Originally published in Maine magazine, January 2022.
The town of Lisbon has seen a lot of changes in the past half-decade. The defunct Worumbo Mill that anchored the town at its southern end was demolished in 2016, and a medical cannabis shop recently popped up on the site. The Moxie Museum, an homage to Maine’s iconic soft drink, shuttered after owner Frank Anicetti passed away in 2017. In its place came Frank’s Pub, which pays tribute to the museum’s charismatic owner with plenty of Moxie memorabilia on the walls. Then, in April 2018, brothers Jason and Tyson LaVerdiere opened their restaurant, Flux, serving modern American cuisine.
As the name implies, the LaVerdiere brothers are embracing the wave of change they’re a part of in Lisbon Falls. Over the past three and a half years, the restaurant has built a loyal following with its 12 or so core menu items, which include a decadent poutine and a signature burger topped with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and caramelized onions. “People would lose it if we took [those items] off,” Tyson says.
Jason, an alum of the now-closed Walter’s in Portland, fulfills his desire for creativity with an extensive selection of specials, offering seven to eight additional dishes a night. The specials are “hyper-local, hyper-seasonal,” he says, and reflect what’s abundant at the farmers’ market or what foragers are finding in the woods. On a raw, rainy night in the late fall he served wild mushrooms alongside lemon sole and a warming pheasant and bean cassoulet.
The night I am dining at Flux, a deep bowl of plump steamed mussels comes topped with a mound of fresh herbs and two long, buttery slices of grilled sourdough baguette. The dish is inspired by Bissell Brothers’ Substance Ale, with lemongrass and lime leaves added to mirror the flavors of the hoppy beer and cream sauce. I see why diners often order extra bread to sop up the remaining sauce—Jason reports he once saw someone put it in a glass and drink it.
Much of the popularity of Flux’s fare can be attributed to Jason’s from-scratch approach to cooking. From pasta and bread to fermented foods and stocks, nearly everything served at Flux is homemade. “We make everything but the ketchup,” Tyson says. The pair acknowledge that making many foods that can be purchased can be difficult, but they’re dedicated to the approach nonetheless. Jason lives two blocks away, so he can pop over and tend to longer projects, like the veal demi-glace that cooks for three days before becoming a part of the restaurant’s signature poutine.
Jason studied biology before attending culinary school and uses his knowledge of microbiology in his many fermentation projects. A tangy, purple sauerkraut cuts through the richness of the fried chicken sandwich, while koji, a mold-inoculated rice used in the chicken’s marinade, intensifies the meat’s savory flavors. Chefs in the know love this Japanese technique, which amplifies the flavor of anything it’s added to, making foods “taste more like themselves,” according to Jason.
Jason employs other unusual ingredients to maximize a dish’s flavor, like sodium citrate in the macaroni and cheese. The acidic powder thickens the cheese sauce and keeps it emulsified, resulting in a rich sauce with the flavor of a tangy English cheddar and the smoothness of melted American cheese. It coats curly housemade cavatelli pasta without becoming oily or grainy.
But the food at Flux doesn’t rely solely on chemistry tricks to deliver flavor. Jason uses classic techniques when making the poutine but then substitutes fried potato pavé for the French fries: thinly sliced potatoes are layered with cream and baked, then pressed and cut into cubes. The layers expand when fried, creating crispy edges around a soft, creamy interior. The potatoes are topped with cheese curds and the veal demi-glace, then roasted in a mini cast-iron skillet. “It’s like highbrow stoner food,” Jason says. “It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever made.”
The restaurant’s bread and desserts are all made by baker Kristal Robishaw, who took over the duties from Jason within the past year. Traditional desserts like cheesecake, tres leches cake, and chocolate cake impress with their modern plating. Take the latter, for example: a smooth shell of ganache covers a dome of chocolate cake atop a layer of rich mousse. Torn bits of cake surround it, and a few chewy beet macaron shells rest atop dollops of whipped cream. This elevated take on a standard is a fitting end to my fantastic meal.Cocktails at Flux also feature many housemade ingredients, like the jalapeno-infused tequila that warms up the Spring Heat, a margarita with the floral flavors of St. Germain liqueur. Twelve taps feature exclusively Maine-brewed beers, and there’s a varied list of wines, 30 of which are available by the glass.
Flux offers options for nostalgic and adventurous diners alike. Order the classic Flux burger at every visit, or branch out and try one (or several) of Jason’s inventive specials. As his brother Tyson says, “You’ll never get flavor-bored here. Never.”
Flux | 12 Main St., Lisbon Falls | 207.407.4109
Rock Around the Clock
The restaurant’s location was a diner before the LaVerdiere brothers took over, and Flux’s exterior still bears a retro stainless-steel facade. The former diner is rumored to be the inspiration for the time-travel portal in Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63, in which the main character attempts to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Fans of the Maine writer often ask to see the stairs to the restaurant’s basement, but so far no one’s reported discovering a way to turn back time.