Diners gather at Congdon’s After Dark in the days before social distancing. Photo courtesy of Congdons Doughnuts

Congdon’s After Dark, the summer food truck park on Route 1 in Wells, will reopen June 4 with a new layout designed to promote social distancing.

Look for picnic tables to be spaced at least 6 feet apart. Other changes include an additional entrance to the beer garden (which will be selling drinks to go), more staff, sanitation stations, and more frequent cleaning of surfaces and bathrooms. Customers will be encouraged to wear masks when they’re not eating.

The kids’ play food truck will be closed, and the car shows usually held on Mondays and the Tuesday fundraisers have been postponed.

The park usually hosts 32 food trucks, but some have chosen not to participate this year, said Gary Leech, owner of Congdon’s Doughnuts, which sponsors the park. Expect about two dozen trucks this season, with six to 10 trucks rotating each night.

Leech also plans to add a Sugar Shack sometime in midsummer that will make fresh miniature doughnuts on site.

The park’s hours will be 4-8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday to start, but those hours could expand later in the season. Daily service will begin June 18 and run through Labor Day. Go to cadfoodtrucks.com for a full schedule and to see which trucks will be there on a particular night.

Two closings – one permanent, one temporary

LB Kitchen West, 231 York St., Portland, has permanently closed, according to a post on social media last Wednesday: “We’ve all made hard decisions in the past few months. For some of us, maybe the hardest of our lives. One of our hardest decisions is that we’re choosing not to reopen LB West. I guess it’s not totally fair to accept full responsibility for this choice. The real reason is Covid, which we all know is completely out of (our) control. Until there’s a vaccine, we aren’t safe to share space and we’re not taking any unnecessary risks.”

LB Kitchen West opened in the summer of 2019. The original LB Kitchen at 249 Congress St. remains open for takeout, employing four people. Before the pandemic hit, 26 people were employed at both restaurants.

Tipo in Portland has closed temporarily after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The employee, who did not display any symptoms and did not have contact with the public, worked only one day’s service. The restaurant had been using temperature checks and other measures to monitor the staff’s health.

“Today marks 14 days from when our staff was in contact and no one else is exhibiting any symptoms,” the owners reported Saturday on social media. “According to the CDC guidelines, we are able to resume service. Instead, we decided to implement mandatory testing for all employees before reopening to ensure the safety of our staff and community.”

Central Provisions at 414 Fore St., which is owned by the same family, is open for curbside takeout.

Holy Moly, Holy Donuts

If coffee is on your Hannaford grocery list, now you can now pick up dark chocolate sea salt or holy cannoli donuts to go with it. Yep, by the end of May, five Portland-area Hannafords will be selling Holy Donuts for the first time. The grocery chain is also stocking its shelves for the first time with craft beers from Mast Landing Brewing Co. in Westbrook and Fore River Brewing Co. in South Portland.

According to Hannaford, the store saw a 44 percent increase in sales of local products in March over the same period in 2019. Sales of produce from local farms are up, too – 27 percent over the same period last year. An interesting tidbit: Since March 1, Hannaford has bought 500,000 more locally grown potatoes than usual, including larger potatoes that would normally go to restaurants and the food service industry.

Days like this

Now is the time to drink to warm weather and spring flowers. At 5 p.m. Thursday, Andrew Volk, co-owner of the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, will be demonstrating a cocktail at Tip Your Bartender, a virtual bar created by the online magazine PUNCH to help bars nationwide during the pandemic. Each bar that participates – the events are streamed on PUNCH’s Instagram Live account – receives a $1,000 fee, and viewers are also encouraged to tip via Venmo. Bacardi matches all the tips with a contribution to the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, an advocacy nonprofit.

Volk will be mixing a cocktail called “Days Like This.” Here’s the recipe so you can follow along and mix your own at home, if you like:

2 ounces Bacardi 8 rum
¾ ounce amontillado sherry
¾ ounce dry vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled martini coupe and garnish with an orange twist.

More farmers move online

Cultivating Community, a group that supports sustainable farming and access to local foods, has opened a FarmDrop site, with pickup at 62 Elm St. in Portland. FarmDrop is an online farmers market that sells vegetables, meats, bagels, coffee – even spices and soaps – from local producers. Order Saturday through Tuesday, and pick up on Thursday. Shop or get more information at portland.farmdrop.us/

Reopening scrupulously

HospitalityMaine is offering free online training for restaurant workers that guides them through the new state-mandated restaurant reopening checklist. The COVID-19 Restaurant Readiness Program was developed in conjunction with Eastern Maine Community College and covers topics such as social distancing and sanitation best practices. Find classes here: hospitalitymaine.com/page/covidreadinesstraining

Back to the future

Other Side Diner at 500 Washington Ave. in Portland plans to launch a “car hop” menu this weekend. From 4:30-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, the restaurant will serve to-go burgers, lobster rolls, fried oyster rolls, wedge salad, onion rings, fries, and milkshakes to pick up at the diner’s takeout window.

The diner is not the only southern Maine restaurant experimenting with carhop-style dining. Gather in Yarmouth plans to hold its second Burgers and Bluegrass Carhop Saturday from 3:30-7:30 p.m., serving burgers, shakes and fries for automobile dining while a live bluegrass band plays from the deck. Because parking spots are limited, customers have 35 minutes to enjoy their meal – after that, they have to move to street parking.

Go to gathermaine.com to order to reserve a spot.

Not by bread alone

The Maine Grain Alliance’s Emergency Relief Fund is awarding a second round of grants to business owners who purchase, grow or process local grains, and have been hit with unexpected expenses during the pandemic or need financial help to reopen. Entrepreneurs who have participated in the annual Kneading Conference and Artisan Bread Fair are especially urged to apply. Grants will be awarded in amounts up to $2,000.

The application deadline is 5 p.m. June 5. For details on how to apply, go to kneadingconference.com.

 Yarmouth Farmers Market reopening

The Yarmouth Farmers Market at 317 Main St. will reopen June 4 with a half dozen new vendors and new social distancing requirements.

The layout of the market, which will be held from 3-6 p.m., has been changed to allow for greater physical distancing. All vendors will wear masks and gloves, and both vendors and customers will have access to hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer. Preordering through yarmouthfarmersmarket.org is encouraged. All food will be packaged to go, and no outdoor seating or tastings will be available.

Customers are being asked to wear a face covering and to limit the number of shoppers in their household.


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