Cong Tu Bot Reopening

Cong Tu Bot (website, instagram) will be reopening this summer as a counter service daytime cafe serving breakfast and lunch.

Co-owner and chef Vien Dobui shared that some perennial favorites such as the phở gà and bún chả will carrying over but that most of the menu will be entirely new dishes. The breakfast menu is expected to include phở, congee, fried rice, house made coconut yogurt, bánh tiêu (semi-sweet hollow fry bread) and baked goods. CTB will add lunch hours a few weeks after launching with their breakfast service. The lunch menu is still under development but will definitely include the bún chả.

As part of the relaunch, Cong Tu Bot will be switching over from Parlor to serve Portrait Coffee (website, instagram). The coffee service will be influenced by menus from Vietnamese and Chinese bakeries, Hong Kong cafes, and boba shops. In addition to cà phê sữa đá Vietnamese coffee CTB will be serving they’ll also have an iced coffee topped with kinako cold foam made with their own soy milk. Other coffee and tea items are under development.

Cong Tu Bot has managed to keep many of their pre-pandemic staff on the team which will be a point of continuity. Dobui shared that “[w]ith everything we’ve survived this year it feels very significant to acknowledge that we’re still together.”

The current renovations to the space on Washington Ave have been to create additional kitchen prep space. The reduced indoor seating area will be offset by the addition of an outdoor seating on a covered patio. A decision on when CTB will open for indoor seating will be made as the public health impacts of the delta variant become more clear.

Cong Tu Bot is expected to reopen in mid/late August.

KitNA Brewing

A new brewery producing nonalcoholic beer is under construction in West Bayside. KitNA Brewing (website, instagram) will be Maine’s first brewery dedicated to making nonalcoholic beer. KitNA is a collaboration between Rob Barrett, the owner Barrett Made, and Will Fisher, the cofounder of Austin Street Brewing.

According the press release,

[Barrett and Fisher] aim to provide a premium, high-quality alternative to alcoholic beer, with the goal to master a product that satisfies the discerning palate of beer drinkers and beyond. The duo brought on local experienced brewers, Adrian Beck-Oliver and Simon Burhoe to join KITna as Co-Head Brewers. The two have been working day in and day out to create the brewery’s core beer lineup while simultaneously launching the production side of the brewery. Headquartered in an old workshop-turned-brewery in Barrett’s West Bayside building, KITna will announce the name of its first beer in the coming weeks. All of their offerings will deliver on the founding intent to bring the quality, consistency, and integrity of craft beer without the alcohol.

Their first beers are expected to be available later this year.

A&C Grocery Crowdfunding

A&C Grocery has launch a $25k crowdfunding campaign to help with the expense of moving to their new location on Congress Street.

My vision for A&C has always been a community-based, swashbuckling-owned, neighborhood joint that would benefit the coterie of locals. While the Top of Fox is bustling and profitable, it cannot fund the opening of a new location with it’s current cash flow alone. I am currently paying rent for PART II and there are still permitting and build-out costs I still have yet to tackle. I couldn’t have done Top of Fox without you guys, and again, I can’t do PART II without you either.

Visit their Go Fund Me page to make a contribution.

Little Woodfords & BenReuben’s

BenReuben’s Knishery was recently featured in an article published by Beyondish,

Graeme shucked oysters at Big Tree Hospitality’s Eventide Oyster Bar in Portland and eventually became the chef de cuisine there and later the purchasing and distribution manager. Caitlin worked in the front of house and became the company’s HR director in 2016. Though they were surrounded by shellfish, the couple always dreamed of opening a Jewish deli.

Little Woodfords was featured in an article in Salon,

Little Woodfords opens everyday at 7 a.m. and closes at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. They don’t serve alcohol, but, as Zarro puts it, customers can have all the caffeine and housemade ice cream sandwiches they want. “When people think of gay spaces or queer spaces, they immediately think of a nightclub or bar — maybe a little hole in the wall,” he said. “They don’t necessarily think a bright coffee shop, but we’re happy to change that.”

Wayside Tavern Now Open

The Wayside Tavern (website, instagram, reservations) opened for business on Friday night. Wayside is located in Parkside in the former Flood’s space at The Francis hotel.

The menu includes a variety of small plates such as country pate, fried sunchokes and chicory salad, and larger plates such as a dry-aged rib steak, Bangs Island mussels and roast chicken. The drinks menu include a variety of wines by the glass, classic cocktails and draft beer and cider.

Wayside is being launched by the founders of Roll Call, Michael and Siobhán Sindoni.  Prior to moving to Maine, Michael was the executive chef of the Joule Hotel and opened the restaurant CBD Provisions in Dallas. Siobhán was the sommelier/manager at FT33 in Dallas. They also worked together for Makeready as culinary director and service/wine director. Their most recent Makeready opening was Frannie & the Fox in Hotel Emeline in Charleston.

Neapolitan Pizza Food Truck

A new food truck called Quanto Basta (website, instagram) is expected to launch in the next few weeks. Owner Betsy Bettina plans to serve a rotating menu of four to five Neapolitan pizzas as well as Italian pastries and provisions.

Bettina has lived and cooked in Rome at the Rome Sustainable Food Project and in the Campania region. She’s also worked as a baker in Chicago and Portland. Recently, she headed up the prepared foods and baked goods at The Cheese Shop on Washington Ave.

Quanto Basta will be operating out of a retrofitted vintage 1959 Morris Minor Van. Bettina plans to regularly be at the Eastern Prom, as well as various other locations around town.

My Kitchen Their Table: Brian Catapang

Welcome to the July 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 Brian Catapang from Magnus on Water in Biddeford. Photos and videos will continue to expand on the story throughout the rest of the month on instagram, so stay tuned.


Two women walk into a bar in Biddeford, Maine, and find themselves in a life-changing conversation with the bartender… No, this isn’t the first line of a joke. It’s a true story about how Brian Catapang, Carmen Harris, Julia Russell, and Brittany Saliwanchik went from strangers to friends to business partners in less than 24 hours.

Catapang was bartending at Elda when Harris and Russell stopped in for a drink. Impressed by his off-the-cuff cocktails, they asked if he had ever thought of opening his own bar. The DC-based women were interested in the rise of Biddeford’s food scene and looking for a way to get involved. Indeed, Catapang had given it some thought along with Saliwanchik, Elda’s general manager at the time. The next day, the four met for coffee and bonded over their shared vision of a cocktail bar rooted in community and hospitality. It was then and there that the team behind Magnus on Water was built.

Catapang first developed an interest in spirits when he was a brand ambassador for Wiggly Bridge Distillery in York. Fascinated by the distilling process and inspired by a liquor’s limitless possibilities, he started searching for bartending gigs to develop his own menu.

In the winter of 2017, he came across an ad on Craigslist for the opening bartending position at Elda. The description was vague and the restaurant was barely built out, but he knew the opportunity to work with Chef Bowman Brown wasn’t one to pass up. At Elda, he quickly developed his unique cocktail style, striking a balance between bold ingredients and nuanced spirits.

One year after that inspired conversation over coffee at Elements, Catapang and his team celebrated Magnus’ grand opening on January 18, 2020. The new cocktail bar and restaurant was drawing crowds to Biddeford, but the pandemic brought it to a sudden halt. After a temporary closure, Magnus reopened that summer for outdoor dining on the adjacent granite patio. Feeling limited by the challenges of the pandemic, the team made the difficult decision to close for the winter and spring of 2021.

As of June 8th, Magnus on Water has again welcomed patrons back to their spacious outdoor patio adorned with pink lawn flamingos. Unlike last year, there is full table service and non disposables. Indoor dining is available on a limited basis.

The food program is led by Ben Jackson, a 2020 James Beard Award nominee for Best Chef Northeast. The small menu is seasonally inspired, drawing from Maine’s diverse landscape and abundance. It is the perfect complement to Catapang’s intriguing and ever-changing cocktails.

Keep reading to learn more about how Catapang developed his craft, why the Crowd Surfer is one of his favorite cocktails on the menu, and where you can find him dining in Portland on his nights off.

THE INTERVIEW

AA: How did working with Bowman Brown influence your craft?
BC: I learned to really challenge myself and throw out the rule book. He’s continuously perfecting his dishes. It’s like the Kaizen approach where incremental improvements really add up over time. He would bring me different ingredients from the kitchen, like fermented butternut squash, and ask me if I could make it into a drink. Some of the best drinks that I’ve ever made have been crazy experiments, but not without a lot of trial and error.

AA: How would you describe your cocktail style?
BC: I’d say polished and a bit whimsical. I don’t like to use garnishes that don’t serve a purpose, even though it might make a drink look prettier. Sometimes my garnish is a spray, tincture, foam, or oil. It forces the drinker to be a bit more present and think about what they’re tasting. Ultimately, I try to make drinks that are complex yet approachable and familiar yet intriguing. When a guest is trying to figure out what they’re tasting, I consider that a win.

AA: What is one of your favorite cocktails that you’ve made?
BC: The Crowd Surfer was inspired by my love of surfing and the ocean. The drink has a margarita esque base made with fresh quality ingredients. I make it with your choice of Camarena tequila blanco or Banhez mezcal, lemon & lime juices, dry curaçao, and a touch of simple syrup. Instead of a traditional salt rim, I make a poblano and pineapple sea salt foam to top it off. The drink itself resembles a wave!

AA: How do you make the foam?
BC: I gather a five-gallon bucket of seawater from Fortunes Rocks, cook it down until it looks like wet sand, and dehydrate it until it’s just sea salt. Then, I add Ancho Reyes Verde and pineapple juice and charge it in a nitrous oxide canister. The first sip is airy and salty. It’s like when you’re swimming in the ocean and get smashed in the face with a white water wave.

AA: What are some of your favorite restaurants?
BC: I have to start in Biddeford. Palace Diner is a staple. I go there almost too often. Whether I’m there for breakfast or lunch, I always get the cheeseburger and a can of Coke. I also love Elda. I know I’m biased, but I truly believe Bowman Brown is one of the most talented chefs in Maine.

AA: What about in Portland?
BC: Sichuan Kitchen for sure. I love the Zhong dumplings, Yu-Xiang eggplant, spicy noodles with minced pork, and gong bao chicken! Everything is super flavorful and when you order takeout, the food is just as good as the day before because all the food sits in the aromatic oils and spices. I also really like Little Giant. Chef Neil uses creative and obscure ingredients. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m ordering, but that’s what I love. You can just trust him to drive.

AA: What does a typical meal out look like for you?
BC: I usually go to Izakaya Minato for a whiskey highball and a couple of small plates, like sashimi and the JFC (Japanese fried chicken). Then, I go across the street and get way too full at Cong Tu Bot. It reminds me of my childhood. My dad is Filipino and lived in Thailand for a while. He always took us to hole-in-the-wall places. Mom’s Fried Rice is great and I always get the pandan pancake no matter how full I am.

AA: Where have you been recently that really impressed you?
BC: I went to Ramona’s the other day. I had their breakfast hoagie and it was so good. Make sure you add the Calabrian chili spread. I was also very impressed with what they are doing over at Judy Gibson. The lamb tartare and gnocchi were delicious. And, Leeward. Jake and Raquel are so talented and Kate, the pastry chef, is unbelievable. I’m not a big dessert person, but everything she makes is wonderful. For savory dishes, I love the chicken liver mousse and mafaldine. The texture of the pasta is perfect and the meat sauce is so well balanced.

AA: Where do you go for a great cocktail?
BC: Hunt and Alpine is the institution. You’re going to get a really balanced drink there ten out of ten times. The Select Old-Fashioned is amazing. I’m jealous they have that barrel of Four Roses Bourbon. But honestly, when I go out I’m having a Budweiser or a Martini with a lemon twist. Woodford F&B is the bartender’s bar. Their drinks are great and you’ll always see other industry people there.

AA: Would you call yourself a “mixologist?”
BC: I prefer ‘bartender.’ Just because someone can make a fancy cocktail doesn’t make them a good bartender. It’s different. A mixologist might be able to make you the perfect negroni, but a great bartender knows how to handle their bar. They know their customers and what they drink. Mixologist is just a fancy word. A great bartender wears many hats, and they are always on stage. There’s nothing wrong with being called a bartender.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

A few notes on the restaurants mentioned in this article: Palace Diner is back to serving indoors and is cash-only, Elda has reopened in their new location with a multi-course tasting menu (reservations required), Sichuan Kitchen and Ramona’s are open for takeout, Judy Gibson, Little Giant, Izakaya Minato, Hunt & Alpine, Woodford F&B and Leeward have indoor and outdoor seating, Cong Tu Bot is not currently open.

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, Ilma Lopez. and Bowman Brown.

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.

Eighty 8 Donut Cafe Now Open

The new Eighty 8 Donut Cafe (website, instagram) opened on Wednesday. It is located 225 Federal Street in the Old Port and is the business’s second brick and mortar location. Eighty 8 began life as a food truck 8 years ago and also has a donut cafe at Sugarloaf Mountain.

The Portland donut cafe will be open 7 days a week, 8 am – 5 pm (Monday – Friday), 9 am – 4 pm on Saturday and 9 am – 3 pm on Sunday serving their full menu of made to order mini donuts.

The new location features some window art by Tessa Green O’Brien.

Bresca and the Honey Bee

The Washington Post has published an article about Bresca and the Honey Bee and its owner Krista Kern Desjarlais.

Kern Desjarlais never stops experimenting. Her latest creation: artichoke ice cream. Basing her technique on a French recipe that dates back to 1825, she poaches fresh artichoke hearts in a sugar syrup with vanilla, and orange and lemon zest, then purees the mixture and folds it into a sweet cream base. After the ice cream is done, she tops it with candied grapefruit and toasted pistachio. This recipe seems to meld her interest in history, food and creating flavors that few have tasted before.