If you fell in love with New Beet Market at Brunswick Landing, and heard it’s leaving or closing, you can relax. Change is in the air, but the change is in good hands.

David Barter, owner and executive chef of the newly rechristened Oaks & Maple Cafe, has a number of visions for the place, and a deep passion for delicious food. He will continue the mission of New Beet Market in not only fostering the local food economy, but in giving back to the community around it.

The restaurant has mostly remained open as Barter and his team make some design changes. He plans to have most of that complete in time to participate in Maine Restaurant Week with a lunch menu that might have you drooling over the three-course prix fixe specials for $16.95.

How does White Truffle Roasted Tomato Soup or Chili Lime Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa sound?

Maybe Spanish White Bean Soup or the Grilled Cheesus (“the search for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich has ended”), topped off with Mini Lava Cakes hits that sweet spot for you.
The special menu will be available March 1 to 12.

While Barter’s background in food service is short, his love of food, fostered by extensive travels as a long time IT specialist, helped shape him into something of a foodie.

“Traveling was a great way to discover food. When my family travels, we immediately hit Yelp, and look for the smallest, hole-in-the-wall kind of place; that’s where the good food is,” Barter said. “Probably one of my biggest epiphanies was my first trip to Montreal; that’s a real food mecca.”

His description of a food shack in Aruba, with the “very best ceviche I’ve ever tasted,” is vivid and his admiration is palpable.

The bearded, tattooed Barter also confessed to being put in front of the stove at an early age, in order to tame his wilder side. Which brings us to perhaps the most perfect component in the Oaks & Maple Café story.

Offering wholesome food prepared in the spirit of community and learning, New Beet Market was the brainchild of Jamie Pacheco. She brought the idea to Tom Wright, who owns the space and other properties at the old naval base.

Wright partnered with Pacheco to launch a café that would provide not only delicious, locally sourced food for the public, but mentoring and job opportunities for students involved with Seeds of Independence, which is right next door.

Founded by Wright and his wife Willo back in 1997, the non-profit Seeds of Independence works with at-risk youth in a number of programs that offer social, educational, health, and nutritional services. Revenue from the restaurant helps support Seeds of Independence and other area nonprofits, such the Landing YMCA and Harpswell Coastal Academy.

“I was not an easy kid,” Barter confesses. “I mean, I was really difficult … My parents took me to a therapist, a tremendous lady. She said, ‘Let’s put him in front of the stove.’ I learned to cook when I was 11.”

Barter expresses gratitude to that “tremendous lady,” and to his Morse High wrestling coach, Jim Coffin.

“He really took an interest in us, helped us learn how to study and to read, interesting stuff like ‘Don Quixote.’ If it weren’t for him, many of us wouldn’t have graduated. There was no Seeds then … but I’ve had some of that mentoring myself. The whole concept of helping at-risk kids is so important.”

Barter is clearly happy to be on the other end, giving back to the community.

“When I heard about the opportunity here, with New Beet’s owners moving on, I was excited. I’d had an idea forming for 10 years, for a bar, with great food. I turned it around, into a restaurant with a good bar.”

And what a bar it is. The wood from the bar is fir, reclaimed from a water tower on the second oldest farm in Gray, built in the early 1700s. The corrugated metal is from an old air conditioning unit that topped a building on the base for years. The funky, industrial foot rest is actually made of cattle stanchion pieces, from the same Gray farm, dating back to the 1930s.
Barter puts the credit squarely at the feet of landlord Wright and his facilities manager who fabricated it.

“They told me what they had in mind, but I didn’t want to see it until it was installed,” Barter said. “I told them, just go for it, and it sounded awesome.” The bar was installed on a Sunday and when Barter walked in Monday morning, he was elated with what he saw.

“You know, this whole area has a sort of industrial vibe going on, and I knew it would fit right in and look really cool,” he said.

Barter’s future plans for the space are exciting. They include a revamped kitchen area that will include a pizza oven, a roll-up door that leads to a patio, and a second story area with a deck. “You’d be surprised at all the military activity that still goes on out here,” he said. “We see Black Hawk helicopters all the time, there’s a lot of activity. Plus, facing west, we see amazing sunsets.”

Plans also call for a 40-by-60-foot greenhouse, from ArchSolar in Portland, that will grow produce for the restaurant, and will be tended to by residents of the nearby Avita and Sunnybrook assisted living/retirement facilities.

“We’ll buy the produce, they’ll tend the garden and harvest it. It’s a great opportunity for seniors who are active and love gardening. That’s the thing about Tom and his vision. He’s such a thoughtful, purposeful guy. He really sees this whole area being connected in a very cool way,” Barter said.

One of the former proprietors of New Beet Market is a partner over at Flight Deck Brewing, and Barter says Oaks & Maple will carry Flight Deck’s beers, and also provide the brewery with a new food truck in the spring, offering a number of delectables like meat pies and fish tacos.

Barter is aiming for an official grand opening, and launching of dinner service, on his 51st birthday, March 31. The slogan for the new restaurant — to be on all branding — is not surprising: “good food / good conscience.”

For more information, visit oaksmaplecafe.com.

Maine Restaurant Week is an annual event that celebrates Maine’s vibrant restaurant community as restaurants across the state invite diners to experience specially priced multi-course menus during. For more information, visit mainerestaurantweek.com.