Thursday, April 17, 2014
Press Herald file photo
If their application with the Portland Zoning Board of Appeals goes through on Thursday, Brooklynite Keith Hickman and his business partner, Portland-based chef Joshua Kaplan, will be on their way to building a neighborhood restaurant and market in the dreary space currently occupied by Vespucci's store and a hair salon. The business is tentatively named for its address, 211 Danforth.
In a phone interview today, Kaplan said he and Hickman were "still working on the details of the concept, but stressed that 211 Danforth will be "a comfortable neighborhood restaurant that serves New American food."
Kaplan's professional culinary background includes high-end kitchens in New York City, most notably in restaurants owned by well-known chef Charlie Palmer. He has catering experience in both NYC and Portland; he has also worked at Hugo's, Cinque Terre (now Vignola Cinque Terre) and Gepetto's at Sugarloaf.
In addition to the new restaurant, the convenience aspect of the longtime corner store is part of the plan, he said. "We consider Vespucci's a commodity to the neighborhood — where people can get a six-pack of beer, a bag of chips, a sandwich — so we want to keep that feel," Kaplan said. "But we want to breath a little new life into that corner."
Drawings submitted with the application show a 54-seat dining room and 10-stool bar for the restaurant, with an entrance on Danforth Street. The entrance to the store will be around the corner on Clark Street.
Kaplan said he and Hickman considered an Old Port location, but dismissed it as too busy. "We saw the space as a very viable option for a community-based restaurant. With the kind of food we want to provide, a neighborhood restaurant works for us."Tweet
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.