A Portland native who became a successful businesswoman in New York City and recently ran for mayor of Hoboken, N.J. is moving back to Maine to open a wine bar in Gorham.

Karen Nason – singer, entrepreneur and political activist – says she plans to open Grand Central Wine Bar in May at 7 Railroad Ave. The space has a spiral staircase, windows with grand views, and will be decorated “exactly like Grand Central Station,” she says, right down to the famous clock.

“It’s going to be something Maine hasn’t seen, ever,” Nason said.

The plan is to put the bar in a building under development that will hold a bowling alley and shops on the bottom floor, 32 rental units, and the wine bar on the top two floors, Nason said. She said the bar will have a baby grand piano, and musicians looking to showcase their work, including students from the University of Southern Maine’s music program, will be welcome there.

Nason was born and raised in Maine but has lived in the New York City area for close to 30 years. She worked as a singer and performer in clubs in Manhattan. (Want to hear Nason sing? Some of her performances are posted on YouTube.) In the 1990s, Nason opened a plant store in Chelsea that later morphed into a jazz bar where she welcomed guests such as Johnny Depp, Peter Gabriel and Lauren Hutton. (She became known as “the plant lady to the stars.”) When her rent got too high, she started over in Hoboken, opening the Hoboken Hot House Cafe and Hot House Pizza. In 2017, she ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Hoboken.

When Nason’s son was born, she bought a second home on Sebago Lake. (Her son attended Gould Academy and now works for Time Inc., Nason said.) Now that he’s grown, she wants to move back to Maine. “I’ve just decided I’m going to come back home,” she said.


Her husband, attorney Frank DeGrim, will help her open the wine bar.

Pete Sueltenfuss, owner of the Otherside Delicatessens in Portland’s East Deering and West End neighborhoods, announced last week that he and his wife/partner Jessica are planning to open the Otherside Diner at 500 Washington Ave., the former home of Hella Good Tacos. The diner, which will serve breakfast and lunch, is scheduled to open in spring.

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Coals Pizza, which specializes in grilled pizza, has announced plans to open its first location outside of New York. Lucky for us, it’s at 114 Preble St., the former home of the Portland & Rochester Public House.

The pizzeria’s other locations are in Bronxville and Port Chester, N.Y. Owner Billy Etzel says he’s shooting for a late April opening.

Why Portland? Etzel said he’s been coming to Maine since he was 5 years old. His parents had a summer home in Sanford. “In my early 20s, I started going to Portland to hang out when I was there,” he said.


Etzel added that he’s been keeping track of the attention Portland has been getting as a food town.

But there’s even more to his story. Etzel is adopted, and discovered his biological family – his mother and a sister – living in Kittery three years ago.

Etzel said the food he serves is “very simple.” Grilled pizza is the main item at Coals, and salads, soups and daily specials are also on the menu.

“We’ve gotten a reputation for burgers now as well,” he said. “Twice in Westchester, we’ve won the best chicken wings.”

Etzel said he knows Portland already has a lot of pizza restaurants, “but compared to New York there are almost none. The competition in New York is incredible. They’re everywhere, so I’m used to that.”

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Two veterans of Elda, a fine-dining restaurant in Biddeford, are joining forces with two friends to open a new 30-seat bar with seasonal outdoor seating. The bar will be called Magnus on Water and is to be located at 12 Water St. in Biddeford.

Lidia Bastianich

Brittany Saliwanchik and Brian Catapang, the creators of Elda’s beverage program, are partnering with Julia Russell of Saco and her business partner, Carmen Harris, a Tennessee native, to develop the new place, which will be “an intimate cocktail bar experience.” Its menu will feature locally foraged ingredients.

Magnus on Water is expected to open sometime this summer.

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If you’re a fan of Lidia Bastianich, – the Emmy award–winning public television host, best-selling cookbook author and chef/owner of four acclaimed New York City restaurants – you’re in luck. She’ll be coming to The Music Hall in Portsmouth on March 12 to promote her new memoir, “My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food.”

The event begins at 7 p.m. and includes a presentation by Bastianich, followed by an onstage interview with Peter Biello, host of New Hampshire Public Radio’s broadcast of All Things Considered and The Bookshelf.


Tickets cost $13.75 each. For each one to two tickets sold, the purchase of a book voucher ($17 paperback) is required. The vouchers can be redeemed on the night of the event for signed copies of “My American Dream.”

Tickets and vouchers can be purchased online at TheMusicHall.org, over the phone at 603-436-2400, or in person at the B2W Box Office at the Historic Theater, 28 Chestnut St.

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If you didn’t get enough chicken wings during the Super Bowl, here’s your chance. Liquid Riot Bottling Co. is planning a Chicken Wing Challenge at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 28. It’ll enter the contest itself, to compete against Elsmere BBQ & Wood Grill, Foulmouthed Brewing, Sebago Brewing and Tomaso’s Canteen. Judges will determine the winner through a blind tasting. Ticket holders will be able to taste all the wings and vote on their favorites as well.

Tickets cost $15 each at liquidriot.com/cwc/.

Liquid Riot Bottling Co. is located at 250 Commercial St. in Portland.


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Two Maine breweries have opened new breweries and/or tasting rooms, and both have events coming up to introduce the public to their new spaces.

Austin Street Brewery has opened at its new location at 115 Fox St. in Portland’s East Bayside, next to Rising Tide Brewing. The brewery has scheduled food carts for the winter and will offer food seven days a week: Vantage Point Provisions will be there every Monday, A& C Grocery every Tuesday and Wednesday, Grillin’ Brazilian every Thursday, The High Roller Lobster Co. every Friday, Mister Tuna every Saturday, and Steam Machine every Sunday.

Eventually, Austin Street Brewery plans to offer wine, hard cider and beers from other labels.

Maine Beer Co., 525 Route 1 in Freeport, plans to open its new, expanded tasting room on March 9. In addition to serving beer, the tasting room will offer wood-fired pizza made with local ingredients.

The new tasting room features communal seating, a mezzanine with games, and a covered outdoor patio that will be heated in the colder months.


One particularly interesting feature: the room is covered in solar panels so it runs solely on clean energy. (One percent of the company’s annual sales support environmental nonprofits.)

The tasting room will be open daily, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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


Twitter: MeredithGoad

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