SEARSPORT, Maine — A new Searsport restaurant is bringing Middle Eastern cuisine to the midcoast, including falafel, hummus, baba ganoush and freshly baked pita breads.
In fact, RasDal Falafel owner Canaan Jordan, 42, prides himself on making everything in-house and fresh in his bright, recently renovated space at 57 East Main Street. His creative menu of sandwiches, a mezze (appetizer) plate and specialty pastries already has drawn hungry lunchtime crowds in the week or so that it has been open.
“It’s something that I’ve been making for myself for a long time,” he said. “It’s really tasty, it’s good, and you can’t find it around here.”
That seemed a shame to Jordan, 42, who grew up in Connecticut and has fond memories of grabbing hot, fresh falafel wraps and more from Syrian restaurants in his neighborhood.
“It’s food I grew up eating,” he said. “It’s quick. It’ll fill you up. It’s not heavy, but it would get you through a chunk of your day.”
Jordan spent the last 20 years working in kitchens as a cook. He’s worked in bakeries, Thai restaurants, Italian restaurants and pizzerias, but he never cooked Middle Eastern professionally until after he moved to Maine from Alaska six years ago. That’s when he noticed his old favorites weren’t really available.
For a time, he worked in the kitchen at Three Tides and Marshall Wharf in Belfast, and decided to put falafel on the menu there to see what would happen.
“People were into it,” he said.
After the restaurant and brewery closed in 2019 (it has since reopened under new management), Jordan pivoted to open his own food truck. He knew he wanted to do something a little different from what was otherwise available.
“I wasn’t going to sell another lobster roll,” he said. “The food that I can’t go find is the stuff I concentrate on.”
In 2020, he opened the RasDal Falafel food truck and parked it at the foot of the Belfast Armistice Bridge, where residents and summer visitors alike discovered his falafel wraps and other specialities. He lived on a boat that was moored at Thompson’s Wharf, just a short walk away along the Belfast Harbor Walk. The commute was a dream — but after a while, it was clear that he needed more space.
“It was great, but I needed a kitchen,” he said.
What he found was a block-like building for sale in downtown Searsport that had been home to a gas station, a pizza place and, most recently, Block Brothers Custom Cabinets. The cabinet makers had used the building as a big open space, and though it didn’t have a kitchen Jordan saw the possibilities. He spent much of the last two years renovating the space to meet his needs and outfitting the kitchen with stainless steel appliances and such specialty equipment as a pita oven and a hummus mixer.
Both of those get a lot of use. When Jordan ran the food truck, he purchased pita bread from Portland’s Ameera Bread.
“The food was great,” he said of the bakery.
But after Ameera Bakery closed suddenly in September 2020, Jordan found that the nearest wholesale pita baker was located in Boston — too far to be practical. So he decided to make the bread himself.
“I was a baker before I cooked,” he said. “But I never used a pita oven.”
Jordan has mastered the oven’s learning curve. His pita bread is soft, pillowy and chewy — a far cry from the often-dry rounds of pita bread that are available in stores. For a time, he was baking pita bread that he would deliver to other stores, including the Belfast Co-op, but now that his restaurant is open, he no longer has time to make wholesale deliveries.
To get it, you need to come to RasDal Falafel, where it makes a perfect foil for sandwich specialties including the falafel, with chickpea fritter, hummus, shredded Napa cabbage, Shirazi salad (cucumber, tomato and red onion), pickles and tahini sauce. Or the hummus awarma, with ground lamb, crispy potato and toasted almond, or the grilled chicken kebab, made with yogurt and apricot marinade, hummus, cabbage, pickles and salad.
The sandwiches and other specialties are full of bright flavors, and even though they may not be familiar to everyone who has walked through his doors to try it out, people seem to be enjoying the cuisine, Jordan said.
“I just want to give somebody a good sandwich,” he said.
RasDal Falafel at 57 East Main Street in Searsport is open from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Tuesday and from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday.