Location, Location, Location

Now that the number of new food ventures seems to be on an upswing again, the demand for vacant restaurants and retail spaces is sure to increase. I occasionally get contacted by entrepreneurs seeking advice on finding the right location for their new venture. So I’ve put together this list of the open spots I know of in the area to help out anyone reading this who’s at that stage in their business plan.

I’m sure there are spots I’ve overlooked. If you know of one, please post a comment or email me at anestes@portlandfoodmap.com to let me know where they are along any thoughts you have on what would be a good fit for that space and I’ll add them to the list.

Old Port

  • 41 Wharf St—Rogue’s Gallery closed out their Portland Store earlier this year. The moody low ceiling space is tailor made for a high end yet divvy speakeasy.
  • 50 Wharf St—Havana South consolidated 3 restaurant spaces (The Iguana, Cake, Chiang Mai) to create one of the larger restaurants in Portland. The landlord recently segmented off a part of it for a new barber shop but the rest of it is still available. Buck’s Naked BBQ is leasing this space to open their 3rd restaurant.
  • Dana and Wharf Streets—the last spot on Wharf Street before it intersects Dana St. The outside is nothing to look at but peak through the glass and you can see a pretty nice space inside with wide plank floors, exposed brick and good natural light. (see the photo at the end of this article)
  • Dana St—Simple Sandwich, Papaya King and before that Mama’s Diner have all called this home. It’s right next to Amigo’s, across the street from Vignola and well situate to feed the late night bar hopping crowds on Wharf and Fore Streets. The space has been leased and the windows are papered over.
  • 275 Commercial St—this is just a door or two away from Bam Bam Bakery. The downside of this address is that it’s at the far edge of the retail part of Commercial so there’s less foot traffic. This space has been leased and will be the home of Muse Paintbar
  • 154 Middle St—the former home Phone Source across from Anthony’s Italian Kitchen and next to The Corner General Store.
  • 35 Silver St—right next to Crooked Mile Cafe and across Silver Street from The Regency Hotel.
  • Milk & Market Streets—years ago this was Molly’s, a great spot for a business lunch in the Old Port. For the last several years it’s been the showroom for a luxury condo project, but it would be great to see it reanimated as an Old Port restaurant.
  • 10 Exchange St—for the few months this had been the home of Roma Pizza. The space is set back inside the building away all the great foot traffic on Exchange making it a more challenging spot to succeed in.
  • White Bunker a little after the Ocean Terminal—I heard a while ago that the City was prepping the white cinder block building for lease. It’s located just past the Ocean Gateway Terminal. Due to the Eastern Prom walking path there’s a lot of good foot traffic during the warmer months.
  • Public Market House—Y-Lime’s Gourmet had a small cupcake retail operation on the first floor but decided to return to just doing wholesale. K. Horton’s is using the space for the moment but presumably it’s available for lease if someone is interested.
  • 45 york st—Velocipede recently went out of business and there space is now available. This address is just a couple doors down from Portland Pie Company and El Rayo.

Art District

  •  517 Congress St—situated on the first floor of Mechanic Hall, this was the longtime home of Fotoshop.
  • 566 Congress St—almost directly across the street from Speckled Ax, 566 used to be an art gallery.
  • 569 Congress St—nestled between Speckled Ax and Pom’s and in the same block as 555, this would be a good location for another eatery. It had been a yarn shop so would need more of a build out than some of the other spots on this list.
  • 593 Congress St—former location of The Kitchen, great location right at the intersection of High and Congress across the street from the Art Museum. In the time since The Kitchen operated here the space has been completely renovated but the skylights are still in place.
  • Hay Building—this small part of the Hay Building that isn’t used by Starbucks. It could easily be a newsstand or maybe a Winter home for a food cart.
  • 85 Free St—this cavernous space was the home of the Winter Farmers’ Market during its first year of operation.
  • First floor of the Schwartz Building—the building at the intersection of High and Congress is still being renovated, but you can imagine that once it’s complete the space on the first floor could be a killer street cafe.
  • 660 Congress St—the Queen Anne style building was the first space Roxanne Quimby bought to house her eponymous artist colony. The last business to operate there was Zinnia’s Antiques. A formal dining restaurant might be a good fit for the architecture but the building does look like it needs a lot of work to get up to fighting trim.

West End

  • 3 Deering Ave—until recently this was the home of Mr Sandwich & Mrs. Muffin. Street parking is less than ideal but it’s very near Maine Medical and could be successful as a lunch alternative for hospital employees.
  • 769 Congress St—for a few years 769 served as headquarters for The Quimby Colony. 1935-2009 it was the home of the Roma restaurant. As part of the renovations to the Roma it now has a very nice commercial kitchen. Downstairs from the restaurant used to be the old Bramhall Pub. The building is for sale.
  • 870 Congress St—this space is in the Maine Medical Center parking garage opposite La Bodega Latina.
  • Pine & Bracket Streets—the latest architectural plans for the apartment building going in at the corner of  Pine and Brackett Streets show a restaurant space on the first floor (page 16).


  • 646 Forest Avethe portion of StarEast Cafe that faces Forest Ave has been segmented off from the rest of the cafe and is now for lease.
  • 337 Forest Avethis is the former home of the Campus Bookstore. I could imagine it being a college hangout spot given that it’s directly across the street from campus.
  • Amergian Bros on Pearl Stthe sign for this neighborhood market is one of the last vestiges of a large Armenian community that thrived here during the early 20th century. With the development of Bayside taking place perhaps it’s time to see this historic location once again serve as a neighborhood market.
  • 171 Ocean St in South Portland—until they went out of business, this was the home of Pho Hanoi. According to a reader (see comment below) 171 Ocean is under development as a Sushi bar and so is no longer available.
  • Bathras Market in Willards Square—this is the culinary corner of South Portland. Scratch Bakery anchors the square along with Willard Scoops. A block away is David’s 388 and Sweet Marguerite’s chocolate. There’s a big neighborhood within walking distance.

Vacant spot at corner of Dana and Wharf Streets

12 comments on “Location, Location, Location

  1. Interesting collection of spaces. One comment about the former Bathras market. Because of a zoning change that was aimed at (and did) preventing Ebos’s Market from opening across the street, it might be impossible for a new market to open in Bathras place.

  2. Great idea PFM. It’s funny but when you live here all your life and you walk the streets quite a bit you get a vibe for what’s gonna go and what isn’t. That 10 exchange where roma closed is a good example. In fact, I wouldn’t touch Exchange or wharf street or the water side of Commercial if I were an investor. Huge tourist areas but for some reason they are in the tough to succeed restaurant zones. Look at where Havana was. You’d have to be nuts to try going there unless you were already really established somewhere else. Even that might not matter.

    The thing now is more that you have to already to own restaurant(s) in Portland to be successful opening a new one. If you’re new you better come out of the gates strong with good reviews or you’re dead in the water. The one that really surprised me coming back from the depths is The Thirsty Pig. They did a great job pulling that out of a certain grave.

    In’Finiti(Novare) is going to be a huge hit and we all know that in advance even though that would be a tough location for a start up. Same thing with Outliers(Grace). Having the name is half the game.

    To be honest if I had the choice of all the spots you mentioned to open a place that I think would do well it would be the Pine/brackett new building once it’s in. No parking really but it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t be shocked to see that be the next Duckfat location.

  3. The Pho Hanoi spot’s already been taken over by a sushi restaurant, per a building permit hanging in their window. They’ve started renovations, but no idea how long until they open…

  4. thanks for these listings, i was just in your town and have checked craigslist, you have provided more infor in one session tha i could get from several so called real estate people. please keep this info coming, but make sure that pic and zoning info are provided, if you would like a donation, just tell me how i can say thank you.

  5. 275 Commercial Street has been leased:

    Notice of Public Hearing City of Portland A Public Hearing will be held on September 5, 2012 at 7:00 P.M., in City Council Chambers, 389 Congress St., on the application of The Paint and Sip Corp d/b/a Muse Paintbar, 275 Commercial St. Application for Class III & IV Liquor License. Sponsored by Katherine L. Jones, City Clerk. #4667889

  6. Thanks Cat. I’ve decided not to add Muse to the under construction list because the wine is somewhat incidental to their primary purpose of providing art instruction/exploration.

  7. Nick, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree that having an established name can be a big help but I don’t think it’s the only way to be successful. Your example of The Thirsty Pig doesn’t stand alone. Schulte & Herr has been a great success from two newcomers, as was Novare Res, as was Paciarino, etc.

    To continue to grow and thrive the Portland food scene needs to be a place where new ventures can thrive even if they’re not from an established Portland player.

    I would be thrilled to have a Duckfat in my neighborhood. Hopefully Rob Evans is reading this (and if you are Rob, is their any chance of the curry mayo and the tuna melt making there way back on the menu? They were my favorite combo.) Regardless of who it is that ends up in that space, I agree, it’s very well situated, right in the West End and nearby Longfellow Square.

  8. Love the post, could’ve used it when I first started planning a new (and soon to be announced) venture. Except that it lets the cat out of the bag on a few prime spaces. I hope too many other potential restauranteurs / entrepreneurs aren’t reading this.

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