Brewer News

New South Brewer eatery offers ‘Humble Comfort’ with taste-tested, home-cooked favorites

BREWER, Maine — When Meghan and Chris Black opened their new restaurant, Humble Comfort Food & Spirits on South Main Street in Brewer last month, they had repeatedly taste-tested most of what was going to appear on the menu. Meghan Black saw to it that every dish created by head chef Chris was up to her exacting standards.

“I’m a very picky eater, so I like every bite to be perfect. I’ve tortured my husband with that for years,” said Meghan Black, a Brewer native. “If he can make me happy, he can make anybody happy when it comes to food.”

When you order a plate of Barbecue Chicken Nachos — a staff favorite — you know that the sharp cheddar cheese has been freshly grated, the roasted chicken and the barbecue sauce is made in-house, the super-thin-sliced potato chips just came out of the fryer, and the dish isn’t greasy at all. Likewise with the burger, topped with either bacon and bleu cheese or mushroom and Swiss cheese. It’s just good. It’s comfort food.

But it’s not just comfort food in the sense that it’s mom’s made-from-scratch home cooking. Sure, there’s Chicken Pot Pie, slow-cooked beef with creamy mashed potatoes and carrots that they dub Humble Pie, and Meatloaf, all classics. It’s also dad’s home cooking, like those nachos, or the decadent Chicken Parmesan Sandwich. The kind of stuff your father might make as a treat for the kids — though there’s healthy stuff too, and several vegetarian options, including an array of salads and a flavorful classic bruschetta. Or, you could try one of their no-nonsense desserts, like Peanut Butter Velvet Pie and a big homemade brownie topped with homemade whipped cream.

“This is the food Chris likes to cook and I like to eat,” said Meghan Black. “My ultimate comfort food is homemade mac and cheese, so we do it right, using real cheese, making a real sauce, just deliciousness … we do just about everything in house, from the barbecue sauce to the homemade potato chips.”

After all, the Blacks are parents to three kids, and Chris Black’s cooking is one of the things that brought the couple together in the first place. Meghan met Chris back in 2002, when they were both working at the Olive Garden in Bangor, she as a server and he as a cook.

“Really, I fell in love with him because all I could see of him was through the little rectangle space where you can see into the kitchen, and all I could see were his beefy arms,” said Black. “But then I found out he could cook like a wild man, so that was the second step towards the love.”

The couple married in 2008, at which point Meghan was working at downtown Bangor bar and eatery Paddy Murphy’s, and Chris was working for Cianbro as a welder, in the South Main Street facility in Brewer that’s directly across the street from Humble Comfort.

Several years ago, after Chris got done at Cianbro, the discussion about opening their own restaurant went from idle daydream to potential reality. After shopping around a number of locations in Bangor and Brewer that neither of them were happy with, the former Ron’s Cafe location at 518 South Main St. became available. The former breakfast and lunch spot closed last March, after 10 years in business. The space was just what they were looking for.

The Blacks updated the kitchen and renovated the dining room, installing a big wooden bar and shiny wooden floors — retrofitted basketball court flooring from the old courts at the University of Maine at Farmington. The overall look is warm and, during the day, full of sunshine. Meghan Black and her bar manager, Justin Eames, are as friendly and welcoming as front-of-house people can be.

“We want to have a beautiful environment, have fresh, Maine food that’s as local as we can make it, and treat people very professionally without being pretentious,” said Meghan Black. “Humble means unpretentious. I don’t want people to feel like they can’t come in in flip flops or walk here. We’d love to have everybody.”

Humble Comfort is the only restaurant of its kind in South Brewer — sit down, full service, made from scratch — and one of only a small handful of non-chain restaurants in the city that also does cocktails, as well as offers a selection of both Maine-made and craft beers.

“I think a lot of people think I’m crazy for opening a nice-looking place in this part of town,” Meghan Black said. “But this is where I grew up. We wanted something nice for Brewer. Everything’s very reasonably priced. Our cocktail menu is not overpriced. Cocktails are a passion of mine.”

Meghan Black is partial to the Humdinger, made with cherry vodka and fresh-squeezed lime juice, but bar manager Eames also makes a dandy Blood Orange Martini, and the Blackberry Wild Tea is packed with fruity flavor. Let’s face it — a nice cocktail after a long day at work is its own kind of comfort, humble or not.

Humble Comfort Food & Spirits, located at 518 South Main St. in Brewer, is open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays. In addition to sit-down service, they also do take out; a menu is available online. For more information, call 307-7370.

By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff