Cleonice is moving to The Maine Grind

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Yes, it’s finally happening. I spoke with chef/owner Rich Hanson yesterday, and Ellsworth’s extremely popular restaurant Cleonice, located in the historical Luchini building, will be closing after the Valentine’s/Presidents’ Day weekend and reopening in early March at his other location just up the street: The Maine Grind.

Rich and Cary Hanson purchased The Maine Grind, known as Ellsworth’s Living Room, in early 2012, and immediately launched a KickStarter campaign. They raised $20,000 from 76 backers to renovate the space in an Old Mason’s Hall, adding a convection oven, grill, and other supplies to begin making gourmet grilled pizza. Now, Cleonice will be sharing the space.

“It will be the Maine Grind in the morning. It will be a blended lunch, with table service on one side and the coffee lounge on the other. At night, it will be all Cleonice,” Hanson says. “It’ll be an Alice Waters kind of thing with two restaurants in the same space.”

Hanson is excited about reinventing Cleonice for that space. He plans an expanded open kitchen. “The tapas will come right out of the kitchen. It won’t be separate like it is now,” he says. At night, he’s thinking of topping tables with butcher paper. And he’s planning banquettes to assuage the lose of those wonderful booths at the current location.

He also plans more blackboard specials, more house-made charcuterie, and a greater emphasis on Cleonice’s locavore rep. “It’s amazing how many craftspeople are around here,” he says. “We’re now working with a couple of small fishing coops here, and we want to source fish from the boat. We want to show people how we source our products; how close we are to it.”

Hanson’s had his own farm for a few years. “We have a flock of about 40 laying chicks, usually about six pigs, and herbs” he says. “We also grow stuff that is unique to our cuisine, that wouldn’t make sense for a farmer to produce. Two Turkish eggplant plants are enough for us for a couple of months of specials.”

And what’s to happen to Cleonice’s old space? Hanson says it’s been sold and a new restaurant is planned. Rumors are that it might serve Greek fare. Stay tuned.