Meet the Captain!
Open just two months, Captain Bly’s Tavern could very well be the new place “where everybody knows your name.”
Located a few minutes past the Buckfield town line with Turner on Route 117, it’s a family-friendly pub-style restaurant with evening entertainment, welcoming waitstaff and an affordable menu featuring a variety of burgers and good old Maine comfort food.
Longtime friends and now business partners Jason Rowe and Mark McAlister, owners of Captain Bly’s Tavern, were in Florida sitting at a restaurant on the water when they tossed around the idea of opening their own restaurant back home in Maine. “We were kidding,” said Rowe, “but before we knew it, we did it!”
Until mid-2012, the building at 371 Turner St. (Route 117) housed Bly’s Garage. Then-owner Steve Bly was, for a period of time, captain of the Buckfield Fire Department and a friend of McAlister’s. And so, Captain Bly’s Tavern seemed a fitting moniker for an establishment reincarnated as a family restaurant.
In the pre-Captain Bly’s days, McAlister built houses, so when it came time to transform the former Bly’s Garage into Captain Bly’s Tavern, he was up to the task.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” says Rowe, as he points out the clever upside-down beer bucket lamp shades suspended by long cords from the high ceiling. “We started renovations in October and we finished by the end of December.”
“Mark knows everybody,” he adds, so they had a lot of help.
They also hired some good people to help them run the place. The three professional cooks Rowe and McAlister brought onboard Captain Bly’s galley — Dottie Walker, Nate Joiner and Mike Santos — “make us look good,” said Rowe.
And to that end, be sure to try Captain Bly’s Fries, homegrown on a Buckfield farm. They’re “hand cut in the kitchen and double fried so that they are crispy and not greasy,” said Rowe, who continues to work at his other job full time, but is at Bly's nearly every evening and weekend. Smother the fries with chili, cheddar and bacon, or dip them in Chef Walker’s secret horseradish honey mustard sauce.
“People put Dottie’s sauce on everything,” says Rowe, but it’s especially good on the hand-cut and lightly battered onion rings.
The tavern's chicken quesadilla is the best seller, says Rowe, but a popular specialty item is the General Bly. It’s two pounds of pulled pork topped with two pounds of Captain Bly's Fries piled high on a big Italian roll — a serious violation of the never-eat-anything-bigger-than-your-head rule. Such a feast generally costs $35, but if you can eat it all it’s on the house.
With the exception of the mozzarella sticks and jalapeno cream cheese poppers, which they buy frozen, everything on the menu is “made to order and fresh” from the galley, says McAlister. “We even bread our own chicken fingers.”
McAlister and Rowe buy local whenever possible, and plan on putting in a greenhouse in the coming months to keep Captain Bly’s kitchen stocked in fresh produce.
McAlister’s favorite meal at Captain Bly’s is the Smokehouse Chicken: “I love the barbecue sauce and the caramelized onions . . . it’s amazing.” Rowe’s favorites are the Yard Bird – turkey, stuffing, cranberries and gravy on a thick slice of Tilton’s Market homemade bread – and “the quarter-pound Barnyard Burger, because it has a fried egg and bacon on it.”
In addition to the food, Captain Bly’s features activities and entertainment every night of the week. On Mondays, patrons can test their skills at the weekly “Cribbage Tournament,” where the grand prize is bragging rights — at least until the next Monday. Every Tuesday patrons can test their knowledge and impress their friends at Trivia Night. Wednesday is Ladies Night, Thursday is Open Mic Night, and Friday and Saturday feature soloists and entertainers such as Bill Price and Arlo West. There's no cover charge.
Captain Bly’s seats 68 in one big rectangular room that includes a wood stove and a long wooden bar where Bud Light is always on tap. You can drop coins in the jukebox or enjoy sports on several large flat-screen televisions.
Captain Bly’s Tavern opens at 11 a.m. seven days a week. Sunday through Wednesday, it closes about 9 p.m.; Thursdays around 10 p.m. On Friday and Saturday nights, “We stay open until midnight, depending on the crowd," says Rowe. “It all depends on what’s going on.”
Captain Bly's Tavern Barnyard Burger
Butter-toasted soft bulky roll
6-ounce fresh, grilled hamburger, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 slices of white American cheese
2 pieces of bacon
1 fried egg (over easy)
Lettuce, tomato and onion