The parking lot was full when I pulled up to Gather around noon, and street spaces were becoming scarce as well. I had come to try the restaurant’s new lunch service, and now I was worried about getting in.
Gather, known for its passion for local foods, is a popular dinner spot in Yarmouth – were people really already that taken with the new lunch menu, too?
There must have been something else going on in town that day because when I walked in, there were still plenty of tables available. About 15 customers were scattered around the restaurant — not so many that it felt crowded, but enough to show that the new lunch service is going over fairly well.
Lunch at Gather offers stripped-down service and lower prices. Instead of waiting to be seated by a hostess, customers order at the counter by the bar, pay their tab up front and choose where to sit. You’re also expected to help yourself to silverware, napkins and water stashed on a nearby table. The employee at the register gives you a number to put on your table, and when your lunch is ready, a server brings it to you.
There’s lots to choose from on the new menu, and I’m already planning to return to try something else. I was sorely tempted by the Baha fish sandwich ($9), made with fish from Casco Bay and served with slaw and avocado crema. But, in the end, I couldn’t resist a cup of grilled corn chowder ($4) and the daily hot lunch special – a healthy twist on cafeteria-style hot lunches – that is priced at $9.50.
Nothing on the menu, in fact, is over $10. (Who says local foods have to be expensive?) You can get a burger made with grass-fed beef, a bahn mi or good old chicken salad, if you’re in the mood for some kind of sandwich. Kids can feast on a grilled cheese with carrot sticks for just $4.
The corn chowder arrived piping hot, and I was happy to see that it wasn’t one of those chowders that uses so much cream and butter that big globs of fat float on top. This had what looked like the lightest touch of dairy, and the vegetables were cut very small, which is something else I liked. How annoying is it to get a chowder with chunks of potato so big they burn your mouth? Mild poblano peppers gave the chowder a little kick, and a couple of homemade croutons were floating on top. This was a generous cup, and if you are not terribly hungry, I suspect a bowl of soup here ($6) would make a very satisfying lunch. The chowder is on the menu all the time, but other soups rotate daily. The choices on the day I visited were borscht and duck broth.
The hot lunch special was scalloped potatoes and house ham, the ham thinly sliced and inserted into the potatoes so that the dish looked something like a ham and potato lasagna. I had been expecting a simple meat and potatoes dish – a scoop of scalloped potatoes accompanying thick slices of ham on the side – so this was a nice surprise. The potatoes were served with a side salad of greens and carrot curls, topped with sunflower seeds and pickled onions. Two small slices of thick, grilled and buttered toast completed the plate. The portion sizes were generous, so much so that I could have done without the chowder to start. (But I’m still glad I ordered it.)
The atmosphere in Gather is warm and friendly, so after lunch I sat there for a few minutes and finished my housemade ginger-honey soda served in – what else? – a Mason jar. I recommend a visit to Gather when you can do the same. Pause your busy day, take a friend with you, take a few deep breaths and just relax while you enjoy good old-fashioned Maine comfort food.
WHERE: 189 Main St., Yarmouth, 847-3250, gathermaine.com
WHEN: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. (The restaurant also serves dinner and Sunday brunch.)
WAIT: About 10 minutes
PARKING: Parking lot as well as on-street parking
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes