Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine: Celebrating 25 years of memories

So many of us measure our years by the memories we make. Love and loss. Successes and failures. Whether good or bad, our memories are the best mile markers along the road from where we were to where we are. 

“How do you measure a year?” – Jonathan Larson

Many of us measure our years by the memories we make. Love and loss. Successes and failures. Whether with a smile or a tear, our memories are the best mile markers along the road from where we were to where we are. 

A year alone can bring with it a gentle rain of memories. Now imagine the deluge that one might make over 25 years of running “a world class destination restaurant” the likes of Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine.

Opened in April of 1988 by chefs Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows rapidly established itself in the culinary world in spite of its somewhat remote location. About those early days Frasier says,  “I remember being asked when we were first opening the restaurant in Maine, ‘What kind of fried clams are you going to serve?’ People didn’t expect a fine dining restaurant, but that’s what we wanted to do.” 

It’s not only what Frasier and Gaeir wanted to do, but in actuality it is what they accomplished. And, they did it well, garnering a plethora of accolades and awards. They would receive multiple glowing reviews from then Boston Globe food critic Robert Levey, something few restaurants at the time could boast. Gene Burns, who hosted ‘Dining Around’ on Boston talk radio station WRKO, declared when Arrows first open that it wasn’t only a great new restaurant, but that it would “change the New England dining scene.” Arrows would be included in a variety of “Best Restaurant” lists compiled by Gourmet Magazine and Bon Appetit Magazine, and Chefs Frasier and Gaier would go on to win the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chefs Northeast in 2010.

Industry recognition is always a source of pride. It creates buzz and interest for a restaurant and a chef, or in this case chefs. But, what has mattered above all things has been the memories that have been created here.

In July, as we walked through the Arrows garden, a garden established in 1992 by Frasier, Gaier and head gardener Robin Barnard, Chef Frasier reminisced, “We were just looking at photos the other day from those early years, and there is a shot of the back of the restaurant right from where we’re standing. There was no garden. Now look at it!” The garden at Arrows is now over an acre and provides the vast majority of produce used at Arrows and its sister restaurant MC Perkins Cove.

In speaking with Chef Frasier about the memories that have come from running Arrows, he mentioned how much he has enjoyed the opportunity to cook for many, both chefs and friends alike, over the years. One in particular warranted being recalled specifically: The first time Julia Child came to dinner.

It was 1991, and Arrows had just reopened for the season. Leading up to that night, the staff knew that Julia was on the books to dine there. Chef Frasier recalls how Lucia Velasco Evans, who had just started working for the restaurant as a pastry assistant, reacted to the news. Frasier said,  “Depite having heard the others chattering about Julia dining at Arrows, she wouldn’t believe it. ‘Why would Julia Child come out here?’”

Without fail, the night arrived. As did Julia Child. 

Her first stop upon arrival was the kitchen. Ever a proponent of women in restaurant kitchens, Julia was glad to see women hard at work in preparation for service. She made a bee line for Lucia and, in that singular voice, asked, “How long have you worked here?” Very little can make a memory stick quite like surprise. No doubt Lucia can atest to that fact!

Yes. Measuring a year, or 25 even, can be done most easily through the memories that were made along the way. Those found here are just a couple of the many for Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, and the men and women who have both worked and dined at Arrows. Even this 25th anniversary will itself serve as a memory some time down the road, undoubtedly with many other mile markers along the way.

Photos: Then and now 

 On Sunday, September 22nd, Arrows will host a special 25th Anniversary Dinner. They will be joined by Jeremiah Tower, Barbara Fairchild, and fellow chefs who competed alongside Clark and Mark on season 4 of Top Chef: Masters. Reservations are still available by contacting Arrows directly at 207-361-1100. The cost of the dinner will be $149 ($195 w/ wine pairing).