Wayside Tavern Now Open

The Wayside Tavern (website, instagram, reservations) opened for business on Friday night. Wayside is located in Parkside in the former Flood’s space at The Francis hotel.

The menu includes a variety of small plates such as country pate, fried sunchokes and chicory salad, and larger plates such as a dry-aged rib steak, Bangs Island mussels and roast chicken. The drinks menu include a variety of wines by the glass, classic cocktails and draft beer and cider.

Wayside is being launched by the founders of Roll Call, Michael and Siobhán Sindoni.  Prior to moving to Maine, Michael was the executive chef of the Joule Hotel and opened the restaurant CBD Provisions in Dallas. Siobhán was the sommelier/manager at FT33 in Dallas. They also worked together for Makeready as culinary director and service/wine director. Their most recent Makeready opening was Frannie & the Fox in Hotel Emeline in Charleston.

Neapolitan Pizza Food Truck

A new food truck called Quanto Basta (website, instagram) is expected to launch in the next few weeks. Owner Betsy Bettina plans to serve a rotating menu of four to five Neapolitan pizzas as well as Italian pastries and provisions.

Bettina has lived and cooked in Rome at the Rome Sustainable Food Project and in the Campania region. She’s also worked as a baker in Chicago and Portland. Recently, she headed up the prepared foods and baked goods at The Cheese Shop on Washington Ave.

Quanto Basta will be operating out of a retrofitted vintage 1959 Morris Minor Van. Bettina plans to regularly be at the Eastern Prom, as well as various other locations around town.

My Kitchen Their Table: Brian Catapang

Welcome to the July edition of My Kitchen, Their Table, an interview series with the chefs and culinary professionals who work hard to satisfy our small city’s big appetite. This month we’re featuring an interview with Brian Catapang from Magnus on Water in Biddeford. Photos and videos will continue to expand on the story throughout the rest of the month on instagram, so stay tuned.

Two women walk into a bar in Biddeford, Maine, and find themselves in a life-changing conversation with the bartender… No, this isn’t the first line of a joke. It’s a true story about how Brian Catapang, Carmen Harris, Julia Russell, and Brittany Saliwanchik went from strangers to friends to business partners in less than 24 hours.

Catapang was bartending at Elda when Harris and Russell stopped in for a drink. Impressed by his off-the-cuff cocktails, they asked if he had ever thought of opening his own bar. The DC-based women were interested in the rise of Biddeford’s food scene and looking for a way to get involved. Indeed, Catapang had given it some thought along with Saliwanchik, Elda’s general manager at the time. The next day, the four met for coffee and bonded over their shared vision of a cocktail bar rooted in community and hospitality. It was then and there that the team behind Magnus on Water was built.

Catapang first developed an interest in spirits when he was a brand ambassador for Wiggly Bridge Distillery in York. Fascinated by the distilling process and inspired by a liquor’s limitless possibilities, he started searching for bartending gigs to develop his own menu.

In the winter of 2017, he came across an ad on Craigslist for the opening bartending position at Elda. The description was vague and the restaurant was barely built out, but he knew the opportunity to work with Chef Bowman Brown wasn’t one to pass up. At Elda, he quickly developed his unique cocktail style, striking a balance between bold ingredients and nuanced spirits.

One year after that inspired conversation over coffee at Elements, Catapang and his team celebrated Magnus’ grand opening on January 18, 2020. The new cocktail bar and restaurant was drawing crowds to Biddeford, but the pandemic brought it to a sudden halt. After a temporary closure, Magnus reopened that summer for outdoor dining on the adjacent granite patio. Feeling limited by the challenges of the pandemic, the team made the difficult decision to close for the winter and spring of 2021.

As of June 8th, Magnus on Water has again welcomed patrons back to their spacious outdoor patio adorned with pink lawn flamingos. Unlike last year, there is full table service and non disposables. Indoor dining is available on a limited basis.

The food program is led by Ben Jackson, a 2020 James Beard Award nominee for Best Chef Northeast. The small menu is seasonally inspired, drawing from Maine’s diverse landscape and abundance. It is the perfect complement to Catapang’s intriguing and ever-changing cocktails.

Keep reading to learn more about how Catapang developed his craft, why the Crowd Surfer is one of his favorite cocktails on the menu, and where you can find him dining in Portland on his nights off.


AA: How did working with Bowman Brown influence your craft?
BC: I learned to really challenge myself and throw out the rule book. He’s continuously perfecting his dishes. It’s like the Kaizen approach where incremental improvements really add up over time. He would bring me different ingredients from the kitchen, like fermented butternut squash, and ask me if I could make it into a drink. Some of the best drinks that I’ve ever made have been crazy experiments, but not without a lot of trial and error.

AA: How would you describe your cocktail style?
BC: I’d say polished and a bit whimsical. I don’t like to use garnishes that don’t serve a purpose, even though it might make a drink look prettier. Sometimes my garnish is a spray, tincture, foam, or oil. It forces the drinker to be a bit more present and think about what they’re tasting. Ultimately, I try to make drinks that are complex yet approachable and familiar yet intriguing. When a guest is trying to figure out what they’re tasting, I consider that a win.

AA: What is one of your favorite cocktails that you’ve made?
BC: The Crowd Surfer was inspired by my love of surfing and the ocean. The drink has a margarita esque base made with fresh quality ingredients. I make it with your choice of Camarena tequila blanco or Banhez mezcal, lemon & lime juices, dry curaçao, and a touch of simple syrup. Instead of a traditional salt rim, I make a poblano and pineapple sea salt foam to top it off. The drink itself resembles a wave!

AA: How do you make the foam?
BC: I gather a five-gallon bucket of seawater from Fortunes Rocks, cook it down until it looks like wet sand, and dehydrate it until it’s just sea salt. Then, I add Ancho Reyes Verde and pineapple juice and charge it in a nitrous oxide canister. The first sip is airy and salty. It’s like when you’re swimming in the ocean and get smashed in the face with a white water wave.

AA: What are some of your favorite restaurants?
BC: I have to start in Biddeford. Palace Diner is a staple. I go there almost too often. Whether I’m there for breakfast or lunch, I always get the cheeseburger and a can of Coke. I also love Elda. I know I’m biased, but I truly believe Bowman Brown is one of the most talented chefs in Maine.

AA: What about in Portland?
BC: Sichuan Kitchen for sure. I love the Zhong dumplings, Yu-Xiang eggplant, spicy noodles with minced pork, and gong bao chicken! Everything is super flavorful and when you order takeout, the food is just as good as the day before because all the food sits in the aromatic oils and spices. I also really like Little Giant. Chef Neil uses creative and obscure ingredients. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m ordering, but that’s what I love. You can just trust him to drive.

AA: What does a typical meal out look like for you?
BC: I usually go to Izakaya Minato for a whiskey highball and a couple of small plates, like sashimi and the JFC (Japanese fried chicken). Then, I go across the street and get way too full at Cong Tu Bot. It reminds me of my childhood. My dad is Filipino and lived in Thailand for a while. He always took us to hole-in-the-wall places. Mom’s Fried Rice is great and I always get the pandan pancake no matter how full I am.

AA: Where have you been recently that really impressed you?
BC: I went to Ramona’s the other day. I had their breakfast hoagie and it was so good. Make sure you add the Calabrian chili spread. I was also very impressed with what they are doing over at Judy Gibson. The lamb tartare and gnocchi were delicious. And, Leeward. Jake and Raquel are so talented and Kate, the pastry chef, is unbelievable. I’m not a big dessert person, but everything she makes is wonderful. For savory dishes, I love the chicken liver mousse and mafaldine. The texture of the pasta is perfect and the meat sauce is so well balanced.

AA: Where do you go for a great cocktail?
BC: Hunt and Alpine is the institution. You’re going to get a really balanced drink there ten out of ten times. The Select Old-Fashioned is amazing. I’m jealous they have that barrel of Four Roses Bourbon. But honestly, when I go out I’m having a Budweiser or a Martini with a lemon twist. Woodford F&B is the bartender’s bar. Their drinks are great and you’ll always see other industry people there.

AA: Would you call yourself a “mixologist?”
BC: I prefer ‘bartender.’ Just because someone can make a fancy cocktail doesn’t make them a good bartender. It’s different. A mixologist might be able to make you the perfect negroni, but a great bartender knows how to handle their bar. They know their customers and what they drink. Mixologist is just a fancy word. A great bartender wears many hats, and they are always on stage. There’s nothing wrong with being called a bartender.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

A few notes on the restaurants mentioned in this article: Palace Diner is back to serving indoors and is cash-only, Elda has reopened in their new location with a multi-course tasting menu (reservations required), Sichuan Kitchen and Ramona’s are open for takeout, Judy Gibson, Little Giant, Izakaya Minato, Hunt & Alpine, Woodford F&B and Leeward have indoor and outdoor seating, Cong Tu Bot is not currently open.

Previous editions of My Kitchen Their Table have featured Courtney Loreg, Chad Conley  Atsuko Fujimoto, Matt Ginn, Jordan Rubin, and Cara Stadler, Thomas Takashi Cooke, Ilma Lopez. and Bowman Brown.

The My Kitchen Their Table series is brought to life through the talent and hard work of food writer Angela Andre, and the generous sponsorship by Evergreen Credit Union and The Boulos Company.

Eighty 8 Donut Cafe Now Open

The new Eighty 8 Donut Cafe (website, instagram) opened on Wednesday. It is located 225 Federal Street in the Old Port and is the business’s second brick and mortar location. Eighty 8 began life as a food truck 8 years ago and also has a donut cafe at Sugarloaf Mountain.

The Portland donut cafe will be open 7 days a week, 8 am – 5 pm (Monday – Friday), 9 am – 4 pm on Saturday and 9 am – 3 pm on Sunday serving their full menu of made to order mini donuts.

The new location features some window art by Tessa Green O’Brien.

Bresca and the Honey Bee

The Washington Post has published an article about Bresca and the Honey Bee and its owner Krista Kern Desjarlais.

Kern Desjarlais never stops experimenting. Her latest creation: artichoke ice cream. Basing her technique on a French recipe that dates back to 1825, she poaches fresh artichoke hearts in a sugar syrup with vanilla, and orange and lemon zest, then purees the mixture and folds it into a sweet cream base. After the ice cream is done, she tops it with candied grapefruit and toasted pistachio. This recipe seems to meld her interest in history, food and creating flavors that few have tasted before.

‘Elevated Establishments’

The Press Herald has published a list of ‘elevated establishments’ in the Portland area.

Feeling low after year of being cooped up at home because of the pandemic and unable to enjoy Portland’s vibrant nightlife?

Well, maybe you should aim higher this summer, and treat yourself to some of southern Maine’s rooftop bars or elevated dining patios. Some have sweeping views of Portland’s downtown, Back Cove or the harbor. Others let people gaze over the ocean or a nearby river from an elevated perch while sipping cocktails or munching on oysters, burgers or a salmon filet, whatever your taste may be.

A Wave of Hard Seltzer

The Maine Sunday Telegram reports on the growing popularity of hard seltzer and increasing number of Maine-based producers.

In March, Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers Guild, took an informal survey of craft breweries to find out how many are making hard seltzers or planned to. The survey is already out of date. He now estimates that at least 20 Maine breweries make hard seltzer, and a handful of others are considering it.

When customers walk through breweries’ doors, Sullivan said, they always ask tasting room managers, “What do you have that’s new?”

“This summer, I think a lot of our brewers are answering that question with seltzer,” he said.

A New Home for A&C Grocery

A & C Grocery (website, instagram) has leased 229 Congress Street where owner Joe Fournier plans to relocate his popular Washington Ave eatery. Fournier announced the intention/need to move to a new location back in early April and has been actively looking at space across the city since then.

Fournier plans to have the new A & C open by September and will run both locations in tandem through the remainder of the year. During those remaining months of 2021 the new location will be open in the evening while the original location will still serve the lunch crowd. In 2022 Fournier plans to expand the menu and offer indoor lunch counter seating. Stay tuned to the A & C instagram for more details on that as they come into focus.

As a prank Fournier has placed a sign in the window of 229 Congress Street (see above) that announces that a Starbucks will be opening this fall. People curious enough to scan the QR code at the bottom of the sign get taken to a video where he shares the good news about the new A & C.

229 Congress Street is located adjacent to Cocktail Mary; it was formerly occupied by Sip of Europe.

Smalls Coming to the West End

A new cafe and market called Smalls (instagram) is under construction at 28 Brackett Street. Co-owner Samantha Knopf plans to offer “light fare, espresso and natural wine” along with pantry items, produce, flowers as well as art and wellness items.

Smalls will be serving Variety Coffee and will be sourcing baked goods from Lion’s Share Bread.

The owner taking the creative lead is Samantha Knopf. Samantha is a veteran of the NYC hospitality world as well as having had past lives as a birth doula, florist, potter, set designer and teacher before making Portland her home in the winter of 2019. With Smalls, she brings her love of food and curated eye for artisan objects to one location where she can invite the community to share in the taste she has cultivated. Smalls plans to serves and sell products sourced from small scale local producers and makers.

Knopf long with co-owners Arryan Decatur and Karl Deuben (both from East Ender) hope to launch early this fall.

158 & Hilltop

The new edition of Mainer includes articles about the longtime owners of 158 Cafe and Bread & Butter Catering, Josh Potocki and Katie Schier-Potocki.

It’s fitting that 158 became a local favorite by feeding people sourdough bagels. That’s the type of bread you get when dough is leavened with the wild yeast floating in the air around us, not the lab-cultured, mass-manufactured baker’s yeast sold in stores. Sourdough also has local flavor, which is why San Francisco’s is famous; the yeast there has a distinctly strong sourness. Wild yeast is free yeast, funky yeast, freaky yeast. The sourdough starter still used to make 158’s bagels is almost old enough to legally drink. “It started as Luis and now has morphed into Luisa,” Josh said of this primordial dough. “She is all natural South Portland hybrid.”

Like Luisa, 158 must be kept alive. “If nothing else, keeping [158] open for the community as a safe haven, as a free-thinking space to come in this world, I think is very important,” Josh said, “because those spaces are becoming less and less, where it’s not controlled by some bullshit.”

and the new owners of the Hilltop Superette, Radhika Shah Patel and Sam Patel.

Because Sam’s vision is of what Hilltop can become once he and the team fully enhance and expand the store’s selection of groceries and prepared food, remodel the interior, redo the exterior, and add outdoor seating, among many other, smaller projects. His goal is to have everything done in time for a grand reopening party next spring. He’s already set the date, of course: May 21, 2022.