ELLSWORTH — “Flexit Café & Bakery”— whatever one thinks of the name — is drawing folks daily who are happy there is food again at the Maine Grind.
Very good food.
And muffins, cookies and cakes to go along with the soup, salads and sandwiches.
Owner Paul Markosian addresses the name first.
“The name Flexit is meant to evoke, among other things, the term ‘flexitarian,’ which is an approach to eating that is not locked into a single dietary model,” he said.
“It’s also someone who likes to try, and mix, many different styles of food,” Markosian said. “Flexit also refers to the idea that the menu supports a healthy lifestyle (with muscle flexing) and indulgent desserts alongside salad. And, finally, Flexit stands for a ‘yes we can’ attitude.”
Markosian and his wife, Lorena, already have a successful restaurant — Finn’s Irish Pub — just down the street.
But that is a pub that features heartier food, more along the lines of comfort food.
So, now to the Flexit menu.
The café offers breakfast, lunch and food to take home for dinner.
They also have smoothies with customers choosing three among five fruits, which then are combined with yogurt and orange juice, or soy or almond milk.
Their juice bar is scheduled to open in mid-April.
Breakfast options include, among others, a burrito with cinnamon-chipotle roasted sweet potatoes, quiche and muffins.
Lunch includes four different soups each day, at least one of which is vegan. One recent day there was roasted red pepper bisque with smoked Gouda; haddock chowder; lentil and butternut squash and apple on the menu.
The sandwiches range from the familiar — turkey with lettuce, tomato and mayo — to the more exotic — Banh Mi, a Vietnamese classic with fresh cilantro, carrots, jalapeño, cucumbers and mayo with choice of roast pork, grilled chicken or baked marinated tofu.
The Cubano is novel and popular: a roast Cuban-style pork with applewood smoked ham, mustard, pickle and Swiss on a pressed telera (Mexican) roll.
The salads reflect the healthy aim of Flexit with a Super Greens Salad featuring baby organic kale, red and green chard, spinach, cucumber, carrots and balsamic vinaigrette.
The Red Quinoa Salad is gaining followers with its shaved fennel, sliced radish and baby greens dressed with and olive oil vinaigrette to which a diner may add grilled chicken or roasted tempeh.
The chicken, turkey and beef products are raised without antibiotics or artificial growth hormones.
Flexit uses only eggs from free range chickens. Most of the produce is organic.
“In general, we serve a wide array of menu items made from healthy and sustainable ingredients, combining bold flavors in many enticing combinations,” Markosian said.
The Markosians also worked their magic on the interior.
They took down a partial wall in the dining room and placed it in the “parlor” entryway, which has a couch, overstuffed chair and tables.
The two couches that once flanked a wall in the open dining room are back. The Maine Grind, after all, was known as “Ellsworth’s living room.”
The colors are a vibrant play on Tuscan with deep yellows, burnt orange and smoky browns.
Markosian said he sees Flexit’s role in the community as a gathering place.
“Already we have seen business people meeting clients here, friends meeting friends, runners from the Flat Top 5K road race assembling here after their run,” he said.
Markosian also would like teenagers and younger children to know this is their place too. Flexit recently purchased a bookshelf and stocked it with kids’ books and games.
There will be a little commingling between Finn’s and Flexit.
Flexit will bake for the café as well as prepare Finn’s signature cakes.
Flexit, which is closed evenings, also will be available for parties over 20 for special functions — such as rehearsal dinners — that Finn’s does not have the space to accommodate.
The two restaurants might collaborate on catering events with Finn’s providing the bar since Flexit does not have a liquor license and Flexit providing the food.
Flexit Café & Bakery is open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Flexit Café Quinoa Salad
Serves 4 to 8 people
1 tsp. salt
8 oz. water
1 medium fennel bulb (approximately 12 oz.), quartered and shaved
4 oz. radish, sliced
5 oz. baby greens (kale, chard, or spinach or all three!), coarsely chopped
2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 oz. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. prepared Dijon mustard
pinch ground black pepper
Kosher salt or sea salt to taste
In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa, salt and water over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed.
Combine the fennel, radish, greens and lemon juice in a bowl and, after the quinoa has cooled, add it as well.
In a separate, smaller, bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, and pepper. Add this to the quinoa mix and toss well.
Add salt if necessary and serve. May be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated for up to 24 hours.