Yobo, a cozy Korean restaurant in Portland that opened in 2017, has closed and been sold to new owners who plan to open a breakfast and brunch cafe in the spot on Forest Avenue near Congress Street.

Som Mantasut said she and her business partner, Genko Stanilov, hope to open Nom Cafe around April.

Yobo co-owner Kim Lully said the decision to close was “100 percent pandemic related. It was not an easy decision, not an easy decision at all.”

She and her husband, chef and co-owner Sunny Chung, who staffed the 40-seat restaurant themselves, decided to dedicate their energy to their Brunswick restaurant, Maine St. Steak & Oyster, after their partner, chef Tony Pastor, left to take over as head chef at Fore Street Restaurant in Portland.

Even before Pastor took his new position, the labor shortage that’s gone hand in hand with the pandemic had required them to spend much more time at Maine St. Steak & Oyster than they’d originally envisioned.

Running both businesses just wasn’t feasible, Lully said. “We can’t be in both places at the same time.”

Lully and Chung bought out Pastor and are now the sole owners of Maine St. Steak & Oyster, which had been closed for a month for renovations and recently reopened three nights a week. Chung is now in the kitchen overseeing a somewhat smaller menu.

Since the start of the pandemic, Yobo, where Lully and Chung offered a small, delicious menu and warm service (a meal there felt as though you’d been invited into their home), has variously offered takeout and pre-order lunches and dinners and, briefly, in-person dining.

Mantasut, who is taking the lead on Nom Cafe, already owns Orchid, a Thai restaurant in Lewiston, and works as a server at Yosaku in Portland. She grew up in Thailand and came to Maine for college, where she studied business. At Nom, she plans to offer coffee, breakfast and lunch food with touches of Thai and Bulgarian cuisine, “so a little bit of everything,” she said. Her partner, Stanilov, is from Bulgaria.


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