CAPE ELIZABETH — With natural wood furniture and architecture, a bright sun room, and a 27-tap bar along the back wall, the eye is drawn to many places inside Rudy’s of the Cape.
And with bouquets of fresh flowers at every table and aromas wafting from the open kitchen, the nose is captivated too.
Rudy’s, at 517 Ocean House Road, originally opened in 1963 but reopened last month with a new look and atmosphere. After a lengthy process of obtaining town approvals, owner Paul Woods is ready to move Rudy’s forward.
“We’re extremely proud of this restaurant,” Woods said recently. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this.”
Woods, who bought the restaurant in 2011, has transformed the building from the eatery familiar to generations of Cape Elizabeth residents.
“Rudy’s has had a real place in the hearts of people in Cape and beyond,” he said. “We’re thrilled to add to that.”
Woods has now done away with some of the amenities offered by the old Rudy’s. He no longer sells cigarettes or convenience store items, but instead offers a menu of home-cooked “super-tasty, super-approachable” dishes.
He described the cuisine as a “contemporary American menu, with killer wood-fired pizza,” as well as oysters, salads, pork, tuna and more. He said one of the most popular items has been “Daddy’s Fried Chicken.”
Woods also raved about the burgers, saying their juicy flavor comes from the way they’re cooked. The sous-vide burgers are all cooked in a “controlled vapor technology oven” before being thrown on the grill.
Business at the 80-seat restaurant has been good since the reopening on Feb. 26, he added.
“It was jammed (on opening night). I was tremendously thankful for that,” Woods said. “It’s been strong and steady every night.”
Despite the new look, local diners find much that is familiar. The restaurant’s floors, tables, walls and bench seats are all made of 150-year-old heritage timber from northern Maine. Maine craft beers are on tap, and the soft drink list features Maine root sodas.
Woods said he felt it was important to use local materials and ingredients, because he believes in doing good and creating things that will last.
“It’s giving back to the town, creating a high-quality, fun place where people can enjoy themselves,” he said.
Woods said the restaurant appeals to a wide range of people, from families to foodies, or those just looking for a drink.
“People from all walks of life are welcome here,” he said. “We worked very hard to make sure we have a varied social ecosystem.”
He admitted that the experience of redeveloping and reopening Rudy’s was difficult at times. But ultimately he feels it was worthwhile.
“We’re happy here,” he said. “The staff is happy and people are happy.”
At Rudy’s, which reopened last month, a community table sits in the middle of the restaurant, with the bar to one side, the spacious sun room on the other, and the open kitchen to the back.
The sun room at the front of Rudy’s features tall windows that let in natural light during the day while creating an urban feel at night. A cutout in the wall has an attached garage door that can be opened or closed.