BAR HARBOR — At Town Hill Takeout, the space may be small, but the flavors are huge.
Inside a nondescript white building along Route 102 in Town Hill, a tiny kitchen is filled with the sounds of sizzling meats and the aroma of fragrant chimichurri and other spices. The casual takeout restaurant run by Amanda Kendall of Sassafras Catering is serving up tacos, taco salads, steamed buns and creative side dishes whipped up by chef Cary Hanson, formerly of Cleonice Mediterranean Bistro in Ellsworth.
Kendall, who has owned Sassafras Catering in Bar Harbor since 2002, bought Town Hill Takeout from friend Julie Berberian in the winter of 2016.
“I started out doing pretty much what Julie was doing,” Kendall said, which was serving up comforting ramen, dumplings and steamed buns in the dreary winter months. “But I wanted to put the Sassafras into it with sustainable ingredients and pretty much as zero waste as possible.”
Now, Town Hill Takeout is focused on summery tacos created with seasonal ingredients. In the winter, it will continue to serve tacos but also carry the Asian noodle dishes that locals have come to crave on long winter days.
Kendall says she sees Town Hill Takeout as an accessible outlet for her catering business.
“People can’t experience Sassafras unless they hire us for an event,” she said, so Town Hill Takeout is a way to serve up her unique offerings to the masses.
All ingredients are sourced as locally as possible from nearby farms such a Mandala Farm in Gouldsboro, Beech Hill Farm in Mount Desert, Maine Coast Sea Vegetables of Hancock, Chickadee Hill Farm in Bar Harbor, Smith Family Farm in Otter Creek and Peekytoe Provisions in Bar Harbor. Other ingredients are sourced from other Maine farms.
The process for creating each menu item is as painstaking as sourcing the ingredients.
The meat for the brisket taco takes three days to prepare. On day one, the brisket is marinated in Crooked Porch coffee and Ricker Hill Orchards apple cider and on the second day it is slow-roasted at a very low temperature for about six hours. On the last day, the meat is pulled apart and the marinade cooked down for a flavorful sauce.
“A lot of time and love is put into all of our menu items,” Kendall said.
The “Kendall,” a traditional ground beef taco made with Nelson Family Farm beef, sour cream and salsa, is a favorite among customers as well as Amanda Kendall and her daughter, Kira, who works for her mother’s businesses.
Growing up, Kira Kendall said, a family tradition was a taco night featuring a giant lazy Susan filled with as many toppings as could fit inside a taco shell.
“That was one of my favorite things growing up,” Kira Kendall said.
In addition to brisket, chorizo and beef tacos, there are vegan and vegetarian options as well.
The vegan Farm Fresh taco changes weekly based on what local farms have to offer. It is mostly raw, wrapped in a seaweed-infused corn tortilla with miso dressing and nori.
Maine-grown black beans are slow-cooked and refried and combined with sweet potatoes for a savory and sweet vegetarian taco.
All of the corn taco shells are gluten free and there are vegetarian and vegan side dishes as well.
Kimchi deviled eggs are a nod to Town Hill Takeout’s origins, as is the Szechuan chicken salad and the seaweed salad.
For those wanting a well-rounded meal, two tacos paired with black beans and brown rice are a filling option.
“We have a lot to offer people with dietary restrictions,” Kendall said. “There is something on our menu for everyone.”
Town Hill Takeout is open from 2:30-7 p.m., Friday to Monday at 1317 Route 102 in Bar Harbor. Tel.: 801-9042.