Brunswick’s beloved coffee shop Dog Bar Jim has served as a hub for curiosity, quirk and a mean cup of coffee for the last five years. Seven days a week, lattes and pastries are doled out to adoring customers with a whimsical blend of conversation and comedy from the man behind the counter, owner Ben Gatchell.
Now, Gatchell is taking things in a new direction with a variety of new food offerings served nightly, Wednesday through Saturday. He coined the new operation Dog Bar Jim’s Golden Demise.
The new nighttime business offers patrons burgers every Friday night and a rotating menu of cuisines on the other nights. Past menus have included several Asian specials such as Ginger Chicken Congee, Banh Mi, Sweet and Sour Soup Pot Pie and a “Gringo Hong Kong Breakfast.” The operation has also attained a liquor license and now serves beer and wine to accompany the new dishes.
Gatchell credited inspiration for these recipes to the time he spent on the West Coast and now hopes to introduce some of his favorite foods from the places he once called home to the menu.
“Since relocating back to Brunswick, I’ve missed a lot of the foods that I had access to in places like San Francisco and Tacoma,” Gatchell said. “Two birds, one stone—share really good food that inspired me in my past with the community and also get access to eating it all the time.”
For Gatchell, converting the 700-square-foot daytime coffee shop into a dinner spot has been both challenging and rewarding.
“We don’t have rules. We have parameters. We’ve become confident in transforming the word ‘can’ to ‘how’ to ‘when,’ chronically being dusted with ‘where,’” Gatchell said.
Gatchell cited “conviction and masochism” and the committed people who work at Dog Bar Jim for their ability to make due in such a small space. As Dog Bar Jim enters a new sphere in Brunswick dining, Gatchell hopes that his leadership approach will allow the business to navigate any challenges that arise.
“It’s a new chapter for me, and I have no idea how it’s going, but I do know that if not being a shithead boss was easy, the world would be filled with great bosses,” Gatchell said. “In that vein, I am very hands-on with most operations and learning how to empower people as a taskmaster.”
Working with Gatchell is a host of equally charming and intelligent employees. Mariah Sharpe, a seasoned employee who prepares Dog Bar Jim’s breakfast sandwiches and burgers and newly hired chef Sam Agreda created and launched the new menus.
Leslie Otto, manager of Dog Bar Jim, often stands behind the counter and helps serve coffee and food on the weekdays. Otto shares the same excitement for the new menus as her colleagues.
“I think it’s great. It’s something needed in Brunswick—to have consistency in the food available, as well as variety and a high quality of product. I think that the nice piece about having somewhat of a limited menu is that it allows for [the] flavors of the food to be really nice,” Otto said.
Otto added that the nighttime operations are meant to serve as an extension of the coffee shop.
“Dog Bar Jim is kind of like a meeting house, or a pub in Ireland—some place that all community members can come and enjoy,” Otto said.
Transforming the eclectic space into a bustling nighttime restaurant has been a journey for those involved, but the endeavor seems undeniably rewarding as the coffee shop now buzzes with even more lively energy. Gatchell estimates that the evenings roughly pack the restaurant to the same degree as the coffee shop throughout the day.
The response to Dog Bar Jim’s new operations has been overwhelmingly positive, and Gatchell returns the sentiment.
“I’m really excited, and we’re all really proud here to invite everyone into what we’ve created. I truly enjoy building these concepts and sharing them. It’s still a work in progress and will continue to be. I love feeding you. I love it when you come here. I hope how humbled and blessed I am by your presence in our space is contagious. See you soon,” Gatchell said.