A slew of new restaurants recently announced plans to open in Brunswick, with more likely to follow later this year.

Portland-based pizzeria Otto will open on Cushing Street. Watami, a Japanese-style restaurant, is preparing to open on the corner of Center and Maine Streets at the former site of Pedro O’Hara’s.

Otto is moving to what used to be the El Camino Cantina, which permanently closed in 2019. The restaurant is planning to host a soft opening the first week of September, according to Otto spokesperson Eric Shepherd.

The first week will be takeaway only with delivery service following shortly after, Shepherd said. The location will feature a bar and lounge with 25 seats. There will be limited table and service seating.

This will be the eighth Otto location in Maine and 17th overall.

The new Otto location on Cushing Road in Brunswick. Courtesy of Otto

The owners of Watami — which will serve Japanese-style poke bowls, a rice and fish salad-style meal, bubble tea, ramen and more — plan to open in late August or early September.

The family-owned restaurant is currently under renovation. Co-owner Kevin Chen, who specializes in bubble tea, said Watami will have a unique menu and is looking to provide healthy food.

“Bubble tea is getting really popular in America now,” Chen said. “We want to bring it into Brunswick.”

Restaurants in Brunswick that closed over the past year or so — some due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some for other reasons such as the current state of the housing market — include Big E’s, Pedro O’Hara’s, Odd Duck and Bench.

Brunswick Downtown Association Executive Director Debora King said that, while she did not have a calculated vacancy rate available, it is consistently low.

“We have found as soon as something becomes available it is picked up right away,” King said.

Best Thai Express will be another new spot in Brunswick’s food scene. Best Thai will open Thursday, Aug. 12 on Bath Road at Cooks Corner.

Best Thai Express owner Pongsakorn Hanjitsuwan said that he is excited to offer authentic Thai food to a wider range of the Midcoast area, noting his other locations in Bath and Damariscotta.

“We use fresh vegetables, fresh meats, with authentic Thai flavors,” Hanjitsuwan said.

The kitchen inside Best Thai Express in Brunswick. Courtesy of Best Thai Express

According to Brunswick Economic Development Director Sally Costello, more restaurants will likely open soon in Brunswick, but declined to comment further.

“On a positive note, there seems to be a high interest in downtown locations and therefore the vacancies are being backfilled pretty quickly,” Costello said. “There will likely be more to report in the coming weeks and months.”

For example, The Ritual Bakehouse will open on a limited basis at the former Big E’s on Maine Street in October.

The Ritual Bakehouse Owner April Robinson said customers should expect a European-style bakery with a small amount of seating. The bakery will offer pastries like croissants and macaroons as well as artisan breads.

According to an August 2020 survey of hundred of small businesses by the Maine Small Business Development Center, 55% had to close at some point during the COVID-19 pandemic. A 36% average monthly revenue decrease was reported, although 92% surveyed businesses expected to survive.

“We were fortunate to have fairly robust takeout and delivery business at many of our locations,” Shepard said. “But the loss of full-service dining presented significant challenges, especially at our non-delivery locations.”

Chen said that he is confident in opening Watami during this time, since it has been a well-thought-out process and decision.

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