For Homey Fare, There’s No Place Like Pottle’s

Comfort food and a complete lack of pretense prevail at the cozy new pub in Liberty.

Pottle's menu surrounded by dishes of prepared food
By Virginia M. Wright
Photos by Nicole Wolf
From our January 2024 issue

Pottle’s, which opened last summer in Liberty village, is a den of homeyness. The barroom is dark and intimate, with exposed wooden beams, red-checkered curtains, and a built-in bookcase stocked with vintage tomes and painted a deep blue-gray to match the walls. The adjacent dining room is brighter but no less cozy, with a fireplace, chef Isiah Pottle’s vintage family photos on the walls, and an upright piano that guests play with varying skill. 

Pottle’s fare is homey too, most of it created from his family’s recipes. The pulled pork is inspired by his niece’s preparation: pork shoulder is slow-cooked in beef stock seasoned with garlic, onion powder, and brown sugar until it slouches into saucy slivers. The meat is piled into soft brioche buns and served with the vinegary cabbage slaw Pottle’s grandfather concocted in the 1960s for his Camden restaurant, Yorkie’s. Pottle’s chicken and biscuit is a spin on his mother’s Bisquick chicken pot pie, but he tops his creamy rosemary-and-thyme-scented stew with his grandma’s biscuits, the legendary mainstays of community suppers at Tranquility Grange, in Lincolnville.

51 Main St., Liberty.
Price Range
Entrées $16. Sides $4.
Lake St. George Brewing Company beers are on tap, and Maine-themed cocktails include the Wicked Pissa, a spin on Long Island iced tea made with Moxie, and the Mosquito Mojito, mixed with house-made blueberry puree.
Family Ties
The toy Volkswagens on the shelves behind the bar belonged to Pottle’s dad, Alan, who founded the Beetle Shop, a landmark VW-restoration business in Belfast.

Pottle sees his tavern, which he co-owns with his sister, Amy Smith, as a counterbalance to high-end restaurants offering entrées with 10-word names. “We want it to be approachable,” he says. “This is familiar food that you don’t make for yourself often enough — pure comfort.” Pottle, who’s in his mid-30s, has been cooking professionally since he was a teenager slinging pizzas at the Lincolnville General Store. In his early 20s, he managed Zoot Coffee, in Camden, then moved a few doors down to cook upscale Thai cuisine alongside five-time James Beard Award nominee Bas Nakjaroen at Long Grain. After a stint at a vegan bakery in Rhode Island, he moved out west and eventually settled in Oregon, where he worked successively as a bartender, coffee roaster, marketer, rug maker, and, finally, partner in a steamed-sandwich shop.

“Meanwhile, my dad in Maine was ill, and I was coming home often,” Pottle says. “Each time I visited, the more I didn’t want to go back to Oregon.” On his last trip, just before his father’s death, he and Amy shopped at Liberty Tool Company and noticed a For Sale sign on the neighboring 19th-century Greek Revival Cape, the former home of 51 Main restaurant. “What a dream that is!” Pottle thought. They arranged for a showing and brought along Leon Smith, Amy’s husband. “Leon’s a builder, and he loved it,” Pottle says. “That did it: we had Leon’s seal of approval.”

The place required little renovation beyond a change in color scheme. The sophisticated blue-gray that dominates in the barroom also serves as an accent color in the dining room. Both spaces are small, with a handful of tables between them. “I was going for an English-pub feel,” Pottle says. In back, with an entrance off the deck, is a breakfast and lunch take-out area serving muffins, quiche, sloppy joes, and curry-chicken-salad sandwiches.

To simplify food prep for the one-cook operation, Pottle has created a concise dinner menu of four hearty entrées that he makes a day ahead, allowing their flavors to deepen. They include mac and cheese and shepherd’s pie, in addition to the pulled-pork sandwich and chicken and biscuit. Soon, Pottle plans to add weekly specials, like steamed cabbage rolls and venison stew. Entrées come with slaw and a choice of two sides — among them, his grandmother’s savory baked beans and her sweet-tart, paper-thin refrigerator pickles. Desserts include blueberry pie, whoopie pies, and soft-serve ice cream.

Pottle lives on the second floor, which contributes to his tavern’s hospitable atmosphere. On a recent Saturday night, diners lingered after they finished their meals, chatting up Leon Smith, who was tending bar. Every now and then, Pottle emerged from the kitchen, a grin on his face and a home-cooked meal in each hand. 

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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