For the owners of The Velveteen Habit, which opened Wednesday evening in York, welcoming diners to their restaurant is less about filling big shoes than wearing new ones.

The 160-year-old farmhouse on four acres at 37 Ogunquit Road in Cape Neddick has a serious legacy: It’s where chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier opened their first restaurant, Arrows, in 1988, though the property then used an Ogunquit address. Considered pioneers of the farm-to-table movement, Gaier and Frasier established Arrows as one of the best restaurants in the country, jointly winning a James Beard Award for Best Chef, Northeast, in 2010.

“We’re trying to be respectful of the good food history and lineage … it’s always been this beacon on the hill,” said Benjamin Goldman, who purchased the property last October.

“But we’re a new restaurant: New team, new management, new menu, new design. We think of ourselves as a very, very different restaurant,” he said.

Goldman, a certified sommelier, spent his early career at at Goldman Sachs and Oppenheimer, before transitioning to hospitality. He has created The Velveteen Habit’s “really, really fun wine program – a worldly program with lots of diversity in varietals and vintage.” About 70 wines are on the list, 16 of them available by the glass.

Goldman and his team – director of operations Brent Bushong, chef Chris Wilcox and gardener Garrett Bent – spent seven months renovating the farmhouse and the property’s famous gardens, which Goldman says will provide 85 percent of the kitchen’s produce needs in season.


“We optimized it for biointensive farming,” he said. “We think we can get two to two-and-a-half times (the yield) that was previously coming out of the garden here.”

In the restaurant itself, the biggest changes have been to the main dining room, where dark beams and walls have been lightened up with paint.

“We opened up a couple of walls and installed some Brooklyn-style factory windows that allow light to pass through,” said Goldman, who described the new look as “comfortable yet elegant.”

Another major change was in the 20-seat bar. “We pulled the whole structure out and built our own custom room; the inspiration was 1920s-style speakeasy … heavy uses of copper, glass and mahogany … designed to look like it has been around for years,” he said.

The Velveteen Habit’s menu is modern with a nod to the classics. Trendy tater tots are served with bravas sauce and roasted garlic aioli; beef tartare is accompanied by sorrel and “oyster cracklin”; and a dish of slow-roasted pork shoulder includes rhubarb, salad turnips and olives. Wilcox is doing his own butchering, curing and pickling, Goldman said.

Of the two menu options called “Family Meal,” which each serve two, Goldman is especially enamoured of the 32-ounce Porterhouse steak from Cold Spring Ranch in New Portland. “It’s grass-fed, grass-finished beef and has tremendous flavor; it’s a little more than two inches thick.”

Served with hipper versions of steakhouse-style sides – horseradish-creamed kale, roasted potatoes and chimichurri sauce – the steak will be priced at around $79, he said. Starters are $3 to $8, small plates are $8 to $12 and large plates are $28 to $37.

“We encourage people to just come by for a glass of wine, for appetizers and dessert,” Goldman said. “We’re really excited about finally being able to invite people over for dinner.”

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