Helm Oyster Bar & Bistro

Helm (websiteinstagramfacebook), the new oyster bar and bistro under construction on first floor of the new WEX building on Thames Street, has applied for a liquor license. Here’s a look at the draft menu and floor plan.

Helm will be holding a pop-up at the West End Tandem on Sunday March 8th. Details and tickets are available on the Helm website.

The floor plan includes an oyster bar and outdoor seating:

2020 Beard Awards Semifinalists

The list of semifinalists for the 2020 James Beard Foundation Awards was released today. There are 11 semifinal nominees from Maine:

  • Best Chef: Northeast – Vien Dobui, Cong Tu Bot; Devin Finigan, Aragosta at Goose Cove; Erin French, The Lost Kitchen; Ben Jackson, Drifters Wife; Krista Kern Desjarlais, The Purple House; Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell, Palace Diner; Ravin Nakjaroen, Long Grain.
  • Outstanding Restaurant – Fore Street
  • Outstanding Chef – Melissa Kelly, Primo
  • Outstanding Baker – Briana Holt, Tandem Coffee
  • Outstanding Bar Program – Novare Res Bier Cafe

The final list of nominees will be released on March 25th, and the awards ceremony will take place on May 4th in Chicago.

Related information:

This Week’s Events: JBF Semifinalists, Wing Challenge, Maine Restaurant Week, Craft Brewers Summit, Ramona’s Pop-up

Tuesday – there will be a Truffle dinner at Chaval.

Wednesday – the James Beard Foundation will be releasing the list of restaurant and chef semifinalists for this years awards; check back mid-day to see which Maine businesses and people make the list. There will be a Spanish wine dinner at Evo Kitchen + Bar, and Chocolats Passion owner Catherine Wiersema will be giving a talk at Mechanics Hall.

Thursday – Liquid Riot is holding the 2nd Annual Chicken Wing Challenge.

Friday – the annual MRW Incredible Breakfast Cook-off is taking place, and the New England Craft Brewers Summit is convening at the Holiday Inn By-the-Bay.

SaturdayRamona’s, the new Philly-inspired sandwich shop under construction on Washington Ave, is holding a pop-up at the Portland Zoo, and the Winter Farmers’ Market is taking place.

Sunday – It’s the first day of Maine Restaurant Week, The Garrison is launching their brunch service, the MRW Crave Tasting and Competition is taking place.

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.

Review of CBG

The Maine Sunday Telegram has reviewed CBG.

Chef Theodore Moffitt’s menu delivers whiplash-inducing doses of eclecticism but is largely well-executed and seems suited to bar manager Mike Barbuto’s classics-focused beverage program. CBG’s fried snacks are among its best dishes. If you visit at night, don’t skip the crisp-fried croquettes filled with braised pork and potato. At brunch, it’s the savory ham-and-cheese fritters that you’ll want, with their superheated interior ready to send rivulets of melted sharp cheddar running down your chin as you eat.

x0 Decadel Anniversaries

Several businesses are celebrating major decade anniversaries this year:

60-year Anniversaries
Maria’s Ristorante which was founded by Anthony and Madeline Napolitano and moved last year to the former Espo’s building on Congress Street.

40-Year Anniversaries
Dock Fore was founded by sisters Susan and Nancy Hezlep in the space that had long been the home of Zeitman’s Grocery Store. Three Dollar Deweys opened at the intersection of Union and Fore before moving around the corner in 1995 to their location on Commercial Street. Deweys closed in 2018 and re-opened in 2019 under new ownership.

20-year Anniversaries
PFM data is a little sparse on what was taking place in 2000. It falls in the gap between my historical research and when the site started. Do any of you remember any establishments that opened in 2000?

10-year Anniversaries
Nosh, Sonny’s, Boda, Yordprom Coffee, Kamasouptra, Bayside Bowl, Pai Men Miyake, Wine Wise and Trader Joe’s opened.

Flood’s in the NYT

Flood’s received a shout out this week in the New York Times Style Magazine.

Like Palace, Flood’s offers creative comfort food like juicy burgers and pancetta toast with apple butter, as well as a laid-back environment personified by several unofficial and irreverent mascots from the minds of the Atlanta-based design and consulting group Office of Brothers, Inc., such as a beanie-wearing, cigarette-smoking fish. “I’m not in the business of challenging people with my space or my food,” Mitchell told me. Rather, Flood’s is about feeling like you’re a regular.

Cong Tu Bot Expansion

Cong Tu Bot owners Jessica Sheahan  and Vien Dobui have leased 300 sq ft of additional space at 75 Washington Ave to expand the CTB kitchen.

A larger kitchen will enable Cong Tu Bot to add a lunch service which has been part of the vision for the business since it opened. It will also provide the room to bring online the in-house production of wheat noodles for the Mi Quang dish (“wheat noodles w/rice noodles, pork, shrimp, peanuts, less broth”) which has been an unrealized part of the menu since 2017.

Dobui and Sheehan hope to have construction completed and launch the lunch service before the start of summer. The lunch options will initially be similar to the menu served for dinner but the plan is to eventually add lunch-only dishes.

Restaurant Real Estate Listings: February 2020

Welcome to the February edition of the Portland Food Map restaurant real estate listings sponsored by The Boulos Company. This monthly column gathers in one convenient place spaces available in Portland that could be potential sites for restaurants and food producers/retailers to locate their next business. Finding the right spot is one of the crucial early challenges in launching a new business and hopefully this new resource will make that step just a little bit easier.

Listings that are new or have been updated since last month are flagged with an red asterisks (*).

West End

754 Congress St – plans are underway to build the Longfellow, a new hotel at the corner of Neal and Congress St. The 47-room hotel will have a 950 sq ft commercial space (plus 400 sq ft of separate storage space) available for $25/sq ft (NNN). Target date for completion of construction is mid-2021. The space will be built “as a white box, stubbed with utilities and a hood system”. Contact Tony DeLois for more information at tony@uncommongroups.com.

762 Congress St – this 1,000 sq ft space on the corner of Neal St is available for $22/sq ft.

785 Congress St – a renovated 1,378 sq ft space near Bramhall Square is available for lease for $2,000 per month (MG). It’s located on the same side of the street as Roma Cafe, Quiero and Flood’s. As a West End resident myself I’d love to see a business open in this long vacant space.

950 Congress St – The Greyhound bus station on Saint John Street is for sale.

101 York St – a 15,000 sq ft sub-dividable space in the new building on the corner of York and High Street is available for $20/sq ft (NNN). The space already has a hood vent and grease traps installed.

Arts District

*11 Brown St – the space where BRGR Bar is located on Brown Street is for lease. The 4,321 turnkey restaurant space is available for $19/sq ft (NNN). All furniture, fixtures & equipment included, as are 2 parking spots and 2,000 sq ft of storage space.

*114 Center St –this 1,500 – 10,000 sq ft space off Free Street is for lease at $8-25/sq ft (MG).

480 Congress St – 3,513 – 7,213 sq ft space available for $18.75/sq ft (NNN).

*605 Congress St – The 543 – 2,685 sq ft corner retail space in the State Theater Building is available at $25-35/sq ft (MG).


148 Anderson St – this 9,600 sq ft building in East Bayside is located next to Tandem Coffee. The building is divisible with spaces between 2,000 – 9,600 sq ft available for $15-18/sq ft (NNN). The building has a drive-in door and comes with 15-20 parking spaces.

*105 Fox St – A 1,950 sq ft space immediately adjacent to Rising Tide is available for $16-19/sq ft (NNN).

23 Marginal Way – a 1,300 sq ft space in Century Plaza is available for $28/sq ft (NNN).

Old Port

1 Commercial St – the original location of Benkay at the corner of Commercial and India Streets is available. The 2,494 sq ft is for lease at $35/sq ft (NNN).

5 Commercial St – the former Rosemont Market at the corner of Commercial and India Streets is available. The 1,914 sq ft is for lease at $35/sq ft (NNN).

*217 Commercial St – 2,576 sq ft of space that’s been the longtime home of Asia West is for lease for $45/sq ft (MG).

266 Commercial St – 6,689 sq ft of new construction retail space will be available for $20-22/sq ft (NNN).

383 Commercial St – 4 street retail spaces will be available (1,631 – 1,971 sq ft) in a new building under construction at the corner of Maple and Commercial Streets. It’s building is expected to be finished in the fall of 2020.

400 Commercial St – owner Chris DiMillo plans to renovate the first floor of this building into a restaurant space for lease.

*443 Fore St – the space currently occupied by Evo Kitchen + Bar is for lease and will be available as of February 2021. The 1,706 sq ft are available for $54.51/sq ft (MG) or $7,750 per month. Evo is slated to move into the Pattern Storehouse building at the 58 Fore site.

17 Free St – this Subterranean space is located in the same building as Sur Lie. The 2,495 sq ft are available for $13/sq ft (NNN).

40 Free St – A new building is under construction on Free Street by JB Brown. The first floor will have 4/5 storefronts ranging in size from 1,358 to 3,067 sq ft. The construction is expected to be completed in early 2021. The rate is $30/sq ft (NNN).

48 Free St – Located across the street from Aura and nearby the Cross Arena, this 3,604 sq ft is available for $26/sq ft (MG).

55 Market St – this 3,700 sq ft space on Market Street was formerly occupied by the Big Easy. It’s available for $24/sq ft (NNN).

75 Market/157 Middle St – Portland Trading Company has moved around the corner to 83 Market Street which will free up their 2,025 sq ft space for $27.95/sq ft (MG). It’s one of 4 spaces available at this address. In total there’s 1,071 – 6,356 sq ft for lease.

1 Monument Square – The owners of 1 Monument Square have a large first floor space available for a restaurant. 4,385 sq ft for lease at $25/sq ft (NNN). You can see some artist sketches of what a restaurant in this spot could look like in the full listing.

2 Portland Square – Walter’s closed in 2019 and the 3,219 sq ft turnkey restaurant is available for $28/sq ft (MG).

India Street

47 India StTwo Fat Cats is moving to West Bayside this spring, and as a result their location on India Street will be available. The 1-,200 – 2,400 sq ft space is available for $4,000 – 6,000 per month (NNN).

100 Fore St – 2 retail spaces are available in a new building planned for Fore Street. 1,141 and 1,914 sq ft respectively, $27 – 30/sq ft (NNN).

Forest Ave

*18 Ashmont St – this 4,652 sq ft industrial building behind the Great Lost Bear is for lease at $12/sq ft (NNN).

509 Forest Ave – 6,000 sq ft of space near Bow Street Beverage is available for $12.75/sf ft (MG).

*688 Forest Ave – the former Valley’s Chinese building is for sale and the auction house handling the sale is now accepting offers.

1053 Forest Ave – the former Papa John’s on Forest Ave is available, 1,200 sq ft at $18/sq ft (NNN).

1190 Forest Ave – Renovation of a building in Morrill’s Corner is finishing up. 3,000 – 5,082 sq ft of space are available for $12-20/sq ft (NNN).

1569 Forest Ave – a former gas station on outer Forest Ave is available for $1-99/sq ft (NNN). The building is $1,352 sq ft in size.


170 Brighton Ave – the former 7-11 building at the corner of Brighton and Saint John Street is for lease. The 2,173 sq ft comes with onsite parking spaces and is listed at 42/sq ft (NNN).

559 Brighton Ave – with Rosemont Market centralizing their kitchen, warehouse and office space in one building the retail space in their original building on Brighton is now available for sale for $550,000.

90 Congress St – Lolita went out of business on September 2nd. The fixtures are for sale for $100,000 and the lease for 30-seat 877 sq ft restaurant is $2,700 per month (NNN).

441 Congress St – The 2,400 sq ft former home of Guitar Grave across the street from 1 Monument Square is available for $20/sq ft.

280 Saint John St – 3 spaces are available in the Union Station Plaza. The 2,600 – 4,400 sq ft spaces are available for $8 – 14/sq ft (NNN).

75 Washington Ave – a 1,925 sq ft space in the Nissen Bakery building which is also home to Cong Tu Bot, Drifters/Maine & Loire, Maine Mead Works, Oxbow Brewing and Hardshore Distilling. $18/sq ft (NNN). A hood can’t be installed at this address but it can serve as a food retail space.


MG – Modified Gross which indicates that the operating expenses (taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc.) for the property are included in the lease rate. The tenant would pay its own utilities, which sometimes includes heat.

NNN – Triple Net which indicates that operating expenses are not included in the lease rate, and the tenant will pay them separately. They are often referred to as CAM (Common Area Maintenance) charges and taxes, which are expressed as $/sf. The tenant is also responsible for utilities.

Gross – Gross indicates all expenses including utilities are included in the lease rate. The tenant would be responsible for phone and internet access, as well as interior janitorial.

Azure in Freeport Closing

Azure in Freeport has announced that they will be closing next week on February 23rd after almost 18 years in business. The closure was driven by a impasse in negotiating a renewal of their lease.

Here’s an except from their farewell post on Facebook:

Since 2002, we have been honored to be a part of the community of Freeport, both as Azure’s home and as our family’s hometown.

We are so grateful for all the staff members we have been lucky enough to have throughout the years; without them, Azure would never have been Azure. We are so proud to have watched all the now young professionals wait & buss tables or portion pasta in the kitchen summer after summer as they grew up.

Very few restaurants have been able to turn a profit every year in business but Azure is one of the few, thanks to you, our guests and our tremendous staff.

Thank you to all of you that have shared this experience with our family. You have made our lives and work special. You have given meaning to our daily labors with each smile and kind word. You have honored us with each marriage proposal, birthday and anniversary you celebrated at our tables.

We are forever grateful for the opportunity you have given our family to serve you.