A tired roadside cantina wakes up refreshed as a brunch destination.
By Will Grunewald
Photographs by Gabe Souza
I’ve had brunch at the Hoot maybe a dozen times in the past couple of years. Not once have I beat the temptation of a cider doughnut, despite announcing to my wife on several occasions that, this time, I’m really just going to save room for the main course. The doughnuts, tossed in cinnamon and sugar, are delicately crisp on the outside, soft (and often still warm) in the middle, and piled on a platter at the bar so that you can help yourself before even getting to your table. Don’t mind if I do.
Anna Poto bought the Hoot’s building, just off Route 1 in Northport, in early 2017. The previous occupant, a Mexican restaurant, had closed several years earlier. Outside, a tarp covered the leaky roof. Inside, the kitchen had framing but neither ceiling nor walls. Snow had filtered down to the dining room floor. And a workman whom Anna brought in fell through a rotted section of the floor. But Anna overhauled the place, with help from her dad, who raises cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens at nearby Breludin Farm — now supplier of all the Hoot’s meats, except bacon.
Anna had done a stint as pastry chef at 40 Paper, in Camden, then, with her cousin, ran a food truck in Belfast, Wags Wagon. At the Hoot, she cooks the brunches while her husband, Jon, runs service in the dining room. He learned the ropes of front-of-house management at Havana, in Bar Harbor, then worked at several midcoast restaurants: the Gothic, Rhumb Line, and Neighborhood.
On a sunny morning, I like to sit on the Hoot’s deck, under the ash tree that grows alongside the building. Indoors, my favorite spot is in the circular side room — it has a bright, treehouse vibe, and the table by the far window looks out onto woods and a creek. Before entrées arrive, it’s a good idea to have one of Jon’s brunch cocktails in hand. The peach bellini is sweet and refreshing. The blueberry-balsam mimosa, made with foraged balsam tips and juice from Breludin Farm wild blueberries, is dry and slightly tart, a counterbalance to, say, a hefty plate of eggs benedict with smoked ham. That ham is Anna’s favorite Breludin meat, cured and smoked at the restaurant, as tender as slow-roasted pork. The smokiness plays nicely with the tang of hollandaise.
Along with breakfast classics, the Hoot’s menu mixes in some less familiar items. Zucchini-chickpea fritters — like moister, more flavorful potato pancakes — come with a creamy, lemony sauce. North African–inspired green shakshuka, a stew of chard, onions, and dill topped with basted eggs, has a belly-warming heartiness, especially with the addition of house-made lamb sausage and house-made hot sauce. Anna even turns a waffle into something novel. It arrived looking standard, topped with a dollop of butter, Maine maple syrup on the side. But the batter was made with cornmeal and rye, and the resulting waffle tasted a little like skillet cornbread. The butter, whipped with honey, lent a hint of sweetness, but not so much as to tip the dish’s balance away from savory. I’ll drench just about anything in as much maple syrup as a server will put in front of me, but so wonderful was this waffle, I applied only a judicious drizzle.
Back when Anna and her cousin were running their food truck in Belfast, they served breakfast, despite business being slow in the mornings. “Lunch did way better,” she recalls, “but both of us really liked breakfast, so we were like, ‘People can come if they want. We’ll just be here eating.’” At the Hoot, her appetite — and talent — for breakfast has found a proper home.
144 Bayside Rd., Northport. 207-338-4668.
You might notice Anna Poto cooking with a baby in a carrier on her back. Two weeks before opening in 2017, she and husband/front-of-house manager Jon found out they were expecting. Baby number two is due this summer.
In the evening, Culinary Institute of America–trained chef Nealley van Horne runs the kitchen. Friday and Saturday menus include braised lamb shank and roasted Cornish game hen. Monday nights feature rotating international cuisines.