Jimmy Leftis at Table Bar

Portland area chef Jimmy Leftis is joining with the team at Table Bar (website, instagram) to launch a new regular food menu at the wine bar in Gardiner. The new menu will be available Fridays and Saturdays, 5 – 9 pm  beginning this weekend. The draft menu includes dishes like asparagus with ravigote, pork sausage with chard, celeriac and chutney, and a honey custard tart.

After stints cooking in Charleston, SC, and Brooklyn, NY, Jimmy Leftis made his way to Portland, ME, which he quickly realized he would call home. The abundance of small farms and fresh seafood made it an exciting place to be a cook. Leftis’ food is inspired by the classic simple fare of European cafes and wine bars. His work is also informed by the places where he honed his skills, such as Andrew Tarlow’s Diner in Brooklyn and beside Ben Jackson at Drifter’s Wife and Magnus on Water.

Table Bar was launched one year ago by Billy Rosser, Morgan Peirce, and Zach Lyons. It pairs an informal space and culture with excellent wines that are available by the glass and also available for retail purchase. Table Bar has emerged as a go to spot in the Augusta area, and regularly hosts pop-up events with area chefs working to launch their own businesses.

Ore Nell’s Barbecue in Biddeford

Kittery-based Ore Nell’s Barbecue (website, facebook, instagram) is opening a second location in Biddeford. The restaurant will be located at 42 Franklin Street in the building formerly occupied by Louie’s Pizza.

Ore Nell’s serves Texas-style barbecue that’s a reflection of chef Will Myska’s Houston upbringing. The menu includes brisket, ribs, pulled pork, house made sausage, chicken and and BBQ tofu. See orenellsbbq.com for the full menu.

Ore Nell’s launched in 2018 as a collaboration between Myska, David Vargas from Vida Cantina in Portsmouth and restaurateur Jay McSharry. Kyle Chauncey is joining the founders in launching the Biddeford location. The team hopes to open the new Ore Nell’s by the end of June.

Oak & Ember in Buxton

A farm-to-table gastropub and wine shop called Oak & Ember (instagram) is under development in Buxton. It will be located in the building formerly occupied by Buxton Common. Owners Chris Peterman and Shannon Keefe plan to host public wine tastings as well as special events and wine classes at Oak & Ember.

Peterman has extensive experience in the Portland restaurant industry including being part of the team that launched Central Provisions in 2014 and most recently as the wine manager at Via Vecchia. He’s a sommelier and the founder of the Hart & Harp Wines. Keefe has worked at several restaurants in Portland including as part of the opening bar team at Via Vecchia.

When it launches (hopefully in late summer) Oak & Ember will be open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner and brunch on Saturday and Sunday.

To get caught up on all the new restaurants, bars and other hospitality businesses in development visit our Under Construction List.

Caballeras Opens Friday

Caballeras (instagram) is scheduled to open Friday. The new bar from Nikaline Iacono is located in Brunswick within her existing business, Vessel & Vine, at 4 Pleasant Street.

The Caballeras menu (see below) is centered on oxidized and aromatized wines. Additionally, bar manager Charley Zimmerman has created an interesting selection of cocktails and there’s also wine by the glass/bottle, non-alcoholic drinks, beer, cider and shot-sized mixed drinks. The food options include snacks (oysters, citrus-marinated olives) and small plates like pork and veal meatballs (shown below), and a celeriac and onion tortilla. When you go consider a glass of the Tresmontaine Rancio Sec, or the Henriques and Henriques Seco Especial.

Indoor and outside seating is available. Caballeras will be open this week Friday and Saturday, 4-10pm. Next week they’ll be open Wednesday and Thursday 4-9 in addition.

Bev’s Cafe and Market

Bev’s Cafe & Market (instagram) is under construction at 41 Main Street in Kennebunk in the space formerly occupied by Christian’s.

The 40-seat cafe is being launched by chefs Nate Norris and Annie Callan. The couple moved here from San Francisco where they both worked at the famed Zuni Cafe. Callan was the pastry chef and Norris was the executive chef and a nearly 20-year member of the Zuni Cafe team.

Callan and Norris hope to open Bev’s this June when they’re promising a “casual cafe focused on excellent food and hospitality” serving breakfast, lunch and prepared food to go.

Our guests can expect a focused menu for counter service and takeaway breakfast and lunch. Breakfast will include egg sandwiches, granola, oatmeal, and pastries. Lunch will include hot and cold sandwiches, salads, soups, and daily specials. Limited prepared foods will be available to help make a delicious weeknight dinner at home simple.

We will cook the only way we know, making dishes that are comforting and familiar, guided by the best local ingredients in close partnership with New England farmers, ranchers, and other artisanal producers.

Bev’s will serve beer and wine as well as Tandem Coffee and teas from the Rare Tea Company.

To get caught up on all the new restaurants under development visit our Under Construction List.

2023 Beard Awards Nominees

This year’s James Beard Foundation Awards list of restaurant and chef nominees were announced this morning.

Of the 11 Maine semifinalistsThe Quarry in Monson has earned a spot as a final nominee in the Outstanding Hospitality category. Congratulations to chef/owner Marilou Ranta and her team!

After a final round of evaluation and voting, this year’s Beard Awards winners will be announced on Monday June 5th in Chicago.

Related information:

Battery Steele Expanding to Wells

Battery Steele Brewing (website, facebook, instagram) is opening a second location. They’ve bought the former Varano’s Italian restaurant in Wells where they plan to open a 180-seat pub. The building is undergoing renovations and they hope to open to public as soon as May.

Owners Jake Condon, Meaghen Kenney, Scott Kenney, Lee Thibodeau and Shane Noble plan to serve a focused menu of elevated pub food along with wine, cocktails and, of course, Battery Steele beer. A wood-fired pizza oven and raw bar are being added to the downstairs bar.

Battery Steele launched their brewery and tasting room on Industrial Way in April 2017. It’s been a long term aspiration to add a restaurant outlet to their business, and in an increasingly crowded Maine brewery industry it has the added benefit of diversifying their revenue. In the last few years we’ve seen other breweries such as Maine Beer Co, Bissell Brothers, Goodfire, Banded Horn and Mast Landing adopt the same mixed business model.

Varano’s closed their doors in late December after 23 years in business. The building is located at 60 Mile Road, just off US Route 1, just around the corner from Congdon’s Donuts and almost across the street from Batson River.

Nezinscot Farm: America’s Classic Award

Congratulations to Nezinscot Farm (website, instagram) for being named a James Beard America’s Classics Award winner.

Today’s announcement from the James Beard Foundation includes this description of the farm:

When Gloria married Gregg Varney, she insisted that they open a café on the farm in Turner, Maine that has been in the Varney family for more than a hundred years. The first organic dairy farm in Maine, Nezinscot Farm takes its name, shared by a nearby river, from the Abenaki word signifying a place to gather. The Abenaki name is seemingly also a mission for the Varneys. In 1987, Nezinscot opened its Café and Coffee shop, and Gloria’s original vision has since expanded to include a bakery, a fromagerie, and charcuterie. The Café has something beautiful and exciting on every shelf—cases of homemade cheeses and meats, bagels, freshly baked pies, and perfect breads rolling out the kitchen, topped with farm eggs and homemade sausage and cheeses. The energy behind it all feels directed at building community, with delicious homemade everything (even the teas, even the crackers) serving as the vital instrument of creating and sustaining that gathering. The Varneys feed the community in many ways, significantly providing a warm space to gather around food on a farm in the middle of Maine.

The America’s Classics Awards are given to “locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community.” Maine has celebrated two prior award winners in this category: Waterman’s Beach Lobster in South Thomaston in 2001, and Bagaduce Lunch in Penobscot in 2008.

The Varneys will receive their award at the Beard Awards Gala taking place on June 5th at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.

Additionally, 11 Maine restaurants and chefs have been named semifinalists and are in contention for the 2023 awards. The final list of nominees are due out on March 29th with the award winners also being announced in Chicago on June 5th.

Caballeras in Brunswick

Nikaline Iacono, the owner of Vessel & Vine in Brunswick, is launching a new bar. Named Caballeras (instagram) the menu will focus exclusively on oxidized and aromatized wines like vermouth, sherry, rancio, madeira and apertivos which Iacono refers to as her “true loves”. She hopes to launch Caballeras in April.

The 14-seat bar will be located within the Vessel And Vine shop with additional outdoor seating during the warmer months of the year. In addition to the bar program Caballeras will serve tapas-style snacks. Charley Zimmerman will be heading up the bar with Iacono working on the wine list and food.

Wander at LongWoods in Cumberland

A new restaurant call Wander at LongWoods (instagram) is under construction in the town of Cumberland. The overall venture—which will include an on-site farm—is a collaboration between chefs Mike Allen and Rich Maggi, farmers Molly and Jordan McDuffie, and general manager Joe Atwood. The team hope to launch Wander by early June.

The farm will be an integral part of Wander at LongWoods providing food for the restaurant, an experiential component to the property and a farm store selling Longwoods products as well as those from other farms and food producers. The McDuffies plan to operate a small scale farm employing regenerative farming techniques raising pigs, chickens and cows in addition to the market garden.

Chefs Allen and Maggi will draw as many of the menu ingredients from the LongWoods farm as well as from other nearby farms to serve a seasonal elevated farm-to-table menu. While emphasizing local sourcing they expect to still utilize ingredients (e.g. citrus) that aren’t grown in Maine. The beverage program will feature wine, 6-8 taps of local beer, and cocktails produced in collaboration with Portland area distilleries. In addition to a dining room that will seat 70+, Wander will also have a terrace with outdoor seating, and a communal area extending out into the farm field with picnic tables, fire pits, Adirondack chairs.

Wander at LongWoods will be located at the LongWoods Preserve (instagram) which is being developed as a multi-use (restaurant, recreation, farm, etc) resource for the area. The 55 acre preserve is in land conservation through a collaboration between the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust and the Maine Farmland Trust. The project was initiated and envisioned by land owner by Alex Timpson who spearheaded the conservation efforts on the property.

The building (shown above) that will house Wander was designed by Paul Designs Project. LongWoods Preserve is located at 76 Longwoods Road in Cumberland Center.