Kim Brothers, Old Port Lunch

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an article about brothers Bounahra and Bounahcree Kim who are the chefs at Miyake and the soon to open Oun Lido’s.

The young Kim brothers, born to Cambodian immigrant parents, are bona fide rising star chefs. Their ascendant career trajectories show that if you’re ceaselessly hard-working, humble, gracious, exceedingly polite, joyful, respectful and well respected by seemingly everyone around you, you just may find success.

The paper also has a report on how fewer office workers is impacting lunch time restaurant business.

Those figures, however, only consider whether a business is paying for the space and not whether or how often people are coming into work there. According to several local business and real estate organizations, there are no statistics available that show how much the downtown workforce population has dropped because of remote work. But the store owners and managers witnessing it daily say they’ve seen 15%-30% less downtown foot traffic on weekdays, and that drop makes it challenging to run a small business.

Visit by Food & Wine

Food & Wine restaurant editor Raphael Brion (instagram) was in town for a few days this week exploring the Portland food scene. He visited Leeward, Bar Futo, Ugly Duckling, Helm, The Honey Paw, Eventide, Fore Street, Via Vecchia, Room for Improvement, Zu Baker, Tandem, Smalls (where in addition to lunch he had a mini cake from Siblings Bakery), Twelve, and Regards.

Follow along on his travels across the country (and any future return to Portland) via stories on his instagram account.

My Kitchen Their Table: Barak Olins

Welcome to the January 2024 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 Barak Olins the founder and head baker of ZUbakery. Visit our instagram on next week, to see Barak and his team at work at the bakery.

A boat builder turned bread maker, Barak Olins is a master of craftsmanship and tradition. Originally from Tennessee, he moved to Rockport, Maine, to build boats. Eventually, his love affair with cooking became his profession when he and two partners opened Cafe Uffa (now the location of El Corazon in Longfellow Square), in 1995. In their quest to prepare everything from scratch, his journey in breadmaking took off.

In 2000, Olins launched ZUbakery out of a barn in Freeport equipped with a hand built woodfired oven and age-old techniques. From milling locally-grown grains to proofing at ambient temperature, his bread is as traditional as it gets. “I’m not an innovator. I’m not trying to reinvent bread. I don’t believe I can create a loaf of bread better than those before me,” he humbly explains.

For over two decades, he sold exclusively at farmer’s markets in Brunswick. On Fridays, the day before a market, he would sleep in the barn on a cot after he loaded the final batch of bread into the oven. The following day, after only a few hours of sleep, he would haul nearly 180 pastries and 300 loaves of bread to the market. “It was romantic for years, and then I said, I can’t do this anymore,” he says, laughing.

In 2022, Olins went from barn to boulangerie when he took over a space at 81 Clark Street in Portland’s West End. After many months of renovations, he opened the doors on October 21st, 2022. Inspired by a 1930s French bakery, it is chic, minimalist, and intentional. The 650-square-foot space has an open kitchen separated from the retail area by a narrow marble countertop and paned window — a cozy spot to watch your daily bread being made. Like all things Olins, there is beauty in its simplicity and practicality — from the wood shelves piled high with willow baking baskets to the proofing trough and work tables he built himself.

Unlike most bakeries, the counter at ZUbakery is far from fully stocked at the time of opening. Rather, Olins and his small, talented crew bake throughout the day. His menu, or rather schedule, begins at 9 a.m. with pastries served alongside coffee and tea. From late morning to early afternoon, they load the shelves with bread. Then, pizzettes and focaccia hit the counter until close at 5 p.m. This schedule allows the baking crew to start their day at a reasonable hour (if you consider 5 a.m. reasonable) and allows you to get an exceptionally fresh, even warm loaf of bread. Also for sale are housemade biscotti and granola, local honey, olive oil, ceramics made by Olins’ wife, Mimi, and a small selection of thoughtfully sourced wine.

Continue reading to learn more about Olins’ “unfussy utilitarian” approach to baking, where he’s ordering takeout from, and which brewery you’re most likely to find him at.


AR: How would you describe your baking style?
BO: I don’t make bread with a lot of other things in them. They’re fairly simple and rustic. I’m really interested in reclaiming that word because now you can go to a grocery store and buy artisanal, rustic bread, but that word rustic really means something. To me, it means handmade, regional, unfussy, and utilitarian.

AR: Why do you mill grains in-house?
BO: For one, it gives me the opportunity to work directly with the farmer. Also, flour loses flavor and oxidizes if it sits around for a long time. Eventually, the germ oil can go rancid. Freshly milled flour adds a layer of flavor. The range of offerings at my bakery is relatively small, and I want everything I do to be done as well as possible, so having control over the wheat that I use and the flour that I have is really important.

AR: What is your favorite pastry to make?
BO: I just love scones. I think they’re so good. I make an Irish scone with currants. They’re really simple. The trick is how you handle it. You don’t want to overwork the dough.

AR: What about your favorite bread?
BO: I make one called pavé. That’s French for a paving stone. It’s so good for dipping in olive oil or with a salad. The loaf is large, somewhat rectangular, and slightly flat. I usually make it with buckwheat, whole wheat, and white flour.

AR: What are the ingredients in pavé?
BO: Flour, water, salt, and starter. A bread recipe is more accurately a baker’s schedule. It’s not so much the ingredients as it is your technique of working the dough, how long you’re fermenting it, how you shape the loaf, and, of course, the wheat you’re using. One schedule that works for many bakers is cold fermentation. Sometimes shaped loaves cold-ferment in a cooler overnight. I don’t do that. My bread, with few exceptions, is always fermented at ambient temperature. Sometimes, I use refrigeration to slow it down, but I aim to do everything at room temperature. I don’t like relying that much on technology, and I like being more in touch with the dough as it’s going along.

AR: What is one of your favorite dishes in Portland?
BO: At Yosaku, they still make soba noodles in-house daily. For me, a bowl of cold soba noodles with dashi, wasabi, and grated daikon is magical. It’s not innovative. It’s just perfect. There’s no flavor that doesn’t need to be there. And it’s beautifully presented. That’s my dish.

AR: What is one of your go-to spots in Portland?
BO: I really love Bahn Appetit, the little takeout spot on Cumberland Avenue. They’re excellent. Everything I’ve had there is delicious. The Bahn mi is really good. I love honest, straightforward cooking. I don’t need to be surprised by combinations.

AR: Where did you eat one of your most memorable meals?
BO: One of my favorite dinners ever was at Bresca. At the time, I didn’t know who Krista Kern Desjarlais was. My wife and I sat at the bar looking into the kitchen. It was a sweet, cozy place with a small menu. Everything was delicious — the food, the wine. We were totally in love with it.

AR: Where do you go for a drink?
BO: I love Bunker Brewing. It’s a little off the beaten path. It’s on the backside of a building with some picnic tables. It reminds me of my favorite parts of what Portland was like twenty years ago. And the beer is so good. I’m not a big cloudy IPA drinker. I like their Machine Pilz and Salad Daze IPL. The one that transports me to an Irish or English-style bitter is the Chickadee nitro beer.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Previous editions of My Kitchen Their Table have featured Courtney Loreg, Chad Conley  Atsuko Fujimoto, Matt Ginn, Jordan Rubin, Cara Stadler, Thomas Takashi Cooke, Ilma Lopez, Bowman Brown, Brian Catapang, Kelly Nelson, Lee Farrington & Bryna Gootkind, Jake and Raquel Stevens, Tina Cromwell, Nathaniel Meiklejohn, Evan Atwell, and Mimi Weissenborn.

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

Chocolats Passion Adds Owner

Chocolats Passion has announced that a key member of their staff, lead chocolatier Sarah Levine (shown above), has become a co-owner of the business with founder Catherine Wiersema.

Almost 4 years ago, Sarah walked into 189 Brackett Street, résumé in hand, and was hired as a Chocolatier. Two years ago, Catherine promoted her to Lead Chocolatier, and delegated to her all production and day-to-day management of our growing team. All along, Sarah proved herself central to our vision of quality and creativity in crafting our artisan confections.

Today, we are so excited and proud to share that Sarah is now Catherine’s co-owner in the business. We make a fantastic team, and look forward to keeping our beloved Chocolats Passion on a path of excellence, fun, and ever better chocolates with our wonderful crew!

New Leaders at Miyake

Longtime managers Emily Phillips and Courtney Packer have taken over ownership of Miyake and Pai Men Miyake from Masa Miyake. Packer and Phillips aren’t planning on making any big changes. Their intention is to keep the hours, menu, and “overall essence” of both businesses the same moving forward. The new owners have been managers at the restaurants for more than ten years.

Chef Miyake will be handing over culinary leadership of the flagship Miyake restaurant to his longtime sous chef Bounahra Kim towards the end of January. He’ll continue to be a resource through the transition to Packer, Kim and Phillips.

Masa Miyake opened Food Factory Miyake in 2007 at 129 Spring Street. The small BYOB sushi bar quickly developed a reputation for excellence. The restaurant moved to its present location in 2011 and for a time the original space was home to Miyake Diner, an izakaya-style restaurant. Pai Men Miyake opened on September 15, 2010. After a pandemic induced break and renovations Miyake on Fore Street reopened on December 1, 2022.

The 2023 Year In Review

Here’s a look back at the 2023 year in food. It’s been a very busy year of events, openings and, sadly, of closings too. Read on for a refresher on the year we just experienced and for a look at the new restaurants, bars, pizzerias, and other business that are in the pipeline.

Closings – Some restaurant close every year whether due to retirement, lack of business success, owners interest in pursuing a new venture or external personal circumstance. However, 2023 has clearly seen much more than its fair share. 2023 has been notable not only for the overall number of business closures, but also for touching established businesses as well as more recent arrivals alike.

To name just a few there was Little Woodfords, Maine Mead Works, the Rosemont wine bar, and Bull Feeney’s in Q1, Blue Spoon (since reopened in Rockport), Tiqa, Full Turn and Timber in Q2 and Vena’s shared plans not to launch their new bar/retail shop, Petite Jacqueline, Rick’s Lobby Cafe, The Danforth, Wolf Peach in Camden in Q3, and the CBD on Congress, the Other Side Deli, Judy Gibson, Radici, The Snug and Cabana in Q4. See this page and the month-by-month recap below for a fuller accounting of the departures.

Hopefully as we head into 2024 we’ll see this peak in these losses to the food and dining community subside.

Maine Food Map – The energy that’s powered the Portland area restaurant scene for the last decade is also now making an impact on communities across the state. New hospitality businesses are launching in small towns like Waterford and Alna as well as in tourist destinations like Rangeley and Eastport. Nowhere has that entrepreneurial activity been more keenly evident than in the Midcoast. However, the last two years have also seen notable establishments opening in locations like Gardiner and Lewiston—cities that weren’t at the top of anyone’s #TheNextBiddeford list. A pandemic influenced in-migration to Maine from other states is one of the contributing factors which has brought experienced professionals to (or back to) Maine and a growing customer base for the businesses they’re creating.

Take a look back the 2023 reporting on the Maine food scene for more details, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Beard Awards: The Quarry in Monson was a Beard Awards winner in the Outstanding Hospitality Category, and Nezinscot Farm in Turner was named a James Beard America’s Classics Award winner
  • Kennebunk: Chefs Nate Norris and Annie Callan opened Bev’s Cafe and Market in Kennebunk
  • Bath/Brunswick: Caballeras, BizziBuns, Oysthers, and The Abbey all opened. A new Holy Donut shop, Reverie Coffee and Linden + Front are under construction. After a long hiatus Tao Yuan reopened.
  • Camden/Rockport: Costa Media opened in the former Wolf Peach building. Additionally,  Albatross, the new bar at The Norumbega, The Place Bakery, Sea Hag Cidery and the relocated Blue Spoon opened. Buttermilk Kitchen is under construction.
  • Thomaston: Honey’s is under construction and Uproot Pie Company just opened.
  • Alna: The Maine Sunday Telegram named The Alna Store their pick for the Best New Restaurant of 2023.
  • Greenville: the Blair Hill Inn hired Max Snyder as their new chef.
  • Belfast: a new wine bar called Pulling Corks, and a taco/cocktail bar called Dos Gatos are under construction.
  • Wiscassett: The “prettiest village in Maine” saw the opening of Jolie Rodger’s and Yonder, and Jodie’s took the place of Sarah’s.
  • Blue Hill Peninsula: Travel and Leisure declared the Blue Hill peninsula “One of the Best Places to Eat in the U.S. Right Now“.
  • Union/Warren: Alsace opened in Union and the Black Goat Test Kitchen opened in Warren.
  • Lewiston: The opening of Bon Vivant brought fine dining back to Lewiston.
  • Waldoboro: The Waldoboro Inn launched Ida’s their fun bar and pop-up collaboration venue.
  • Gardiner: Table Bar launched a dinner service with chef Jimmy Leftis.
  • Buxton: Oak & Ember opened in September.
  • Saco: The Scandinavian bakery Fika opened.
  • Waterford: The launch of Tallulah’s at The Waterford Inne.

Upcoming in 2024 – There remains a strong pipeline of new businesses under development in the Portland area. For a full list see our Under Construction list. Here are just some highlights to look forward to:

There are also several other exciting new projects in the works that we’ll be writing about soon. Check back soon for all the details.

Notable Events of 2023


Top 10 Articles

The most popular articles published on Portland Food Map in the past year.

  1. Salvatore’s Hoagies – first word of the new sandwich takeout business.
  2. Oak & Ember – first word about a new restaurant in Buxton.
  3. 2023 Beard Semifinalists – 11 Maine restaurants and chefs were named as awards semifinalists.
  4. Battery Steele – first word of the brewery’s expansion to Wells.
  5. Bistro Leluco – opening of the restaurant in South Portland.
  6. Wander at Longwoods – first word about the farm-to-table restaurant in Cumberland.
  7. Tacos La Poblanita – first word of their new restaurant in Westbrook.
  8. Thanksgiving List – the 2023 edition of our Thanks giving Resource list.
  9. Lambs – opening announcement for Lambs in South Portland.
  10. Lecha – first word about the new boba tea and ice cream shop in Deering Center.

For an additional perspective on the past year in food see the Maine Sunday Telegram Dine Out Maine: Best of 2023 article, and the Portland Old Port 2023 wrap-up.

This is the 14th year running that Portland Food Map has published a year in review article. Take a walk down memory lane by checking out these past editions that covered 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

Trevin Hutchins

Former Portland bartended Trevin Hutchins graces the cover of the new edition of Imbibe magazine. He’s profiled in their annual Imbibe 75 features which highlights the “people and places shaping the way we drink”.

Hutchins is now the bar manager at Aphotic in San Francisco. which has its own distillation license which enables Hutchins and his team to develop custom spirits, liquors and distillates for the drinks on the Aphotic menu.

Sanabria’s Coquito

Punch has published an article about Papi beverage director LyAnna Sanabria’s recipe for the classic Puerto Rican drink Coquito.

While coquito is often shorthanded as Puerto Rico’s answer to eggnog, the comparison is not quite right, Sanabria notes. While the two drinks share some characteristics—boozy, creamy, spiced—coquito tends to be lighter-bodied than eggnog, meant for sipping in warmer weather. It also has a complicated heritage entwined with the island’s colonial past.

Maine Chef at White House Event

Joseph Robbins, the chef at Bissell Brothers Three Rivers in Milo, has been invited to cook at the White House Tribal Nations Summit taking place on December 6th and 7th.

Robbins is one of a small team of Indigenous American chefs participating in the event. His draft menu includes a turkey roulade made with squash and cranberries served over a wild rice and apple salad with a pumpkin pipian sauce. In addition to representing Indigenous American cuisine Robbins shared he also appreciates the opportunity to showcase produce and meats from Maine farms.

Robbins is Penobscot and has been one of a growing cadre of chefs raising the visibility of Indigenous American cooking traditions. A visitor to Bissell Brothers in Milo will find a menu grounded in local foods and featuring some dishes that make use of indigenous ingredients and food traditions.