The Portland Phoenix has published an article about Big Babe’s Tavern, a music and food venue under construction in the Knightville neighborhood of South Portland.
But the vision goes beyond just a performance space. It’s a tavern in the traditional sense of the word, like the Irish and English pubs many touring musicians covet for the meals they offer and the sleeping arrangements upstairs. Big Babe’s has five themed rooms you can stay in on the second floor, with odes to Stax and Sun Records, Bonnie and Clyde’s Barrow Gang, even Stephen King.
Andrew and Briana Volk, owners of the Portland Hunt and Alpine Club, have leased space at 150 Main St in Waterville where they plan to open Verna’s All Day (website, instagram), a “casual, classic American chop house”.
The Volks are planing to bring ” locally-sourced food from farmers, classic cocktails and friendly service” to a town that’s undergoing a significant change as Colby College brings investment and attention to developing the downtown of the city where it’s been located for 207 years.
The restaurant is named for Briana’s grandmother. Verna’s is scheduled to open in late 2020.
Andrew Volk is a Colby alum from the class of 2005.
As reported back in October, Chad Conley and Josh Sobel have leased the former Flying Fox Juice Bar at 98 Washington Ave.
Conley and Sobel are working with Carrie Dessertine from Mey & Co. on the redesign of the space which they plan to reopen in early spring as a Philly-inspired breakfast and lunch hoagie shop called Ramona’s (instagram). The menu is still under wraps but Conley and Sobel shared one item it will include: a roast pork/broccoli rabe/sharp provolone sandwich.
Chad Conley is well known as the co-owner of Palace Diner and founder of Rose Foods. Josh Sobel hails from Philadelphia. He is a member of the Rose Foods staff, and has worked in NYC at Mile End, Diner, Marlow & Sons, and Court Street Grocers; he was also a co-owner of Southside Coffee. Grub Street put Southside at the top of their list of NYC’s best breakfast sandwiches back in 2016.
Flying Fox closed October 19, 2019.
Jake and Raquel Stevens, owners of Leeward (website, instagram) the Italian restaurant under construction on Free Street, have launched a Kickstarter campaign. The Stevens are looking to raise $12k to “help us purchase some of our opening inventory, and to address a few unexpected construction costs”.
The Stevens are hoping to open Leeward sometime in February.
As reported back in December, a Mexican/Salvadoran restaurant called Dos Naciones is under construction at 649 Congress Street in the former Local Sprouts space.
Dos Naciones owner Virginia Abarca has now applied for a liquor license and supplied a draft copy of their menu (page 41).
A new tavern serving lunch and dinner is under development at 51 Wharf Street by Tom Minervino, his sister Meg Minervino and their business partner Mike Barton.
The tentative name for the tavern is the Wharf Street Rathskeller. It will seat 44 including a 20-seat horseshoe bar.
The Minervinos and Barton also own and operate Legends Rest in Westbrook.
Flores (facebook), the Salvadoran restaurant located at 863 Congress Street, has leased the 1,800 sq ft former Mainely Wraps space at 431 Congress Street.
Owners of The Farm Stand in South Portland and Solo Italiano are collaborating to launch Solo Cucina and Market.
The new venture will takeover the space currently occupied by The Farm Stand and open sometime in February. The remade market will incorporate up to 10 seats and a small bar featuring bakery and espresso drinks. Solo Cucina will sell prepared food to go in addition to the meats and produce that The Farm Stand is known for.
The Farm Stand in its current form will close on January 15 to begin renovations.
For more reporting on the project read today’s article from The Forecaster.
Mr. Tuna is expanding into the space adjacent to their current food stall at the Public Market House. The renovations will add 10 more counter seats for their regular daily service, and in the future may serve as a bar for their occasional Night Market pop-up dinners as well as provide space for a Japanese shaved ice menu coming this summer.
Another year of great food and evolution of the Portland dining scene has gone by, and I’ve taken a moment to sort what took place and assembled this report on the notable events and trends of 2019:
- Most Notable Openings – 2017 still sets the high water mark for new restaurant opening but there was a solid cohort of new businesses that lauched in the past year. I would highlight the most notable openings in 2019 as: Christian Hayes’ new restaurant The Garrison in Yarmouth, Greg Mitchell’s new West End restaurant Flood’s, the launch of Gross Confection Bar (both restaurant and bakery) by Brant Dadaleares, the opening of the culinary knife shop Strata on Washington Ave, the re-emergence of Ten Ten Pié talent Atsuko Fujimoto leading her own business Norimoto Bakery, the vegan ice cream shop Sticky Sweet in Bayside, the opening of Basque cider bar and restaurant Anoche and the opening of Nura by the owners of Falafel Mafia. You can see a full list of opening in the calendar section of this report below.
- Italian is All the Rage – After several years of relative stability, the Italian restaurant landscape is undergoing some tectonic changes. Both Vignola/Cinque Terre and Espo’s closed, and JP’s Bistro moved to Falmouth. Maria’s moved from their longtime home on Cumberland Ave to the former Espo’s location on Congress Street. Rockland-based Ada’s Kitchen is soon to open a location in the Arts District. Jake and Raquel Stevens are in the process of launching a new Italian restaurant called Leeward on Free Street, and Joshua Miranda is launching Via Vecchia in the former Vignola/CT building on Dana Street. Beard Award semifinalists from New Jersey, Randy and Ally Forrester, are taking over 52 Washington Ave where they plan to open Radici Pizzeria, and the former Anjon’s location in Scarborough will be the home of a new Italian restaurant in 2020 called Amore on the Marsh.
- Cider and Apples – I may be a bit biased, but I think heirloom apples and cider came into their own in 2019. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Out on a Limb Apple CSA has raised the awareness and changed the appetites of us all. Apple buyers can now find heirloom varieties regularly on sale at Rosemont, the Co-op and other markets. Maine is now home to 3 cider bars (Perennial, The Cider House, Anoche)—the only New England state with even one—that are developing an appreciation for how excellent and diverse hard ciders are. The heirloom apple tasting that The Righteous Russet and Portland Food Map hold each year sold out in record time and we were invited to put on an encore presentation the following week at the Blaine House. The Cider Club, a small group of restaurant professionals, cider makers and enthusiasts, now meet regularly to taste ciders from Maine, New England and across the nation, and new Maine cider makers came on line in 2019 and I hope to see more in the coming years.
- Closings – several well-loved restaurants—Ten Ten Pié, Walter’s, Local Sprouts, Lolita, Brian Boru Andy’s Old Port Pub and Silly’s—all closed in 2019. There was a lot of concern about whether this the indication of a major shift in the industry or a sign of unwanted change in our city. The Press Herald even did a feature story that explored whether we were seeing a restaurant bubble about to burst. The short answer is we’re not but that didn’t lessen the sting for longtime customers of establishments that have been lost. At least in two cases fans have gotten a reprieve with the relaunch of Andy’s scheduled for January and the launch Norimoto Bakery by Ten Ten’s very talented former baker Atsuko Fujimoto. The Local Sprouts and Silly’s spaces have already been leased to restaurants that will open in 2020, and I expect that will also happen with the former Walter’s and Lolita locations.
- Upcoming in 2020 – There are a number of new businesses slated to open in 2020—the full list can be seen here PFM Under Construction list—that hopefully will be successful in building their own loyal following. The ones I’m most looking forward to are:
- Magnus on Water – a cocktail bar and restaurant in Biddeford.
- Leeward – an Italian restaurant on Free Street being launched by Jake and Raquel Stevens.
- Judy Gibson – a contemporary American restaurant from Chris Wilcox, a former chef de cuisine at Eventide.
- Radici Pizzeria – an Italian pizzeria by Randy and Ally Forrester who ran the Beard semifinalist Osteria Radici in New Jersey.
- Speckled Ax – a new 2nd location for Speckled Ax on Thames Street.
- Terlingua – Terlingua is taking over the former Silly’s building where they’ll have a larger restaurant, outdoor seating and market.
- Two Fat Cats – TFC is moving from their original location to a larger building in West Bayside.
- Via Vecchia – Joshua Miranda, the owner of Blyth & Burrows, is opening an Italian restaurant and bar in the former Vignola/Cinque Terre.
- Name TBA – Chad Conley and Josh Sobel’s new eatery on Washington Ave.
Top 10 Articles
The most popular articles published on Portland Food Map in the past year.
- The opening of Bird & Co in Woodfords Corner (March 12)
- The launch of Kuno, a food truck serving Malaysian Peranakan cuisine (February 16)
- First news about Other Side Diner (February 6)
- Report on new ownership of Congress Bar and Grill (August 30)
- The closing of Local Sprouts (July 3)
- News that the Minervinos were taking over Pizza Villa (February 21)
- The opening of Coals Pizza (June 12)
- The opening of the Royale Lunch Bar (April 2)
- JP’s Bistro decission to move to Falmouth (September 30)
- First news about the Maine Maple Creemee food truck (July 10)
Notable Events of 2019
- January – the former Aurora Provisions building was bought at auction by Tom Landry, 6 Maine producers were award recipients at the Good Food Awards, Botto’s Bakery celebrated their 70th anniversary, the 2019 Chef’s Summit took place; Gross Confection Bar and Little Sichuan opened; Ice It Bakery, the Washington Ave CBD, Rosanna’s Ice Cream closed; and both Frog & Turtle and Tandem Bakery announced expansion plans.
- February – 9 Maine chefs and restaurants were among the 2019 Beard Award semifinalists, Figgy’s chef/owner Natalie DiBenedetto appeared on Chopped, word broke about Magnus on Water, Sam and Rob Minervino took over Pizza Villa, Portland Food Map began publishing monthly restaurant real estate listings; Strata, Oxbow Beer Garden, the Kuno food truck launched.
- March – Two Maine brewers Lone Pine (5) and Mast Landing (24) were among the Brewers Guild’s list of the fastest growing brewers in the country, Elise Miller from Rosemont competed and won on Chopped, Hunt & Alpine bartender Sylvi Roy came out on top at the North East SpeedRack competition, Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell celebrated 5 years of owning Palace by keeping the diner open continuously for 30 hours, Cong Tu Bot hosted Lil’ Deb’s Oasis for a pop-up, Rob Tod from Allagash Brewing Co. was named a Beard Awards nominee in the Outstanding Wine Beer or Spirits Producer category, Chaval bar manager Pat McDonald became a national finalists in the 2019 Tio Pepe cocktail competition, North Bayou and Ripka relocated to Maine; the MBC tasting room, Bird & Co, Dizzy Bird opened, and Ten Ten Pié closed.
- April – Matt Ginn and Christian Hayes appeared together on MaineVoices Live, a fire temporarily closed Fore Street, the inaugural Seaweed Week, the first Turamali pop-up took place at Belleville, Northern Hospitality was named an IACP awards Finalist, Mary Ann Esposito was the guest of honor at a Solo Italiano dinner, Atsuko Fujimoto founded Norimoto Bakery, Rose Foods launched a guest chef series; Cheevitdee began serving breakfast, the Other Side Diner, Royale Lunch Bar, Maiz opened.
- May – Rob Tod was the recipient of a Beard Award in the Outstanding Wine, Beer and Spirits Producer category, Maine resident Scott Tyree became a Master Sommelier, Hop Culture and The Boston Globe published eating guides to Portland; Flood’s, Blue Spoon Cafe, Quiero Cafe, Grippy Tannins, and Rebel Cheesesteaks opened; Vignola/Cinque Terre and Walter’s closed.
- June – The Great Lost Bear celebrated its 40th anniversary and Coffee by Design celebrated their 25th, the 2nd annual PFM paper pocket guide was released, the 2nd Annual Portland Wine Week took place, Wine Enthusiast named Drifters one of the 100 Best Wine Restaurants in the country, Northern Hospitality was a final nominee for a Tales of the Cocktail award; Coals Pizza, Island Lobster Company, Poke Maine, LB Kitchen West, Yardie Ting, Bánh Appétit, Huong Ice Cream Coffee Shop, Lorne Wine and the Forest Ave Blake Orchard opened; Local Sprouts closed.
- July – Krista Desjarlais appeared on The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Cherry Bombe recorded a podcast episode with a panel of Maine’s female chefs and food producers, a fire temporarily closed Ri-Ra and Flatbread, CBD released a set of 3 anaerobic process coffees; The Garrison, the Gross Confection bakery, Three of Strong Spirits, Twist, and Black Dinah Chocolatiers opened; Maelily Ryleigh closed.
- August – The Wall Street Journal has published an “An Incomparable Insider’s Guide” to Portland, the New York Times has published an article on Bluet, Conde Nast Traveler has published a set of articles about Portland, Chaval was the featured restaurant for an Outstanding in the Field dinner, Mr. Tuna kicked on a dinner series – Mr. T’s Night Market – with guest chef Sang Lee, David Mallari appreared on Chopped; the Cider House, the Old Port edition of Po’ Boys & Pickles, and Chula Elotes opened; Brian Boru, Silly’s and Simply Vegan by Silly’s closed.
- September – ChefsFeed held three collaboration dinners at Lio, the B Side explored “the myriad unexpected ways honeybees are part of the social and cultural fabric of our everyday life,” the 3rd Annual Dine Out for Equality took place, BlueFin hosted a Maine meets Miami dinner with chef Micheal Beltran from Ariete Coconut Grove, the Washington Post has published A Local’s Guide to Portland, Novare Res hosted Cantillon Zwanze Day, the 2nd edition of Maine Chefs Table was released; Sticky Sweet opened, Poke Pop closed and the owners announced plans to replace it with a restaurant called Noodle Love, and JP’s Bistro announced plans to move to Falmouth; Lolita closed.
- October – Portland Food Map launched a line of branded tote bags, t-shirts, coffee mugs
with the tag line Small City Big Appetite, Man & Oak kicked off a set of whiskey blending workshops, the 6th Annual Heirloom Apple Tasting with a follow-up event taking place at the Blaine House, Culinary historian Michael Twitty gave a talk at USM, The Boston Globe has published an article about The Purple House and its chef/owner Krista Kern Desjarlais, Harvest on the Harbor took place, the Independent Ice Company earned their Executive Bourbon certification from the Stave & Thief Society, Coffee by Design was recognized by Roast Magazine as their 2020 Macro Roaster of the Year; Candy’s and CBG opened, Terlingua announced plans to move into the former Silly’s building, Burke’s Perks replaced One Six Green in Monument Square, the Toast Bar extended their hiatus due to the lack of staff, and Flying Fox juice bar closed
- November – Portland Beer Week and the 15th Annual VegFest took place, Little Woodfords was recognized as one of the Best Coffee Shops in America by Food & Wine magazine, Medium explored the question “Why is the Whitest, Oldest State in the U.S. Home to Such a Vibrant Food Scene?, 12 Maine food producers were announced as finalists in the 2020 Good Food Awards; Cocktail Mary, Uncharted Tea, Anoche, the new Cheese Shop opened, and A & C Grocery began serving dinner; Andy’s Old Port Pub and Portland Pulp closed.
- December – news surfaced that John and Tanya Lowell are in the process of buying Andy’s Old Port Pub with plans to reopen it, the Maine Sunday Telegram examined whether the Portland restaurant industry is a bubble about to burst, Thrillist included the Hunt & Alpine Club on their list of the Best Cocktail Bars in America, the Maine Bicentennial Community Cookbook project launched; Nura opened, Maria’s reopened after completing a move to the former Espo’s space on Congress Street; The 5 Spot and Rockin Ricky’s Closed.
For some other perspectives on the past year see articles by Andrew Ross and Avery Yale Kamilla, and annual A to Z roundup in the Maine Sunday Telegram.
Here are links to the Portland Food Map year in review reports for 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.