Robinson's Wharf in Southport has been spruced up a bit over the past few months.
The restaurant, closed since Jan. 1, is open again, and you'll notice a nice difference when you enter the dining area. No big changes – most of them are for practical reasons, like more open space for diners’ comfort and waiters’ and cooks’ ease.
Kellie Slater’s family, who has a home in the area and a real estate business in Denver, Colorado, bought the restaurant from David Winslow last summer.
An open-air bar, new pilings, solar lights, and docks with 12 new slips for boaters were added last summer, and several pristine, glossy white Adirondack chairs were added to help alleviate the problem of customers waiting outside.
Slater said the more recent changes are mainly in the first floor dining area, and the kitchen. At one end of the dining room, an area that was used for storage has been opened up, with a bench along the wall for customers waiting to dine. The new bar, an exact replica of the old one, extends to that wall. Windows were added to give a view of the water along the whole length of the bar, and new, modern lighting was installed above it. Another small bar, with four tall chairs facing the dining room, was added to the space.
There are three new booths with water views, and heavy wood tabletops were custom-built to make the tables more accommodating to the space. A new kick-wall was added outside the windows that open to the kitchen, to provide a practical, unobstructed area for the waitstaff to pick up their orders. “It gets crazy in here in the summer, so we didn’t add any seating,” Slater said. “We just tried to open up the space.”
The kitchen has been totally renovated, with a lot of new equipment and the removal of two large beams that got in the cooks’ way.
But the kitchen’s biggest change is the new chef, Keith Stafford. “He’s great,” Slater said. ‘We’re really happy we have him.” Stafford came to Robinson’s from Fisherman’s Wharf, and he has worked at Brown Brothers and at Lobsterman’s Wharf in East Boothbay. The menu will remain the same as it was last summer, with a few additions. One new item is the “Slater Dog Deal,” named for Craig Slater. “My dad always gets two grilled hot dogs. They put it on the menu so he didn’t have to order it from the kitchen anymore.”
“We tried not to do too many renovations,” Slater said. “We didn’t want to change the flavor of the place, because Robinson’s has such a good feel. People love it upstairs,” she said. “We’re going to get some new equipment behind the bar, and new tabletops, but I don’t want to change anything else, because people like it the way it is.”
Slater said one of her favorite additions is the corrugated metal, painted a faux rust color, placed in a few strategic locations. “It’s a Colorado thing. It’s a roofing material, but it’s being incorporated in restaurants and houses now.”
A new ramp will be added for boaters this summer. It will run directly up to the outside bar. An old sail will be converted into a canvas awning over the bar, and two bathrooms have been added, making a total of four. “That’s a huge upgrade,” Slater said with a laugh.
As for the crew, including manager Rachael Leeman, Slater said she couldn’t be more pleased. Andrea Hallinan, who has worked at Robinson’s for around 10 years, was behind the bar on opening day, March 27. She has a hand in pretty much everything in the business – waiting tables, tending bar, and managing the dining room. Pointing to her, Slater said, “You should do a story about her.” Hallinan is one of those people who can wait on a table of 12, take the orders without writing anything down, and deliver each meal, with sides and special requests, in perfect order.
A happy note for dog lovers: Your canine friends are welcome in the outside bar area.
The restaurant is located at 20 Hendricks Hill Road. The phone number is 207-633-3830. See Robinson’s web page or Facebook page for hours.