Hugo’s restaurant in Portland will not reopen until fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, its owners say. File photo

The James Beard Award-winning owners of Hugo’s, one of Portland’s most critically acclaimed restaurants, announced Friday that it will not reopen until fall.

“We love creating an intimate dining experience for guests in a restaurant that allows them to share space with our chefs, but we cannot yet envision a time when it will feel safe for us to do that again,” owners Mike Wiley, Arlin Smith and Andrew Taylor wrote.

Closed because of the pandemic since March, the restaurant, at 88 Middle St., was eligible to open June 1 for outdoor dining only. For now, though, it will continue to focus on Hugo’s at Home curbside pick-up menu, Smith said, which offers prepared meals such as seafood curry, as well as charcuterie, tinned fish, bread, pickles and preserves, and high-end pantry staples such as pear and miso mustard. Find weekly menus on the restaurant’s website, hugosmaine.com, and Instagram, @hugosmaine.

Tao Yuan morphs into Zao Ze

Chef Cara Stadler will not reopen Tao Yuan, the sophisticated Asian restaurant in Brunswick she owns with her mother, Cecile Stadler, for the rest of the summer. In its place, she will launch a pop-up, to be called Zao Ze, that will serve Asian street food.

Zao Ze Café and Market will serve breakfast and lunch. Stadler is converting the back parking lot at Tao Yuan into an outdoor seating area, as allowed by current pandemic restrictions. Stadler hasn’t set an opening date, but will post updates on Instagram at @zaozemaine. She expects to reopen Tao Yuan in the fall.

Little Munjoy Hill?

Co-owner Andrew Zarro at Little Woodfords says the coffee shop is, regretfully, moving out of Woodfords Corner.

Little Woodfords, a popular coffee shop at 643 Forest Ave., is moving to that cute little building at 316A Congress St., at the corner of Franklin Street, that once housed a consignment store.

The coffee shop’s lease expires at the end of June, and “after trying wholeheartedly (and tirelessly) to negotiate with our landlords for months, there is simply no way we can afford the significant increase in rent and other costs they are requiring to occupy this space,” the owners wrote on social media. “Please know we tried our very best to make this work, and that if we agreed to the new terms, we wouldn’t have lasted the summer.”

This begs the question: Since Little Woodfords will no longer be in the Woodfords neighborhood, will its name change? Co-owner Andrew Zarro told me he plans to keep the name, at least for a little while, since Little Woodfords has gotten national attention; it was listed as one of the Top 100 Coffee Shops in America by Food & Wine magazine in November.

“If we do change the name, it will be a slow re-brand,” he said.

Zarro said he plans to open a second coffee shop in the Woodfords neighborhood (where he lives) someday. “There is a plan,” he said. “It’s just that COVID doesn’t make things any easier.”

Chez Rosa opens, finally

Kyle Robinson and Yazmin Saraya planned to open their French bistro, Chez Rosa, in Kennebunkport in early April, in the old Bandaloop location at 2 Ocean Ave. in Dock Square. They were blindsided by the coronavirus.

Instead of a grand opening on May 21, they opened for curbside pick-up. Now, thanks to their neighbor, Abacus Gallery, they plan to open Wednesday night for outside dining. The gallery is allowing the new restaurant to use its patio space, where eight tables seat up to 28 people.

Chez Rosa will continue to offer curbside service, with the same hours as outdoor dining – 4 to 8 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Robinson said while the neighborhood has supported Chez Rosa with takeout orders, that business has “not been blockbuster for us.”

It’s tough for a business to have so many problems before it’s even had a chance to fully open. So if you’re going to be in the area later this week and fancy duck cassoulet or Gulf of Maine cod Wellington, make a reservation and you’ll be doing more than just ordering dinner. You’ll be helping to keep a dream alive.

Sunday Fun days at Clay Hill Farm

Clay Hill Farm restaurant in Cape Neddick has taken the idea of outdoor dining up a notch, offering deck dining as well as picnicking on the 11-acre grounds from noon to 7 p.m. every Sunday in June – all while being serenaded by live music.

Following state mandates, reservations are required for deck dining, and picnickers must check in curbside. Customers ordering takeout may picnic on the grounds with a blanket or tailgate in the farm’s new pet park. (Pets must be leashed). New outdoor event spaces at the farm will be open, including a labyrinth.

The restaurant also serves dinner outside from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Find the Clay Hill Farm menu and other details online at ClayHillFarm.com.

Sea Dog’s new seltzers

Sea Dog Brewing Co. is making small-batch hard seltzers. Photo courtesy of Sea Dog Brewing

Sea Dog Brewing has launched a line of small-batch hard seltzers in blueberry, dark cherry and raspberry flavors.

“We New Englanders love our seltzer and we love going to the brewery,” Fred Forsley, owner of Sea Dog, said in a news release. “It was natural to bring hard seltzer into our craft brewing world here at Sea Dog.”

IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, a London-based firm that covers the global alcoholic beverage market, reported in December that more than half of U.S. consumers drink hard seltzers at least once a week, and consumption is expected to triple by 2023.

The Sea Dog seltzers are sold in six-packs at local stores and are also available via curbside pick-up at Sea Dog Broadway in South Portland and Sea Dog Bangor. Cans cost $3 each, and six packs are $12.50.

Outdoor dining spreads out
Portland isn’t the only city trying to help restaurants survive the pandemic by temporarily expanding outdoor dining into parks and squares, private parking lots, and parklets laid out in parking spaces. South Portland and Falmouth have done the same, along with many other municipalities in Greater Portland, including Westbrook, Biddeford, Saco, Scarborough and Gorham.

Food pantry re-opens, safety first 

Because of the coronavirus, the Project FEED food pantry at Portland’s Woodfords Congregational Church was forced to close in March – just when more people needed help. Many older volunteers, concerned about their own health, asked to be let out of their assignments. Then the church closed and asked the food pantry to keep clients out of the building, according to pantry manager Delene Perley.

Now the pantry, which dates back to the 1970s, has re-grouped and is reopening at the church Tuesday with new safety procedures.

The pantry, which helps about 50 families a week, will follow the same model as many restaurants and small grocery stores, asking clients to call in their orders (to a volunteer working from home) and then choose a pick-up time. Clients can call in orders, (207) 370-4129, between 1 and 5 p.m. on Monday for Tuesday pick-up, or Wednesday for Thursday pick-up, then pick up their orders from the church’s back parking lot at 202 Woodford St.

A list of available foods and personal care products will be posted to the pantry’s website, projectfeed.org and printed out and posted on the church’s door for those who lack access to the internet.


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