VisitingNewEngland small business partnership
Why Jonathan's Restaurant is an Essential Part of the Ogunquit,
Jonathan's slogan has always been
to eat well, but the joy goes well beyond the food
Jonathan West, owner of Jonathan's Restaurant in Ogunquit.
Photo credit: Lauryn
Article by Eric Hurwitz, @newenglandinfo. Story
created on 10/5/2019.
When seeking an outstanding
place to dine out in Ogunquit, Maine, the best option would be to go
Specifically, Jonathan West's home.
This isn't just any old home, however. It's a restaurant possessing a
long and wonderful history that epitomizes the small business American
Dream. Back in 1976, Jonathan purchased his parents' home and
2,800 sq ft. structure eventually into a 12,000 sq. ft. restaurant --
the largest in Maine.
Approaching Jonathan's Restaurant in Ogunquit.
His homey restaurant possesses visual delights
virtually every step of the way. The renovations and personal care of
the property would make HGTV design and renovation experts proud
including a large entertainment venue room upstairs, a 600-gallon fish
tank, cozy dining rooms with an
upscale-meets-casual flair, a contemporary lounge, meeting rooms and
beautifully developed, sprawling colorful gardens outside. Jonathan's wife,
Carol, has the magic green thumb in the family, expertly maintaining and
enhancing the beautiful outdoor spaces at Jonathan's.
Dining by gardens at Jonathan's Restaurant.
Additionally, Jonathan is a curator of local art with 250-plus
paintings and drawings saturating the restaurant walls. It is like
walking into an
art museum (it isn't) but one with food aromas that eventually lead to
mouthwatering diverse cuisines to die for.
Cozy entrance room, many paintings. Photo credit: Lauryn Hottinger.
Music plays a significant role in the appeal of Jonathan's
Restaurant. Famous singers who have performed here
include Arlo Guthrie, Judy
Collins, Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, The Indigo Girls, The Irish Rovers, the
late Laura Nyro and Leon Russell, Jonathan Edwards,
George Winston, Marty Stuart and Tiny Tim. Comedians Lenny Clarke,
Paula Poundstone and Bob Marley have also performed
Arlo Guthrie sings at Jonathan's. Photo credit: Reg Bennett.
Music is an important part of Jonathan's life, and that is why he
started entertainment at the restaurant many years ago. The artists he
performing, however, draw a significant and critical parallel to what
Jonathan does at his restaurant. Jonathan understands that the artists'
loving hand can be applied to professions beyond drawing and singing.
Chefs can also create forms of art, too.
"You have to be in this business for all the right reasons," said
Jonathan. "How can you be a singer and not know how to write a good
song? The same applies with cooking. How can you be a chef and not know
how to cook? I have this passion for cooking and have made it my life."
Maine seafood pasta. Photo credit: Lauryn Hottinger.
When a House Becomes a Home...and a Restaurant
Walking the steps to Jonathan's Restaurant.
Jonathan's house is a very, very, very fine house, as Crosby, Stills,
Young once sang -- even with its expansions. One step into the main
creates an instant welcoming
feeling. It feels like walking into a family member's home for a nice home-cooked meal and conversation.
exactly what happens at Jonathan's with Jonathan, Carol, children Caitlan Etchevers,
George and Caraboo and two nephews (JB and Alex Bidirian) all involved
operation. A biologically non-related staff comes across, too, like
being part of the family. Everyone is so warm, personable, caring and attentive
here -- perhaps more than some family members you know.
comes across to his staff as an inspiration, mentor and friend.
"I've worked here for several years," said Max Potvin, a North Berwick
native who left home for a while to seek career opportunity but came
back to find a job he truly enjoys. "I could have worked in a cubicle
somewhere but this is where I like to be. Jonathan is great to work
for. He cares about us and those who dine here. He creates amazing
food. It makes a huge
difference, having someone like him to work for."
Jonathan clearly has a passion for food, but also for people.
"You're at my home," said Jonathan, of his restaurant. "I want you to
come back. I want your children and grandchildren to come back. I want
you to enjoy food that is delicious and recognizable, read the menu and
know what you are eating. That is what we are all about here."
Quaint dining room.
Locals and vacationers have taken notice, often in lines, to enjoy this
one-of-a-kind restaurant. The media has also caught on with myriad positive stories and reviews. More than 900 reviews on TripAdvisor yield a 4.5 star average for
Jonathan's Restaurant. Yankee
Jonathan's in its Favorite Things
to Do in Ogunquit, Maine story (March 26, 2017) and as a best
place in New England for dinner and a show. The
Maine Restaurant Association named Jonathan as the Maine
of the Year in 2017. The list of accolades goes on and on, a testimony to
Jonathan who traveled a long and winding road to find his passion.
While that road involved discovering a whole new world overseas,
Jonathan ultimately became worldly while staying close to home in Ogunquit for the
majority of his blessed life.
Jonathan, 69, took a different career route, achieving great
initially bypassing college and traveling Europe on his own in the late
1960s. He also gained valuable business experience running a lobster shack at Perkins Cove in Ogunquit
for 10 years.
overseas provided a life-changing
experience for Jonathan although he didn't fully realize it at the time.
"I was there for two winters," said Jonathan. "I learned how to eat
and drink. I fell in love with French food, Greek food, German food,
Austrian food, Italian food. I
learned how to cook there. I realized that I wanted to be in the food
business. I found a passion. I don't know if you ever know your passion
ahead of time, you just find it through experience. I found out I have
a passion for food, art and people."
Jonathan, no doubt, also had the
hospitality bug in his DNA with generations of West family members
owning hotels, bars
and restaurants in the area for more than 80 years. His great grandfather
owned a hotel. When he died, his grandma took it over and then
eventually Jonathan's dad.
Jonathan's parents had moved to a home on Bourne Lane in Ogunquit in 1964 and stayed
there 10 years until they put the home up for sale.
"It wasn't selling so I leased it," said Jonathan. "And that's how
things happened. That's where I started Jonathan's and it is in the same location to this very day."
Jonathan's Restaurant: Built for the 21st Century
For convenience sake, Jonathan's could be called a casual upscale
dining experience, but it has far more depth than that restaurant
bumper sticker slogan. Jonathan's can't really be compared to any
other restaurants because
Jonathan has put his own unique stamp on the restaurant largely by combining the
wonders of coastal Maine cuisine with European flourishes.
He was also ahead of the curve locally during the 1970s serving foods like avocados and
oysters when virtually no one else was doing this. In the 21st century, Jonathan embraces diverse cuisine styles. He
especially loves to
incorporate French cuisine touches into the food but also knows the
value of the familiar like a nice cup of chowder or bisque or a
wood-fired grilled steak.
Grilled New York sirloin with fresh greens and mashed potatoes.
New England clam chowder and lobster bisque. Photo credit: Lauryn Hottinger.
That simplicity also
transcends to the homemade breads with blueberry honey butter first
out to the table...
Breads with blueberry honey butter.
Appetizers like the artichoke hearts are
filling and delicious enough to stand alone as a meal but, ultimately, a
great precursor to the main course...
Artichoke hearts from Jonathan's Restaurant. Photo credit: Lauryn Hottinger.
And there's certainly no "squid pro quo" when it comes to the calamari
-- the customer can enjoy these fried morsels sourced straight from the local seas at a fair price. It
can be prepared as Rhode Island Spicy Calamari with pickles and spicy
aioli or as Sweet Calamari tossed in a sweet chili sauce.
Mouthwatering calamari. Photo credit: Lauryn Hottinger.
As a foundation to his culinary creations, Jonathan knows the value of
farm-to-table cuisine. He, in fact,
was farm-to-table before farm to table was cool. To call
his food just farm-to-table would be an injustice, however. Food sourced from
all the major food groups is technically all farm--to-table. So, that food
from a farm in California and be shipped all the way to Maine, thus
resulting in a potentially less fresh food. Jonathan, on the other
hand, has his own 12-acre farm in South Berwick, Maine, not too far from Jonathan's.
Jonathan at his farm in South Berwick. Photo,
courtesy of Jonathan's Restaurant.
Everything Jonathan raises at the farm is organic including apples,
blueberries, blackberries, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots,
beets, squash, gourds lettuces and other greens, rhubarbs, basil, eggs
and lamb. A look at the colorful plant life just a few miles from the
restaurant proves that produce picked fresh from the ground makes a big
difference in the quality of the produce that ends up at the restaurant.
Beets from Jonathan's farm. Photo, courtesy of Jonathan's
Customers reap the benefit of that local responsible farming in many
different expressions, including this salad...
Fresh salad straight from the nearby farm. Included:
a pinch bowl with sea salt and coarse ground pepper.
"Yeah, farm-to-table, I've done that for 43 years," said Jonathan,
with a smile.
Jonathan likes the term, "locavore" better than farm-to-table, as
that word generally connotes food sourcing within 50 miles of a
"There are some exceptions, like the bleu cheese, which is from Rhode
Island," said Jonathan. "But that's still in New England."
Maine and seafood are synonymous, so Jonathan offers some fabulous
local dishes right off the boat that include, of course, Maine
Maine lobster dinner. Photo credit: Lauryn Hottinger.
Then there are the Taunton Bay
Oysters, also from coastal
Oysters. Photo credit:
prioritizes sustainable-raised fish including the salmon that comes
the Bay of Maine.
"It's delicious," said Jonathan, of the salmon. "it's raised in cold
water. The taste is better. You won't find any caged farm fish here."
The swordfish special takes on a
delightful twist. It is prepared in a piccata style, breaded and pan
fried and cooked perfectly to keep the moisture in. Capers, lemon
beurre, blanc, mashed potatoes and maple carrots lend further balance
and substance to this phenomenal dish.
Swordfish piccata with carrots and mashed potatoes.
"Swordfish dry is horrible," said Jonathan. "Swordfish moist is great.
It's that simple. Making the swordfish this way keeps that moisture in.
We think it's delicious."
For those adults who like to imbibe, Jonathan's offers an impressive
list of brews (many local), wines and cocktails.
Many customers rationalize the need for homemade desserts, even if the
substantial main course servings leave little room for anything else.
The chocolate mousse is a favorite...
Chocolate mousse. Photo credit: Lauryn Hottinger.
And mouthwatering, warming gems like the blueberry crisp with vanilla
ice cream burst with such fabulous flavor that it's tempting to
order another one...
Homemade blueberry crisp for dessert.
Jonathan's Restaurant Atmosphere: Sweet Harmony, Every Square Foot
Candlelit tables, wonderful ambiance.
Jonathan's does possess an upscale element but don't mistake that
kind of attitude or snobbery. It is the type of place for dinner where
have to worry about using the wrong fork. Jonathan's acts like a best friend that you hold in the highest
regard. It is a restaurant born with a humble nature, gratitude, hard
work ethic and an appreciation for people and hearty, genuine food. The
apple doesn't fall far from the tree and within that regard, the tone
that Jonathan sets by example resonates through to his employees. In
this day of age where the country is so divided, spending time at
Jonathan's Restaurant is like a temporary utopia shielded from the
harsher elements of the world. Simply put, it's a really nice place to
Ultimately, Jonathan's features an unpretentious atmosphere but
still can be an ideal, romantic candlelit date night out destination.
the other hand, just about every walk of
life finds Jonathan's a perfect side dish or main entree to the Ogunquit
experience -- one of the northeast's most beautiful coastal towns with so many memorable things to see and do. Like
Ogunquit, Jonathan's welcomes everyone.
"I have pretty much been here my whole life," said Jonathan. "We used
to have two grocery stores, two hardware shops, a pharmacy and not a
whole lot more. It has grown quite a bit. We have grown a lot, too. But
Ogunquit is still a beautiful place to be. And our restaurant still
remains a place people enjoy. I think we keep getting better. Although
some people find it serendipitously, most know (Jonathan's) as a destination.
Just like Ogunquit."
Jonathan's Restaurant can be a dream spot for a wedding with nice
spaces inside and idyllic settings outside...
Wedding scene. Photo, courtesy of Jonathan's Restaurant.
Enjoying the great outdoors at Jonathan's. Photo, courtesy of Jonathan's
It's a place to enjoy live music in the large upstairs entertainment venue
Folk music legend Judy Collins performs at Jonathan's. Photo
credit: Reg Bennett.
Or serve a dining space that kids of all ages can enjoy, courtesy of that
Big, comfortable dining space with aquarium at Jonathan's.
Jonathan's can just be a spot to just hang out in the lounge and talk about the day,
politics, sports or anything else that comes to mind. It is kind of
like the Cheers of Ogunquit in this bar area...
Lounge at Jonathan's. Photo credit: Lauryn Hottinger.
Jonathan has not only created a "build it and they will come" small
business but a "build it and they will come together" destination.
There's a big difference between the two: Jonathan is far more
interested in creating an authentic restaurant with a sense of
community rather than just another business with a mission to make
"I believe in people first, money second," said Jonathan. "Being in
good company, that's what it's all about. I love seeing our
customers and working together with staff. You also have to
be current and relevant but keep what people want, too. There are some
things we will never take off the menu. But we are creative, always
trying new things."
Wild Mushroom Pappardelle. Photo credit: Lauryn
At 69, Jonathan is in no rush to
retire. It seems like he is eternally in a Maine state of mind rather
than a Florida or Hawaii one.
"Retiring to Florida? No, I don't
have any thoughts of retiring to a warmer place," said Jonathan. "Plus,
I am lousy at golf and can't hulu."
The reality is, Jonathan found his
warm place many years ago in a region of the United States known for
cold weather several months of the year. He loves his local food and
serving it to his extended family in the form of customers. Jonathan
continues to be involved with all aspects of restaurant operations
which is like saying he is in love with life. For Jonathan, owning
Jonathan's Restaurant is a lifestyle more than just a career. He enjoys
the simple things in life like food and making others happy.
"It's like what Stephen Sondheim
once said, 'Don't do what you like,
like what you do,'" said Jonathan with a big smile. "You know, we had a
woman here that celebrated her 100th birthday. To see that... You don't
know how much that meant to me. To see her celebrating here -- enjoying
the food, the people, and celebrating in our restaurant -- well, those are the
things that matter most and that make me most happy."
Restaurant is located at 92 Bourne Lane, Ogunquit, ME. Tel.
Web Site: http://www.jonathansogunquit.com
Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/jonathansogt/
Jonathan's ticketing page: http://tickets.jonathansogunquit.com
Jonathan's Restaurant graphic below on Pinterest...
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