When Henry Wagner was a child, his grandparents often took him to eat at Spurwink Country Kitchen, a casual restaurant at 150 Spurwink Road (Route 77) in Scarborough that has been around for 70 years. The restaurant, which is near Crescent Beach, Scarborough Beach and Two Lights State Park, was known for its “classic New England comfort food.” Wagner remembers eating corn chowder and pie – especially pie.  “Being a kid, you always remember pie,” he said.

Now Wagner will be the one serving the pie. Wagner, who grew up to become a chef, bought the restaurant (Uncle Don’s Spurwink Country Kitchen in its most recent incarnation) and has been renovating the building himself since February. On June 1, it will reopen as Hank’s, with a 21st-century look, menu and overall concept. “I took the building down to the studs,” Wagner said, “and rebuilt the entire kitchen myself.”

He’s also put in a new entrance and added a big deck, where he hopes his customers will relax with a beer or glass of wine, along with a charcuterie board or some housemade chips and salsa, after a few hours at the beach. “The goal,” he said, “is to bring it back to a community place that everyone enjoys being at.”

A few years ago, Wagner and his cousin Anna were running Wags Wagon, a food truck in Belfast that served gourmet sandwiches and salads made with locally sourced ingredients from Breludin Farm, owned by Wagner’s uncle. His cousin ended up opening a farm-to-table restaurant called The Hoot in Northport, and Wagner moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he worked for a restaurant group in a variety of roles, from sous chef to assistant manager. Wagner had been planning to move back to Maine last summer, hoping to reconnect with “the ocean, family, friends,” but the pandemic pushed up those plans. For the past year, he’s been making meal kits to-go for friends, an enterprise that will play a role at the new Hank’s.

Hank’s will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Lunch will feature high-end sandwiches, salads, soups and sweets. From 3:30 to 6 p.m., Hank’s will serve afternoon snack platters. Wagner also plans to offer prepared foods, including his own meal kits, and will stock a grab-and-go area with local vegetables, Standard Baking Co. breads, flowers from Broadturn Farm, and meats from Breludin Farm. Also look for soups and salads, lasagna, meatballs, chicken salad, and other foods to go.

Later this summer, Wagner plans to add nightly farm dinners. “The idea would be you’d pay ahead of time, a flat rate, and it would be a choice of three starters, four mains, and two or three desserts,” he said.

Once Hank’s is up and running, Wagner intends to keep it open seasonally, from April through Thanksgiving every year.

MORE FIZZ FOR PORTLAND

Portland is getting a new cider house and hard seltzer producer in East Bayside, a neighborhood known locally as Yeast Bayside for the many breweries and other fermentation businesses there.

Après will be located at 140 Anderson St., a short walk from Tandem Coffee Roasters. The business is owned by Ryan Houghton, co-owner of The Hop Yard, and Michael Cardente. Sara Bryan is the operations manager.

“We found the building, and it screamed amazing brewery location to us, so we were actually searching for a brewery tenant,” Houghton said. “But then COVID hit and the discussion had to change to ‘Well, why don’t we do something there?’ Mike and I had always talked about how there’s not really all that much cider being made in Maine, and seltzer is a growing industry and we don’t have any dedicated craft seltzer places around at all.” ( Their business will be the city’s first hard seltzer producer.)

Bryan said a “rather large” indoor tasting room, that’s under construction, is “coming together quickly, and we’ll have a nice bit of outdoor seating as well.”

The owners aim to open Après at the end of May.

 

This rhubarb danish is one of the items that will be on the menu at Jackrabbit Cafe, a new breakfast and lunch spot from Chef Bowman Brown in Biddeford. Photo courtesy of Jackrabbit Cafe

SCANDINAVIA IN BIDDEFORD

Chef Bowman Brown had hoped to open his new casual restaurant, the Jackrabbit Cafe in Biddeford, today. The date has been moved back to May 5, he said, “and that looks pretty likely.”

The cafe, located in Suite 101 of building 19A on the Pepperell Mill campus (14 Main St.), will have 26 socially distanced seats and serve Scandinavian-inspired breads, pastries, vegetable dishes, sandwiches and small plates. Why Scandinavian? “I’ve always been into food from that part of the world,” Brown explained. “My heritage is Danish on both sides, who knows how many generations back – five? Eight? I just wanted to have a focus, and not have it be a little of this and a little of that. I wanted to do something a little bit different.”

Cardamom bun at the soon-to-open Jackrabbit Cafe in Biddeford. Photo courtesy of Jackrabbit Cafe

Brown has been working with Maine Grains and will use some of its heritage grains, freshly milled, to make dense sourdough rye breads, crusty sourdough loaves, and other whole grain breads.

On the breakfast menu you’ll find Scandinavian-style waffles and a rolled omelette made with dashi and served on toast. For lunch, an open-faced sandwich with smoked trout, fresh and pickled radishes, radish sprouts, and smoked egg yolk spread. Seasonal vegetable plates will include a warm asparagus salad with sprouted grains and herbs.

The cafe’s color scheme tends toward the earth tones of the western desert — Brown moved to Maine from Utah. The name fits right in, but Jackrabbit Cafe is also a nod to Brown’s grandfather, Jack. Jack was also the oldest son of Elda Whiting Brown, for whom the chef named his fine dining restaurant, Elda.

Brown has relocated Elda from a storefront on Main Street to the floor above Jackrabbit Cafe. He’s been working on renovations and plans to reopen Elda the second or third week of June. “We’re done with the buildout,” he said. “We could open (Elda) now, but for the fact that we don’t have enough staff, and we’re trying to slowly get this (cafe) taken care of first.”

Jackrabbit Cafe will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

BERRY LEAVES UNION

Joshua Berry, the founding chef at Union, the elegant restaurant in Portland’s Press Hotel, announced on Facebook on Monday that “after six years, it is time to move on.” Berry did not specify his plans, but wrote “I am excited to share what comes next very soon. What I will say for now is that my new project has me continuing to explore and share the seasonal flavors, stories and beauty only found in Maine.”

Bamm Bamm, cookies and cream, lemon zinger, Maine maple and Homer (as in Simpson) donuts from Eighty 8 Donuts Cafe. Photo courtesy of Ellen O’Keefe

NEVER ENOUGH DOUGHNUTS

The Eighty 8 Donut Cafe, which has a cafe at Sugarloaf and a food truck in Portland, has leased 225 Federal St., the former Old Port home of Po Boys & Pickles and Federal Spice.

Ellen O’Keefe, who owns Eighty 8 Donuts with Garrett Champlin, expects the new cafe to open in early June. Customer demand led them to open a store in Portland, O’Keefe said. Customers said they missed the truck during the winter months, and wanted to be able to order, say, a box of birthday doughnuts, without having to chase down a truck to do so.

“I know there’s a bunch of players (in Portland) in terms of doughnuts,” she said, “but we all do things a little differently, so I think there’s space for everyone.”

O’Keefe is working with a designer to add seating.

Eighty 8 Donuts are smaller than standard doughnuts, and served in orders of six. The most popular flavor, regardless of a customer’s age, is Bamm Bamm, which is topped with Fruity Pebbles cereal. “People might tip over my truck if I didn’t have Bamm Bamm or cookies and cream,” O’Keefe said.

SIGN OF SUMMER NO. 1

Zephyr Ice, previously known as Haole Ice, has leased 129 Spring St., the small building previously occupied by Maine Juice Co. (and, for longtime Portlanders, Food Factory Miyake). The space will be a commissary kitchen for the food cart owned by Julie and Don Martin, and will be home to a grab-and-go retail shop for shave ice and ice cream. The cart will hit the streets in May, according to Julie Martin, and the shop will open “sometime this summer.” You can also find Zephyr’s ice cream at Maine St. Steak & Oyster in Brunswick.

SIGN OF SUMMER No. 2

The Portland Farmers’ Market will move outdoors on Saturday. Hours will be 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Wednesday Market, which is usually held in Monument Square but was moved to Deering Oaks last year for better social distancing, will return to Deering Oaks this year. Both markets will move temporarily to Payson Park on May 19 through June 26 to protect farmers and market customers from the browntail moth infestation in Deering Oaks.

The Yarmouth Farmers’ Market, which is held on Thursdays, plans to open May 6 at the Bickford Collection, One Railroad Square. Hours will be 3 to 6 p.m.

The Lewiston Farmers’ Market will open May 2. The market, located in the municipal parking lot on the corner of Lincoln and Main streets, will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday through November.

CALL YOUR MAMA

I’m beginning to hear from local restaurants about their brunch options for May 9, and as they come in over the next three weeks, I’ll list them here:

Saltwater Grille at 231 Front St., South Portland, will start brunch with a buffet-style breakfast with fruit, yogurt and pastries. (This is not a self-serve buffet; staff, behind partitions, will serve.) Then customers can choose a plated entree: Eggs Benedict, Lobster Benedict; steak and eggs; or pancakes. Next, a trip to the dessert buffet. Brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and reservations are required. Call 799-5400.


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