Inn on Isle Au Haut, where she cooked part time for the first two years they were open, but that is the extent of her professional cooking experience.
“A lot of the things on the menu are things I cook and I like,” she said.
The building at 11 Water St. has a unique history. It was built in 1805 and originally was the Sheepscot Village schoolhouse, before being moved to Damariscotta, where it became the Christian Science Church, Goldberg said.
Goldberg, who was born in Connecticut, has an interesting and diverse career prior to planting her roots at Savory Maine.
She originally moved to Maine to attend Bates College in Lewiston and “basically never looked back.”
“I love Maine. I’ve lived in a number of different places and I’m grateful I found this community,” Goldberg said.
She first worked as a social worker before a higher calling pulled her in a new direction.
“It got back to my deep concern about the planet and feeling like I wanted to do something much more direct,” Goldberg said.
A grand opening party is held in the upstairs dining room of Savory Maine, at 11 Water St. in Damariscotta, on June 26, 2011. Owner and chef Grace Goldberg has run the restaurant as a one-woman show for the past few weeks and will be closing after Monday, June 27, largely due to inability to find staff. (Photo courtesy Grace Goldberg)
Goldberg said she strongly feels that humans cannot continue with the food system the way it is.
“We can’t keep trucking food across the country and spending more energy than is available in the food,” Goldberg said.
She attended the Shelter Institute in Woolwich and built her own house in Bremen in 1985, after learning how to at the institute.
“I learned enough to think I knew what I was doing, but not so much to realize how little I knew,” Goldberg said with a laugh. “It’s like, OK, I can hammer these two boards together, and then I can hammer another board together, and by golly, I’ve got a wall.”
She worked as a massage therapist for a time and then decided to go to medical school at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford.
“So, I am a doctor,” Goldberg said.
However, the demands of the job became too much after just three weeks in a residency program.
“I quit after three months because I could not work 80 hours to 100 hours a week,” Goldberg said.
She then became Rising Tide Co-op’s general manager and helped to right the financial ship and save the natural foods store from closing.
The Savory Maine building at 11 Water St. in Damariscotta on Wednesday, June 22. The home-style restaurant that uses all organic and local ingredients will be closing after Monday, June 27, largely due to an inability to find staffing. (Alec Welsh photo)
After having a successful nine-year run at Savory Maine, the COVID-19 pandemic upended things. The restaurant was forced to close for a time and already burdensome staffing challenges became even more prevalent.
Goldberg planned to close at the end of the summer in 2020, even writing a letter to the editor of The Lincoln County News.
“I was going to close in August, then we started to get busy,” Goldberg said with a chuckle.
When the business kept coming through Christmas, she decided to open back up in 2021 after a winter break.
“We were relatively busy,” Goldberg said. “So we just kept going.”
Some of the most popular items on the menu throughout the years have been the haddock chowder, quiche, and the roasted chicken dinner, Goldberg said.
After Savory Maine closes on Monday, June 27, Goldberg said she plans on enjoying some well-earned rest and relaxation before figuring out to do with the building.
Goldberg will also keep the Savory Maine Facebook page active to provide updates for her customers and friends to keep in touch.
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