Three enterprising young men have opened a new restaurant on Pier One in Boothbay Harbor called Taka Mediterranean Bar & Grill and they mean business! A thousand tiny lights on the ceiling lead you down the entrance hall to a bright interior decorated in colors reminiscent of the Mediterranean Sea. The exotic smell of delicious cuisine fills the air. Huge windows on all three walls give a sensation of being extended over the harbor. Vases of beautiful flowers abound. There is also seating outside where boats pass just a few feet away. All detail comes together in a thoughtfully orchestrated presentation, right down to the teal-colored lights illuminating the seats of the chairs around the centrally located bar.
Six years ago, Ridvan Erman and Metehan Sahin, exchange students from Istanbul, Turkey came to work for the summer at Linekin Bay Resort. They came back for three more seasons while in college, becoming friends with Alex Mackay, the owner's son. Mackay in turn visited to Istanbul, first for two weeks, then again for three months, followed by a six-month term of study at Yeditepe University so he could learn as much as possible about the culture of the country considered the crossroad of eastern and western civilizations.
Mackay had over 25 years of exposure to the service industry during his youth at Linekin Bay Resort. As he became older, Mackay worked various jobs to help run the resort, including the restaurant. Sahin's family has a restaurant in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, and Erman's family used to have one in southern Turkey. Together, the three began to plan a restaurant of their own.
For the past two years, Mackay and Erman worked at one of the oldest restaurants in Naples, Florida, The Dock, a waterfront place that serves fresh, local seafood. They thought of ways to do this with a Mediterranean menu using the spices and seasonings found in Turkey. They developed a business plan and looked around the Naples, Florida area for a location. Last summer, Sahin, who had stayed behind to work in Boothbay Harbor, heard a restaurant on Pier One was not going to reopen in the spring.
Boothbay Harbor holds nostalgia for Sahin and Erman as their first experience in the U.S. It has also been a longtime summer home for Mackay.
Mackay said, "We dropped everything when the opportunity arose and jumped on it."
They negotiated a lease for the 2019 season. Through friends and family, they were able to hire an esteemed chef Eren Badoglu from New York City, and they returned to Boothbay Harbor to start renovations at the end of February. They did all the renovation work themselves in time to open last week.
Erman, Sahin and Mackay plan to develop a prize-winning menu and eventually open more restaurants around the country through franchising. People may not have to travel far in the future to delight in the authentic flavors of Istanbul, but for now, no further than Pier One.
The restaurant is open Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m-1 a.m., Sat. and Sun., 10 a.m.-1 a.m. (bar menu available after 9:30 p.m.). Reservations: (207) 315-6545.