FREEPORT — Almost two years after fire destroyed the popular Corsican Cafe and Chowder House at 9 Mechanic St., a team of three local chefs have revamped and reopened the space.
Homage Restaurant opened Thursday, Feb. 8. The new building includes two floors of seating for up to 87 customers. It is open Tuesday-Thursday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Once the weather warms, a porch off of the second-floor dining area will add space for an additional five tables.
Executive chef David French designed the space and menu with his wife and pastry chef, Karen, and sous chef, Jay Johnson. Described as “new American,” the menu offers two courses with meals ranging anywhere from $7 to $29, as well as desert and kids’ options.
David French said everything from salad dressings and spice blends, to French fries and breads, are made fresh in-house.
He called the “vibe” of the restaurant “fine casual.”
“It’s a high level of food a service, but more relaxed,” French said, noting the bare, wooden table tops and bar top, glimmering with row after row of pennies, covered by a sheet of glass.
“The space didn’t have a bar and we wanted something unique,” he added. “I’ve always liked copper bar tops, but they’re very hard to take care of.”
So over the past few months, the trio collected more than 11,000 pennies, which they spent four days placing one-by-one across the bar.
Paying homage to their commitment to making everything from scratch, the restaurant’s sign includes an image of a beet in the “O” and a spinach leaf in the “A”. Further, the downstairs and upstairs dining rooms are painted the color of sugar beats and spinach, respectively. A small waiting area at the restaurant’s entrance is painted “roasted cashew.”
The walls are adorned with black-and-white photos, taken by Karen’s sister, Beth. Hands are the subject of all of them.
“They go along with the notion that everything here is done by hand,” David French said, adding that the idea came from a series of photos taken of Karen’s grandmother’s hands shaping a clay bowl on a pottery wheel, which hangs in the front entrance on the restaurant.
Across from it is a photo of Karen’s hand with the engagement ring David bought for her about 20 years ago from Brown Goldsmiths, next door at 11 Mechanic St.
“Freeport has kind of been a home for us,” David French said. “Karen and I bought our first apartment together here over on Mallet Drive.”
Originally from Bath and Brunswick, David and Karen French now live in Bath with their two children. Johnson lives in Freeport.
Having worked in Maine’s restaurant industry for between 15 and 20 years – often together – David French said he, his wife, and Johnson have long dreamed of opening their own space together.
“This is what we’re been wanting to do forever,” David French said. “Opening a restaurant has so many pieces. Once you think you have everything, you find another problem that needs to be solved … but in the end it’s all worth it.”
David French, owner and executive chef of Homage, behind the Freeport restraunt’s bar, which is embellished with more than 11,000 pennies.
Homage restaurant opened Feb. 8 at 9 Mechanic St. in Freeport, where the old Corsican Cafe and Chowder House burned down in 2016.