Abiodun Jerry Olubi

The Press Herald has published an article about Abiodun Jerry Olubi, a Portland chef who slipped into the Saco River and drowned last weekend.

Dany Omba Mugeni met Abiodun Jerry Olubi in the same way many of his friends did: by eating food he had cooked.

She was dining at 207 Bar and Restaurant in Portland. Olubi was “Chef Jerry.” Friends said he liked to come out of the kitchen to talk to customers about their experience, explain the recipes and meet new people. Olubi, 38, had a passion for cooking and was working to open his own restaurant.

A Go Fund Me campaign has been set up to raise funds for his funeral expenses.

2021 Pocket Guide Now Available

The newly revised and expanded 2021 PFM Printed Pocket Guide is now out. This handy paper reference highlights many of the restaurants, bakeries, breweries, coffee shops, cocktail bars, and cafes that make eating and drinking in Portland so compelling. This year it includes a new food truck section and an expanded list of places to dine elsewhere in Maine.

2021 remains a very dynamic environment for the Maine restaurant industry so please consult the online version of Portland Food Map for the latest information and updates on openings as well as a full list of eateries in the city…and consult restaurant websites for the latest on days and hours of operation.

Many thanks to the 2021 Pocket Guide sponsors. Their generous support plays a crucial role in making the guide available in 2021:

While supplies last you can pick-up a free copy of the guide at these local businesses: Portland Trading Company, Bresca and the Honey Bee in New Gloucester, Tandem Coffee on Congress St, Strata (the new shop opens next weekend), Leeward, ChavalRose Foods, Speckled Ax on Thames Street, The Shop, and Oxbow Brewing on Washington Ave.

The pocket guide wouldn’t be as good as it is, in fact it wouldn’t exist at all, without the skills and contributions of Dawn Hagin from Rare Bird Strategic, writer Angela Andre, and graphic designer Sofija Razgaitis. Congratulate them on their work the next time you see them in town.

City Side Food Court

The Courier reports that a new food truck gathering place, City Side Food Court, is under development in Biddeford.

In recent years, Biddeford has become known as an interesting place to dine, as new restaurants spring up in the mills and downtown.

Soon, it could sport another offering — City Side Food Court where seven mobile food vendors would offer a variety of tasty specialties and diners could enjoy them, seated outside, at 64 Alfred St., a lot that has been vacant since a 2006 fire.

Il Leone on Peaks

A new outdoor pizzeria pop-up is operating on Peaks Island this summer called Il Leone (website, instagram)

Owner and chef Ben Wexler-Waite is serving Neapolitan-style made with naturally leavened dough. He uses a portable Forza Foni pizza oven from Italy which cooks the pizzas in 60 – 90 seconds at 850 degrees. The menu includes classic like Margherita and Funghi pizzas as well as their take on a lobster pizza—the Aragosta. They also serve  salads and Gelato Fiasco gelato.

Il Leone is leasing space from the Peaks Island Lions Club which is the inspiration for the business name. They are open Wednesday through Sunday: 12:30 – 3:30 for lunch and 5 – 8 for dinner. Wexler-Waite expects to operate through to October.

Lupita’s Taqueria

The owner of  B. Good on Exchange Street, Bill Zolper, plans to close the restaurant and in its place open Lupita’s Taqueria.

The concept, Lupita’s Taqueria is a combination of my time spent with my wife Alejandra who is from Medellin, Colombia and our time there at different eateries which provide such a different experience of eating. We look forward to bringing a little bit of that Latina soul to Portland…

Here’s a look at the draft menu supplied to the City as part of their liquor license application:

Mr. Tuna x Goodfire in Freeport

Mr. Tuna and Goodfire Brewing have combined forces to buy the former Conundrum/El Jefe building on Route One in Freeport where they plan to open a brewery and izakaya bar this fall.

Goodfire will be operating a pilot brewing system and tasting room with both outdoor and indoor seating. In addition to retail sales of their regular line-up Goodfire will have small batch recipes exclusive to the Freeport location.

The Mr. Tuna Izakaya will expand on the sushi hand rolls they’ve been known for to serve a menu that also includes ramen, yakitori, and other Japanese-style food.

Restaurant Real Estate: June 2021

Welcome to the June 2021 edition of the Portland Food Map restaurant real estate listings sponsored by The Boulos Company. This monthly column gathers in one convenient place the spaces available in Portland that could be potential sites for restaurants and food producers/retailers to locate their next business.

Even in these tough times for the hospitality industry some people are pursuing their dreams and opening new food businesses. 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.

West End

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 $15-20/sq ft (NNN). The space already has a hood vent and grease traps installed.

Arts District

555 Congress St – the former Five Fifty-Five building is for sale for $2,400,000.

605 Congress St – Two spaces in the State Theater Building is available. They are 543 sq ft and 2,685 sq ft and are listed at $25-35/sq ft (MG).

Bayside

148 Anderson St – 3,000 sq ft in East Bayside located next to Tandem Coffee available for $17/sq ft (NNN).

170 Anderson St – 2,000 – 3,500 sq ft in East Bayside available for $15/sq ft (NNN).

15 Chestnut St – the 14,000 sq ft building that was the former home of Grace is for sale for $3,730,000.

84 Cove St – The 8,969 sq ft former Milk & Honey in Bayside is available for $13/sq ft (NNN).

360 Cumberland Ave – two spaces (900 sq ft on Cumberland Ave and a 1,000 sq ft space in a building set back from the street) are available for $24-25/sq ft (NNN).

31 Diamond St – this 2,800 – 22,034 sq ft industrial space in East Bayside is available for $16/sq ft (NNN).

178 Kennebec St – a new building under construction will have 1,800 – 5314 sq ft for lease at $30/sq ft (NNN).

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

25 Portland St – 2 spaces in the Flat Iron Block (600 and 725 sq ft) ar available for $1,300 and $1,500/month respectively.

34 Portland St – the 4,256 sq ft building that was formerly occupied by Candy’s is available for $3,500/month.

24 Preble St – former location of Arcadia is available.

225 Oxford St – 600-2,000 sq ft of build to suit space in a new building for $25/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).

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) at $28/sq ft (NNN) in a new building under construction at the corner of Maple and Commercial Streets.

18 Exchange St – 1,800 sq ft of retail space for lease at $6,950/month (MG).

19 Exchange St – the former Blake Orchard space is available; 2,268 sq ft for $1,731 -$1,937 per month (MG).

425 Fore St – The former Five Guys is available. $2,900/sq ft and $40/sq ft (MG).

446 Fore St – 1,600 – 3,400 sq ft in the former Pearl space with entrances on Wharf and Fore Streets is available for $30-40/sq ft (MG).

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).

56 Hampshire St – a 1,450 sq ft space in the new condo building on Hampshire Street is available for $24/sq ft (NNN).

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).

111 Middle St – this 1,600 sq ft space has a storied past as the former location of Piccolo and before that Bresca. It’s available for $3,500/month (NNN).

28 Monument Square – the former Maine Squeeze juice bar in the Public Market House is for lease. Contact leasing@juicery.com for more information. Also, the second floor space formerly occupied by Sichuan Kitchen is available, call (207) 939-0980 for information.

66 Pearl St – the 5,796 space formerly occupied by Bull Moose is available for $15.75/sq ft (MG).

2 Portland Square – the turnkey former Walter’s is on the market. 3,219 sq ft for $28/sq ft (MG).

3 Portland Square – This new building will include 2,500 – 20,000 square feet of retail space for$28.50/sq ft.

3 Spring St – the 2,554 – 3,500 sq ft former Lio space is available at $23/sq ft (NNN).

India/Washington Ave

47 India St – the former Lois’ Market; 1,000 – 3,300 sq ft for $3,000 – $8,200/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

701 Forest Ave – this former Rite Aid building is being converted and has 4 retail spaces available for $20-25/sq ft (NNN).

1053 Forest Ave – the former Papa John’s on Forest Ave is available, 1,200 sq ft at $25/sq ft (NNN).

1190 Forest Ave – located right in the center of Morrill’s Corner. 3,000 – 5,082 sq ft at $12 – 20/sq ft (NNN).

1569 Forest Ave – a 1,400 sq ft “soon to be completed restaurant/retail building” is available on outer Forest Ave.

Other

865 Brighton Ave – a 1,232 sq ft former gas station/quick market is for sale for $400,000.

1041 Brighton Ave – 1,500 -7,000 sq ft of space available in the strip mall that’s the longtime location of Panda Garden. The space is available for $10-13/sq ft (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.

Westgate Shopping Center – two spaces are for least at $17-37/sq ft (NNN).

23 Lincoln St, Biddeford – a 12,600 sq ft space divided equally on two floors, each floor has a kitchen with hoods is available for $11/sq ft (NNN). Contact Tony Delois for more information at anthony@uncommongroups.com.

Other Spaces – some vacated restaurant spaces haven’t yet been formerly listed for by the owner. Check the closing announcements for the latest information.

Glossary

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.

Chaval Halibut Project

The Food and Dining section in today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes an interview with chef de cuisine Kirby Sholl about the Chaval Halibut Project.

Since mid-May and through the end of local halibut season in late June or early July, Chaval’s Halibut Project menu features dishes like ceviche with cherries, fennel and lovage; crispy, golden fin “wings” with lemon aioli, green onions and herb emulsion; grilled ribs with house spice rub; cheeks with cream, spinach and sorrel; halibut head cheese; Cou de Fletan, a braised neck broth with spring vegetables; and blood sausage made in the style of Spanish morcilla.

Time & Temp Rooftop Bar

The Press Herald reports that developers are planning to convert the Time & Temp building into a hotel and build a rooftop bar atop the Chapman Building.

Rhoades said in an interview Tuesday that the bar is proposed for the rooftop, which was recently redone, and that the top two floors, which were added in 1963, will be hotel rooms. He said the rooftop bar will be designed as a three-season space, with a retractable roof, glass walls and bar seating near the elevator shaft.

My Kitchen Their Table: Bowman Brown

Welcome to the June 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 Bowman Brown from Elda and Jackrabbit Cafe in Biddeford. Photos and videos will continue to expand on the story throughout the rest of the month on instagram, so stay tuned.


Bowman Brown credits his strong work ethic and abundant creativity to his upbringing. When he was just twelve years old, he pitched in as a cowhand on his family’s ranch in Arizona. He also tended to his mother’s garden, an experience that helped shape his resourcefulness and innovative use of local and seasonal ingredients.

His great-grandmother, Elda, was especially influential. A woman of many talents, she was a school teacher, a beekeeper and proprietor of a large honey business, a hat maker and door-to-door salesperson, and also lended a hand on the family ranch.

Brown attended Atlantic Culinary Academy in New Hampshire and went on to work at the esteemed Gary Danko in San Francisco and 231 Ellsworth (now closed) in San Mateo. He eventually settled in Salt Lake City where he opened his former restaurant, Forage, in 2009. He was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine in 2011 and was nominated for Best Chef in the Southwest by James Beard Foundation six times. Despite its prestige, Brown closed Forage after nearly seven years. He was ready for a new adventure.

He and his wife, Anna, were searching for a farmhouse in New England when he first visited Biddeford in 2017. Initially, they had no plans of opening a restaurant here, but he recalls walking by and admiring the space, formerly Custom Deluxe. When he returned to Biddeford, it was serendipitously available and Elda, affectionately named after his great-grandmother, was established.

In its first year, Elda was named one of the Best New Restaurants in America by Eater and the New York Times called it “both reverent and innovative.” In March 2020, Elda temporarily closed as they prepared to move into a larger space located at Pepperell Mill Campus. While you patiently await Elda’s grand reopening (expected Summer 2021), check out Brown’s latest concept — Jackrabbit Cafe.

Brown’s new restaurant is named after the desert-dwelling jackrabbit widely found throughout the western United States and his grandfather, Jack Brown. Rooted in heritage and a nod to Brown’s Danish ancestry, Jackrabbit Cafe serves Scandinavian-inspired breads, pastries and cakes as well as seasonal vegetable dishes, sandwiches, and heartier small plates. “It’s basically what we eat at home on a regular basis, but a little fancier,” Brown describes.

Read the full interview below to discover what is unique about his signature omelet at Jackrabbit Cafe, his go-to dishes in Portland, and how the pandemic has had an unforeseen positive impact on his life.

THE INTERVIEW

AA: Reflecting over a year later — has the COVID-19 pandemic had any positive impacts on you?
BB: I cooked at home a lot more than I had in years; I spent more time with my family than I had in years; I sat on the beach more than I had in years. It does put things in perspective, and hopefully, that perspective helps create more of a balance when returning to the kitchen.

AA: Besides yourself, who is in the kitchen at Jackrabbit Cafe?
BB: The pandemic caused most of our staff to take on work elsewhere, so when opening Jackrabbit, we had to start over with building a team. We have two full-time bakers, Kristina Alving and Juliette Risica, that execute my list of bakes, and we were able to hire back our former Chef de Cuisine, Ben McQuay, who will be managing the daily execution of the food menu in the near future.

AA: What makes the omelet on the cafe menu Japanese style?
BB: Traditionally, the Japanese omelet is a rolled omelet seasoned with dashi, which we do with our omelet, but it isn’t strictly traditional. I serve it with housemade spelt brioche bread, onion jam, and fresh herbs.

AA: Will Elda still offer a four-course fixed price menu?
BB: There will still be a fixed price menu, but it will not follow the traditional tasting menu structure. We will offer the full menu at the bar with a very limited selection of a la carte offerings.

AA: Can you say more about the menu at Elda?
BB: We would like to showcase whatever ingredients are at their best at a given time and keep them on the menu for as long as they are viable and in-season. I’m hugely critical of my own cooking, which is why past menus have always changed so often, but also because products here are really inconsistent in availability, especially seafood. It’s a really difficult kind of restaurant to run. It’s endlessly challenging to get the best stuff at the best time and it can be difficult for the staff to have a constantly changing menu. We don’t make it easy on ourselves.

AA: What is one of your favorite dishes in Portland?
BB: The dishes I love from other restaurants are not anything like what I make. Most of the meals I eat out are fast, simple, and guilty pleasures. One of the first things to come to mind is Duckfat’s doughnuts. It’s probably the best fried dough I’ve ever had. The texture is very soft, but bouncy. It has a little bit of toothsome to it.

AA: What is a fast meal that you love in Portland?
BB: The pastrami sandwich at Rose Foods is one of the most exceptional things I’ve had. It’s a classic, straightforward pastrami sandwich. It’s just rye bread, pastrami, and deli mustard.

AA: What do you love about it?
BB: I have a weakness for rye bread, or just earthy dense breads in general, but also the juiciness of the meat and how it fills up the space in your mouth. The texture and temperature of the pastrami is just right. It’s one of those things that’s really hard to nail in a restaurant because if it’s sitting there all day, presumably warm, it has a tendency to dry out, but if it’s not warm enough, it’s not juicy.

AA: Seeing as you are fairly new to the area, are there any restaurants in Portland that you’re looking forward to going to for the first time?
BB: Scales is on my list. I had Fred Eliot’s pâté en croûte at the gala wine dinner event during Portland Wine Week. It was really special. It’s the kind of thing that chefs try to avoid and probably fell out of fashion for a reason because it’s difficult to execute perfectly. The dough can be sort of stodgy, heavy, and soggy, but Chef Eliot’s is perfectly flakey. His dedication to that craft is really inspiring.

AA: Knowing how much you love change and newness, does New England feel like your forever home?
BB: I have put down some significant roots here, so it looks like I’m sticking around for a while. On the other hand, I have a wayfaring heart and a desire to experience many new places, so I guess we shall see.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

A few notes on the restaurants mentioned in this article: Jackrabbit Cafe opened on May 7th and Elda is expected to reopen this summer. Duckfat has outdoor seating on Middle Street and takeout, Rose Foods is offering takeout, and Scales has outdoor and indoor seating.

Previous editions of My Kitchen Their Table have featured Courtney Loreg, Chad Conley  Atsuko Fujimoto, Matt Ginn, Jordan Rubin, and Cara Stadler, Thomas Takashi Cooke, and Ilma Lopez.

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