Loco Taco on Forest Ave

The Press Herald reports that a new restaurant called Loco Taco (website) is under development at 849 Forest Ave. The business is being launched by Ahmed Abbas and Mohammed Abbas from Dina’s Cuisine.

Though the restaurant is small, the menu will be large, Abbas said. In addition to tacos (on a choice of tortilla), it will serve quesadillas, fajitas, nachos and burritos. Filling choices will include classic Mexican tacos and an array of global flavors, such as chicken tikka masala, teriyaki, falafel, Greek gyro tacos, shawarma, cheeseburger and more creative flavors. There is something for vegetarians, too: fried tofu or fried vegetable tacos.

Off Track Pizza Now Open

Off Track Pizza (instagram) opened for business on Friday. It’s located at 15 Exchange Street in the former Lupita’s/B Good location. Longtime Portland residents will remember it as the original location of Walter’s.

Off Track is initially serving pizza by the slice, salads, bottled cocktails and soft drinks. Shown above are slices of sausage and pepper pizza and the pepperoni pizza along with a low ABV Santa Anita cocktail made with Aperol and Tang. They’ll be expanding to full menu (see below) and offering full pizzas as they ramp up kitchen production capacity. The counter service restaurant has some window bar seating (see above) on the first floor and dining  rooms on the second floor with a great view of Exchange Street. Overall Off Track seats 46 people.

Off Track has been launched by Mark Hibbard and Mitchell Ryan along with business partner Josh Miranda. Ryan and Hibbard are the executive chef and the beverage director at Via Vecchia.

Hours this weekend are noon – 8 pm (or sellout). Next week the hours will be Wednesday through Sunday 11 am – 10 pm (2 am on Friday and Saturdays).


Maine Food & Dining News: Brunswick, Lewiston, Hancock

New food and dining developments are taking place all across Maine. Here are some recent updates to keep you in the know:

  • Elevenes (website, instagram), a hobbit-themed all-day cafe and bakery, is under construction at 50 Maine Street in Brunswick in the space formerly occupied by Kings & Queens. Owners Nicole and Chris Juntura  hope to open Elevenses in late spring or early summer. They describe Elevenses as “a place where you can enjoy delicious and gourmet treats while having fun in a unique hobbitcore atmosphere”. They will offer all-day brunch, cocktails, late night snacks, sweets and specialty coffee drinks, as well as grab-and-go options. Watch for the menu to includes a full English breakfast as well as scones with clotted cream and jam. The Junturas also own Plot Twist Pretzels (facebook, instagram).
  • The Lewiston Sun Journal reports that Mancini’s, an “Italian micro deli” is under construction at 5 Park Street in Lewiston.
  • Cider Craft has published an article about Bon Vent Cider which is located in the town of Hancock.

Falafel Time Has Closed

Owner Qutaiba Hassoon announced on Wednesday that Falafel Time on Forest Ave has permanently closed.

It has been a pleasure serving the community, but we regret to inform you that Falafel Time has permanently closed. We have thoroughly enjoyed working with the Portland Community, but unfortunately due to my parent’s health and the shortage of staff we made the tough decision to close. We’re truly thankful for all the good times we’ve had together at Falafel Time.

Falafel Time opened on October 18, 2021. Hassoon is a second generation restauranteur. His parents owned Haggarty’s restaurant 2012-2014.

CNT: 15 Best Restaurants in Portland

Conde Nast Traveler has published their take on the 15 Best Restaurants in Portland.

If you ever hear anyone wonder why teensy Portland, Maine’s restaurants have such an outsized reputation in the food world, remember two things: First, those people clearly haven’t eaten here yet; and second, the answer lies in a philosophy ingrained in Maine itself…

Finestkind Coming to Saco

A new restaurant called Finestkind (instagram) is under construction in Saco. It will be located at 17 Pepperell Square in the building formerly occupied by The New Moon. Finestkind is being launched by Victoria and Tom Barthelmes along with their business partners Chris and Paige Gould.

The 26-seat counter service restaurant will be open for breakfast and lunch. Finestkind will also have outdoor seating and their menu will be available to order online for takeout. The breakfast menu will offer an assortment of egg sandwiches like the Red and Black Lumberjack (egg, house smoked brisket, horseradish sauce sandwiched between two crispy hashbrowns) Options for lunch will include an assortment of sandwiches, soup, and salads plus mac and cheese. The team plans a in-house bakery program—think oatmeal-raisin cookie sandwiches filled with Italian buttercream and caramel crullers. The beverage menu will include beer, wine, cocktails, and non-alcoholic drinks with a full coffee program featuring Tandem Coffee Roasters coffee.

The Barthelmes shared that Finestkind is a culmination of their work and life experiences.

It’s going to draw some inspiration from the cafe we fell in love at 12 years ago, the standards and technique we developed cooking in New York, and the meaningful relationships we’ve made in the Maine community since moving here 9 years ago. A meal we ate at Central Provisions was among the reasons we moved to Maine in the first place, so to be able to call Chris and Paige our friends, mentors, and now business partners is particularly special for us.

The Goulds are the owners of Central Provisions and Tipo. Victoria Barthelmes is the GM of Tipo and will continue as the wine director of both restaurants. Tom Barthelmes is kitchen manager at Central and Tipo. The Barthelmes met when attending The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and worked together at the Apple Pie Bakery Café. In New York City, Victoria worked in the pastry department at Lincoln Ristorante where she produced pastry for the Metropolitan Opera and wedding cakes for the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Tom worked at Lincoln before moving to Per Se where he worked for Thomas Keller.

Renovations are already underway with hopes to launch Finestkind this summer. When it opens, the restaurant will be open Thursday through Monday, 7:30 am – 2 pm.

Bao Bao Moving to Brunswick

Cara and Cecile Stadler have announced a set of changes at Eighty Ate Hospitality, the parent company of Bao Bao, Tao Yuan, Canopy Farms and ZaoZe Cafe.

The Stadlers will not be reopening Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland but instead plan to move the restaurant to Brunswick where it will co-located with Tao Yuan. The new restaurant will temporarily named BaoBao @TAO and will serve a similar menu to the Portland location. The Tao Yuan tasting menu will still be available for customers who make reservations and request it in advance. BaoBao @TAO will offer takeout and will have seating available for walk-in customers as well as by reservation.

As part of these changes, the Stadlers are also “starting the process of winding down” Canopy Farms, their aquaponics greenhouse in Brunswick. The email announcement shared that they “would very much like to see the space used and would are willing to effectively rent out the space fully setup at cost for the right institutional partner or NPO.  Please contact cecile@canolyfarms.org if interested.”

The menu at ZaoZe will be unaffected but the cafe and market will be open earlier, 8 am – 4:30 pm. Emily Topaz will continue to be the chef at ZaoZe and Leon Vuong will be the chef of the combined BaoBao/Tao Yuan establishment.

Bao Bao in Portland has been closed since February.

Upcoming Food & Dining Events

TuesdayWoodford F&B is throwing a party to celebrate their Beard nomination and as a fundraiser for The Locker Project.

Friday – The Five of Clubs (instagram) cocktail bar and Twinflower Cafe (instagram) will be opening in concert with the launch of The Longfellow Hotel. They are located at 754 Congress Street, across from Wayside Diner and next to Tandem Coffee.

Saturday – The Maine Wild Wine Fest is taking place in Freeport.

Sunday – Fork Food Lab and Mayo Street Arts are collaborating to hold the Taste of Nations Food Festival.

May 20Crispy Gai is holding their 3rd Annual Dinner Together in celebration of AAPI Heritage Month. The meal will feature dishes by Mitr, Thanh Thanh 2, Little Brother, Banh Appetit, Crispy Gai sous chef Amadeus Florendo, and a special drink pairing by Matcha Mood.

May 21Friends & Family are holding a collaboration pop-up with Husky Boi serving a 5-course 1990s-inspired dinner.

May 24 – The Other Side Diner is holding a Greek BBQ Night.

June 10-16Portland Wine Week is taking place.

June 17 – The 3rd Annual ChopTails Competition will be taking place at Batson River.

June 22 – The Great Falls Brewfest is taking place in Lewiston.

June 26 – Secret Supper (instagram) is holding a dinner in the Portland area.

June 29 – The 3rd Annual Mast Landing Wavy Days Festival is taking place.

July 25/26 – The Kneading Conference is taking place in Skowhegan.

August 3/4 – The Maine Wild Blueberry Weekend is taking place.

August 30September 1Maine Apple Camp is taking place.

September 20-22 – The Common Ground Fair will be taking place.

The Salt Yard Review, Vegetarian History

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes a review of The Salt Yard at the Canopy Portland Waterfront Hotel,

…It has done so partly through decor that incorporates work from local artisans, as well as through Maine-themed food and beverage options at its ground-floor restaurant, Salt Yard Bar & Café – a restaurant without a dining room. The lack of a dedicated evening dining space is not a liability when you’re able to sip bar ambassador Katrin Miller’s inventive, generally well-composed cocktails. Her Moxie Old Fashioned is a knockout and works well as a pairing for a bowl of poutine-like Korean Beef Fries made with Maine potatoes, or a delightfully messy Salt Yard Burger made with Pineland Farms beef.

The paper also shares the history and impact of the Good Day Market on the vegetarian food scene in Portland back in the late 20th Century.

A landmark vegetarian business called the Good Day Market that opened in Portland in 1970 would go on to cultivate at least five memorable vegetarian establishments and continues to flavor the city’s food scene today.

Southern Smoke Foundation Mental Health Program

The Southern Smoke Foundation (SSF) has announced they’ll be partnering with the University of Maine to pilot their mental health program for food and beverage workers in Maine this summer. The program is called Behind You.

SSF is providing a grant to University of Maine’s Psychology Services Center to provide no-cost counseling to F+B workers across Maine through the Behind You program. A Behind You grant covers the cost of counseling for F+B workers who qualify through the SSF website and allows student clinicians to diversify their training by seeing a community of seasoned F+B workers with various backgrounds. A licensed clinical supervisor and the university program director supervise all student clinicians. In addition, SSF requires university partners to provide telehealth services to increase accessibility for workers with demanding schedules or living in rural areas with limited access to in-person services. The initial grant will be for a pilot program with hopes of expanding services in 2025.

SSF credits Jordan Rubin—co-owner of Mr. Tuna, Bar Futo and Crispy Gai—with advocating to SSF to bring Behind You to Maine.

“I’ve gotten the chance to work alongside the team at Southern Smoke Foundation for a few years now – whether that’s cooking at their annual Southern Smoke Festival in Houston, TX, or connecting my staff and friends in the industry with them to apply for Emergency Relief Funding,” said chef Jordan Rubin. “The fact that the Behind You program will now also be available to my team and other food and beverage workers across Maine to receive free counseling if they’re interested makes me so happy.”

Here’s a link to the full press release from SSF. The Southern Smoke Foundation also offers an Emergency Relief program for food and beverage workers.