The Camden restaurant Wolfpeach has been drawing national attention and accolades, but it will pivot its concept soon to be more like the homey spot with a local clientele the owners envisioned.
Gabriela Acero and Derek Richard opened Wolfpeach in December 2021 in the 50 Elm St. location that formerly housed the Drouthy Bear. Prior to opening the restaurant, they operated a BBQ popup there during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The restaurant will close its doors Tuesday and plans to reopen with a new concept around April 1, Acero said. The closure comes just over a month after the James Beard Foundation announced Wolfpeach as a semifinalist in the Best New Restaurant category in their annual awards.
The change, Acero said, is to bring Wolfpeach more in line with what they envisioned.
“For us, the goal was to always have this be a year-round restaurant for our community members. And there was potentially a little misunderstanding or difference of values — this isn’t necessarily the kind of food people want to eat all the time,” Acero said.
The new concept for Wolfpeach will be unveiled likely this week, Acero said. It will be more monetarily accessible and also include more familiar food options. Even their beverage program, which uniquely featured only New England ingredients and options, will shift to include lower price point options.
“[We’re going to be] meeting people where they are,” Acero said.
With nods in The New York Times and Down East magazine, Wolfpeach’s fine dining concept that placed high value on very local ingredients and creative dishes didn’t draw the locals like they thought it would.
“I think a lot of people when they come in are surprised by just how casual and how homey it is. A lot of assumptions were made by menu and price point,” Acero said.
Acero and Richard are hoping that the new concept will spur locals to drop in, have drinks and snacks, and consider Wolfpeach a neighborhood spot. Takeout is also coming, though that will likely be a winter-only option, Acero said.
That this comes on the heels of being nominated for a James Beard Award is more indicative of what the organization values than anything else, Acero said.
“At the end of the day, what we got nominated for was a model that was unsustainable,” Acero said. “This type of restaurant is still the thing that is getting those accolades from James Beard [despite changes to the organization].”
This isn’t the first time a midcoast restaurant with a recent James Beard nomination chose to pivot its concept. Chase’s Daily in Belfast announced in April 2018 it was shifting, just months after receiving a Beard nomination, one of several the vegetarian restaurant received over the years. That restaurant reopened as a counter service spot serving primarily breakfast and lunch. Chase’s Daily closed again in December 2022 to reassess its concept.
At Wolfpeach, the last two months since announcing its plan to pivot have been “magical,” Acero said. People who came in were so glad to be there before the change, she said.
“It feels really validating and really loving, and I feel really proud to be able to defend this as the memory I will hold for Wolfpeach,” Acero said.