WEST PARIS — The town is one step closer to welcoming a new restaurant and tavern after the Board of Selectmen approved a liquor license Thursday.
Jason Koskela, 36, has lived in Woodstock nearly all his life, except for maybe the time he traveled to Austria to study pastry arts as part of a pilot program through the Maine Technical Colleges. Now he hopes to bring his culinary flair to life in a new restaurant he will call the Rustic Grill and Tavern. The restaurant will be at 64 Bethel Road, the site of the former American Tavern and River Restaurant.
As long as he is able to secure his permitting in time, Koskela plans on opening it Sept. 11. True to its name, the new restaurant will have rustic décor, like an antique record player, an old whiskey barrel and some antique milk barrels.
“The décor is kind of going to be changed up a little bit. It’s going to be old-fashioned,” Koskela said.
There will be a full bar in the new tavern, along with a menu featuring local foods from nearby farms, like pork and beef from Cooper Farms, just down the road.
“I’m trying to stay with local sustainability,” he said.
Koskela says he will offer hand-cut fries and seasonally available local vegetables, along with specialty dishes that are part down-home cooking with an upscale twist.
“The chicken pot pie I think is going to go very well. It will be served in a cast-iron skillet topped with a puff pastry,” Koskela said.
Other items from the menu he anticipates to be popular include a deconstructed lasagna and his own smoked brisket and seasonal-flavored barbecue sauce that may, for instance, use local blackberries in the fall, or blueberries in the late summer.
“So far, it sounds like people are excited. They want to see the place open again. I think I’ve got the support of the locals,” Koskela said.
For the time being, Koskela is leasing the property, which he plans to eventually purchase, along with the cabins across the road along the Little Androscoggin River. He plans to employ eight people.
Koskela graduated from Central Maine Community College in 1997 and worked for seven years as the executive chef at Sunday River’s Jordan Grand Hotel. Most recently, he has worked as a sous chef at the University of Maine in Farmington.