Portlanders who love tequila likely will remember Sergio Ramos, the manager and resident tequila expert at Zapoteca, the restaurant that went out of business in 2017 when its owners got into legal trouble over bad checks and not paying vendors.

After working at other restaurants for the past few years, Ramos is opening his own place in Biddeford, a casual Mexican spot that will be called Mi Pueblo Tacos Y Tequila. Ramos had been looking for a restaurant job but decided the pandemic could be an opportunity for him to start a business, using his own savings.

“I know it’s crazy at this time,” he said, “but I think I can make it work.”

The restaurant will be at 45 Boulder Way, which just so happens to be the former home of the Ruby Tuesday that Ramos managed for seven years before joining Zapoteca. Ramos has already installed equipment and hired staff, including 11 cooks. Now he’s waiting on permits. He hopes to have the restaurant open by the end of the month.

The building can seat 240 people, but Ramos said he’ll only be opening half of it for now. The pandemic-era Mi Pueblo will have 10 tables inside and eight outside, and offer counter service only. “Pickup and limited seating is the way to go right now,” Ramos said.

Ramos said he considered opening Mi Pueblo in Portland, possibly in the former Walter’s location, but he was worried about making rent there. In Biddeford, he said, rent is cheaper and there are “no good Mexican restaurants within 20 miles, probably.”

The menu will be “very limited” to start, Ramos said, and will feature fresh ingredients in made-from-scratch dishes.

At Zapoteca, Ramos was known for his tequila and mezcal expertise, and he often held special tastings. At Mi Pueblo, he’s limiting the drinks menu (for now) to handcrafted margaritas, beer and wine – and yes, you’ll be able to get those drinks to go. But Ramos said his longterm goal is to offer more tequila education.

A new tavern for the Old Port

Siblings Tom and Meg Minervino and their business partner, Michael Barton, have applied for a liquor license for Rathskeller on Wharf, their new business venture at 51 Wharf St. in Portland’s Old Port. The trio already co-own the Legends Rest Taproom in Westbrook. (The Minervinos are also partners in Tomaso’s Canteen on Hampshire Street in Portland.)

Rathskeller on Wharf will feature a classic tavern menu, according to the application, and serve lunch and dinner every day. The tavern will have a 22-seat horseshoe bar and an additional 28 seats at tables. The target opening date is Oct. 1.

“The subterranean space is full of character, with exposed beams and wood pillars, stone and brick walls, and marble floors,” Tom Minervino wrote in the application. “Maintaining this character has been a major focus of our extensive renovation.”

License change

Ishi Ishi, the nine-seat ramen shop located in a shipping container at 93 Washington Ave. in Portland, has applied for an on-premise liquor license to replace its current BYOB status.

Co-owner Matthew De Fio said the switch is in response to the pandemic: “This will help with some extra income that will hopefully pull us through this mess,” he wrote in his application.

For now, Ishi Ishi is open for outdoor seating and takeout only.

Brewery for sale

Brewery Extrava in East Bayside, which opened just last summer and crafts Belgian-style beers, is for sale. Asking price: $750,000. The sale includes the brewhouse and a 75-seat tasting room at 66 Cove St.

In an ad for the brewery sale, co-owners Joe and Charlene Doherty and brewer Michael LaCharite cited “partner interests diverging.” Reached by phone, Doherty would not go into any more detail. “Suffice it to say there are multiple factors, and certainly one of the factors is the pandemic,” he said.

The brewery never had a large staff, he said. After the pandemic started, three part-time front of house employees were laid off, as well as one full-time production staff member. The brewery reopened in late June for outdoor service only and hired two part-time employees at that time, he said. The business is still operating, he added, but he and his partners are looking to sell the assets of the business and transfer the lease.

“Ultimately the goal would be to bring somebody else in to operate the brewery at the site,” he said. “The site is a good location. Somebody who is looking to get into the craft brewing scene in Maine, I think it’s a great opportunity for them.”

Shipyard to serve food

Shipyard Brewing Co. has applied for an outdoor dining permit and a license to serve food at its tasting room at 86 Newbury St. in Portland. The move will give the brewery more options during the pandemic.

According to its application, the company plans to sell a limited menu of pre-made pizza, hot pretzels, popcorn, hot dogs and lobster rolls at a dozen outdoor tables and, when it’s eventually allowed by the state, indoors as well.

Drink seasonally

Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery in Union has released a Maine Cranberry Apple Hard Cider for fall. Photo courtesy of Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery

It’s hard cider season again, although you could make the case that any season is hard cider season in Maine now, given the growing popularity of the drink here and the opening of cider bars.

 Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery in Union has a new cider for you to try: Maine Cranberry Apple Hard Cider, made with a mix of local, heirloom apples from several midcoast orchards, including the Sweetgrass Farm orchard. After adding Maine cranberries to the mix, the dry cider is bottle conditioned and comes out with “an apple nose, champagne body, and a delicious tart finish,” according to Sweetgrass Farm.

Buy it at the winery in Union and at the Sweetgrass tasting rooms in Portland and Kennebunk.

Oakhurst has come out with a new, limited-edition whole milk flavor for fall, and it’s not pumpkin spice.

Maple Milk might seem more appropriate for spring, since that’s when maple syrup is produced, but it’s also a fall flavor poured into a steaming bowl of oatmeal on a cold morning. Plus, Maine Maple Sunday has been moved to October, so there’s that.

Oakhurst has released a new limited edition seasonal flavor – Maple Milk – just in time for fall pancakes and maple lattes. Photo courtesy of Oakhurst Dairy

The new flavor is made with maple syrup sourced from Bascom Family Farms in New Hampshire, which sells maple syrup from small family farms in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont as well as from its own farm.

John Bennett, president of Oakhurst Dairy, suggests using the milk to make maple lattes or to enhance the maple flavor in pancakes.

Maple Milk will be sold in pints and quarts in Hannaford, Market Basket and Walmart stores throughout New England. Prices vary depending on location and retailer.

Fun on the farm

Looking for fun time with your kids – or a place where they can blow off steam? In September and October, Frinklepod Farm in Arundel is offering outdoors activities led by farmer-educators. Each session lasts one hour and 15 minutes and includes interactive activities around the farm, physical exercise, and “making or harvesting something special to take home.”

The farm suggests putting together a “pod” of friends and children you feel comfortable interacting with, with a maximum of six kids (recommended ages 3 to 10), and splitting the $120 cost. A minimum of one adult for every two kids is required, up to a six-adult limit. Adults will be required to wear masks.

Two sessions are held each day, at 10 a.m. and at 1 p.m. Upcoming sessions include “Dirt, Worms & Compost: Playing in the Mud Kitchen” on Sept. 16 and 17; “Harvesting Root Veggies and Making Fresh Juice” on Sept. 23 and 24; “Shucking, Plucking, and Planting: The Magic of Seeds” on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1; and “Frinkle-Pirates! A Tasty Treasure Hunt” on Oct. 7 and 8.

Sign up at frinklepodfarm.com/adventures.

Celebrity spotting

Not much response to last week’s call for celebrity sightings in Maine restaurants after director Martin Scorsese was spotted eating lobster in Northeast Harbor, but I did get one tip: Martha Stewart dined last week at Mabel’s Lobster Claw in Kennebunkport.

The lifestyle maven herself posted about it on one of her Instagram accounts: “My old friend Sonny, a restaurateur from Westport, Connecticut, now owns this well-known eatery.”

She included a photo of herself wearing a lobster bib.

Stewart owns a Seal Harbor estate called Skylands and is often spotted in Maine during the summer.


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