The former Lupita’s at 15 Exchange St. in the Old Port, where a new New York-style pizzeria and sandwich shop from the Miranda Restaurant Group is slated to open in January. Photo by Angie Bryan

A Miranda Restaurant Group team plans to open a new pizzeria and sandwich shop with late-night service on Exchange Street in Portland in early 2024.

Old Port restaurateur Josh Miranda said Tuesday that he expects the new shop to launch in January. He said two managers from his nearby Italian restaurant Via Vecchia – Beverage Director Mark Hibbard and Executive Chef Mitchell Ryan – will be partners in the venture, with backing from the Miranda Group.

“Mitch and I have been working together since day one at Via Vecchia, and when this opportunity came along, we decided that basically, we haven’t killed each other yet so we figured we may as well keep the ball rolling,” said Hibbard. “It’s not so far of a departure from what we’re doing already as far as Italian-style cuisine.”

The yet-to-be-named pizzeria will be located at 15 Exchange St., in the former Lupita’s Taqueria, and will sell New York-style pizza by the slice and foccacia-based sandwiches along with pre-bottled cocktails, beer and wine, though it won’t have a bar.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a couple of years now,” Miranda said. “In the Old Port, I didn’t think there were a lot of offerings for late-night slices.

“Pizza is the most popular thing out there, and the Old Port was the one place where there weren’t a lot of options, especially now with Slice Bar being closed,” Miranda continued, referring to the recent closure of the Old Port Slice Bar on Fore Street.


Miranda said the restaurant will feature a takeout window for weekend late-night business. For security reasons, late-night customers will not be allowed inside the venue.

The two-floor space will offer counter service downstairs and seating for about 60 on the second floor. “We’re not doing much of a remodel. Everything’s already there, we’re just waiting on a pizza oven.”

Miranda said he expects the new pizzeria will be open for lunch and dinner daily. In addition to Via Vecchia, the Miranda Restaurant Group also owns cocktail bar Blyth & Burrows, Puerto Rican bar and restaurant Papi and Henry’s Public House, all within the same couple blocks.


Further expanding the state’s plentiful boba offerings, the bubble tea and drink shop HoneyBoba recently opened in Westbrook.

The store launched at 947 Main St. in September. Shop owner Tiana Neang said she had noticed a lack of authentic boba shops in town.


“There are no boba places around (in Westbrook), and I wanted to be different,” Neang said. “My stuff is made with real, hand-blended fruit – it makes everything taste better. I buy the boba raw and then cook it, but eventually, I plan to make it from scratch. Also, the tea is always brewed fresh.”

Menus on the wall at the new bubble tea shop HoneyBoba in Westbrook. Photo by Emily Hedegard

Neang lives in Lowell, Massachusetts, and also owns a beauty salon there, though she said because of the extensive travel, she is considering a future move to Maine, so she can focus on the boba shop as much as possible.

Beverages on HoneyBoba’s menu include Ube (purple yam) Milk Tea and Crème Brûlée Brown Sugar Milk Tea, with prices ranging from $5.25 to $6.75.

Neang also serves fresh sugar cane drinks, in which crushed sugar cane is mixed with the fresh fruit of your choice. She says she hopes eventually to also serve smoothies and green drinks, and plans to launch a brunch service next month featuring “rice-bite plates.”

HoneyBoba is open from 12-7 p.m. on Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.



A new pan-Asian takeout restaurant called Asian Combo opened Monday in Biddeford.

Asian Combo has set up shop at 169 Pool St. in the former home of the sandwich eatery Karen’s on Pool Stre1et. Owner Phiangchay “Tui” Dubois is a native of Laos who came to Maine in 2006, and this is her first restaurant.

“This is my first place, and I’m so nervous I can’t eat or sleep for like four days now,” Dubois joked. “I’m like a zombie.”

Dubois is also part Thai and Vietnamese, and wanted her menu to reflect her varied background. Asian Combo’s extensive menu features more than 57 Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian dishes like laab salads, bahn mi sandwiches and noodle dishes, along with some items from Japanese, Korean and Indian cuisines like curries and stir-fried rice, all ranging between $8.75 and $23. Dubois noted that she also sells boba tea.

Asian Combo is open daily – from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4-8:30 p.m. Sunday.

Also in Biddeford, new banh mi sandwich shop BiddoBanh is set to launch Friday, according to the restaurant’s Instagram page.


Located at 299 Main St. in the same building as Fish & Whistle and the Biddeford Smoke Shop, BiddoBahn features a selection of five bahn mi ($8.50-$12.50) along with four rice bowl dishes ($10.50-$14.50) and a variety of boba teas ($5.50-$6.50).

BiddoBahn’s website says the venue will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The owners could not be reached immediately for comment.


Brunswick restaurant Tao Yuan, closed since the start of the pandemic, reopened Wednesday with a new chef joining the team.

Chef-owner Cara Stadler – who also owns Bao Bao in Portland and ZaoZe Cafe in Brunswick – said Tao Yuan reopened “quietly” because it still needs to hire more staff.

“We don’t have currently a full team, so we’re limited on the number of people we can do every night,” Stadler said, noting that the restaurant is working at about 50-70% of its normal capacity and not putting out a tasting menu at this time. Tao Yuan offers a mix of sophisticated small plates and upmarket takes on Asian street food.


Joining the nascent staff as head chef and business partner is Leon Vuong, former chef-owner of The Frying Dutchman in Portland’s Public Market House. Because of commitments at her other venues, Stadler has said she felt she needed help getting Tao Yuan reopened, so she reached out to Vuong earlier this year.

Tao Yuan is open from 5-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and is accepting reservations on its website.


Edging closer to a full opening, Cantina Calafia on Pine Street in Portland’s West End opened a takeout window on Thursday.

Co-owners Dominque Gonzalez and her husband, Justin Gray, are in the process of opening Cantina Calafia in the same space as their former restaurant, Bonobo Pizza. The couple took over Bonobo in 2018, though they hoped for some time to convert it into a Baja-style Mexican restaurant.

“We’ll be doing this (takeout window service) until we can get the dining room open,” said Gonzalez, who was raised in the San Diego area and is of Mexican descent. The Cantina will have nearly 50 seats, including 16 at the bar, twice as much bar seating as at Bonobo.


Cantina Calafia is currently offering rolled tacos with chicken or beef, as well as potato tacos and Caesar salads. Gonzalez said they plan to expand the menu in the coming weeks, though she gave no estimate on when that might happen.

“We’re making progress,” Gonzalez said. “The neighborhood has been really excited to see us, and business at the takeout window has been good and steady.”


Philly-style sandwich shop Ramona’s on Washington Avenue in Portland announced this week on social media that co-owner Chad Conley sold his company stake to partner Josh Sobel.

Sobel, who co-founded the hip hoagie shop with Conley in 2020, said the move is in their best interests, and that he and Conley remain friendly. Conley is also the founder of Rose Foods in Portland and the co-owner of Palace Diner in Biddeford.

“It was mutually beneficial for the both of us,” Sobel said. “We’re friends and on really good terms, it just made sense for us and the business. We’re happy to see where the business goes from here.”


Sobel and Conley launched Ramona’s in April 2020 with takeout-only service, and added indoor dining in early 2022. Sobel said he doesn’t expect Ramona’s customers will notice any differences at the restaurant as a result of the stake sale.

“I don’t see a reason to change anything,” Sobel said. “I feel like we’ve really hit our stride in the past year. We’re doing something really special in Portland, and I hope we can expand on that.”


Celebrate one of the state’s most prized crops as Great Maine Apple Day returns to Unity on Sunday.

Set for noon to 4 p.m. at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s Common Ground Education Center, the event features a mix of outdoor and indoor activities, including guided tours of the Maine Heritage Orchard, cider pressing and workshops.

Great Maine Apple Day also includes a tasting of hundreds of heirloom apples from MOFGA’s orchards, and participants can vote for their favorite. Attendees can also bring in their own wild apples to have them identified by experts, including nationally renowned apple guru John Bunker.

The event is free of charge, though donations to support MOFGA programming are accepted at the door. For more information, visit the MOFGA website.

Staff Writer Emily Hedegard contributed to this story. 

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