From meat loaf to Mediterranean: Buttered Biscuit makes way for new restaurant in South Portland
SOUTH PORTLAND — Cape Elizabeth resident Audrey Delafield had one question when she learned the Buttered Biscuit was closing last week, to be replaced soon by a Mediterranean restaurant.
"So what do I do for my almond moon cookies?" she asked co-owner Audrey Castro last Friday, the final day the takeout food business at 347 Cottage Road served its faithful customers.
From cookies to soups to side dishes and entrees – and, of course, biscuits – Audrey and Byron Castro served convenient comfort food for almost a decade on Meetinghouse Hill.
"It was just time, I think," said Audrey, who previously was the head chef at the original Victory Deli in Portland's Monument Square.
Her husband noted the concept has caught on at larger area markets.
"It was definitely a thing that had a niche," Byron said. "The little guys got it going and broke it open."
The Castros said they are ready to move on.
“We are going to sit around and eat bonbons,” Audrey joked as she tended food and customers on a day she said was "that double-edged sword.”
Byron said they originally wrote a seven-year business plan.
"You need to rejuvenate every once in a while," he said. "You want to go out on top, or the upper side."
He estimated 97 percent of the business' customer base was local, people who darted in when there was little at home for lunch or supper.
"If you wanted something yummy and comfort food, this was the place to come,” said neighbor Susan Fowles, who admitted to freezing Buttered Biscuit pork pies and enjoying them after the winter holidays.
It was more than cookies that drew Delafield, although she cradled one of the last almond moons like an heirloom.
"It was a nice place to come grab something for lunch. And on the nights you have nothing for supper, a good place to pick up a chicken pot pie,” she said.
The Castros had a clear division of labor in mind when they opened in 2003.
"She didn't want to do the books, I didn't want to do the cooking," said Byron, who previously was a service manager at local auto repair shops.
Audrey presented an array of dishes, and catered parties and events. She said she was willing to use recipes from customers or expand on her own. The only request she refused was preparing meals in pans or crockware owned by customers.
"I liked doing all of it and the beauty is I wasn't stuck to one thing," she said.
The Castros depended on local youths to staff the Buttered Biscuit; many stayed through high school and college and remain in contact from as far away as Colorado and Scotland.
Byron Castro said he would look over school schedules each September to figure out how to best accommodate his staff's needs fo studies and other activities.
Employee Molly Horn said she first met Audrey at the Victory Deli, and was delighted to get a job at the Buttered Biscuit.
“I loved the homey peacefulness, there was a really nice customer base. And it always smelled so delicious walking in the back door," Horn said.
The Buttered Biscuit building at the corner of Cottage Road and Homestead Avenue will not be vacant for long: Cape Elizabeth residents Laura and Robert Butler have been granted a license to open Enio's, a Mediterranean restaurant that will serve dinner and Sunday brunch.
When city councilors approved the license Jan. 23, Laura Butler said the couple expects Enio's to be open in February. The Butlers have a strong blessing from the Castros, who said they held off closing the Buttered Biscuit until someone with the right financing and right fit for the neighborhood came along.
Byron Castro said it is unlikely he and his wife will start a new joint venture.
"For the time being, we would both work for someone else," he said. "It might relax a bit of the responsibilities on us.
But they will miss operating the business, even if it was time to move on, he added.
"The hardest part is seeing regular customers over and over and over again, and then saying goodbye to them," he said.