The Prep Kitchen in Damariscotta recently expanded its frozen food offerings and introduced a takeout menu featuring breakfast and lunch sandwiches.
The Prep Kitchen, beneath the Damariscotta River Grill, is owned by Tim Beal and Tamara Dica. As its name suggests, the Prep Kitchen functions as a prep space for the River Grill. In addition, the Prep Kitchen sells a selection of wine and beer, as well as frozen meals, like chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, and soups.
After the River Grill closed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff began to brainstorm ways the Prep Kitchen could expand its offerings, Beal said.
“We had a lot of time on our hands, and it occurred to us that there was much more we could be making for people to fill their freezers with,” Beal said. “So the cooks and I brainstormed a two-page list of things we thought would freeze well, tested and developed, and slowly but surely we built up the offerings to what we have now.”
New frozen entree offerings include beef empanadas, chicken Wellington, and meatballs in red sauce. In addition, the chefs created a new line of frozen freezer staples, such as seaweed salad, ricotta gnocchi, pierogies, shrimp egg rolls, and more.
“Our thought was that since people buy our broths and soups, meal components and pantry items would sell well too,” Beal said. “It’s all things you can pull out of the freezer and cook with.”
The expansion into takeout sandwiches was something Beal and Dica had been considering for a while.
“We always had a nagging feeling of wanting to do cooked, hot food that was prepared and ready, but it just didn’t seem like a smart thing to do when we were so busy upstairs,” Beal said.
With the restaurant closed, the chefs were able to “dabble” and create some quick and easy offerings, Beal said.
“We decided that a safe place to start was with sandwiches and soups, just quick-service takeout-type things,” Beal said. “We wanted things we could easily pull together that had the hallmarks of the restaurant, which are really great ingredients with a really great crafting.”
One of the essentials in developing the takeout menu was creating the right bread, Beal said.
“The fundamental of a great sandwich is what’s holding it together,” Beal said. “We didn’t want to do a sandwich bread necessarily, so we developed a nice hoagie roll and a great biscuit.”
The breakfast sandwich, which is available until supplies run out, consists of a homemade biscuit with egg, cheddar, and a breakfast sauce. Customers have the option to add ham, bacon, or chorizo sausage.
The Prep Kitchen’s signature sandwiches menu includes meatballs and red sauce on a hoagie, which Beal said will be a fixture on the menu. Other current offerings include an Italian grinder and a Cuban Panini, the latter of which was developed with passion by head chef Mike Norwood, Beal said.
The menu is subject to change based on when inspiration for a new creation strikes.
“Being a prep kitchen, there’s a certain liberty to do whatever the heck we want,” Beal said.
The takeout menu made its debut Oct. 8 and is offered from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
The Prep Kitchen is open whenever the restaurant is open. The Damariscotta River Grill is open 4-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4-8 p.m. Sunday. For more information about the Prep Kitchen, go to damariscottarivergrill.com/prep-kitchen or call 563-2992.