Old Port cocktail bar Room for Improvement opens Thursday. Photo by Davis Digital

The new Wharf Street cocktail bar Room for Improvement will officially open to the public Thursday.

Co-owner Arvid Brown, who has served as bar manager for Crispy Gai and the former Baharat restaurant, said the drinks menu at Room for Improvement focuses on familiar, classic cocktails that have been “slightly augmented or mildly reimagined to be something a little bit new.”

The menu also has a “salad bar” section with savory, complex cocktails with a vegetable component, as well as shot-size cocktails, a selection of daiquiris and a $26 flaming scorpion bowl.

Limited food offerings include tinned mussels and chips, soft pretzels, and Castelvetrano olives; the menu is anchored by a Maine red snapper hot dog in a Little Spruce bun with Morse’s pickles.

This spring, Room for Improvement will be open Thursday through Monday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., though Brown expects the bar will stay open seven days a week by June, as soon as the staff is able to find its rhythm.

“We have the staff and we have the desire to go seven days pretty quickly,” Brown said. “We’re just trying to breathe a little new life and fresh energy into the Old Port.”



Expect more of this when Chocolats Passion in Portland moves into a bigger space. Photo by Meredith Goad

Award-winning chocolatiers Chocolats Passion is moving from 189 Brackett St. to a new, larger space in the former Mercy Hospital building on State Street.

At 1,100 square feet, the new space will be almost twice the size of the current shop. Sarah Levine, the store’s lead chocolatier, said she expects the move to happen toward the end of October.

“We’ve won a lot of accolades in the past year, and we wanted to continue to grow and develop new chocolates, but it’s really hard to have our team grow in our small place because you can really only have three people working at the same time,” Levine said.

In January, Chocolats Passion was one of only four U.S.-based chocolate makers to win awards from the prestigious annual competition at London’s Academy of Chocolates.

The new space, at 144 State St., will allow the shop to expand its retail offerings, boost staffing and run packaging and shipping operations from one location. The store currently uses a licensed space in owner Catherine Wiersema’s home for packing, shipping and warehousing needs.


Once the redevelopment is complete, the State Street building will have 165 apartments on the upper levels and three retail stores – including Chocolats Passion – on the ground floor. Levine doesn’t know who the other two tenants will be, but said that the chocolate shop will be located in the middle unit.


Portland restaurants Crispy Gai and Bar Futo are hosting back-to-back fundraising dinners in May to mark Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

The first dinner will be the second annual such event at Crispy Gai, which is on Exchange Street. Set for Sunday, May 7 at 6 p.m., the five-course meal will feature chefs from area Asian-run food businesses including Norimoto, Pho Huong, Little Brother Chinese, Frying Dutchman, Thai Esaan and Mitr.

The Crispy Gai meal will also feature a specialty cocktail menu highlighting Golden Wat Cognac. Tickets cost $65. Call Crispy Gai at 207-747-5666 to make reservations.

On Monday, May 8, Bar Futo on Fore Street has scheduled an eight-course dinner, produced in partnership with several Asian American and Pacific Islander chefs from outside the state, including Sang Lee of Sushi Sang Lee in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Shuai Wang of South Carolina’s Jackrabbit Filly, and Tim Ma of Virginia’s Lucky Danger, who is also the co-founder of the group Chefs Stopping AAPI hate.


Bar Futo’s dinner will have seatings at 5 p.m. and at 8 p.m. Tickets are $95, available through resy.


The owners of The Contented Sole in New Harbor are opening an Italian/Mediterranean restaurant in Damariscotta in May.

Contented Sole co-owner Warren Busteed said the new venture, Bred in the Bone, is slated to open at 133 Main St. in Damariscotta, the former location of Cupacity Coffee. Contented Sole’s chef, Florin Ungureanu, is a partner in the new business, and Busteed said his wife, Contented Sole co-owner Beth Polhemus, will also play a major role in Bred in the Bone.

“We thought we could do something that was a little different for Damariscotta and elevated, but also community-oriented and sustainable,” said Busteed, who has run The Contented Sole for 17 years.

Bred in the Bone’s menu will feature house made pastas in such classic dishes like pasta Bolognese, or in more locally focused dishes like tagliarini with lobster and smoked chile butter. Busteed said the new restaurant will also emphasize whole animal and fish butchery, and “clean” dishes like seafood crudos.


“We’re looking to do food in its purest sense, utilizing all parts of the animal or fish, making everything from scratch,” said Busteed, noting that Bred in the Bone will serve lunch and dinner, and offer pastries and a limited coffee menu in the mornings.

Busteed expects the roughly 50-seat restaurant to be ready to open in early May. “We have staff already in place. We don’t really need to hire anyone at this point. We’re hoping we can hit the ground running,” he said.


The new owners of Ted’s Fried Clams – a staple in the Shapleigh summer dining scene for 73 years – plan to keep the seasonal restaurant open year round, and add waitstaff and breakfast service as well.

In February, co-owner Jason Cole of Alfred and his family bought Ted’s, located at 222 Emery Mills Road, from the original owners, the Mavarkos family. The Coles hired Executive Chef Melissa Leduc, formerly of Brea Lu Café and Brookside, who will launch a breakfast menu at the restaurant for the first time in its history.

In addition to traditional dishes like waffles and pancakes, Leduc’s breakfast offerings will include an Eggs Benedict with Lobster, a lobster Monte Cristo, a surf-and-turf potato bowl, and “some pretty crazy daily specials,” Leduc said.


While in the past, Ted’s was open about 130 days a year, Cole plans to keep Ted’s open all year. “We decided to open year round to not only welcome the seasonal guests that come to the many lakes in the area, but to offer an option for the locals year round to come and have amazing food served by amazing people,” he said.

Ted’s had only had counter service previously, but the restaurant will now have a full-service wait staff. Cole said Ted’s attracted more than 600 applicants for front-of-house positions, and ended up hiring about 73 people.

The new iteration of Ted’s launches with breakfast service on Wednesday , as well as a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring local officials and members of the Sanford-Springvale Chamber of Commerce. Ted’s will be open Wednesday to Sunday from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Starting Memorial Day week, Ted’s will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.


Biddeford will hold its second annual community iftar on April 20, celebrating the end of the monthlong observance of Ramadan.

The free iftar, a fast-breaking Ramadan feast, will be held at 7 p.m. at Southern Maine Health Care on 1 Medical Center Drive. Event organizers Eisha Khan and Liam LaFountain said this year’s gathering will include speakers who will explain the significance and essence of Ramadan, which started on March 22 this year.

All iftar attendees are invited to enjoy a complimentary meal of traditional foods from the global Muslim community.

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