Battery Steele Expanding to Wells

Battery Steele Brewing (website, facebook, instagram) is opening a second location. They’ve bought the former Varano’s Italian restaurant in Wells where they plan to open a 180-seat pub. The building is undergoing renovations and they hope to open to public as soon as May.

Owners Jake Condon, Meaghen Kenney, Scott Kenney, Lee Thibodeau and Shane Noble plan to serve a focused menu of elevated pub food along with wine, cocktails and, of course, Battery Steele beer. A wood-fired pizza oven and raw bar are being added to the downstairs bar.

Battery Steele launched their brewery and tasting room on Industrial Way in April 2017. It’s been a long term aspiration to add a restaurant outlet to their business, and in an increasingly crowded Maine brewery industry it has the added benefit of diversifying their revenue. In the last few years we’ve seen other breweries such as Maine Beer Co, Bissell Brothers, Goodfire, Banded Horn and Mast Landing adopt the same mixed business model.

Varano’s closed their doors in late December after 23 years in business. The building is located at 60 Mile Road, just off US Route 1, just around the corner from Congdon’s Donuts and almost across the street from Batson River.

Orange Bike Brewing Co.

A new gluten-free brewery called Orange Bike Brewing (website, facebook, instagram) is under development at 31 Diamond Street in East Bayside. Construction of the brewery recently got underway.

When Orange Bike launches it will be one of very few dedicated gluten-free breweries in America and the second gf brewery in Maine in addition to Lucky Pigeon Brewing in Biddeford. Brewmaster Alan Pugsley has joined the team as a consultant and is developing a set of gluten-free beer recipes. Orange Bike’s beer will be produced on a 10-barrel vintage Peter Austin brewery system.

In addition to the 60-person tasting room, Orange Bike is also building out (see floor plan below) an outdoor courtyard with room for an additional 90+ people.

Tom Ruff is the founder of Orange Bike Brewing and Neil Spilane—a co-founder of Fork Food Lab—is the COO for the business. Ruff’s plans to establish a gluten-free brewery originated when he became gluten intolerant himself.

In addition to brewing a beer that is both excellent and gluten-free, Ruff’s ambition for Orange Bike is to be a mission-oriented organization.

Orange Bike is committed to raising the bar for gluten-free beer and intends to make OBB a center and symbol of positive change in Maine and beyond. With a focus on the triple bottom line – social, environmental, and financial – the OBB team is committed to setting a new standard within the craft beer industry. In addition to pioneering a new standard in sustainable brewing, OBB is defined by its commitment to making a positive impact on the local community, welcoming Maine’s rich diversity of people in a spirit of hospitality, inclusivity, dignity, and friendship, and expanding the potential for meaningful new jobs for Mainers.

Ren Navarro from Beer. Diversity. has joined Orange Bike as their diversity consultant. As a part of her work on governance and DEI, Navarro will guide the brewery as they begin hiring staff and managers for the brewery as well as recruiting for the Orange Bike board of directors.

Orange Bike Brewing has received funding from the Maine Venture Fund and the Indiana University Angel Network in addition to a diverse range of individual investors. They have begun the process to become a certified B Corporation which requires meeting “high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.”

Ruff and the team hope to launch Orange Bike Brewing by this fall.

Thai Esaan Moving to Portland Street

Thai Esaan (facebook, instagram) has leased the former Back Bay Grill at 65 Portland Street where they plan to re-open their restaurant. The original Thai Esaan on Forest Ave location closed in late 2021 when a fire damaged the building they were located in.

Owners Ben Boonseng and Siwaporn Roberts plan to launch with their classic menu and then expand it over time with new dishes and specials. Additionally, beer and wine will also now be available. They’ll continue to offer takeout as well as dining on-site with counter service and seating for approximately 60 customers.

Some light renovations are underway, but the layout of the restaurant will remain generally the same. Roberts and Boonseng hope to launch Thai Esaan later this month. Their hours will be Tuesday through Sunday, 11 am – 9 pm.

Upcoming Events

March 12-19Biddeford Restaurant Week is taking place.

March 13 – the Greeks of Peaks food truck is holding a pop-up at Hunt & Alpine.

March 15 – the new Puerto Rican-inspired bar and restaurant called Papi (website, facebookinstagram) is scheduled to open, and Meet on the Street is holding a pop-up at Amigo’s.

March 16 – importer Vinum will be taking over the wine list at Cong Tu Bot serving wine from Central and Southeastern Europe.

March 17 – the final Flanagan Farm Supper Club (tickets) is taking place in Buxton. The  cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and multi-course dinner at being produced by Big Tree, the parent company of Eventide and The Honey Paw restaurants. Tacos La Poblanita is opening their new restaurant in Westbrook. Also, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day so check with you favorite bars and restaurants for holiday specials.

March 18Chris Toy is teaching a virtual cooking class to benefit the Oasis Free Clinic in Brunswick.

March 19Helm is holding a Prime Night dinner.

March 20 – the Seafood Innovation & Quality Summit is taking place in Portland.

March 22Josh Berry will be the guest chef for a Spanish wine dinner at the Maker’s Galley.

March 27Batson River in Portland is hosting ChopTails bartender competition featuring Rob Roy from Primo,  Jake Bosma from Cocktail Mary, LyAnna Sanabria from Papi, Sylvi Roy from Twelve, and Bailey White from The Danforth.

March 29 – the James Beard Foundation will release the list of nominees for this year’s awards. There are 11 semifinalists from Maine under consideration.

April 3Scratch Baking is teaching a bagel baking class.

April 18Avery Yale Kamila will be giving a talk on the 300 year history of vegetarianism in Maine in Buxton.

April 21 – The Good Food Awards will take place, there are 12 finalists from Maine in the running this year.

May 20Maine Wild Wine Fest is taking place in Freeport.

June 12-18Portland Wine Week is taking place with events at restaurants all over the Portland area.

July 23Open Farm Day.

August 23 – an Outstanding in the Field dinner is taking place at Dandelion Spring Farm. Tickets go on sale March 20th.

September 10Maine Cheese Festival.

October 8Maine Open Creamery Day.

Papi Opens Wednesday

Papi (website, facebookinstagram) is set to open this Wednesday. The highly anticipated bar and restaurant is located at 18 Exchange Street. Papi will be open Wednesday through Sunday, 4 – 11 pm.

Papi is being launched by Joshua Miranda (owner of Blyth & Burrows and Via Vecchia) along with beverage manager LyAnna Sanabria (instagram) and chef Ronnie Medlock.  The menu features food and drink inspired by the foodways of Puerto Rico. When you go be sure to try the Chuletta (fried pork chop serves with rice, pigeon peas, red onion and tomato) and the Papi Douro (guava, mulled port wine, armagnac, pink peppercorn, cane sugar).

Here’s a look at the food and cocktail menus from the friends and family preview service held Saturday night. The food menu is expected expand.

Review of Twelve

The Maine Sunday Telegram has published a review of Twelve.

…Wyatt is a true expert at preparing proteins like New York strip steak, grilled scallops and skin-on chicken breast to their optimal juiciness and flavor. Some of the sauces and marinades, on the other hand, are off-kilter: either too sweet or unremittingly savory. Macon’s breads and desserts, especially her gingerbread, are standouts and deserve much more attention…

Prairie Baking Co. Cafe

Prairie Baking Company (website, instagram) owner Elizabeth Rzoska has leased space on Romasco Lane where she plans to open a retail bakery/cafe. Rzoska currently operates her online business out of the former Drifters Wife prep kitchen. The new location is located on the far side of the former Nissen Bakery Building where Hardshore, Maine & Loire, Oxbow and Cong Tu Bot are located.

The menu at the new Prairie Baking cafe will include breakfast and a light lunch with coffee,  pastries, quiche, granola and yogurt as well as toasts. Rzoska hopes to open the cafe this summer.

In the meantime you can order a Prairie Baking cake via their website.

An Anniversary for the Date Night Raffle

The Instagram post of the January ‘Date Night’ raffle marked a big milestone—it was the 50th raffle since the Date Night Raffle launched in 2018. Over the last few years, it’s become a really popular program for readers and a fun feature for us to produce.

Since the first raffle went live, the Instagram posts have collectively been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and thousands more continue every month to tag a friend and get a chance to win.  Our thanks to Evergreen Credit Union who initially proposed the idea for the raffle and have supported ever since.

In addition to the fun for followers that take part, the raffle provides a great vehicle for us to shine love and attention on Maine’s wonderful restaurants. We feature a mix of businesses from seafood shacks to fine dining restaurants, and everything in between. Thanks to Evergreen’s support, the restaurants don’t pay to participate or for the gift cards the raffle winners receive.

Shown below are some photos pulled from the past few years of raffles. Maine restaurants continue to create great spaces and dining experiences for us all to enjoy.  With the industry growing by leaps and bounds, there’s going to be plenty of great restaurants to showcase in the coming years.

In order of appearance these photos are from: Izakays Minato, Terlingua, Pacifico, Gilbert’s, Sichuan Kitchen, Baharat, Asmara, Cheevitdee, Schulte & Herr, and Helm.


‘The Ice Nerd Cometh’

Forbes has published an interview with Jonathan Baker, a self described ‘ice nerd’ who produces specialty cocktail ice for Blyth & Burrows, Via Vecchia and the soon-to-launch Papi.

Jonathan Baker: I’m an ice nerd, going way back. As a kid in West Texas, I would look forward to the few icy days we got every year. I’ve always felt at home around ice — which is partly why I ended up in Maine, a state with a long and storied history of ice production. I also wrote my master’s thesis at the University of Chicago about ice as metaphor in nineteenth-century American literature. Since completing grad school, I’ve continued to read and study everything ice-related that I can get my hands on.

More Love for Biddeford

Thrillist has published a guide to eating and drinking in Biddeford.

The longtime mill town is blossoming as a food-lover’s haven, with higher-end gems going toe-to-toe with quality lunch spots, cocktail lairs, and breweries galore. Small wonder that the city got its first boutique hotel last year, and even smaller wonder that out-of-town diners are now mixing it up with locals and students from the nearby University of New England.