Hand pies featured at The Salty Owl

By Beth A. Birmingham | Jul 17, 2017
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Erin Armbruster, left, and Casey Dominguez sit on one of the 1800s church pews that lines one side of their new restaurant -- The Salty Owl.

Owls Head — A couple "from away" is making  a go of it here in the Midcoast with new food offerings at Knox Regional Airport.

Blending their backgrounds of flavor connoisseur and baker respectively, Casey Dominguez and Erin Armbruster opened The Salty Owl at 23 Terminal Lane in Owls Head July 6.

Just three months earlier, their plan was to renovate a 1959 Airstream, then a family friend discovered the available space in the airport and they quickly switched gears.

The couple said it has really been a family affair since her mother Carla's best friend, Kelly Heimbecker, found the spot, and with the help of family friend Paul Brainard, The Salty Owl took shape.

"Our truck has seen some beautiful parts of New England so far, and has seen many a creative way to ratchet down oversized loads," they note on their Facebook page about their travels in collecting various components for the restaurant.

From finding a massive slab of pine in New Hampshire to transform into a front counter to locating church pews from the 1800s in Vermont to the vast array of vintage, eclectic dishes collected along their journey from Phoenix, Ariz., the setting is quaint and airy.

"We even dodged our first moose -- think that counts as some sort of Maine right of passage," the Facebook page says.

Even before they made the move, Dominguez said, they were trying various recipes and buying books on Maine foods to try to figure out what the local cuisine was like.

And their signature dish ... hand pies baked fresh to order stuffed with everything from haddock to scrambled eggs to braised pork.

"It's a savory, buttery pie shell we make from scratch," Armbruster said, adding their most popular one is the haddock reuben, which pairs local haddock that has been brining in pickling spices with Morse's sauerkraut, swiss cheese, German mustard and house-made 1000 island dressing.

Armbruster said her mother kept telling them they needed to perfect it, so they sampled them along their journey.

"We thought it was this big thing here," she said, adding, "I think the best one we had was from Moody's Diner."

Bakery items include various cookies and muffins, and their version of pop tarts. One of Armbruster's all-time favorite go-to foods is quiche, which is also offered on a rotating basis.

"It just all depends what's on my mind and what pastry is left over," she said. "You never know what you're going to find."

As a gluten-free option, any of the hand pie recipes can be put over polenta, and there are vegetarian options as well.

The couple praised a small local roaster from Camden, Dan of Coffee on the Porch, for his work in getting the restaurant the best coffee around.

"We have had some great mentors behind the scenes," Dominguez said, adding, "and great collaboration."

"We are blown away at the reception," Armbruster said, noting that most of their business is coming from social media and word of mouth.

With only one week under their belts, the couple said they are still working out the kinks, but believe all signs are pointing in a positive direction.

And about the name -- The Salty Owl ... "It was a group effort," Armbruster said. "We are in Owls Head, naturally, and we are near the ocean, so that salty, hardy Maine mentality."

"We considered The Toasted Owl for a bit," Dominguez said, "but that had more of a bar connotation. So The Salty Owl was the next version," although they do have hopes of offering beer and wine at a later date.

Eat in, carry out, and catering are offered. The Salty Owl is open Thursday through Tuesday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m on weekends. It is closed Wednesday. For more information visit the Facebook page or call 594-0018.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

The first dollar made by The Salty Owl proudly hangs on its spice rack. It is called "Buck's Buck," as it came from Hammon Buck, owner of Plants Unlimited. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
The Animal -- a hand pie stuffed with ground beef, American cheese, caramelized onions, sweet pickles and house-made 1000 island dressing. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Unique name plates let guests know what is available in the bakery at The Salty Owl. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Erin Armbruster wipes down one of the tables that overlooks the air strip. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
An old-fashioned chalkboard serves as the welcome sign at The Salty Owl. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Comments (2)
Posted by: F William Black | Jul 18, 2017 06:45

We had a wonderful lunch there Sunday.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 17, 2017 15:18

I love it! Just the right Down East treat for natives and tourists alike. Good luck!

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