NAVIS CAFE: Waterfront Cafe Serves Up Best Chowder of 2020


Isabella Roy, (Daughter of Owner Renae Roy) with Chef Mark Lagace, at Navis Cafe, 56 Thames Street.  Navis is Latin for Ship – Named for the Cafe’s Proximity to Cruise Ships That Previously Came into Portland Harbor – Until the Pandemic.

An Open Sign in Front of Navis Cafe, 56 Thames Street., Marks The Spot.

A Poster Created by Isabella Roy for Her  Falmouth High School Senior Project – a 5K Run Last September 15, 2019.

Anna Ginn, a Former Resident of Munjoy Hill, Who Now Lives Closer to Navis Cafe on the Waterfront.  She is Retired But Does Consulting Work for a Rockefeller Foundation in New York City.

“I know we have awesome soups and chowders here. We have repeat customers who rave about our soups and chowders.  They come in and order them in large quantities to take home,” said Renae Roy, owner of the four month old Navis Cafe, located on the Portland waterfront at 56 Thames Street.  “Of course, its winter and people are looking for hot soups and chowders. We have other good items on our menu as well,” Renae said.

The Cafe opened in late August – when the pandemic was well under way.  But there was no turning back for Roy as she had already invested money in the Cafe.  She had counted on the hundreds of employees at WEX above them to be primary customers. But WEX employees are mostly working remotely until the pandemic is under control.  Some WEX employees have said they expect to be back at corporate headquarters in June of 2021.

“I prefer simple soups over complicated soups,” said Chef Mark Lagace this afternoon at Navis Cafe.  ‘Soup does not have to be complicated to be good.  Sometimes less is more.” he said.  Mark and the other chef, Les Heaton, with whom he shares duties at Navis, have a slew of soup and chowder recipes between them that are unique and delicious.  There is carrot ginger, apple cabbage and French Onion to name a few of the many that are rotated frequently said Isabella Roy, daughter of the owner Renae.  The cost for a bowl, crackers and a non-alcoholic drink is reasonable.

Renae’s parents owned a restaurant in Aroostook County.  Rosette’s was located in Frenchville, near Madawaska, near the Canadian border.  In fact, that is where Chef Mark Lagace first met Renae. He worked at her parents restaurant in The County for many years.   He was a chef there and she was a waitress. That’s where Mark first developed his interest in soups and chowders.  “That’s where I learned to throw out what I didn’t like and keep the rest,” he said.  “The restaurant business is in my blood.  It’s what I enjoy doing the most.  It’s hard work that requires a good work ethic,” Reane said.

Daughter Isabella, the oldest of four children,  is a freshman at the University of New England and is on break from her hybrid education.  She is a nursing student who wants to work with children.  “They have a different view on illness.  They can be the sickest and still be super happy, cheerful, optimistic and hopeful,” she said.  Isabella has a genetic lung disease and has been a patient at Maine Medical Center more than once.  That includes the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital as well.  She has been taken care of by some great nurses at MMC.  Those great nurses inspired her to follow in their footsteps.  For her senior project at Falmouth High School, she organized a 5K race in September of 2019. Isabella and the 50 or so racers who ran raised $2,500 donated to the PCD Foundation.  “My mother is my role model,” Isabella said.  (See above left photo of Isabella Roy).

About a year ago Roy purchased the 1912 Cafe at L.L. Bean in Freeport.  She divides her time between Freeport and her Portland Cafe.  Navis Cafe is open seven days a week – from 7:00 am – 8:00 pm.

“They have fantastic chowder here.  You can eat here and look out at Casco Bay at the same time.  I come here about once a week for chowder,” said Anna Ginn.  (See above right photo of Anna).

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