Wednesday, March 12, 2014
If you’ve noticed a lull in new restaurant openings in Portland, fear not because there’s a host of newbie’s springing up everywhere now and in the coming weeks and months.
Interestingly they’re setting up shop all over the peninsula: from the Old Port, to environs of the West and East ends, along the harbor and even venturing to lower Congress St., giving that stretch of grunge some zippity-do.
What they all have in common is their collective credo of offering farm-to-table fare, a concept so in the mainstream that anything less would be heresy.
Herewith, what’s new, novel and noteworthy
Blue Rooster, 5 Dana Street
Blue Rooster Food Company. Opened this past weekend, it was bound to happen that the Old Port would finally have an artisanal sandwich shop worth its weight in organics. Created by New York's Bar Boulud chef, Damian Sansonetti, and Portland restaurant honcho, Tom Barr (Escobarr), the walk-in, take-out menu includes, creative sandwichery and salads, luscious hot-dog selections, and essential sweets. Not-to-miss-- tater tots and a terrific egg and pork belly breakfast sandwich on homemade buttermilk biscuit. Sansonetti--the new culinary force to watch--also has a full-service downtown restaurant in the works.
In-finiti, 250 Commercial St.
In'finiti Fermentation & Distillation. Looking like the hulk that landed on Commercial St., inside it's all glitz and glam, a dramatic space serving craft beer and cocktails and very fine food by Chef Noly Lopez. Featured here last week, it's already reached cause-celebre status as the place to be and be seen. Come summertime, the waterside deck will be one of Portland's newest attractions, leaving nearby DeMillo's outdoor dining perch for nabobs only.
Boone's Fish House & Oyster Room, 86 Commercial St (shown here the Custom House Wharf view)
Boone's Fish House & Oyster Room. There's no keeping a good man down especially Chef Harding Lee Smith who's given Portland "the Rooms" ad infinitum. Just when you thought there wasn't room for another, Harding hasn't let his fans down. This one, an homage to Portland's legendary Boone's, the rough and tumble dockside eatery of yore, is sure to delight the tourists and locals alike. It will serve local seafood in all its guises and have an oyster bar that could rival others in town. But, hey, there's room for one more or two. Rumor has it that another fabled restauranteur has something waterside in the works, too. Opening late spring.
The Porthole, 20 Custom House Wharf
The Porthole. Who knew that all these years when we rushed to eat at the inimitable Porthole that rats had the hots for our eggs Benedict, too? Wharf owner and new proprietor, Ken Macgowan, is putting it all ship-shape in time for a late spring opening. He promises to keep it as close to the original as possible, leaving out, "you know what."
Union Bagel Company, 147 Cumberland Ave.
Union Bagel Company. Having taken over the former site of bake shop, Katie Made, Union Bagel has returned after taking a breather from Portland. For a while their bagels were all the rage, though I thought they were dry and kind of dull. Still, with the magic marketing words of organic and artisanal, they're giving it another go. Maybe being housed in a proper bake shack, they will make a stupendous bagel indeed. Opening soon.
Little Tap House, 106 High St.
Little Tap House. Located strategically in the Arts District in the old space once occupied for years by Katahdin Restaurant, a popular watering hole and dining joint for the neighborhood, this replacement is aiming for a similar crowd. They opened to great acclaim this past Friday to a full house. I stopped in for a drink but didn't eat. Friends who were there raved about the food. Chef Andrew Kadish, a native Mainer, who's been cooking for many years in Charleston, SC,is at the helm. It's truly a neighborhood meeting place for fine food, drink and fun at moderae prices and maybe some southern charm, too All you'll need is a place to park, often difficult.
Vinland, 593 Congress St.
Vinland. At last an intellectual in the kitchen is Chef David Levi, a strict locavorian. No ingredient--and I mean absolutely nil--will be used unless it's locally sourced. That means his cuisine will not use olive oil (which he apparently adores), lemons, sugar and so forth. However, he's highly regarded as a chef, historian, teacher and writer and has the cooking credentials to boot. It's located in the heart of the Arts District across from the Portland Museum of Art and the soon to be completed Eastland Westin Hotel. Expect a June opening.
Salvage Barbecue and Smokehouse, 919 Congress St.
Salvage Barbecue and Smokehouse. If you've passed the Greyhouse Bus station you've gone too far because just before that is Jay Villani's new lbarbecue outpost. It's in the former Architectural Salvage building--hence the name. Villani (Local 188 and Sonny's) has been touring the BBQ joints and pits in all parts of the south from Texas to the Carolinas and stops in between to nourish his take on real BBQ. If the neighborhood gives you the heebie-jeebies, don't fret--there's free parking adjacent to the restaurant. Opening in June
Food Factory Miyake, 129 Spring St.
Food Factory Miyake. Here's where it all started in this little shop front in the West End. Every Japanese food maven clamored to get into the original Miyake that accommodated 20 diners at a time. Having since expanded threefold to Miyake, Pai Men Miyake and Miyake Farm, the Food Factory will be Masa Miyake's homage to Japanese comfort food. I'm not sure what that is but anything under his direction is superb. Look for a June opening.
Outliers Eatery, 231 York St.
The dining room, as seen last week getting the final touches
The great wall of copper in the bar, meant to suggest a cascading waterfall
Outliers Eatery. Located on the quiet end of York St., overlooking the harbor park and Casco Bay bridge, this is going to be one of Portland's most luxurioiusly outfitted restaurants beyond compare. It's rumored that owner Peter Verrill (Grace and Foreside Tavern) has spent over $1 million on "the look." His chef is Johnathan Dexter (Street & Co and Hugo's) who will be presenting a classic farm-to-table menu with an organic bias--and a fine dining experience in a plush, sleek setting. This is yet another newcomer that is sure to go over big with local swells and foodies if it's as good as it purports to be.
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.