March 13, 2013

Soup to Nuts: A peek through the new Porthole

New owner Ken Macgowan candidly addresses 'the rat issue,' among many other topics, as he discusses the next incarnation of the venerable waterfront eatery.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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With general manager Beth Poitras, left, new Porthole Restaurant & Pub owner Ken Macgowan talks about the planned April 1 opening. Macgowan’s son Garrett, right, stopped by with daughter Aria, 11 months, to check out the improvements.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Guy Fieri left his mark when his Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” visited the old Porthole in 2011. New owner Ken Macgowan said he plans to preserve the image in the restaurant’s newly renovated space.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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The old Comedy Connection next door, which will become a pub serving food out of the Porthole kitchen, is expected to be open by May 1, and it will be open year-round from 11 a.m. to closing. "Closing" doesn't mean late night, because Macgowan feels that "being around water, you just don't want to be the last place people go at night."

The pub will be a tan-beige color, and the old black ceiling will be painted over. High tops are being added along one wall, the location of the stage has shifted, and there will be a dance floor and a couple of big screen TVs installed.

Richard Grotton, executive director of the Maine Restaurant Association, said Macgowan "pretty clearly has an additional burden" with re-opening the Porthole because of its past. He said Macgowan should make sure to get community buzz going by keeping members of "the foodie community" and local politicians informed about the changes he's making. He suggests holding a preview night so people can see the changes first-hand.

The one thing Grotton would do differently? Change the name.

Grotton said he understands the restaurant has a long history operating under its current name, "but it's a double-edged sword."

"My initial reaction is that 99 percent of consultants would say 'Change the name.' But in our small-town environment, even if you change the name it's still going to be known as 'where the Porthole used to be' for a while."

Macgowan, who will be going before the Portland City Council Monday for his liquor license, is confident the changes he's making will bring diners back in and make the Porthole "a clean, safe place to be." People have always loved the restaurant's location, he said, noting that customers still came back to eat there even after they found out about the rats.

"Location, location, location," he said. "It's just like buying a house. There's nothing better on a hot day than to be down here with the sea breeze and seeing what's happening down here."

 

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad

 

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Additional Photos

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A 1984 view of the Porthole Restaurant.

File photo

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Jesse Poirier will be the chef at the new Porthole Restaurant & Pub. The Portland native has worked at some of the city’s best-known restaurants, including Miyake, Cinque Terre, Vignola and the Front Room Bar & Grill.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

 


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