Thursday, April 24, 2014
PORTLAND — Rob Evans, a James Beard Award-winning chef, and his partner, Nancy Pugh, have sold Hugo's, one of New England's best-known fine dining restaurants.
The restaurant at 88 Middle St. has been sold to Andrew Taylor, Mike Wiley and Arlin Smith, who have been running the place for Evans and Pugh for about three years.
Taylor has been the chef de cuisine, Wiley has been the sous chef and Smith is the general manager.
Smith said he and his new partners want to reassure Hugo's regular customers that they are not planning any major changes, although they may re-evaluate some of the tasting-menu prices to make them more affordable.
"We think we can offer what we do on a regular basis all year round for a better price," Smith said. "That will be the biggest change that happens for us. We are not going to try and reinvent the wheel."
The biggest change will be the addition of an oyster bar next door, at 86 Middle St., the former location of Rabelais, the culinary bookstore that moved to Biddeford recently.
The new casual restaurant will be called Eventide Oyster Company and will be connected to the kitchen at Hugo's. Smith said he hopes to have it open by June.
"We're looking to basically do a casual, seven-days-a-week, open-all-day oyster bar," Smith said. "You can go in and you can get raw (oysters), you can get a chowder, a lobster roll, grab a pint of beer if you want."
Smith said Evans and Pugh first approached the three partners a year and a half ago, asking if they would be interested in buying the restaurant.
"I kept encouraging Andrew to think about buying this place because he'd be the perfect person to take it on," Smith said. "He's been doing Rob's food for going on three years."
Evans won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast in 2009. He has said that he wants to focus on his other restaurant, Duckfat, which is just down Middle Street from Hugo's.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.