Crowds pack the new gluten-free brewery Orange Bike Brewing in East Bayside for a recent series of soft openings. Orange Bike has its grand opening scheduled for Saturday. Photo by Larry Shaps

Orange Bike Brewing, the state’s second gluten-free brewery, has its grand opening celebration scheduled for this weekend in East Bayside.

The official launch is set for 12 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the 3,300-square-foot facility at 31 Diamond St. Founder Tom Ruff said the event will feature a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the new for-profit brewery’s nonprofit partners, along with raffles and activities for children.

Ruff said Orange Bike had a few soft openings over the past couple of weeks, and guests showed strong support for the concept.

“Of course the gluten-free and gluten-sensitive folks are excited just because there aren’t a lot of gluten-free options in the Northeast, other than our colleagues, Lucky Pigeon in Biddeford,” Ruff said, noting that Lucky Pigeon became the first gluten-free brewery to open in Maine in 2021. “But we’re getting even bigger interest from the folks who don’t have gluten issues, at how good the beer tastes. It’s just great, world-class beer that happens to be gluten-free.”

Ruff hired Alan Pugsley – a co-founder of Shipyard Brewing Company who has been called the “Johnny Appleseed of craft brewing” – as a consultant and to develop gluten-free beer recipes for the new brewery. Pugsley also trained Orange Bike head brewer Jason Kissinger when Kissinger was working at Davidson Brothers Brewing Co. in New York State.

Orange Bike has nine gluten-free beers on offer – made from ancient grains such as millet, buckwheat and quinoa, rather than the more typical barley, which contains gluten – including their collaboration beer, Black is Beautiful. For each Black is Beautiful beer sold, Orange Bike will donate $1 to the National Black Brewers Association, Ruff said.


Following the grand opening, Orange Bike will be open Sundays 12 to 7 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays from 3 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m.


Nosh Taco aims to launch in the former Canal Plaza home of vegan chain restaurant Copper Branch later this month.

Partner Michael Barbuto said the new restaurant is now undergoing various inspections and a dry run of kitchen equipment. Barbuto said he hopes Nosh Taco will open Monday, Nov. 27.

Nosh Taco takes up under 1,350 square feet of space, Barbuto said, and will be able to host 37 customers inside and an additional 20 in season on the patio. The restaurant will have a new 20-seat curved bar, specializing in frozen drinks, tequilas and mezcals, while the streamlined menu will feature five tacos, five tortas, a salad and weekly specials like quesadillas and burritos.

“We’re hoping to hit what’s left of the business crowd at lunch,” Barbuto said, acknowledging that foot traffic downtown is down considerably since the pandemic and the rise of the work-from-home movement.


“We want to engage people and take care of those pressing lunch needs in the city for the nine-to-fivers,” Barbuto added. “There may be less of a market in downtown Portland for lunch, and fewer patrons involved, but there’s also a lot less offerings.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Nosh Taco to Zero Canal Plaza,” said Tim Soley, president and CEO of East Brown Cow, which owns the Nosh Taco space Barbuto and his partners are leasing. “This is a unique space that calls for a unique user. We believe Nosh Taco’s presence will add to the vibrancy of the Canal Plaza block and will become a popular dining destination for locals and visitors alike.”

Barbuto, who is also a partner at CBG restaurant and Nosh Kitchen Bar – from which the new restaurant takes its name – said Nosh Kitchen Bar Head Chef Aaron Taylor will be executive chef of Nosh Taco. He expects some other staff will come from CBG and Nosh Kitchen Bar as well.

Nosh Taco ultimately plans to be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, though Barbuto said it may be open just five days to start.


Award-winning chocolatiers Chocolats Passion will move to its new home in the former Mercy Hospital building at the end of November, more than doubling its workspace.


Lead chocolatier Sarah Burns said she expects the store will have an extended Thanksgiving break to accommodate the move. Burns said Chocolats Passion plans to close on Thanksgiving at their current location on 189 Brackett St., and reopen on Friday, Dec. 1, at 175 Spring St.

“It’s better that it’s happening now, as opposed to our Valentine’s season, which is also very busy,” Burns said.

The new 1,100-square-foot space will allow the store to increase its staffing and product line, Burns said, noting that only three of Chocolat Passion’s five-woman team can reasonably work in the 525-square-foot Brackett Street store at once.

“Customers will have a ton more room, and because we will have so much more space, we can employ more people and really increase our offerings and keep growing,” Burns said, noting that they’re looking to boost their vegan chocolate offerings in particular.

Chocolats Passion has won more than a dozen awards in both U.S.-based and international competitions over the last four years. Last January alone, the store won five medals from the world’s most prestigious chocolate competition, the Academy of Chocolate in London.



Argenta Brewing, a brewery dedicated to lagers, aims to open early next year in the former East Bayside space of Banded Brewing Co.

Owner Ryan Dunlap said he hopes to launch Argenta by February or March of 2024 at 82 Hanover St. The brewery and pub-style bar will have five draft beers on tap to start, all lagers.

“At this point, lager is a style that’s on the rise, at least in the U.S.,” Dunlap said. “They’re usually very drinkable, clean, crisp. It’s a super-approachable style, something you can sit down and have a few of, especially if they’re only like four percent (alcohol by volume), and you’re not having that eight percent IPA that can knock you back.”

Popular lager brewery Sacred Profane, specializing in pale and dark lagers made using traditional Czech methods, opened in Biddeford in 2022 to wide acclaim.

“There’s a lot we can offer to this market that isn’t out there right now,” Dunlap said. “There are so many different lager styles that people have never had, and this is a cool opportunity to share those with the Portland market.”

Dunlap will also be Argenta’s head brewer, having gained previous experience at Atlantic Brewing in Bar Harbor, Sebago Brewing Co. and Fore River Brewing in South Portland.


“I would never dare do this if I didn’t have professional brewing and production experience,” said Dunlap, adding that the name Argenta comes from an old silver mine in his home state of Nevada.

Dunlap is leasing the Hanover Street space, but purchased Banded’s equipment after they closed in October, including a five-barrel brewhouse with fermentation tanks. The location is about 2,500 square feet inside, with an additional 1,000-square-foot patio.

“I think this is going to be a fantastic location in the coming years,” Dunlap said. “You have a lot of new businesses moving into West Bayside. It’s kind of like one of the last untapped spots on the peninsula.”

Partners Arvid Brown and Nick Coffin outside Room for Improvement. Courtesy of Room for Improvement


Old Port bar Room for Improvement made the small and exclusive list of the five best new bars in America published recently by online beverage magazine Punch.

Room for Improvement, opened in April by co-owners Arvid Brown and Nick Coffin, was included in Punch’s splashy listicle along with Nine Bar in Chicago; Post Haste in Philadelphia; Superbueno in Manhattan’s East Village; and Wild Child in Shawnee, Kansas.


Writing about Room for Improvement, Punch notes that “the self-proclaimed ‘halfway decent bar’ pairs serious cocktails with a resolutely unserious atmosphere. The bar’s irreverent ethos marks a deliberate departure from the reigning aesthetic of the sleek, lab-like cocktail bar. But beneath the divey front, the same rigor and attention to detail can be found in the menu of familiar classics – Negroni, Old-Fashioned, Cosmopolitan.”

“People are enjoying a much more casual and less self-serious approach to what a cocktail bar can be in 2023,” Brown said, explaining Room for Improvement’s appeal. “We decided to have a fast and loose, fun and loud little cocktail bar with a generally lower price point where our friends and fellow service industry folks could come in and feel just as comfortable ordering a really well made mojito as a $3 High Life.”

Brown said Room for Improvement has seen a big business bump from the Punch story. “We thought we were heading into what would be our slower season, but instead we started doing summer numbers all over again,” Brown said. “It wasn’t jarring. It’s a great thing that November, typically one of the slowest months for Portland bars and restaurants, is already shaping up to be a very good month for us. We’ll take it.”

A May review of Room for Improvement in the Press Herald called the bar “pretty much perfect.”

In September, Brown was one of eight Portland chefs, restaurateurs and bartenders given Coastal New England Rising Star Awards by the hospitality industry publication StarChefs. Brown was previously bar manager at Crispy Gai and the former Baharat.


If you’re on the lookout for a place to go for a special Thanksgiving feast, check out the Press Herald’s Thanksgiving dining guide, Where to Eat Out on Thanksgiving in Maine.

The guide lists 20 prix fixe dinners, buffets and takeout meals available from Biddeford to Bangor, along with menu details, pricing and seating information and helpful links for reservations.

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