The new Rendezvous Restaurant on 60 Access Highway features the refurbished restaurant sign that dates back to the 1950s. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

CARIBOU, Maine — A massive new entertainment venue in Caribou is resurrecting a popular restaurant and bowling alley from the former Loring Air Force Base.

Evergreen Lanes and Rendezvous Restaurant opened last Tuesday at 60 Access Highway with 12 bowling lanes, a bar and restaurant and the largest television in Maine, developer Shawn Pelletier said.

At 35,000 square feet, it’s Caribou’s largest restaurant and event space. It also resurrects 10-pin bowling in northern Maine, which disappeared in 1994 when Loring closed.

Pelletier worked with Hilda Quinones and her son, Justin Quinones, on the bowling alley. Hilda Quinones knew Pelletier had bought the Access Highway building and reached out. A conversation with Wayne Langley, the most recent owner of the original Rendezvous Restaurant in Limestone, inspired Pelletier to add in a restaurant.

Wayne Langley (right), the most recent owner of Limestone’s Rendezvous Restaurant, teaches new owner Shawn Pelletier how to cook marinara sauce in the new Rendezvous kitchen. The restaurant has relocated to Caribou and is now part of the Evergreen Lanes bowling alley and entertainment venue. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

A Limestone native, Pelletier had fond memories of the restaurant and Evergreen Lanes.

“My family wasn’t in the military, but a lot of the military kids went to school in Limestone. Evergreen was where we hung out,” Pelletier said. “The Rendezvous has been around since the 50s and was always popular with the military folks. People will tell you it has the best pizza they’ve ever had.”

Even after the base closed, people kept coming to the Rendezvous, Langley said. He used the same secret recipes passed down from the original owner, Edmund Owen.

Last fall Langley sold the recipes to Pelletier, closed the Limestone restaurant and agreed to train the new Rendezvous kitchen staff.

Pelletier owns apartments and has also invested in Northern Maine Brewing Company and Hilltop Heights Senior Living in Caribou.

The Evergreen/Rendezvous project has been two years in the making. Supply chain issues delayed the opening several times since July. Pelletier pushed back the opening to late October, then early December, and contractors finished in early January. Pelletier held several soft openings prior to the official Jan. 24 opening.

The initial projected cost was $4.7 million, but increased shipping and equipment purchase costs pushed up the final price tag, which Pelletier declined to specify.

Evergreen is the second of Pelletier’s investments, along with Hilltop Heights, to benefit from Caribou’s Tax Increment Financing program.

People will be invited to watch sports events on the Rendezvous’ massive 9-by-16-foot television.

The business also has a bowling pro shop, arcade, private meeting and event space, and a 40-by-50-foot outdoor patio. The dining and sports bar area seats 250.

Hilda and Justin Quinones work in the pro shop and assist with the bowling alley.

The new Rendezvous literally has a piece of the past: the refurbished 1950s-era neon restaurant sign gleams above the front entrance.

Langley has spent 50 years in the restaurant business and is glad to help keep the Rendezvous spirit alive, he said. The menu offers most original items, like the locally famous pizza, meatball grinders, spaghetti, roast beef subs, burgers and appetizers.

“The Rendezvous was always a family place and we still want it to be a place for families,” Langley said. “It’s a sports bar, a bowling alley and an entertainment venue. It’s the same Rendezvous atmosphere, but much more than I ever thought it could be.”

The spot has only been open for a week, but already hundreds have visited from the area and outside Aroostook, Pelletier said.

Snowmobilers Jessica Libby, Tim York and Sara Farnham, all of Mapleton, stopped by the Rendezvous bar Friday. All three said they will return with family and friends.

“There’s a great atmosphere here,” Libby said. “I think this will bring a lot of people to the area.”

That’s exactly what Langley and Pelletier want to see.

The new Rendezvous Restaurant’s sports bar was busy last Friday, as folks checked out the famous Rendezvous menu and the restaurant’s more modern entertainment venue. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aro

This fall, Evergreen Lanes will begin offering community bowling leagues. As a member of the United States Bowling Congress, Evergreen will eventually host state league championships, drawing in players and spectators from across the country.

Drawing more people to Caribou will become all the more important as the city looks to be a more sought-after place for outdoor recreation and entertainment, Pelletier said.

“We want this to be a destination, something unique for the area that will draw in people, the same way that we might go to Bangor or Portland to visit certain places,” Pelletier said.

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated the size of the outdoor patio.