Review of Tandem & Speckled Ax

The Portland Phoenix has published a review of Portland’s newest coffee shops, Speckled Ax and Tandem Coffee Roasters.

The Speckled Ax is run by Maine’s longest tenured new-wave coffee freak: Matt Bolinder of Matt’s wood roasted coffee. The café is named for a fable mentioned in Ben Franklin’s autobiography about the dangers of perfectionism — a fable Franklin mentions only to reject. Bolinder’s café strikes a balance between Franklin and the fabulist, since his café offers all the trappings of the new trends, but does so with a light touch.

Maine Visit by Use Real Butter

Jennifer Yu from Use Real Butter has published part a two part report on her food filled trip to Maine. Part 1 deals with with the dinner at El Rayo, and an eating tour in Portland and the Midcoast. Part 2 is about a sailing trip aboard The Schooner J. & E. Riggin.

There is a special love I have for the state of Colorado – the place I call home. You can probably sense that from the way I photograph and write about Colorado in this space. It is not unlike the adoration that Mainers have for Maine. Before last week, Maine was never much on my radar except when good friends of mine waxed nostalgic for it (my pal in graduate school always referred to her as, “Maine, the great state”). But my western-centric attentions were pointed East when my friend, Sharon (who I met at IFBC Seattle in 2009 on a chance shared cab ride), invited me out on behalf of The Maine Office of Tourism and The Schooner J. & E. Riggin for a trip to explore some of their fine state. So yeah, I was in Maine last week and it was… AWESOME.

Jen’s visit was part of a public relations effort for the state by Sharon Kitchens from Delicious Musings and the Maine Department of Tourism that brought 3 prominent bloggers from Colorado, California, and Tennessee to Maine.

Review of Joe’s, Organic Study, Portland Brew Fest

Today’s Press Herald includes a front page article that examines why people buy organic in light of a recent study that found no difference in nutritional value,

“I tend to buy organic because of the impact conventional farming has on the environment and the pesticides that are in a lot of conventionally grown food,” said Anna Korsen of Portland, who shopped Wednesday at the farmers market in Monument Square with her 2-year-old son, Arlo Korsen-Cayer. “I don’t want that in my body or my family’s bodies.”

Today’s paper also contains a report on last week’s Portland Brew Festival, and a review of Joe’s NY Pizza.

For additional reporting on the organic foods study listen to this report from MPBN.

New Grist Mill in Skowhegan

According to MPBN, a new grist mill is holding their grand opening this weekend in Skowhegan. The mill is a part of the infrastructure needed for Maine to develop greater self sufficiency in where its food comes from.

Turning a jail into a grist mill made perfect sense to Lambke, who had been looking for a way to contribute to the community transformation and restore a lost art to central Maine. “New England was once a major producer of grains and we wanted to revive that here in Maine,” she says. “There were bakers that were eager for local grains and farmers willing to grow it.”

For additional information see reports from the Press Herald, WABI and WLBZ.

Maine Food Law Colloquium

The Maine Law Review has issued a call for “papers for oral presentation at its Food Law Colloquium“. The colloquium is tentatively scheduled for February or March of 2013. It will deal with issues such as,

local food ordinances and states’ rights movements; the effects of the 2012 Farm Bill on small-scale agriculture; food safety and security; judicial responses to competing interests of seed patent owners and farmers; the challenges of securing financing for farmland conservation; administrative hurdles confronting the seafood industry; cooperatives and securities law; comparative analyses of food law frameworks; and emerging issues in food law.

It sounds like it could be a real interesting event to attend.

Dating Destinations

Columnist Natalie Ladd provides some Portland dating destination advice in today’s Portland Daily Sun.

All this talk of pre-date meetings and actual first dates, not to mention a second one, got me thinking about Portland and what a perfect place it is to accommodate these kinds of social situations. What if someone was from Meddybemps (pop: 157) or St. Agatha (pop: 756) and had to go to the same hang-out every time they wanted to meet someone?

Cape Kitchens & Food Labeling

The Food & Dining section in today’s Press Herald includes a preview of the upcoming Cape Elizabeth kitchen tour,

Tour goers come to drool over countertops and high-end appliances, and gather ideas for making their own kitchen work spaces look and function better. The sponsors get to show off their work, and ticket sales help the foundation refill its coffers. The kitchen tour has drawn more than 600 people and raised more than $45,000 for [Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation].

and an article on how a change in California food labeling law will impact Maine.

A multimillion-dollar referendum food fight is heating up in California, where citizens have secured a ballot question asking voters if they want foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled. Should the citizens’ initiative succeed at the ballot box, experts say the impact will be felt across the nation, including here in Maine.

Review of Chiang Mai

The Munjoy Hill Observer has published a review of Chiang Mai.

Everything was brought out hot, freshly prepared, and crispy where crispy was desired. The spring rolls were delightful., and it was all prepared to please the eye as well as the palate. As we finished, we were served chilled slices of orange,  a very civilized end to a satisfying meal.

According to the review, Chiang Mai is under new ownership by Sokunthim Nou and Rotnak Huot.

Location, Location, Location

Now that the number of new food ventures seems to be on an upswing again, the demand for vacant restaurants and retail spaces is sure to increase. I occasionally get contacted by entrepreneurs seeking advice on finding the right location for their new venture. So I’ve put together this list of the open spots I know of in the area to help out anyone reading this who’s at that stage in their business plan.

I’m sure there are spots I’ve overlooked. If you know of one, please post a comment or email me at to let me know where they are along any thoughts you have on what would be a good fit for that space and I’ll add them to the list.

Old Port

  • 41 Wharf St—Rogue’s Gallery closed out their Portland Store earlier this year. The moody low ceiling space is tailor made for a high end yet divvy speakeasy.
  • 50 Wharf St—Havana South consolidated 3 restaurant spaces (The Iguana, Cake, Chiang Mai) to create one of the larger restaurants in Portland. The landlord recently segmented off a part of it for a new barber shop but the rest of it is still available. Buck’s Naked BBQ is leasing this space to open their 3rd restaurant.
  • Dana and Wharf Streets—the last spot on Wharf Street before it intersects Dana St. The outside is nothing to look at but peak through the glass and you can see a pretty nice space inside with wide plank floors, exposed brick and good natural light. (see the photo at the end of this article)
  • Dana St—Simple Sandwich, Papaya King and before that Mama’s Diner have all called this home. It’s right next to Amigo’s, across the street from Vignola and well situate to feed the late night bar hopping crowds on Wharf and Fore Streets. The space has been leased and the windows are papered over.
  • 275 Commercial St—this is just a door or two away from Bam Bam Bakery. The downside of this address is that it’s at the far edge of the retail part of Commercial so there’s less foot traffic. This space has been leased and will be the home of Muse Paintbar
  • 154 Middle St—the former home Phone Source across from Anthony’s Italian Kitchen and next to The Corner General Store.
  • 35 Silver St—right next to Crooked Mile Cafe and across Silver Street from The Regency Hotel.
  • Milk & Market Streets—years ago this was Molly’s, a great spot for a business lunch in the Old Port. For the last several years it’s been the showroom for a luxury condo project, but it would be great to see it reanimated as an Old Port restaurant.
  • 10 Exchange St—for the few months this had been the home of Roma Pizza. The space is set back inside the building away all the great foot traffic on Exchange making it a more challenging spot to succeed in.
  • White Bunker a little after the Ocean Terminal—I heard a while ago that the City was prepping the white cinder block building for lease. It’s located just past the Ocean Gateway Terminal. Due to the Eastern Prom walking path there’s a lot of good foot traffic during the warmer months.
  • Public Market House—Y-Lime’s Gourmet had a small cupcake retail operation on the first floor but decided to return to just doing wholesale. K. Horton’s is using the space for the moment but presumably it’s available for lease if someone is interested.
  • 45 york st—Velocipede recently went out of business and there space is now available. This address is just a couple doors down from Portland Pie Company and El Rayo.

Art District

  •  517 Congress St—situated on the first floor of Mechanic Hall, this was the longtime home of Fotoshop.
  • 566 Congress St—almost directly across the street from Speckled Ax, 566 used to be an art gallery.
  • 569 Congress St—nestled between Speckled Ax and Pom’s and in the same block as 555, this would be a good location for another eatery. It had been a yarn shop so would need more of a build out than some of the other spots on this list.
  • 593 Congress St—former location of The Kitchen, great location right at the intersection of High and Congress across the street from the Art Museum. In the time since The Kitchen operated here the space has been completely renovated but the skylights are still in place.
  • Hay Building—this small part of the Hay Building that isn’t used by Starbucks. It could easily be a newsstand or maybe a Winter home for a food cart.
  • 85 Free St—this cavernous space was the home of the Winter Farmers’ Market during its first year of operation.
  • First floor of the Schwartz Building—the building at the intersection of High and Congress is still being renovated, but you can imagine that once it’s complete the space on the first floor could be a killer street cafe.
  • 660 Congress St—the Queen Anne style building was the first space Roxanne Quimby bought to house her eponymous artist colony. The last business to operate there was Zinnia’s Antiques. A formal dining restaurant might be a good fit for the architecture but the building does look like it needs a lot of work to get up to fighting trim.

West End

  • 3 Deering Ave—until recently this was the home of Mr Sandwich & Mrs. Muffin. Street parking is less than ideal but it’s very near Maine Medical and could be successful as a lunch alternative for hospital employees.
  • 769 Congress St—for a few years 769 served as headquarters for The Quimby Colony. 1935-2009 it was the home of the Roma restaurant. As part of the renovations to the Roma it now has a very nice commercial kitchen. Downstairs from the restaurant used to be the old Bramhall Pub. The building is for sale.
  • 870 Congress St—this space is in the Maine Medical Center parking garage opposite La Bodega Latina.
  • Pine & Bracket Streets—the latest architectural plans for the apartment building going in at the corner of  Pine and Brackett Streets show a restaurant space on the first floor (page 16).


  • 646 Forest Avethe portion of StarEast Cafe that faces Forest Ave has been segmented off from the rest of the cafe and is now for lease.
  • 337 Forest Avethis is the former home of the Campus Bookstore. I could imagine it being a college hangout spot given that it’s directly across the street from campus.
  • Amergian Bros on Pearl Stthe sign for this neighborhood market is one of the last vestiges of a large Armenian community that thrived here during the early 20th century. With the development of Bayside taking place perhaps it’s time to see this historic location once again serve as a neighborhood market.
  • 171 Ocean St in South Portland—until they went out of business, this was the home of Pho Hanoi. According to a reader (see comment below) 171 Ocean is under development as a Sushi bar and so is no longer available.
  • Bathras Market in Willards Square—this is the culinary corner of South Portland. Scratch Bakery anchors the square along with Willard Scoops. A block away is David’s 388 and Sweet Marguerite’s chocolate. There’s a big neighborhood within walking distance.

Vacant spot at corner of Dana and Wharf Streets