It’s about time to flip the last page of the calendar, which means it’s also time for the perennial list of food happenings and restaurant and bar newcomers that will open their doors in the coming year.

The winter months are often the best time to visit your favorite restaurants because a) it will get you out of the house b) there are no tourists to deal with and c) the winter is when restaurants need your support the most. A lot of places come up with creative specials to lure you out into the snow and cold. The best one I’ve seen so far is from Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland, which recently announced on its Facebook page that it will offer all of its dumplings at half-price between 2 and 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday – all winter long. If you’re lucky, they’ll still have some of the Junmai sake panda cups they started carrying earlier this month. The cups were manufactured to celebrate the arrival of pandas at the Tokyo zoo and have become wildly popular in Japan. Order sake, and you get to keep the cup.

Look for Petite Jacqueline 2.0 in the New Year. The French bistro is closing after its New Year’s dinner to relocate … somewhere. I’m sure the change will be fine as long as they keep making French onion soup that’s so good you want to bathe in it.

Krista Desjarlais will open her Purple House bakery/restaurant in Yarmouth. Expect all of her fans who remember the amazing food at Bresca to make a pilgrimage to pay their respects to the goddess of good food.

And we can’t wait to hear more about the upcoming restaurant collaboration between the Hunt & Alpine Club and Piccolo.

Vinland is opening a bar, and Maine & Loire will open The Drifter’s Wife, the first local bar serving only natural wines. Another new distillery, Hardshore Distilling Co., is slated for Washington Avenue – they’ll be making gin to start – and plenty more brew pubs are coming to the greater Portland area as well.


The number of distilleries in Maine has grown so much that Constance Bodine, co-owner of Sweetgrass Winery and Distillery, and Ian Michaud of Liquid Riot (who is also president of the Maine Distillers Guild) are putting together a Maine Distillery Trail that will feature the state’s 10 licensed distilleries. The map will come out sometime this winter, Bodine said. The trail map comes with a postcard that will be stamped at each site. After a yet-to-be-determined number of stamps, send the postcard back to the guild and you’ll be entered into a contest to win dinner and drinks with your favorite distiller.

From my perch, it seems as if at least one restaurant or bar or brewery – sometimes two – opens every day in the greater Portland area. So many new places are expected for 2016, let’s just look at a cross-section.


One of the most anticipated openings is Scales, the new waterfront seafood restaurant from Dana Street and Sam Hayward. Like most restaurants-in-progress, little actual news has come out as construction delays push back the opening date.

Sam Hayward now tells me they’re still waiting for “essential equipment” and that some infrastructure has been delayed until after the New Year. “My reply to friends when asked when we’re opening is ‘sometime between mid-January and early March – 2018.’ (Just kidding.),” he wrote in an email. “I think I can safely say that the dining area and bar are really beautiful and are worth the wait for the impact I hope the room will have.”

A chef, however, is already on board. Mike Smith, who grew up in Old Orchard Beach, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2005. After graduation he worked at Duckfat and Hugo’s in Portland and The Cheese Iron in Scarborough. In 2008 he landed at Toro in Boston, where he became chef de cuisine. He moved back to Maine in 2014 and worked the front of house at Duckfat, then came on board with the Scales group in early December. (Read what chef Smith has to say about his 10 tattoos at


Hayward said he had a lot of great candidates for the chef position, but he felt that he and Smith “had strong chemistry and spoke the same language about food.”

“I’m really pleased to have someone with a strong work ethic, proven high-volume experience in restaurants that serve excellent food, and he wants to contribute in a positive way to Maine’s food community,” Hayward said. “I can’t wait to begin recipe testing and tasting trials.”

Maybe Scales will actually open in mid-January. Ever since Fore Street finally updated its web page, I feel like anything is possible.


This year saw lots of announcements about food-and-beverage businesses that will be going into the new development at Thompson’s Point. I’m told the Cellardoor Winery tasting room and Stroudwater Spirits, which will make small-batch bourbon, whiskey, vodka and gin, are scheduled to open in late May. And expect at least two more announcements about new tenants, including a major brewer.



If you work around Monument Square, like I do, there are other new places to look forward to in 2016 – El Rayo’s new casual spot on Free Street, for example, and the Hero sandwich shop from the owners of Otto and Empire, coming together in the old Soakology location.


Rhum, the newest venture from Jason Loring, Mike Fraser and Nat Towl, was supposed to open sometime before Christmas, but the time to really appreciate this tiki bar/restaurant will be in the middle of February, when temperatures are the coldest and we (usually) have lots of snow. Portland hasn’t had a real tiki lounge since the Hawaiian Hut, which opened in the basement of the Eastland Hotel in 1963 and closed in 1978.

Rhum will be located in a subterranean space at 4 Free St. (behind Arabica). The drink mugs will be appropriately kitschy – skulls! – but will be filled with classic, not-too-sweet tiki cocktails, Loring says. In the kitchen will be Frank Anderson and Rebecca Ambrosi, chefs whose impressive resumes include stints at Animal in Los Angeles and in the kitchens of chefs Thomas Keller and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

I sampled some of the food and drink at a recent preview at the Bramhall Pub, and the menu (think pork riblets falling off the bone) seems promising. The Painkiller – a concoction made with pineapple, coconut, rum and nutmeg, with toasted coconut on top and a pink umbrella – was, well, killer. Perfect for those brutal winter nights when you long for a ticket to Hawaii, or a virtual escape that makes you feel like you’re a little closer to the equator.

The best thing? Rhum will be right across the street from my office.



Washington Avenue saw significant growth in food-related businesses this past year, with more to come. Paul Lively, a classically trained French chef, chocolatier and pastry chef who owned a truffle shop in Brewster, Massachusetts, for six years, will be opening a 35-seat cafe and dessert spot called The Lively Palate at 54 Washington Ave. Lively told me recently that he’ll be serving soups, sandwiches and salads during the day and housemade pâtés, charcuterie (smoked duck, housemade sausages), desserts and wines at night. Among the 185 truffles in his repertoire are chocolate truffles infused with flavors such as bacon, garlic, nuts and vegetables.

“There are so many restaurants you can go to (in Portland),” he said, “but there aren’t that many places you can go to and get a good dessert.”

If 2016 is anything like the past, these new places are only the beginning. So when you lift a glass to the new year Thursday night, be sure to toast Portland’s hopping restaurant scene – including those places that are still to come.


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