MDI restaurateur and billionaire together buy Islesford Dock restaurant from longtime owners

BDN file photo of Mitchell Rales

BDN file photo of Mitchell Rales

Mt. Desert Island restaurateur Michael Boland, owner of Havana and Choco-Latte in Bar Harbor, and billionaire and part-time Northeast Harbor resident Mitchell Rales have together purchased the Islesford Dock restaurant on Little Cranberry Island from longtime owners Dan and Cynthia Lief, who have retired.

In a press release, Boland said they intend to keep the restaurant largely the same as it has been since the Liefs began operating the restaurant in 1993. The menu will be decided at a later date, but Boland expects to keep many of the same items, along with a few new dishes.

“We plan to provide good jobs to local residents and purchase as much as possible from local or Maine-based vendors, which will help us achieve our goal of serving our customers great food and beverages in a unique setting,” said Boland, in the email. “Mitch and I feel strongly that maintaining and growing this historic restaurant is important for the local community. It has been a good source of income to lots of folks over the years and has been a part of so many special memories for all of us.”

“Partnering with Michael to serve so many in the region – both with quality food and the deep sense of community the Islesford Dock provides – is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Rales, in the same email. “We certainly hope to run as great a restaurant as Dan and Cynthia did for the last 24 years. However, we are equally excited about the economic impact of keeping this icon going and increasing its economic impact through various means, including lengthening the season.”

The Islesford Dock restaurant has been open in some iteration for decades, initially as a snack shack, and then expanding into a full restaurant in the 1980s. It has been a favorite stop for both Islesford residents and for boaters coming in from Northeast Harbor and other area marinas. The restaurant is also home to a popular gallery, and offers painting workshops in the summer.

Boland has owned a number of eateries on Mt. Desert Island over the years. Rales is a seasonal resident of Northeast Harbor. In 2015 he filed a lawsuit against neighbors of his to restrict access to a beach and wharf in front of his house. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2016. Rales built a $24.5 million mansion and other buildings on his Northeast Harbor property in 2010.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, UMaine graduate, proud Bangorian and a writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food to all the cool things going on in the Greater Bangor area. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra. She's interested in everything that happens in Maine.