El Rayo Taqueria, the popular Mexican restaurant on York Street that closed at the end of September, will reopen next spring at 26 Free St.

Tod Dana, co-owner of the Portland restaurant and its sister location in Scarborough, said he signed the lease for the new spot – the former location of Papier card and stationery store – on Monday afternoon.

“It’s a beautiful space,” Dana said. “We will be applying to the city to build a deck off the back of it. That was something I was really excited about, to continue to have an outdoor experience as part of the business. This space has a bright, sunny southern exposure off the back.”

The previous El Rayo was located near the Casco Bay Bridge in a refurbished gas station painted in bright colors, and had lots of picnic tables for outdoor seating. The restaurant is moving because the property owner, J.B. Brown & Sons, plans to build a five-story commercial and residential building and a two-story parking garage on the site.

El Rayo’s new spot on Free Street is larger and has a 14-foot-high ceiling. The actual amount of seating will be similar to the old restaurant, Dana said, “but I’m hoping maybe a little more comfortable. At our former location, we packed them in pretty tight, and I’m hoping it can be a little bit more spacious. The deck will certainly help us with that.”

Dana said there will be no major changes to the menu, but it will be “tweaked” a bit to add breakfast burritos and more quick-serve options, such as soups and salads. He said the restaurant will cater to the needs of the business district by offering service that’s a little faster and more informal.

“We’re also going to have a full bar,” Dana said. “We’ll do a big happy hour and dinner push as well, but I’m anticipating that lunch will be busy catering to the business community.”

Until the new place opens, El Rayo fans still have the option of visiting the Scarborough location at 245 U.S. Route 1. Dana said some of the Portland staff moved there after the York Street restaurant closed, and they’ve witnessed a bump in business.

“They’ve all reported seeing some of our regulars out there, and that’s been a nice thing,” he said.

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

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