First Reviews of Big J’s

The 207 Foodie, Peter Peter Portland Eater and The Golden Dish have posted their first impressions of Big J’s Chicken Shack.

The chicken is super crisp— “extra crispy” in KFC lingo.  The coating is beautifully seasoned because the chicken—white or dark—is salt/sugar brined that makes it so forward tasting.  The flour must be highly seasoned, too, because the crispy coating is really tasty, not bland.  The brined chicken is dipped in buttermilk, dredged in flour and deep fried in special kettles…I loved the chicken and the cheese biscuit was good. [TGD]

Fork Food Lab, Feeding the 5000

Today’s Press Herald includes articles on Fork Food Lab,

The $1.5 million food lab is the creation of Neil Spillane and Eric Holstein, two young entrepreneurs who hope their project will help propel both Maine’s food economy and the dreams of local entrepreneurs who want to scale up their businesses and see their pies, sauces, sports drinks and puddings on every table.

and the Feeding the 5,000 event.

On Oct. 7, the coalition of groups plans to serve thousands of bowls of free hearty stew to the general public in an event called Feeding the 5,000. Some 2,500 bowls will be dished up in Monument Square in Portland, with the remainder going to schools, local companies and hunger prevention programs that serve people who rely on donated food for their meals.

This Week’s Events: Highroller Lobster, Rising Tide, Black Cow

MondayHighroller Lobster will be serving a 5-course pop-up dinner at Bao Bao.

Wednesday — Old Port Wine Merchants is holding an Iberian wine tasting, Black Tie is serving a farm dinner in New Gloucester, and the Monument Square Farmers’ Market is taking place.

Thursday — A team of chefs from 5 local restaurants are cooking a memorial dinner to benefit the family of Kaden Fecteau.

Saturday — Novare Res will have 15+ Rising Tide beers on tap including a double IPA version of Daymark, Rossobianco is holding their grand opening, and the Saturday Farmers’ Market will take place.

Black CowNicholas Nappi and fellow Local 188 restaurant group colleague Gary Bowcott  are holding a pop-up for Black Cow on September 5th to share their “vision for a return to good old days of the soda fountain”.

For more information on these and other upcoming food happenings in the area, visit the event calendar.

If you are holding a food event this week that’s not listed above, publicize it by adding it as a comment to this post.

Under Construction: Scratch Toast Bar

Urban Eye reports that Scratch will be converting one of the buildings at their new Broadway facility into a toast bar,

Is this the greatest thing since sliced bread? A toast bar run by Scratch Baking Co. opens this fall in a former garage that happens to resemble a toaster. “It will have black handles soon,” says a buoyant Bob Johnson, co-owner of the Willard Square bakery a few blocks away.

The one-two punch includes the takeover of a Getty Gas Station on Broadway in South Portland’s Ferry Village for Scratch’s new bread and bagel production HQ. A few steps away a former oil and lube shop is converting into a toast bar.

For more information on Scratch’s expansion plans see this article in the Press Herald from back in April.

Reviews: Frog and Turtle, Vignola, Little Tap House, Solo Italiano

2 Brunch Girls has reviewed Little Tap House,

Rustic, local, farm-to-table freshness in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. LTH also offers outdoor seating. Great option as the weather begins to cool…Sharing dishes was fun – we we’re able to satisfy all our cravings – but certainly not necessary as the portions are filling on their own. We also suggest the homemade corned-beef hash…Judging by our experience though, you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.

the Press Herald has published a bar review of The Frog and Turtle,

A quintessential neighborhood pub with a knack for quality and affordability, Frog & Turtle has defined a loyal following over the last 10 years. With nightly specials and weekly entertainment, this is a place to eat and drink well and gather with friends.

Portland Magazine has reviewed Solo Italiano,

Next, we try Vitello Tonnato ($14), braised veal bathed in velvety tomato sauce (made with tuna, though you’d never guess), paired with baby kale, extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt. The meat is as tender as it gets. You won’t want to miss out on the fresh house-made pastas or the prize-winning pesto–a recipe made in collaboration with Paolo Laboa, winner of the World Pesto Championship. We pair both of these by ordering the Pansotti alle Noci ($18), meaty tortellini stuffed with ricotta, walnuts, spinach, chard, kale, and borage, and topped with a spell-binding walnut pesto.

and Peter Peter Portland Eater has reviewed Vignola/Cinque Terre.

We enjoyed our food, and though we didn’t get particularly adventurous with our choices, I think it’s safe to say that Vignola has their ducks in a row. Our relatively simple food was prepared well and with a little extra style that made it worthwhile in a city of fantastic food. Though I’m basing it off a memory which hardly exists any longer and despite our orders, it seems that their menu has more exciting choices than they did back in the day and they definitely have superb cheese and charcuterie options.

Beer in the Classroom

Today’s Press Herald reports on an innovative collaboration between USM and Maine breweries.

She began using beer as a testing medium to teach chemistry. Now Benedict is in charge of the school’s new Quality Assurance/Quality Control and Research Laboratory, which started with a $488,514, three-year seed grant from the Maine Economic Improvement Fund. The lab has partnered with the Maine Brewers Guild to provide testing and training for breweries and brewmasters.

Big J’s Chicken Opened Today

Chicken and Waffles

Big J’s Chicken (website, facebook, instagram) opened earlier today on Thompson’s Point. It’s set-up as a BYOB restaurant which means you’ll be able to grab a 4-pack from Bissell or a bottle of rye from Stroudwater next door and bring them into Big J’s for your meal.

Big J’s also expects to do a brisk take-out business. They’re launching mobile apps for both iOS and Android that enables patrons to place an order and pay online so pick-up is streamlined. There’s even a take-out window that connects into Bissell Brothers in case you want have your fried chicken dinner in the tasting room.

Here’s a look at the menu:


Big J’s will be open 5 days  a week Wednesday  through Sunday, 11-8.

Under Construction: Black Cow

Nicholas Nappi and fellow Local 188 restaurant group colleague Gary Bowcott  are holding a pop-up for Black Cow on September 5th to share their “vision for a return to good old days of the soda fountain”. The menu for the pop-up will include burgers, fries and ice cream floats.

Nappi and Bowcott have been working on their project to launch a “re-imagining of the classic soda fountain” for the last year. Nappi is current a consulting chef for the restaurant group and in the past has been the chef de cuisine at Local 188 and has worked at Eventide and Hugo’s.

Tickets for the Black Cow pop-up are for sale on for $20 per person.

Hidden Gems: 158 Pickett St Cafe

Condé Nast Traveller recently called out 158 Pickett Street Cafe as one of their staff secret favorite destinations that they have, until now, kept to themselves. According to Managing Editor Paulie Dibner,

I usually keep this one to myself—it’s a ballsy move, as a New Yorker, to recommend a bagel outside of the city but the food (well, the bagel sandwich) at 158 Pickett Street Café is spectacular, and the coffee is fresh.

It’s totally out of the way, but is right near the water—as well as Bug Light, a charming lighthouse—so you can get sandwiches to go and sit outside or hang out in its backyard. It’s typical of coastal Maine, around South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough, where there are tons of wonderful food gems that are well worth a quick drive.