About two weeks ago, Thistle’s Restaurant, which for nearly 18 years has served a fusion of Latin American and classic European fare at its Exchange Street location, quietly announced that it was closing its doors.
So quietly that, in fact, longtime patrons of the restaurant weren’t sure they were actually closed until Santiago Rave, son of co-owners Alejandro and Maria Rave, confirmed it this week. Santiago Rave said on Monday that it was simply a question of it being time to stop.
“My father has decided to retire, and so we have closed. He’s been a chef for 30 years and this is a well-deserved retirement,” said Santiago Rave.
Thistles opened in 1999 in a downtown Bangor that looked very different from today: as one of just two fine dining restaurants in the downtown area (the other being the New Moon), it was a standout. Though the Rave family is from Columbia originally and South American cuisine was a primary influence on Thistle’s menu, German, Spanish, Italian, French and Greek cuisines were also represented.
Chef Alejandro Rave, now 75, was a professional singer before turning his talents to the kitchen, while Maria was a high school Spanish teacher. Santiago Rave was manager of the restaurant until two years ago, when he went to the work for the University of Maine. At the beginning of this year, Alejandro and Maria Rave decided the time had come to retire, and on Feb. 13, the restaurant closed.
“It’s bittersweet, for sure, but he’s excited to start his retirement,” said Santiago Rave. “We want to thank the Bangor community for being so supportive and frequenting our establishment. It was a great experience to be here, and we’ll still be here, but we’re just very grateful for the support over the years.”