A group of co-owners and chefs sit at a dining counter and flat-top grill in the hibachi steakhouse Crazy Sumo in Ellsworth on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. The new Japanese-style restaurant plans to officially open on Monday, Jan. 23. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

After months of renovations, the owners of a new hibachi grill on High Street in Ellsworth are planning to open later this month.

Crazy Sumo announced its pending arrival at a former Denny’s this past spring, when its owners erected a “coming soon” banner outside the closed restaurant. The space sat empty and unused for nearly two years after Denny’s shut down its Ellsworth location in May 2020, a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dan Mayer, a chef and one of the partners in Crazy Sumo, still has not officially set an opening date, but hopes the restaurant can begin seating people before the month’s end.

“Yesterday was our final inspection,” Mayer said Friday, sitting next to a flat-top grill that has been installed in the restaurant’s dining room. “But we still have a little work to do.”

Converting the former Denny’s into the new restaurant has not been easy, according to Mayer. He and his partners installed six flat-top grills with surrounding seating in the part of the dining room that faces High Street, and had to put in vented hoods above each one.

The flat-top grills are grouped in pairs, with each pair surrounded by counter-style seats for a total of 20 people. With a chef stationed at each grill, they can wheel a cart of ingredients out of the kitchen and cook for 10 people at a time, Mayer said.

“That’s probably going to be the biggest draw,” Mayer said.

The chef will cook in front of the diners, putting on a show of sorts.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s an ideal place to bring a group of people.”

The other side of the dining room, on the southern side of the building, has more traditional tables and booths.

Steak will be the main focus of the menu, which Mayer said is being finalized and should be posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page in the coming days. There also will be some seafood, vegetarian and sushi items as well as gluten-free options. Entrees will be around $20 and up, he said.

“I mean, we are a steakhouse,” Mayer said.

The co-owner said they plan to phase in online ordering not long after the restaurant opens, but they want to make sure everything inside the building works as it should before they develop a more active online presence.

Mayer said he and other chefs, including his brother-in-law and fellow partner Tommy Patasa, have extensive experience cooking Japanese hibachi-style cuisine. Mayer has worked in the Tampa area the past few years, while Patasa worked in Atlanta and Tennessee before relocating to the Bangor area more than a decade ago.

“We’re all pretty seasoned,” Mayer said.

But renovating a restaurant is something they’ve never done before, which is one reason why it has taken them months to get Crazy Sumo ready. They replaced all the cooking equipment in the kitchen, which they cleaned extensively, and also had to deal with supply chain issues when they ordered decor and kitchen supplies such as knives from Asia, Mayer said.

“We had a small renovation crew for a while,” he said. “This is a big puppy, but we are eager to get cooking.”

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....