GEORGETOWN — Many locals remember and bemoan the demise of the Robinhood Free Meetinghouse restaurant, run by food entrepreneur and chef Michael Gagne until several years ago. The setting was historic and sweet, the food adventurous yet served with a certain local brand of honesty and authenticity.

The 160-year-old venue’s doors are open once again, and though nightly dinner isn’t currently in the plan, there are definitely good times ahead, especially this summer. Tucked amongst the Open Mic Tuesdays and “Music on the Half Shell” Thursday nights, the new owners will serve up a variety of special dinners and events in the venerable landmark, a building that “just loves instruments with strings,” according to owner Carlos Barrionuevo.

One of those special events takes place on July 16, with the first “Classical Music Pairing Dinner,” featuring chef Ali Waks-Adams (of the Brunswick Inn, and Butter + Salt Pop-Up), and acclaimed violinist Tracey Jasas-Hardel and cellist Benjamin Noyes. The evening will feature dishes inspired by classical music, which is the focus of the duo’s “Abitare Project.”

Food and music have always made good bedfellows, and the Abitare Project takes the idea up a notch: Conspire with an imaginative chef, and serve delicious music and food together. As the Meetinghouse website observes, music and food often require the same language, sharing words like “texture,” and “notes” like “sharp and bright” or “sweet and light.”

“The musicians picked a range of music,” Barrionuevo said, “and Chef Ali listened to them, and then chose the final pieces and created dishes to go with the music.”

The menu includes a fusilli pasta with Maine squid, lobster and clams, to be accompanied by a Ravel sonata for violin and cello, and an intermezzo of chamomile sherbet accompanied by Gliere’s “Cradle Song,” from Eight Duets.

Taking the intersecting disciplines even further into new territory, Barrionuevo says they are considering beginning the dinner with an intro musical piece upstairs, accompanying the starter course, then moving downstairs, with music in between courses, and perhaps even finishing the dinner outside, depending on the weather.

Barrionuevo admits it could be a challenge, but feels he’s in good hands with both the Abitare Project and Chef Waks Adams. “She’s fantastic. This is our third dinner together, it’s going to be wonderful.”

Barrionuevo and his wife, whose name is also Ali, have long been enchanted with Maine, as long-time visitors escaping from their busy lives and careers in D.C. “My wife’s sister lives in Rome (Maine),” Carlos said, “and for years we visited regularly. We came here one spring, when my wife was in law school, and actually got engaged in Bath. We just fell in love with Maine, and we really wanted to live here for a long time.”

The Barrionuevos began to explore paths to Maine, looking for roads that might lead them to new adventures while taking advantage of their interests and backgrounds. “Living in Maine, we knew we’d need either a business or to work three jobs, so we started looking for an event venue,” Barrionuevo said in a phone interview. “My wife is food-crazy, and I have a background in media, and we knew we wanted to do something different. We lucked into finding the Meetinghouse. It had been for sale for several years, and it was just the right moment. Once we saw it, we were just in love.”

With his wife’s passion for food, and his own experiences working with classical music programming at NPR, the pieces fell together when they found the building that once served as a place of worship, a schoolhouse and community gathering spot.
What is more communal than music and food?

“We started doing music in January, and sort of did it on the fly,” Barrionuevo said. “We had some very good nights, and we were really encouraged. The artists had good experiences, they like the room a lot. It’s a concert format, not one where the music is in the background. We’re adding oysters some nights—we’re so interested in using local foods, these are from the Robinhood Cove Oyster farm just down the road—and light entrées on others. Things sound so good there; the building just loves strings, blues and classical, bluegrass … all of it.”

Getting such a warm reception from the people of Georgetown—where the Barrionuevos also live—has made the adventure an easier one. “There is a lot of support; we have nothing but real love for Georgetown. So many artists and musicians, quite a variety of folks, have made us feel very welcome. We just want to keep experimenting, spotlighting local foods and music, and create real experiences that are interesting.”

The Classical Music Pairing Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m., and is $70 with a $25 wine pairing available. Tax is included in the price.

The next “Music on the Half Shell” is on July 13, and features the music of Shipmates, with Alison Lee Freeman, Liz and Chris Lannon, and Charlie Ipcar, playing traditional American music and early blues. Tickets are $10 in advance, and $15 at the door.

Other “Half Shell” nights include music by Papa Tim and the Desperate Man’s Blues Explosion, Lauren Crosby, and Muddy Ruckus. Tickets for all events are available on the Robinhood website. Doors open at 6 p.m., with time for oysters and paired wines or cocktails before music at 7.

If you’re not much of a night person, the Sunday brunch, complete with Champagne mimosas and Bloody Marys, and served 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., might entice you. The Meetinghouse is also open during the week for coffee and baked goods, 7:30 a.m. to noon.

For more information, visit, or call 613-5682. For more information on the Abitare Project, visit