LIMESTONE, Maine — It had to be red snappers and Humpty Dumpty potato chips, because they just shouted “Maine.”
When Dustin Mancos, owner of B-52 Pizza and Subs in Limestone, proposed to his graphic designer friend a pizza with hot dogs and chips, he got some raised eyebrows and a lot of head shaking.
The “Maine Attraction” pizza, featuring the state’s famous red hot dogs and Humpty Dumpty All Dressed chips, has become one of the popular items at B-52 Pizza and Subs of Limestone. But there are more Maine marvels to appreciate at this restaurant, which pays homage to the former Loring Air Force Base not only with its menu but with the art decorating its interior.
Just before B-52’s March 2021 opening, Mancos and pal Joey Lapierre of Boulevard Graphics were working to incorporate Loring-related designs on the walls and countertops.
“When I told Joey that red hot dogs belong on pizza, he was like ‘No way,’” Mancos said. “So we made it. And he liked it.”
The idea for the pizza recipe was born years ago, when Mancos developed an allergy to tomatoes. Unfortunately, that meant he couldn’t enjoy traditional tomato-based pizza sauce.
But necessity often leads to creativity. One day he was at Reno’s Family Restaurant in Caribou, which was locally famous for its pizza but closed in 2020. Mancos ordered a pizza topped with red hot dogs, without the tomato sauce of course, because he just thought it sounded good.
He loved the unique flavor, so when he opened his new restaurant he knew it had to have a place on the menu. The pizza he created for B52 earned a recent nod in Down East Magazine’s February issue celebrating pizza around the state.
Though Mancos was only 2 years old when Loring closed in September 1994, he knew the community’s ties to the base were strong. He and Lapierre visited several buildings on site, including the Loring Heritage Center, to develop ideas for B-52’s interior. Stories, photos and drawings decorate the walls and bar top, celebrating the base’s buildings, people and the B-52 aircraft that populated the base.
Similarly, the menu has a definite military vibe, with subs given military alphabet names like “The Bravo” and one pizza called the “No. 8280,” a nod to the base’s arch hangar for the B-52 aircraft, which was known for being the largest hangar in the U.S.
Mancos obtains most of his ingredients locally or from somewhere in the state, including desserts from Maine Made Steve’s Whoopie Pies of Skowhegan and those famous red hot dogs from W.A. Bean & Sons in Bangor.
“I wanted to center my menu around Maine,” Mancos said. “We buy our meat locally. Our dough and bread are sourced from a Maine company.”
Mancos opened B-52 while also running seasonal restaurants Winnie’s in Presque Isle and Burger Boy in Caribou. He subsequently closed Winnie’s to focus on B-52, but kept Burger Boy, which is a spring and summer business.
And though he opened his newest restaurant in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said business is good and his staff of around 15 are still with him.
Mancos said the Loring connection is as important to the local community as to visitors. Many Limestone residents either worked at the base or had family members who did, and many more travel to visit the place they once called home.
Mancos has a map of the United States in the restaurant kitchen which he populates with pushpins to mark visitors’ hometowns.
“It amazes me to see how far people will travel to get a T-shirt that says B-52,” he said. “It’s a very emotional thing to have someone who worked here for 50 years who will stand and look at the walls and see them get emotional.”