The fire at the end of April 2006, that caused the Village Inn to close, was considered a tragedy that impacted the entire Lewiston-Auburn area. Long-time patrons were dismayed, and the larger community felt as though it had lost a vital part of its fabric. “We expected to re-open within six months,” co-owner Belinda Vallee explained, “but it took more than two years. We kept running into people everywhere who told us constantly that we needed to keep pushing, to not give up. My in-laws were called at home. The community has been so supportive. People were so patient when we first re-opened in July 2009. We got a terrific welcome back – it’s great to know that people didn’t forget us.”
How could they forget? The Village Inn has prospered through three generations of the Vallee family, since 1963, and remains a local institution. Fine family dining, special family recipes, value pricing, and dedication to the community have characterized the Auburn landmark since its inception.
“We have always served excellent meats, cut to order, along with chicken and pasta dishes. We have a new chicken Oriental salad, too, but of course, we’re best known for seafood, said co-owner Mike Vallee. “We’re the home of the original ‘two-fer’ in L-A. We’ve always served generous portions, but since we re-opened, we also feature ‘basket portions’ all the time, day or night, smaller ‘anchor portions’ of our baked dishes and even a ‘mates portion’ of our famous seafood platter.”
The menu may be diverse, and highlighted by award-winning chowders and soups, but the Inn’s reputation comes from its famous fried dishes, especially clams and scallops. Well, that and the famous slow-roasted prime rib. As always, they use the highest-quality, cholesterol-free frying oil. Everything is made to exacting standards using fresh, local ingredients according to secret family recipes for chowder, batter, stuffing and gravies.
The historic front of the dining area escaped the fire, which consumed the kitchen and the second-floor Captain Don’s loft/function area. When patrons returned after the July 2009 re-opening, they found the familiar blended with a whole new look — more spacious, yet warmly cozy. “We expect Captain Don’s loft to re-open by this summer,” Mike said, “and it will look as great as the rest of the space.”
The community has been good to the family, the Vallees asserted, but they have been generous with the community over the years, as well.
“We do what we can to give back,” said Mike. “We’ve been a major sponsor of the Lions’ youth hockey tournament for years and we’ve also become more involved with the Balloon Festival, After the earthquake in Haiti, the Village Inn created a “Share a Heart for Haiti” fundraiser, but at the same time, proceeds were shared between Haitian relief efforts and a local cancer community center effort, because, said Belinda, “as much as we wanted to show our support for the people of Haiti, it was also important to not forget about our own community at such a time.”
“There have always been a bunch of the kids working here,” said Mike, “grandkids, nieces and nephews, our kids – there’s a picture of our son, Michael, out front. He was about three years old, but he was already wearing an apron.” And the affection the family has had for their community has been returned many times over by the abundance of old and new fans settling comfortably back in to the familiar, but all new Village Inn.
Feeding the community in body and spirit has always been a labor of love for the Vallee family.
165 High St., Auburn