The chef bringing Native American cuisine to a rural Maine brewery


Bissell Brothers Three Rivers in Milo this spring expanded to offer its own kitchen, serving a home-cooked menu instead of the succession of food trucks and pop-up vendors that provided meals at the popular brewery and tap room since its opening in 2017.

But while you can enjoy classic pairings like burgers, barbecues and fried chicken sandwiches while you sip one of Bissell’s nationally acclaimed IPAs and Belgian-inspired beers, chef Joe Robbins has taken the plunge. made it their mission to bring new flavors to the table.

Robbins, a proud member of the Penobscot Nation, also offers a selection of Native cuisine dishes in Bissell – from buffalo tacos served on a crispy fried bread shell, to chili made with beans, corn and tomatoes.

“Food is the lifeblood of the tribe, and all of these ingredients, like corn, beans, tomatoes, squash, have sustained us for millennia. There just isn’t enough awareness among non-natives,” Robbins said. “Chili is basically an indigenous food. We were making stews with beans, corn and tomatoes long before the Spaniards arrived.

Although it only started with three menu items – the third is succotash, made with the “three sisters”, the sacred triumvirate of beans, squash and corn that Native people knew grew perfectly Together – Robbins is eager to keep trying new things.

Bissell Brothers Three Rivers in Milo recently opened its own on-site kitchen, serving classics like burgers and barbecue alongside chef Joe Robbins’ Native American dishes like succotash and buffalo tacos. Credit: Courtesy of the Bissell Brothers

Robbins, 32, started cooking professionally about 10 years ago, at the now closed Wrong Turn Pub in Kenduskeag. He went on to manage a food truck in Bangor and was a longtime cook at Brewster’s Fine Food and Drink in Brewer. He’s now crafted a menu for Bissell Brothers that combines upscale comfort food with the native food he loves.

Robbins said he was inspired by the current wave of native chefs and restaurants in the west, like Cafe Gozhoo, located on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, and Owamni, the native restaurant in Minneapolis that recently opened. won Best New Restaurant at the 2022 James Beard Awards. . Places like this, Robbins said, help bring indigenous food to dinner tables, alongside other long-established world cuisines.

“All the other types of restaurants that you see here, whether Japanese or Italian, may or may not be successful, but it doesn’t matter because Italy and Japan are still here,” Robbins said. . “Native food, however, we are here in our home country. This is where it has to happen. It is our tradition. »

When the outdoor dining and live music season at Bissell Brothers Three Rivers begins to wind down later this year, Robbins said he hopes to offer pop-up dinners featuring Indigenous cuisine, paired with Bissell beers and featuring heritage ingredients like maple syrup, beans, blueberries, game and seafood.

“We’re just getting started,” he said. “Just as we try to preserve our Wabanaki language, we must also preserve our food.”

Bissell Brothers Three Rivers is located at 157 Elm St. in Milo. It is open from Thursday to Sunday.


Comments are closed.