Alsace, Union’s New French Restaurant, Serves Positively Provincial Fare

The menu, like the restaurant’s decor, leans into what Alsatians would call gemütlichkeit: hominess, comfort.

Alstation Station's seared Maine dayboat scallops with cranberry risotto and cranberry-orange relish; duck breast à l’orange with shiitake mushrooms and quinoa pilaf; pan-roasted Maine halibut in a bouillabaisse sauce.

From top left: Alstation Station’s duck breast à l’orange with shiitake mushrooms and quinoa pilaf; pan-roasted Maine halibut in a bouillabaisse sauce; seared Maine dayboat scallops with cranberry risotto and cranberry-orange relish

By Brian Kevin
Photos by Aaron Snow
From our June 2024 issue

You remember the outcome of the Franco-Prussian War, yes? How wily Otto von Bismarck was out to unify the scattered German states? How, triumphant in 1871, he annexed parts of northeastern France with historical ties to Germany and large German-speaking populations? How French bitterness over this helped spur World War I, after which the lost territories were restored to France? Of course you remember. And surely you recall the more significant of those embattled French–German border regions is called Alsace — now the name of an unassuming and excellent new restaurant in Union, which opened last September.

When Fabrice and Jennifer Roux moved with their teenage son from California’s central coast to Maine’s midcoast, in 2021, they weren’t planning to run another restaurant. A chef and sommelier, respectively, they’d owned three (at once!) outside Monterey, where they’d also been evacuated from their home eight times in six years on account of wildfires. A career shift, they thought, might accompany their climate- and pandemic-driven cross-country move.

From left: owners Jennifer and Fabrice Roux; the dining room, awash with gemütlichkeit; an almond financier topped with strawberries and lemon-pine sorbet.

“But what we’ve learned about ourselves, especially during the pandemic,” Jennifer says, “is that if we’re not creating or coming up with something new, then we’re not feeling healthy or happy.” They soon found themselves shopping for a restaurant space near their Lincolnville home. 

The one they landed on was formerly the Come Spring Café, a stalwart, unflashy Route 17 diner. The Rouxs sunk four months into remodeling, and when I walked in with my family on a recent Friday night, I’d have never guessed the place had been a hash house. Landscape and wildlife oils accented a warm dining room, pleasantly dim beneath track lights. Blackout curtains expunged the busy highway outside. We were seated up front, close enough to bask in the soft glow of a well-stocked, backlit bar. 

Price Range
Entrées $28–$38. Small plates $10–$24. Tartes flambées $19–$25.
Alsace is renowned for floral whites, and an extensive wine list goes in big for Alsatian producers like Trimbach and Domaine Gérard Metz, both of which are sending reps for wine dinners this summer.
The dark-chocolate mousse was generous enough for a table to share. Berries on the lemon-blueberry crème brûlée came from Brodis Blueberries, in neighboring Hope.

The menu, like the room, leans into what Alsatians would call gemütlichkeit: hominess, comfort. Fabrice grew up a few hundred kilometers away, in France’s Champagne region, but the essentials of French “peasant cooking” he says — “taking the raw ingredient and bringing it to the next level” — undergird both provinces’ cooking styles.

We started with a simple dish of sauteed brussels (with bacon from neighboring Green Meadow Farm) and a cloud-soft Bavarian pretzel — served on a hook with smoked-cheddar sauce — which delighted my children by being larger than their heads. A couple of tartes flambées (off a menu of four) were an easy pick for the kids: flatbread pseudo-pizzas you may know as flammekuechen, with crème fraîche, gruyère, and other toppings — they’d be perfect as bar snacks and made decadent leftovers the next morning. (Alsace, for the record, has a date-night feel and isn’t the easiest menu for kids; mine are abnormally refined and epicurean, and also there was a babysitter snafu.)

We made the tough decision to pass on both succulent-looking schnitzels — the most popular entrées, the Rouxs say — in favor of braised short ribs, served with heavenly spaetzle (dumpling-like egg noodles) and a rich bourguignon-style sauce, and a sausage choucroute that featured smoked kielbasa, bratwurst, bockwurst, and boudin blanc (a moist, white sausage with pork and chicken). Fabrice spends two days a week grinding and stuffing meat, and the plate was simple perfection, the sausages luscious, served with tender steamed potatoes and a mound of Morse’s sauerkraut. Alsace has the good fortune of being near Waldoboro’s 126-year-old fermenter, and I don’t know what magic happens when Fabrice cooks Morse’s kraut in Riesling and pork fat, but I would eat it out of a cereal bowl.

The well-traveled Rouxs considered several concepts, including Japanese omakase, before committing to Alsatian cuisine, not least because the pastoral nature of the midcoast reminds them of the rural Rhine country. It just seemed to fit, Jennifer says. Draining the last drops of pilsner from a giant glass stein, awash in gemütlichkeit, I couldn’t have agreed more.

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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