WATERVILLE — Imagine lunching on Thai street food-inspired fried chicken and topping it off with a “007” for dessert – a hot, gourmet doughnut straight out of the fryer, dipped in maple and topped with bourbon cream and candied bacon.

Come fall, that will be a dining option at Money Cat Fried Chicken and Donuts, a new eatery to open in the northernmost storefront of 173 Main St. downtown, next to Portland Pie Co.

Money Cat is the latest to join a growing list of businesses coming into downtown as part of revitalization efforts by the city and Colby College. Colby, which bought and renovated 173 Main, is infusing millions of dollars in the heart of the city with plans to open a $25 million mixed-use residential complex across the street from Money Cat that will house 200 students, faculty and staff in August.

Colby also plans to build a boutique hotel on Main Street and is working with Waterville Creates! to raise between $18 million and $20 million to transform The Center at 93 Main St. into an art and film center.

Money Cat is the brainstorm of longtime friends and Johnson & Wales University classmates David Gilbert of Dallas, Texas, and Kevin Sandes of Portland.

Gilbert, 40, developed the Thai chicken concept after traveling extensively and living in Asia. Sandes, 42, also traveled a lot and several years ago started Urban Sugar Donuts, a food truck in Portland, and later renamed it The Eighty 8 Donut Cafe. He also opened a shop at Sugarloaf.

Gilbert’s travels throughout Asia inspired him to open Tuk Tuk Taproom, a restaurant in Texas that was noted in Food & Wine magazine, USA Today and Zagat. He has served as chef for the Golden Globe Awards, received the national 2007 Rising Star Chef Award from Starchefs.com and was executive chef representing the U.S. at the World Expo in Shanghai, China. Gilbert has worked at Michelin-starred Restaurant Vermeer, the Ritz Carlton, the Inn at Perry by Orient-Express, Eau Bistro in St. Louis, the Beverly Hilton and Sustenio in San Antonio, Texas, where he was nominated for a James Beard Award.

Sandes was nominated for Best Dessert Truck in the country for 2016 and 2017 by Mobile Cuisine magazine, was mentioned by Buzzfeed and has made countless top doughnut shop lists. He started his professional culinary development with Hyatt Hotels in Key West, Florida, and went on to become general manager of Zoe’s Kitchen, a casual Mediterranean restaurant, and in 2013 started his doughnut business in Portland.

Kevin Sandes, left, and David Gilbert are combining two food concepts to create a restaurant in Waterville. Contributed photo

The dough will be made at Money Cat throughout the day and the doughnuts will be made to order. The “007” is a popular doughnut kids love along with “Bamm Bamm,” a doughnut topped with fruity pebbles, according to Sandes.

The partners named the business “Money Cat” to reflect the eatery’s “Asian inspiration, abundance for Waterville and good fortune for all.”

“Money cat is all about good fortune and prosperity, and that really sums up who we are and what we’re about,” Gilbert said Thursday.

Gilbert, a 1999 graduate of Johnson & Wales, and Sandes, a 2000 grad, are part of a small group that became friends at the university in Providence, R.I.

At Sugarloaf, Sandes got to know Patrick Mulligan who, with Cole McElwain, will own and operate Portland Pie Co. next to Money Cat. Mulligan is a former partner at the Bag & Kettle restaurant at Sugarloaf.

Gilbert had been looking for options to open the chicken business, and he and Sandes wanted to bring their two food concepts together.

With more people expected to live and work downtown as part of revitalization efforts, they thought the city presented a perfect venue for opening a new business.

“Waterville kind of chose us, I think,” Sandes said. “Pat (Mulligan) introduced us to Waterville and it just took off.”

The two said they really like the people they are working with at Colby, and feel comfortable in the community.

Their space will be outfitted for their business and architects and engineers are working on the design, they said. The restaurant will seat about 40 people and they expect to employ between eight and 10 people, they said.

“We definitely plan to be open before fall semester, so that’s high on the priority list,” Gilbert said.

Money Cat will offer catering and be open at 7 or 8 in the morning and close at 9 or 10, they said.

Tap ciders and beer, as well as a limited wine selection, will be featured.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

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