Old Port restaurateur Josh Miranda at Henry’s Public House, named after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the fourth restaurant he’s opened within two blocks. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Around 11:30 a.m. on a Wednesday in mid-August, Josh Miranda received a text from another local restaurateur seeking advice about who could help repair a broken exhaust fan.

Seated at his office desk, directly upstairs from his Puerto Rican-inspired bar and restaurant Papi at 18 Exchange St., Miranda read the text and sighed.

“You know what this job is mostly?” he asked. “Building and equipment repair. Knowing my HVAC guy’s number by heart. My plumber, the electrician, refrigeration guy – that is the majority of this job. The other part of it is managing the managers.”

Miranda was two espressos into his usual six-espresso day, and he hadn’t even started managing the managers yet. It’s been a busy 2023 for him, a year in which he doubled the Miranda Group’s portfolio to four properties in Old Port, all located within about a block and a half of each other.

After a roughly yearlong buildout, Papi opened in March. Then in late July, Miranda opened Henry’s Public House on Fore Street in the space long occupied by the pub Bull Feeney’s. Those two venues joined craft cocktail hotspot Blyth & Burrows – the first Miranda Group property, which opened in 2017 – and Via Vecchia, the Italian restaurant he reinvented in 2020.

And Miranda isn’t slowing down in 2024: He expects to open a restaurant and bar across Exchange Street from Papi in the former Lupita’s Taqueria, though he says he’s not yet ready to disclose the concept.


“I’m always so impressed with what he’s been doing in the community,” said Lynn Tillotson, president and CEO of the destination marketing group Visit Portland. “He sees an open space, and he looks at what’s missing in the market and figures it out. Everything is very diversified, and yet meshes together really well, and it’s really keeping the Old Port food scene vibrant. He’s come so far in six years.”

“Josh is a guy with not just vision, but the highest level of taste,” said Cary Tyson, executive director of Portland Downtown, a nonprofit downtown improvement group. “When you go into his restaurants, they’re just extraordinary, beautiful spaces. It’s the details – glassware and tableware. So not only are you having a great culinary and cocktail experience, you’re having this visual and architectural experience. He does things at a high level of quality and never forgets the details. I’m grateful he’s committed so much of his time and talent to Portland, because we’re better for it.”


“Right now, I’m a little burned out,” Miranda would concede later in the day. But he’s not worried about spreading himself too thin, mostly because of his supreme confidence in his staff’s ability to run the operations.

“I don’t want the level of service and quality of food and drinks to suffer because I’m moving on to other places,” he said. “One of the reasons why I’m able to move on to another project is because the team I have is so good.”

Miranda’s day began at 5 a.m., like every day, when his blind boxer Frankie rousts him from bed. He lives in Windham with his partner of 10 years, Mandy St. Pierre, on “a dirt road off a dirt road,” a chance to get away from it all after working as much as 70 hours a week (until about 11 p.m. on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends) in Portland’s most bustling district.


He starts his workday from home. After checking last night’s numbers for each of the four Miranda Group venues and noting that Via Vecchia had one of its busiest Tuesday night dinner services ever, Miranda goes through emails, then looks at new online reviews. He knows from memory precisely how many reviews each of his properties has that day – 293 Yelp reviews for Blyth & Burrows and 239 for Via Vecchia, for example, with multiple times more Google reviews – and stays up to the minute on new critiques, so he can address any problems or complaints immediately.

By around 11 a.m., he gets to his unassuming yet tastefully appointed office. The walls are hung with vintage Italian liquor posters for Campari, Meletti and Strega and three whiteboards filled with notes, including sketches of a new leather-bound menu in the works for Blyth & Burrows.

Miranda listens to an employee during a managers meeting at Via Vecchia. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Although over the course of his hospitality career he opened or helped open 16 restaurants, bars or hotels even before launching the Miranda Group properties, Miranda said he has suffered from “impostor syndrome” from time to time throughout his life. “I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would have this much, and I feel I can make up for any lack of talent by hard work,” he said.

The 51-year-old Munjoy Hill native developed his acumen as a restaurateur over decades of experience in the industry, starting when he was just 8 years old, working as a busboy at a restaurant in Raymond where his dad cooked. He recalled going behind the bar as often as 10 times a shift to make himself virgin tequila sunrises, fascinated by the stacked effect of the liquids.

“It felt comfortable, natural,” Miranda said. “I loved layering the grenadine over the orange juice and learning how much ice was the right amount. I really paid attention to it.”

When he was 14, Miranda lied about his age to land a dishwashing gig at the Village Cafe, an old-school red sauce Italian joint on India Street in Portland. When was 16, he got a job at Squire Morgan’s and Moose Alley in the Old Port as a bar back and door man for the Wednesday night strip shows. “There were fights almost every night in Old Port then,” Miranda said. “It was a different era.”


Miranda was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was 19, forcing him to take some time off from school at New York University, where he was studying dramatic writing in the hopes of becoming a playwright. After extensive chemo therapy and some surgeries, Miranda’s cancer went into remission. Still, the experience left him temporarily uninspired to pursue a career of any kind. It would take more work in the hospitality industry to pull him out of his malaise.


Miranda stayed in New York and found a job as a night auditor at the Royalton, an Ian Schrager boutique hotel designed by Phillipe Starck. “I really attribute my eye for design to those days,” he said, though he also gained plenty of experience handling distressed customers under less-than-ideal circumstances: fires, riots in the streets and power outages.

Over the next several years, Miranda bounced back and forth between Miami and Portland, working at and opening new restaurants and bars, including Fore Street’s Pearl, which he opened with his brother, Todd, and sold in 2011. In 2013, he took a bartending job at the Westin’s Top of the East.

“At the time, I thought I might stay (at Top of the East) for good, and I was fine with that,” Miranda recalled. “I was getting burned out by restaurant management. Too many hours. But I also realized I was meant for more.”

Miranda joined Commonwealth Hotels, the operators of Hyatt Place Portland, which sent him around the country for a few years to open new properties. “The confidence I got from that experience was immeasurable,” he said.


Miranda talks to patrons at his cocktail bar Blyth & Burrows in Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Ready at last to strike out on his own, Miranda saw a vacant space at 26 Exchange St. He took $40,000 he had in savings and a $40,000 inheritance from his mother, who died of cancer in 2016, and applied for a federal Small Business Administration loan so he could gather $400,000 to open Blyth & Burrows, named for two sea captains who engaged in a legendary battle off the Maine coast in the War of 1812.

His motivation for opening the venue – among the most creative OGs of Portland’s craft cocktail scene, complete with a downstairs speakeasy bar accessible by a hidden door that serves as a bookshelf – was about the same as his reason for opening his other Old Port properties: “I want to create something that you haven’t seen before. I want to do something different,” he said. “This is kind of an art form.”


In an alleyway outside Blyth & Burrows, a path once littered by drug needles, a group of tourists takes photos of themselves in front of a mural featuring the Longfellow poem “My Lost Youth,” which commemorates the sea captains’ lethal battle. Miranda commissioned his childhood friend from Munjoy Hill, graffiti artist Mike Rich, to paint the mural shortly after opening Blyth, and Portland Downtown provided lights for him to hang in the alley.

“He knew that the aesthetic those lights brought would take that alley to the next level, and he pays for the upkeep of that mural,” said Tyson of Portland Downtown. “When it gets tagged, he gets it fixed every single time, because he knows it makes a difference. And that place has become selfie and Instagram central. These are the details Josh thinks about.”

By about 12:30 p.m., Miranda gets to the ground-floor bar area of Henry’s – a nearly 10,000-square-foot, two-story pub and restaurant named in honor of Longfellow – where he checks in with his group director of operations, Randa Vashon. She’s overseeing a social media photo shoot, which includes images of the new restaurant’s steak sliders and farm house salad.


Like many of the Miranda Group’s team leaders, Vashon has been with Josh for years, which she says is a testament to the effectiveness of his managing approach.

“Josh’s style is to really trust the people he works with,” Vashon said. “A lot of managers tend to micromanage, and he’s not like that. He’ll give you free rein until you prove him wrong. He’s a strong leader who knows how to build teams and trust his people.”

Miranda talks to Randa Vashon at Henry’s. Vashon is the general manager of Miranda’s restaurants. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“He is somebody who always wants to have a conversation with the management team and get everybody’s input before we make a decision as a company, which is pretty refreshing,” said Via Vecchia General Manager Ashley Belanger, who has been with the restaurant since it opened.

“I feel blessed to have such talented people around me,” said Miranda, a sentiment he expresses regularly. “I think my greatest strength is recognizing talent, working with them, giving them resources and getting out of their way. My staff retention is better than anybody. They get treated well, paid well. And we recognize the work-life balance.”


Miranda left the shoot at Henry’s and walked to Dana Street for the 1 p.m. managers’ meeting at Via Vecchia, part of his usual workday rounds that help him accumulate between 10,000 and 16,000 steps daily. Just outside the front door, Miranda stopped for a moment to take in the sight of his ivy-walled restaurant.


“Sometimes when I look at Via Vecchia, I do get a proud dad moment where I feel like I did something special. Every inch of this place has been remodeled. I had a vision here,” Miranda said, explaining that he was going for a “1920s bistro with 1960s European glamor.”

Miranda says if he didn’t own Via Vecchia Italian restaurant, he’d be a regular patron. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“I chose the green velvet booths, green subway tile, the curved marble bar and the tilted bistro mirrors,” he said, adding that local designer Wendy Polstein helped him procure all the decor, and that it was her idea to paint the dining room ceiling gold.

“It’s about escapism,” Miranda said. “It’s an experience. I want you to come in and feel like you’re in a different time and place.” The escapism holds true at his other venues. At Blyth, for instance, Miranda wants you to feel transported to an upscale, cozy, turn-of-the-20th-century English pub, while Papi is meant to evoke 1940s Old San Juan with hints of Havana.

With the help of investors and an SBA loan from Bangor Savings Bank, Miranda opened Via Vecchia for about $750,000 in June 2020. “Opening a restaurant at the beginning of COVID when there was so much unknown was one of the most difficult things we ever had to do,” he said. “It seemed like every six weeks I was running out of money. And something would happen where I was able to cover payroll and rent. Talk about being lucky.”

Miranda talks with his staff at Via Vecchia during a managers meeting at the restaurant in August. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

With nine Via Vecchia managers seated in dining room, Miranda opened the hour-long managers’ meeting with a bawdy congratulations for their slammed and successful Tuesday night. “First of all, what the (expletive) last night? Great job all the way around.”

Near the end of the meeting, one of his managers expressed concern that a lot of the restaurant’s $10 Reidl wine glasses custom-etched with the “VV” logo had broken. She said she’s worried about mounting replacement costs, and suggests switching to unbranded glasses.


Miranda wasn’t moved. “I know we’re going through a lot of them, but we can’t change those glasses,” he said. “Let’s just order more, please.” After the meeting, he explained that whatever they might save in breakage costs with plain glasses, they’d lose in over-pours, because the bottom edge of the “VV” etching also as a level indicator for a perfect 5.5-ounce pour.

“I believe in the brand. I feel Via Vecchia is going to be here long after I’m gone,” Miranda said. “I love this place so much that if I didn’t own it, I’d still probably be coming here three or four times a week to sit at this bar and get a cocktail and a small plate.”


After Via Vecchia, Miranda walked back up Exchange Street to sit in on the Papi staff’s “pre-game” meeting before dinner service. Papi was a $1.2 million venture that Miranda funded through an SBA loan and a 15 percent silent partner.

“Everything in here was custom made,” Miranda said, casting his eyes around the hip, chic interiors of the Puerto Rican-influenced space. “From the countertops to the banquettes and mirrors. The neon lights, the refrigerators, the bar and the bar wells.”

Miranda sits for a portrait inside Papi, a restaurant and bar on Exchange Street in Portland. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Earlier this year, city officials declared that the venue’s distinctive 130-year-old hand-carved mahogany front doors, imported from Old San Juan, did not meet Old Port’s historic standards and would need to be replaced. Though the matter was controversial at first, Miranda is now working with the city on plans for new doors, noting that the antique doors weren’t actually wide enough to meet code; he is ready to move on.


“I am more broke now than I have been many, many years,” Miranda said. “We spent more money on Papi than we spent on Blyth and Via Vecchia almost combined. But I’m not motivated by money. I have everything I want right now. If I was a multimillionaire, I’d still be driving a Ford Explorer. I love my life.”

Miranda told the Papi team that they’re in the middle of what’s been the busiest week at Blyth & Burrows in six years, and the previous night at Via Vecchia was a doozy. “Last night, Via Vecchia got absolutely destroyed, had its best Tuesday night ever,” he said. “They’re all feeling it today. It’s going to be busy. Have fun.”

LyAnna Sanabria, Papi’s beverage director and a recent nominee for Punch magazine’s national Best New Bartender award, is another shining example of Miranda’s assertion that his own greatest gift is hiring talented people. He’d first seen her when she was bartending on opening night at Pacifico in Saco in 2020, and later hired her for temporary stints at Via Vecchia, where she impressed him with her Puerto Rican-style Negroni.

Sanabria said she’s heard negative things from people outside the Miranda Group about it buying up Old Port properties and expanding too much. “But I’ve never heard anything negative from anybody who’s ever worked for him,” she said. “And I think that’s a very, very big statement.”

Miranda often jokes that Sanabria is so talented he expects to be working for her someday. If so, it would be just one more instance of Miranda’s experiences coming full circle. Another example: His plans to open a new bar and restaurant next year across the street from Papi at 15 Exchange St., once home to Walter’s, a restaurant where he worked for three years in the early 1990s. He hopes to partner on the project with some of his long-time staffers.

Old Port restaurateur Jordan Rubin, owner of Bar Futo, Crispy Gai and Mr. Tuna, said he thinks Miranda’s expansion is a good thing. “It’s very good when new bars and restaurants open, because it brings more options to downtown,” Rubin said. “His places have had a positive impact on the Old Port. Some of the spaces he’s taken over have struggled in the past. And he has really great bar programs.”


“Josh surrounds himself with good people and praises them,” said Walter’s former owner, Mark Loring, whom Miranda considers a mentor. “I’m really impressed, and proud of him. He has great vision. He’s really putting a lot of money into these places so when you walk in, you’re like, ‘Whoa!'”

One piece of indispensable advice Loring once gave Miranda was not to drink in one of his own establishments. “You want your staff to respect you, and you have to earn and maintain that respect,” Loring said. “They’re not going to respect someone who’s drinking at work. There’s no upside to it.”

“I’ve never had a drink at one of my places, and I try not to go into my places after I’ve had a drink,” Miranda said. “It’s just not good business. … I just see people make bad decisions that way.”


Around 5 p.m., while many Mainers were calling it quits for the day and shifting into rest-and-relaxation mode, Miranda and his team were just hitting their strides. He walked down to Henry’s to meet with a six-piece jazz band he hired off Exchange Street in June to play the lounge room upstairs.

Guests touring the premises at Henry’s popped their heads into the lounge and offered their compliments to Miranda. “It’s beautiful. A good design,” they told him.


He smiled. “I’ll sell it to you real cheap.”

The guests left the lounge and Miranda gave Vashon a knowing smile. “I use the same jokes over and over,” he admitted.

Miranda talks to Vashon at Henry’s Public House. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“You know how many times I’ve heard that one?” Vashon laughed. He regaled her with another, his standard reply to someone asking if he’s the owner: “Only if you don’t have a complaint.”

“I’m not 100 percent comfortable in my role as an owner in general,” Miranda said. “But I get it, people want facetime, they want to talk to the owner. As much as you may find it hard to believe, I’m shy like that.”

Miranda considers Henry’s a work in progress. He and his team readied the venue to open in just 100 days this summer, keeping the landmark’s overall pubby vibe intact while making cosmetic upgrades to give its five rooms a more stylish look.

“This space was too iconic to pass up,” he said of the venue that had years ago been the Seamen’s Club restaurant, where he fondly recalls going with his dad for soup-and-sandwich lunches. “But I didn’t want to see it change too much.”


The Henry’s launch project was funded in part by a silent partner, and Miranda expects the tab will reach the mid-six figures. “I don’t feel it’s mine yet,” Miranda said. “Blyth and Papi, those we created from nothing. Via Vecchia, every inch of that place we reimagined. Here, it’s going to take me a minute.”

Miranda’s near-term plans for Henry’s Public House include boosting Longfellow’s presence: adding Longfellow references to the menu, putting poems on cocktail napkins, hanging Warhol-style portraits of Portland’s bard from the walls. But Miranda’s efforts seem to be less about lionizing Longfellow than demonstrating his hometown pride.

“He loves his bougie New York City ceilings and glassware,” said Sanabria, “but he truly loves Portland and the Old Port.”

Miranda said it’s his dream to open a boutique hotel in Portland in the next 10 years, an undertaking that would again bring him full circle with his own history and his days as a night auditor at the Royalton in Manhattan. It’s yet to be seen if he can pull it off, but his track record as a restaurateur and bar owner in Portland suggests he’ll succeed.

“Josh just gets it, and he’s got the aesthetic,” Loring said. “He’s got what it takes.”

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