Skip navigation

Trudy Bird's Ølbar serves Scandinavian sandwiches in North Yarmouth, Maine

What was supposed to be a brewery turned into one of the town’s hottest places to eat and drink

Despite working in kitchens for more than a decade, Alan Hines hadn't planned on becoming the chef of his own restaurant, even when he opened Trudy Bird's Ølbar in North Yarmouth, Maine, last December.

"I wanted to focus on running the restaurant and growing it that way," said Hines, and leaving the day-to-day cooking to someone else. But then Trudy Bird’s original chef left to open his own place. “So I said, ‘all right, I will slide back into the kitchen and take over the operations.’”

After a couple weeks in the kitchen, Hines forwent his hunt for a new chef and decided to take over the menu completely. What was meant to be a temporary fix turned into what the restaurant is today: A Scandinavian sandwich shop.

"It was like a fire ignited under me," he said. "I have always been a creative guy, and I have been able to express myself on the plate here, which has been really great."

Hines owns Trudy Bird with his identical twin brother, Jonathan. The pair grew up in Georgia where Jonathan stayed to pursue a nursing career. With a culinary degree in hand from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and the confidence garnered from cooking since he was 15 years old, Alan Hines traveled from restaurant to restaurant, including the Charleston Grill and LongHorn Steakhouse in Charleston, S.C.,  and Margaritas, a casual-dining Mexican chain in Maine. At each place he learned different skills in fine dining, managing restaurant operations, opening a restaurant, and running a bakery.

The brothers decided to open Trudy Bird together as a way to be closer to each other. The chef arrived in Maine around 2011, and the nurse followed shortly after. Alan Hines said part of the draw of the Northeast was a childhood spent looking at the catalog of L.L. Bean, based in Freeport, Maine. Hines also said he knew that Portland, a 25-minute drive south of North Yarmouth, had a great culinary scene.

At first the brothers wanted to put their energy into opening a farmhouse-style brewery, and started working on the plan five or six years before actually opening. Eventually they found a property featuring a barn with a restaurant attached to it. It was exactly what they had hoped for.

"We knew we wanted to get this, but it was the tail end of COVID and logistically there were things [such as labor and permits] standing in the way and pushing back the opening of the brewery," said the chef. "We decided to pivot and open a beer bar, which was something we wanted to do in the future, anyway."

They still wanted to feature Belgian farmhouse ales, which in fact they do, along with local beers, but brewing their own beer is no longer a goal. Trudy Bird has found success with Hines' line of Scandinavian sandwiches and boards. The restaurant also serves one of the largest collections of aquavit around.

Hines decided to focus on Scandinavian food after a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2017. He started looking at the smorgasbord as a possible pairing with the beer program that he and his brother foresaw. They explored open-air markets in Copenhagen, which is where they first came across rugbrød, a dark rye bread slathered in butter and often made into a sandwich.

"The sandwiches embodied what Maine is about, that use of local ingredients and sourcing from the farmers and artisans around you," said Hines. "My wife and I tried it and we fell in love with the food, plus, the sandwiches and beer went hand-in-hand."

Fast forward five-ish years later and Hines serves a menu of smørrebrød, or open-faced sandwiches. Each features rugbrød and range from $18 to $24. Options include one topped with fish cake and fennel purée, frikadeller (pork meatballs), fried chicken with rutabaga slaw, and more. Trudy Bird also serves hot dogs ranging from $13 to $18, each with fries. Selections run from classic to unique, such as the Toddy Dog with fennel mayonnaise, pickles, Brussels sprouts slaw and candied nuts.

"We knew when we did this we wanted to make it as authentic as we could, but add our personal touch while honoring and being respectful to the Danish," said Hines, who was surprised to learn just how many Scandinavian people had settled in Maine. "One of the biggest compliments is when they [customers with Scandinavian roots] say they feel like they have been transported back to Norway or Denmark."

The brothers have set aside the idea of opening a brewery in Maine, which they say is saturated with local beer anyway. But they say no one in the state is selling sandwiches like theirs.

"We wanted to do Trudy Bird for ourselves, and we always knew we wanted to go in to businesses together," said Hines. "So far it's been really nice, expressing creativity back in the kitchen with Jonathan doing the front of house and the bar."

Correction: December 15, 2023
An error in the name of the town where Trudy Bird's Ølbar is located has been corrected.
TAGS: Chefs
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.