Cheese Louise, a grilled cheese restaurant, is moving into the Old Port. Photo courtesy of Cheese Louise

Well, that didn’t take long. A new grilled cheese restaurant (slogan: “Sweet Dreams are Made of Cheese”) is scheduled to open in early May at 363 Fore St., the Old Port space previously occupied by Cheevitdee.

Cheese Louise, founded by three college students in 2018, began as a food trailer in New Hampshire. James Gaudreault, Ian Lubkin and Bryce Harrison have since expanded the business to include two food trucks and two restaurants, all in the Mount Washington Valley. (The trio also have an ice cream business called Freeze Louise.) They specialize in upscale grilled cheese sandwiches such as The Canadian, made with applewood-smoked bacon, Cabot cheddar, sliced green apples and maple syrup on Tuscan bread. A vegetarian sandwich, No Porkin’ Way, is made with shredded barbecue sweet potato, caramelized onions and Cabot cheddar on house-made honey flax bread.

Harrison said he and his partners have been thinking about expanding for some time now, and they “just really loved the vibe in the Old Port and thought we’d fit in pretty well there.” The new restaurant will also be, he said, “a real test of the concept” since Portland is such a competitive restaurant market. He said they plan to feature more local flavors in Portland and partner with local farms.

Harrison said that Cheese Louise will have about 40 seats. It’s primarily a lunch spot, but the owners also see an opportunity to do “a Cheese Louise after dark kind of thing” that caters to the late-night crowd – filling some of the void left by Bill’s Pizza, perhaps?

Find them on the web at eatcheeselouise.com or @eatcheeselouise.

Pizza for Portland

Pizzaiolo at 360 Cumberland Ave. has applied for a restaurant license to open a second location at 865 Forest Ave., the former home of Casa Fiesta and – obscure reference for old-timers like me who still miss it – Raoul’s Roadside Attraction. The menu will include Pizzaiolo’s New York-style pizza, pasta and subs. The 70-seat restaurant is slated to open in April.

Burgers, too

Kevin McAllister, owner of the Butcher Burger restaurants in Bethel and Old Orchard Beach, plans to open a third location in Portland at 7 Union St., the former home of Royale Lunch Bar.

The 25-seat restaurant is scheduled to open in April. Its menu includes a variety of burgers, including a poutine burger and a surf & turf burger made with Maine lobster; chicken sandwiches; fish sandwiches; and “munchies,” such as fried pickles, onion rings, fish tacos, and chicken wings.

Knishes? Why K-not?

An everything knish made with Maine potatoes, cream cheese and scallion. Photo courtesy of Graeme and Caitlin Miller

Graeme Miller made his first knish a few years ago on a slow winter day at Eventide Oyster Co., where he was working as chef de cuisine. Then he started experimenting with the classic Jewish snack food at home. Now he’s ready to share his knishes – sweet and savory fillings wrapped in dough – with the world. In mid-April, Miller and his wife, Caitlin, plan to open BenReuben’s Knishery at 145 Ocean St. in South Portland.

The Millers grew up eating knishes from Jewish delis on the North Shore in Massachusetts. They wanted to open a knishery last year, but the pandemic put their plans on hold. BenReuben’s is a longtime dream of Graeme Miller’s, who originally had visions of opening a Jewish deli.

“My mom asked me how I wanted to change the world when I was a kid, and food was the way,” he said. “Nourishment is necessary, but it’s not just the food that ends up nourishing us. It’s the people that we end up eating that food with, and the stories that we get to share over the food, and the emotions that come with all of it.”

At BenReuben’s, he said, “we’re a trying to revive old recipes of our families’, taking that traditional nostalgic food that we’re so comfortable with and getting to apply newer cooking techniques or maybe more seasonal ingredients.”

The knishery, which will be counter service only, is named for Graeme Miller’s father, Richard Miller, a recently retired pediatrician. Reuben is his Hebrew name, and Ben means son in Hebrew. Graeme said it’s a tribute to family heirloom names like Russ & Daughters, the famous Jewish deli in New York City that’s been around for more than a century. Richard Miller has been training with his son for a year, and plans to work with him. “We’ll be rolling knish together a couple of times a week,” Graeme Miller said.

The menu will include a reuben knish (“You can’t have a place called BenReuben’s without some form of a reuben,” Miller says); a brandade knish made with whitefish, potatoes and fresh herbs, served with garlic aioli; and a red flannel hash knish made with beets, potatoes and caramelized onions, served with an egg yolk sauce. There will be sweet options as well (knishes are traditionally savory), including cinnamon knishes and mandelbrot (a traditional twice-baked cookie similar to biscotti) made from a recipe that came from Miller’s Grandma Fanny.

The deli case will feature items such as housemade sauerkraut and a reuben kraut (aka sauerreuben, made with rutabaga or turnips instead of cabbage); Ashkenazi-style kimchi; roasted beets; and gluten-free stuffed cabbage. The couple also plan to offer vegan and vegetarian options, and knishes for allergy sufferers.

Urban Farm Fermentory South

Eli Cayer, owner of Urban Farm Fermentory in Portland, plans to open a bottle shop at 165 State Road in Kittery at the end of the month. The new shop will sell his kombucha, cider, meads and non-alcoholic drinks, and will be open Wednesdays through Sundays to start.

Cayer said he likes Kittery because it’s a convenient stop for tourists entering the state as well as for UFF fans who don’t want to drive all the way to Portland to get their kombucha fix. The 400-square-foot shop, located off the first exit coming into the state, has no seating. It is in the same complex as Rising Tide Natural Market and 360 Sugar Free, a bakery and grocery that specializes in foods for people on sugar-free, gluten-free and low-carb diets. He’s still looking for two other locations around the state where he can sell his product.

Back Bay Grill is back

Chef/owner Larry Matthews plans to reopen Back Bay Grill, 65 Portland St., on April 8. The Portland restaurant, which has been closed since Jan. 2 for a winter break,  will be open three days a week, Thursday through Saturday. Matthews says he’ll offer a three-course, prix fixe menu for $100 per person.

Cocktails-to-go not going anywhere

The Maine Legislature has extended cocktails-to-go through Sept. 10, 2022. The ability to sell cocktails-to-go, with the purchase of food, has been a temporary lifeline for Maine bars and restaurants during the pandemic.

A Maine food hero remembered

The Maine food world is mourning the passing of John Woods, co-founder of Full Plates Full Potential. Woods, 57, died March 6 after a battle with cancer. Many Maine children will not go to bed hungry tonight because of his tireless work.

Full Plates Full Potential posted on its website: “Ending child hunger in Maine became John’s life’s work nearly two decades ago and will be his enduring legacy. Called to this mission by the simple idea that no child should grow up hungry and inspired by the belief that solutions are within reach, John’s work to end child hunger in Maine has touched countless lives and will have ripple effects for generations.”

To read tributes to Woods, go to fullplates.org.

Judge Martha 

Part-time Maine resident and lifestyle guru Martha Stewart will mess with 16 contestants’ heads during “Chopped: Martha Rules” on the Food Network. The new Chopped tournament, hosted by Ted Allen, was filmed in an outdoor kitchen at Earth at Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport and will be televised beginning April 13 at 9 p.m. (“Chopped: Comfort Food Feud” was filmed at the same location and aired in November.)

Chefs competing on Chopped work with mystery baskets of ingredients to prepare dishes for the judges during three rounds – appetizer, entrée and dessert. Many Maine chefs have competed on the show, and a few have come home with prize money. The grand prize for the Martha Stewart shows is $50,000.

In this round of five episodes, Stewart calls the shots and changes the rules as she likes. Examples: She adds a surprise chef to a dessert round in one episode, and in another has the chefs switch cooking stations and dishes. One episode features Maine-inspired mystery basket ingredients such as clam chowder and blueberry pie.

Joining Stewart at the judges’ table will be New York City chefs Marc Murphy and Marcus Samuelsson.

Warm up to outdoor dining

A marketing campaign launched last week highlights 100 restaurants from 38 towns across the state that offer outdoor dining.

The maineoutdoordine.com website, developed by the Greater Portland Council of Governments with a $50,000 grant from the Maine Office of Tourism, evolved from the Maine Winter Dine website and Facebook page that listed restaurants serving food and drink outdoors over the winter. Bruno’s Wood-Fired Pizzeria in Bath is among the featured restaurants. It adapted to outdoor dining by adding a patio, outdoor fireplace and a system of aluminum tubing that carries heat from a furnace to customers’ tables. The igloos that Kanu in Old Town installed on its roof have proved so popular that owner Alex Gray announced in a news release, they’ll “continue on long after COVID is a distant memory.”

The six-week marketing campaign includes a chance to win $50 gift cards to participating restaurants. To enter, customers must share a photo on social media of their outdoor dining experience.

A rendering of Luna, the rooftop bar at the Canopy Portland Waterfront hotel, scheduled to open in May. Photo courtesy of Fathom Companies

Canopy christening

The bar and restaurant in the new 135-room Canopy Portland Waterfront hotel, scheduled to open in May on the corner of Center and Commercial streets, have been named: The 88-seat indoor/outdoor rooftop bar overlooking Casco Bay will be called Luna, and the 53-seat restaurant at street level (which will have floor-to-ceiling windows) is to be the Salt Yard. The restaurant’s name pays homage to the E. Swasey & Co. building next door, where salt-glazed earthenware was made in the 19th century.

Fittin’ for an angels’ choir

Island Lobster Co. on Peaks Island will offer public lobster bakes this summer both in its newly renovated downstairs space, The Skegg, and on its lawn. The lobster bake menu will include the classics: clam chowder, steamed lobster, local mussels, baked potato, corn on the cob and whoopie pies, according to Katie Werner, who owns the trap-to-table restaurant with her husband Thom, a commercial lobsterman who provides the lobster for the business.

Waterville front & center

Front & Main, at 9 Main St. in Waterville, opens Thursday in the new Lockwood Hotel.

Lobster bucatini with shiitake and uni cream. Photo by Gabe Souza 

The restaurant will have a dining room, a bar and lounge, and an outdoor patio with fire pits, plus something most Maine restaurants don’t: Work by well-known Maine artists, including painter and sculptor Bernard Langlais and Passamaquoddy basket weaver Jeremy Frey, curated by the Colby College Museum of Art.

The menu, from executive chef Jesse Souza, features dishes such as Maine lobster bucatini with shiitake and uni cream, and Moroccan-spiced short rib with charred eggplant puree. On the brunch menu, look for ployes with cinnamon mascarpone.

The restaurant and hotel are part of a huge downtown redevelopment project that began in 2015. Later this spring, a new venue for artists and performers will open across the street from Front & Main in the former Waterville Hardware Store building.

Dinner at Front & Main will be from 5-9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Brunch hours will be 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Curbside pickup is also available.

Recycling incentive

Allagash Brewing Co. is continuing its environmentally friendly ways with a new program that rewards customers for dropping off beer-related recyclables: PakTech holders (those plastic things that hold cans of beer together), natural corks, bottle caps and cages, air pillows, and brown packing paper. Bring in a bag of this stuff (it doesn’t even have to be from Allagash products) and sign up for a free virtual punch card. Six punches get you 20 percent off your next Allagash order.

Root Wild begins beer production

Root Wild’s raison d’etre is kombucha, but now it has released its first batch of beer four-packs. The first release, Mount Joy Pale Ale, is a New England pale ale the kombuchery describes as “naturally hazy, soft, and expressive, with flavors of lychee, grapefruit, overripe peach, and pine.” The beer’s name is the ancestral name of Munjoy Hill, where Root Wild is located. Look for more releases in the coming months.

That’s amore

Anthony’s Italian Kitchen, 151 Middle St., has launched a “hat project” for spring. Donate any old-fashioned ladies’ hat to the restaurant, give them the name of “a special woman in your life,” and they will tag and display the hat in her honor.

Slainte! Last chance

If you still haven’t yet settled on a St. Patrick’s Day plan, here are a few more options. For more ideas, see last week’s column, or the list put together by Maine Today Magazine.

Aroma Joe’s is holding a St. Patrick’s Day contest today. Order a Shamrock Macchiatto or Irish Kicker Latte and you’ll be entered to win a $100 Aroma Joe’s gift card. Use the coffee shop’s rewards program and get another entry. Only one winner per location.

Top of the East at the Westin Portland Harborview hotel, 157 High St., is offering a $15 cocktail called Finnegans Wake, made with Jameson Irish whiskey, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, lime, and an absinthe rinse; as well as corned beef and cabbage, with Maine potatoes and Irish soda bread ($18).

Monte’s Fine Foods, at 788 Washington Ave., is selling Irish soda bread ($4.99 per loaf) made with golden raisins, anise seed and orange.

Standard Baking Co., at 75 Commercial St., is selling Irish soda bread ($6.60 per loaf) and chocolate whiskey bundt cake ($9 each), made with whiskey from Stroudwater Distilling.


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