Pizza is one of the world’s great street foods, but in Brooksville, one eatery’s pizza is so in demand that it has instituted a lottery system for people who want to get a reservation to eat it.
Tinder Hearth, which offers wood-fired, creatively topped pizza, has become a popular dining destination on the Blue Hill peninsula. But sometimes, especially in the busy summer months, the popularity of the farmhouse bakery — which recently was named the home of Maine’s best bread by Food & Wine magazine — can feel a little overwhelming.
Owners Tim Semler and Lydia Moffett already required pizzas to be preordered. This summer, they’re trying something new to hopefully make the ordering protocol a little easier for everyone: a lottery system for those who wish to dine on their chewy, crispy pizza.
That’s right: there’s a weekly lottery to get this pizza for takeout or dining in.
“Due to an extremely high call volume, we now have a callback request system for pizza reservations,” Semler and Moffett wrote last week on their website and social media pages. “Yeah! We want to help you avoid endless redialing, but we still want to talk to you. So how about this: you give us your phone number, and then we will call you!”
It’s not the first time a rural Maine eatery has implemented such a system. The Lost Kitchen in Freedom has been doing it since 2018. That’s when Erin French first instituted a reservation lottery at her famed restaurant after being overwhelmed with phone calls the previous year. The restaurant received 10,000 phone calls in 24 hours, swamping her three phone lines and causing alarms to go off when the emergency lines to the Waldo County town’s fire department were blocked.
In the last couple of years, French has used the highly anticipated reservation lottery system to also raise money for local causes. This year, those interested in dining at the restaurant donated nearly $1 million to an emergency relief fund geared toward helping Maine farmers whose land and water have been contaminated by so-called forever chemicals.
At Tinder Hearth, pizza hopefuls are only asked to use an online request form to send in their phone number. The form will be open from 9 a.m. Mondays to 8:30 a.m. Tuesdays. After that, beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesdays, bakery staff will call those who win the reservation lottery. The winners are asked to keep their phone handy and to look at the eatery’s weekly menu post on Instagram or Facebook so that they can place their order when they receive the phone call.
Semler and Moffett do ask that people submit only one request per party.
“If a party submits many requests, we will keep trying to call you guys repeatedly, wasting everyone’s time,” they wrote. “Please, please don’t. It’s not gaming the system — it’s breaking the system.”
If pizza fans forget to fill out the request form or if they aren’t called on Tuesday mornings, all is not lost. They are invited to call sometime after noon on Tuesdays to see if there are still any openings. The exact time that they’ll accept incoming calls will vary from week to week, but the eatery’s voicemail message will be updated with that information.
At the moment, Tinder Hearth is making pizzas from 4:30 – 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Beginning on June 14, the restaurant will be open Tuesday through Friday.