The Family Dog in Orono changes ownership, retains menu; new owner will sell food trucks

Two of the hot dogs on the menu at The Family Dog in Orono

Sandy Wardwell on Monday purchased Orono restaurant The Family Dog from former owner Bob Cutler, who is instead going to focus on his other restaurant, Novio’s Bistro in downtown Bangor.

Wardwell said she plans to keep the menu at The Family Dog identical to how it was before she bought it, with the same array of hot dogs, burgers, breakfast items, ice cream and craft beer that the business has offered since it first opened in late 2012.

Wardwell has previous restaurant experience. She and her now ex-husband originally opened The Mex in Ellsworth in 1981 and ran it for a number of years. In the 1990s, she left the restaurant to join the Air Force, where she served until ten years ago, when she became a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health.

The restaurant industry has always been something Wardwell wanted to get back into, however, and when the idea of buying The Family Dog came up, she jumped at the chance.

“When I heard Bob was interested in selling, I was very intrigued,” said Wardwell. “The community loves this place, and we love what it is, and we don’t intend to make any huge changes. The food is wonderful, and the staff is wonderful, and that’s why we want to keep it the same. It’ll just be some new owners to greet people.”

The only thing Wardwell intends to majorly change is the food trucks, Grammie’s Grilled Cheese and Melts and The Stray Dog, which came with the sale of the restaurant. Wardwell will close down the trucks and sell them.

“I don’t want to be in the food truck business,” she said. “But I know there are lots of people who do.”

Cutler will focus on running Novio’s, the downtown Bangor fine dining restaurant he opened in November 2016. 

“I’ve always said if someone offered me a great deal to buy it iId step away from it,” he said. “I believe in it, and it’s a great restaurant with terrific growth, but I have the new restaurant in Bangor and I want to focus on that and grow that.”


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.