MIDDLETON, NS - When a well-known Middleton restaurant came up for sale, John Bartlett started thinking about coffee. Good coffee.
Before most people knew that Pasta Jax was for sale this past spring, Bartlett bought it. Ever since then he’s been transforming the 120-year-old building at 300 Main Street into a coffee house with a menu of soups and sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and even supper.
He’s calling it Bistro 300 Coffee House and it’s just across the intersection from Bartlett’s Capitol Pub.
“It’s going to be our new venture, I guess,” he said from the front room restaurant at The Capitol where you can look out the big window and see the new place. They had a big mortgage-burning party at The Capitol on July 28, putting him in good shape to start something new in a town he says has been good to him.
“The Restaurant Pasta Jax came up for sale and I kept looking at that space across the street thinking ‘what an ideal spot for something.’ Fine dining is not paying. It’s not where we go and what we do,” he said. “We’d recently lost our coffee shop, we lost our bakery here in Middleton. So we thought this is going to be a combination of both. I’m not saying we’re going to have baked breads on the shelf for people to have, but we will be using fresh, baked-daily, rolls and buns and stuff to make sandwiches, that kind of thing.”
Bartlett expects some patrons will want quick service on their way to work. Others might want to sit down and read the paper over a quality cup of locally roasted coffee.
“We’ll have a grab-and-go for breakfast in the morning,” he said. “Someone comes in, we have a breakfast sandwich sitting on the shelf. They grab it. They want us to Panini it, well the Panini is right there. They want us to microwave it, they want us to toast it in the oven, we’ll be able to do all that for them.”
Or it could be a sandwich made to the customer’s specifications, a bowl of soup. Probably a coffee.
“We put a big investment into coffee,” Bartlett said. “We are going to be working with North Mountain Coffee out of Berwick, a great, local coffee roaster. We have purchased a brand new espresso machine, and we are purchasing what we think is better quality coffee brewing equipment so that we can provide a good cup of coffee.”
Bartlett said the town has been great to The Capitol.
“They’ve supported us. We’ve been fairly successful,” he said. “We’d like to bring something different than The Capitol to the town as a new venture and hopefully we’ll get that same kind of support that we’ve been given by the town already.”
The iconic building with the awning is undergoing a facelift.
“Yes, we are working on it,” he said. “The interior will be lightened up. We’ll have new paint. We’re going to have a new look to it. We’re going to call it funky for lack of a better word. A little rustic.”
The rest of the building, the upstairs, has a couple of apartments that have been torn down to the studs. Those will be rebuilt.
Bartlett hopes to open Bistro 300 by Oct. 15.
“That being said, there’s a lot of work. But the work is just in the amount of cleaning we have to do, the amount of painting we have to do. There’s also a lot of regulatory things we have to go through, health inspection. We still have to bring in POS (point of sale) equipment. And we’re still working on the menu. The menu is a big thing.”
He’s working on the menu with his chef Michelle Friel. And Capitol bar manager Megan Giffin will also help out with the new business.
“But we will be looking for other staff as well,” Bartlett said. “We’re hopefully going to start hiring mid-September because we’re going to want to get people in and trained for things like our espresso machine – putting out the proper product.”
He expects the new Bistro will be a social place.
“Absolutely. I hope people come in, sit down, have a coffee, a piece of pie or cheesecake, and talk,” he said. “We do things like paint nights here at the pub. We’re eventually hoping we’ll do stuff like that over there – for several reasons. We think the environment will be better over there, so we could have events like that for fundraising and whatnot.”
The bistro won’t be open late, so that opens up the space for social night fundraisers.
“We’re not planning to be open until 12 o’clock at night. It’s likely going to be a spot that closes by seven. We’re hoping to make it more of a breakfast, coffee, lunch kind of place,” he said. “And supper won’t be huge. And then in the evenings we could hold these kind of events – the paint nights an stuff.”
Another possibility Bartlett is already thinking about is their own deli meats, and maybe next summer ice cream. He’s looking at gluten-free, and people have asked him about keto.
“I’ve talked to a few people around town. People have obviously asked me a lot of questions, and yes I believe people are looking for an alternate place for lunch – especially lunch,” Bartlett said. “But they’re also looking for an alternate place to meet. They’re also looking for an alternate place to grab a good cup of coffee – maybe on the way to work, maybe at lunch time, maybe on their break.”