BIDDEFORD — After working exhaustive hours in restaurants across the country ”“ in places like New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and at the Stowe Mountain Lodge in Vermont ”“ chef Thomas Malz wanted to slow things down. Biddeford, he decided, was the best place to do it.

Malz, 31, and his fiancée, 29-year-old Megan McVey, who has experience in the food and hospitality industries, opened Custom Deluxe at 140 Main St. earlier this week. Malz said Thursday that he hopes the 28-seat bistro, which features variations on “old-school” New England and French-Canadian cuisine, will soon become a staple in the downtown area.

Originally from New Hampshire, Malz said he spent summers as a child visiting Biddeford, Saco and other coastal York County communities, and that played a role in his decision to open a restaurant there.

“I kind of wanted to get back to my roots,” he said. “The mill town, the French-Canadian (heritage), all that is very influential to the way we cook. … Anybody can go to New York City and spend $3 million to open a restaurant and try to be successful. To me it’s more rewarding to go back to where you’re from … a community that feels right.”

Custom Deluxe ”“ described on its Facebook page as a “New American Restaurant” ”“ sits in a roughly 800-square-foot space that Malz, the restaurant’s owner and head chef, said he and McVey, the general manager, put about $30,000 of work into. Exposed brick, church-pew seating and dark woods contribute to the bistro’s cozy atmosphere.

“We really wanted it to be like the kind of bistros you find in Montreal and Quebec City and down into Boston, like the North End,” said Malz. “And it fits well here. I think it fits on

Main Street.”

On the menu, patrons will find familiar comfort foods, such as chicken noodle soup, as well as more unusual items, such as pickled Maine shrimp. Malz said the ingredients, for the most part, are locally sourced, with exceptions like cheddar cheese imported from Quebec.

“It’s not about the farm-to-table thing,” he said. “I think it’s just the way you should cook. It’s the way people used to cook before we could take trucks 400 miles. It’s the way you should cook now. Economically, it’s better for the town you’re in and taste-wise it’s better.”

McVey said Custom Deluxe is currently open Tuesday-Saturday, from 3-9:30 p.m. and will announce in the future when it is open for lunch.

The restaurant will also at some point begin offering a tasting menu every Saturday, she said. “It’s really our way of having fun and doing something different,” she said.

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

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