An artist rendering of The Chametz, a 20-seat fine dining restaurant planned for New Vineyard in 2024. Courtesy of The Chametz

To get a sense of where the region’s bar and restaurant roster is headed in the new year, it helps to first take a look at some of what came and went in 2023.

Portland saw several buzz-worthy spots launch in the last year. In the Old Port alone, the Miranda Restaurant Group opened Henry’s Public House, as well as Papi, a Puerto Rican-inspired bar and restaurant.

Also among Portland’s more notable openings last year were Ugly Duckling coffee shop and luncheonette; Neapolitan sourdough pizzeria Quanto Basta; The Continental, a Europub; and taco shop Lenora in Portland Square. Strong launches around the region included sustainable sushi hotspot Rosella KPT in Kennebunk; Cafe Louis’ sister restaurant, Costa Media, in Camden; French- and Italian-themed Bistro Leluca in South Portland; and George + Leon’s Famous Roast Beef in Westbrook.

Of course, the area also lost quite a few restaurants in the last year. Portland alone saw the closings of Blue Spoon, Full Turn, Petite Jacqueline, Tiqa and the stellar Roman-style pizzeria Radici.

But the batch of new restaurants coming in 2024 helps take the sting out of the losses and will enrich a drinking and dining scene that already feels like a treasure trove. We can look forward to big, bold bars going into Thompson’s Point and Bayside; new brewpubs and daytime cafes in Biddeford; old faves like Brea Lu relaunching in new Westbrook digs; fine dining in far-flung locales; and New York-style slices in the Old Port. If all goes according to plans, expect Cambodian express takeout, a chicken sandwich palace and a cheesesteak mecca.

Affordable pricing is a common theme for many of these new places. Restaurateurs – under serious financial pressure in a post-pandemic economy where the cost of food, labor, utility and rent have all soared – are nevertheless doing what they can to make their venues more affordable. If we can treat ourselves to local food and drink on a semi-regular basis without breaking the bank, 2024 might be a truly delicious year for Mainers.


Here are some of the spots we’re looking forward to in 2024.

Editor’s note: All restaurants are in Portland unless otherwise noted. 

Bar Publica

The owners of this forthcoming Bayside bar have lamented the loss of bar culture in Portland.

“About 20 years ago, there was a really rich and vibrant bar culture in Portland,” Bar Publica partner Spencer Brantley recently told the Press Herald. “But it’s just sort of dwindled away. There are a handful left in town, but very few bar-first places. So this is a nod to old Portland (bar) culture, which we’d like to bring back.”

And they’re bringing it back big. The 3,000-square-foot site – former home to The Yard – seats almost 300, including outdoor seating and a newly constructed rooftop bar. While Bar Publica will serve food, including a rotating seasonal selection of pan-Latin American small plates, Brantley stressed that it will be “bar-first.”


Publica’s bar program will spotlight quality cocktails, a large mezcal collection and a variety of tequila-based drinks. The owners are installing a top-rate sound system, as Bar Publica will also feature late-night music spun by DJs.

Brantley and his partners, who own the adjacent Wilson County Barbecue as well as Old Port’s Ria Ra, aim for Bar Publica to give off a “strong nightclub vibe.” The Bar Publica team submitted architectural drawings to the city in December, and hope to open by April 1.

Brickyard Hollow Brewing Co., Biddeford

Brickyard Hollow has expanded at a dizzying pace of late, launching new locations in Skowhegan, Eustis, Brunswick, New Gloucester and Augusta just since December 2022.

The burgeoning brewpub company aims to open its 10th location, this one in downtown Biddeford, in April. Brickyard Hollow co-founder and president Brad Moll said he expects construction to start in January at the 180 Main St. venue, next to the Lincoln Hotel. The long-vacant space had originally been Pepperell Hall, part of the Pepperell Mill complex.

The space is about 1,500 square feet, with room to seat 50 people, and another 30 seats on an outdoor patio.


“As far as the character and the type of structure it is, it’s very similar to our Portland location, with interior brick walls and old beams,” Moll said. “It’s a great spot right on Main Street, and it’s very walkable for folks living in and around downtown.”

The menu will also be similar to that in the Portland brewpub, Moll said, spotlighting creatively topped craft pizzas, along with appetizers, salads, grain bowls, and, of course, the line of Brickyard Hollow brews on tap. The Biddeford location will be open seven days a week, with extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

Moll said he and his team have not yet started to scout vintage Biddeford photos to blow up and make into murals for the interior, one of Brickyard Hollow’s signature design elements at all its brewpubs.

“I’m envisioning some old Pepperell Mill photos or some cool old Main Street photos,” Moll said. “I don’t think we’ll struggle finding some pretty cool stuff in Biddeford.”

Brea Lu, Westbrook

Brea Lu Cafe is one of the most anticipated openings on our list in part because the snakebit relaunch of the beloved breakfast and lunch restaurant has been hampered by frustrating delays.


Brea Lu originally planned to move out of its Cumberland Street home in Westbrook last April and reopen in its new Main Street location by June. But a late March fire at the new space destroyed Brea Lu’s new stove hood and walk-in cooler. A 2016 fire at their original restaurant space on Forest Avenue in Portland was what caused Brea Lu to move to Westbrook in the first place.

Then about four months ago, the restaurant let go of their contractor because of a dispute, forcing them to hire a new crew to complete renovation work.

And recently, they discovered the HVAC unit on the roof of their new building needs to be replaced.

“Us just trying to move two steps forward has not been the easiest thing,” owner Christian DeLuca said. “Things just keep popping up. But we are still feeling positive and pretty good, and we’re very close to being done.”

Ongoing interior work at the new Brea Lu Cafe on Main Street in Westbrook, shown in December. Photo courtesy of Brea Lu Cafe

DeLuca said he expects Brea Lu will at last be ready to open at 511 Main St. at the end of January or the beginning of February. The cafe hasn’t operated since April 23, a long wait for both the Brea Lu team and their many longtime customers.

“We’re really looking forward to having all of our regulars back,” DeLuca said. “They’re really excited, we’re excited. It’s just a matter of getting the work done.”


The new Main Street space will feature an expanded menu. “Everything we’ve always had will be on this menu, plus a lot more,” DeLuca said, noting that they’re adding all-day lunch service with new dishes like chicken cutlet sandwiches as well as Brea Lu breakfast classics like the peanut butter omelet.

“We’ve always been more of a breakfast restaurant with a tiny lunch menu,” DeLuca said. “Over here, we’re going to do much more of both. That’s a massive change for us.”

The much larger, 7,800-square foot venue – a former rent-to-own store – will be another big change for Brea Lu. The cafe’s Cumberland Street location was less than 2,000 square feet, with 44 seats. The counter bar at the Main Street location will have about 40 seats on its own, while altogether the new space will have more than 100 seats.

“You’ll never have to wait when you come over here anymore,” DeLuca said. “When we were on Forest Avenue and Cumberland, on Saturday and Sunday, you’re an hour or two-hour wait.”

The new location will also have a private dining area available for parties, gatherings or corporate meetings. DeLuca also said he hopes to host food trucks in the Brea Lu parking lot at night, and offer live music for weekend brunches. He said Brea Lu will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., two hours later than they’d previously stayed open.

“At the old Brea Lu, it was kind of like a rush,” DeLuca said. “Customers were always in a hurry. Here, it’s going to be a lot different. We don’t have to rush you out. We have so much space, you can hang out a little bit. It’s going to be a little more of a laid-back experience.”


Catface Cafe, Biddeford

Building on the success of her other restaurants, Sur Lie in Portland and Gather in Yarmouth, restaurateur Krista Cole is launching this daytime eatery in downtown Biddeford.

The cafe will be going into 17 Alfred St., most recently home to Part & Parcel, which closed in late December. The 2,800-square-foot space seated about 15 when it was Part & Parcel, but by removing a small retail market area inside, Cole can more than double the seating.

Cole and her partner in the project, Tyler VanScoy, said because the venue doesn’t need much in the way of renovations, just some cosmetic changes and new furnishings, they feel they can realistically open by March 1. “The space is pretty beautiful as it is,” Cole said.

The new cafe – which takes its name from the logging term “cat face” to describe wounded wood healed with whisker-like scars – will be open for breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch. Cole said Gather and Sur Lie head chef Mimi Weissenborn is creating Catface’s seasonally based menu, which she expects will offer “elevated, modern Maine” dishes, including sandwiches and salads.

Catface will also sell beer, wine and cocktails, and specialty coffee drinks.


Catface will be available for private and corporate events, as Cole and VanScoy envision the cafe as a community hub.

“This is a place for people to gather in Biddeford, versus just popping in for a coffee and leaving,” VanScoy said. “We want to make people feel warm and fuzzy when they come in – it’s really that personal experience that we want to bring to the table.”

The Chametz dining room, as shown in an artist rendering. Image courtesy of The Chametz

The Chametz, New Vineyard

Fine dining restaurants haven’t been opening in recent years with nearly the frequency of more casual, counter-service places. This stands to reason: Between the costs of product, labor and overhead, fine dining is a much more expensive business proposition.

Fine dining isn’t dead, but the operating model is being re-envisioned for modern times. Hospitality industry vets Lina Mamut and Jared Rudnick aim to launch a prix-fixe fine dining restaurant in New Vineyard called The Chametz, where all ingredients will be sourced within a 100-mile radius.

Mamut and Rudnick have already bought a private residence in New Vineyard that they are in the process of converting into a 20-seat restaurant. Last year, they started a small biodynamic farm on the property to help supply the kitchen. They intend for The Chametz to ultimately be a 100-percent worker-owned collective.


Rudnick, who will be the chef, has experience at Boston fine-dining restaurants, including Boston Harbor Hotel and Barbara Lynch’s No. 9 Park. Mamut has said they chose the New Vineyard location because they wanted to be within about half an hour of Sugarloaf, Saddleback and Rangeley to take advantage of the year-round recreation that attracts visitors there.

Mamut and Rudnick, who are both life and business partners, held pop-ups at the Cork and Rind wine shop in Carrabassett Valley in December to build interest in their project. They served prospective Chametz dishes like Turkey Mousse Cracklings, made with pork crackling, turkey liver mousse, Concord grape wine gelée and deli mustard dust; “The Big 3 Terrine,” made from lamb cheek, beef tongue and pork tenderloin with preserved lemon, dried fruit and orgeat compote served on wild grape organic sourdough; and The Chametz Matzoh Ball Soup, with turkey consommé, homemade matzoh balls, schmaltz and carrots.

The Chametz project had raised more than $48,500 as off December on a Kickstarter campaign. The figure is well short of its $150,000 goal, though Mamut said they’ll start a new Kickstarter campaign with a lower goal if needed to keep the project rolling.

Work in progress at the forthcoming Honey’s Fried Chicken Palace, which aims to open by April 1 in Thomaston. Photo courtesy of Honey’s Fried Chicken Palace

Honey’s Fried Chicken Palace, Thomaston

The breakout success of weekly fried chicken sandwich specials at Ancho Honey in Tenants Harbor led owner Malcolm Bedell to suspect he was on to a new restaurant concept.

Interest in the restaurant, to be called Honey’s Fried Chicken Palace, is so strong, Bedell had raised more than $110,000 in public investment toward his $124,000 goal as of late December; he did so on the small business investment platform Mainvest. Bedell said the project met its initial goal of $50,000 within 72 hours.


“For a tiny little place in Midcoast Maine, I’m super encouraged by that,” Bedell said. “It means people believe in you and your business and your food, and that’s incredibly validating.”

Bedell aims to open Honey’s Fried Chicken Palace by April 1 at 153 New County Road in Thomaston, in the former home of China Fortune. He said the former tenants left the building “in quite a state of disrepair,” and that his crew has worked on electrical, plumbing and cosmetic overhauls for the last two months.

“We’ve really had to get our hands dirty with every single part of getting this building back on its feet,” Bedell said.

The Thomaston kitchen is about 900 square feet, which Bedell said is at least four times bigger than the Ancho Honey kitchen. The 600-square-foot dining room will allow for about 25 seats at the counter-service venue.

Bedell said Honey’s menu will be centered around all of the weekly chicken sandwich specials he serves at Ancho Honey, where 100 special sandwiches typically sell out in a couple hours. The sandwiches will sell for $12.95, augmented on the menu by handmade chicken tenders with 25 dipping sauces to choose from; a selection of starters, salads and sides like loaded french fries; and a grab-and-go case for sides like baked beans and mac & cheese.

“It’s important to me that this be a place where everyone can afford to get something to eat,” Bedell said, echoing the economic concerns voiced by others opening area restaurants in 2024.


Leisure Time Cocktail Co.

This small-batch craft cocktail bar specializing in draft and freezer cocktails is being launched by co-owner Kai Parrott-Wolfe, a Peaks Island native and former owner of the Post Office Whisky bar in Brooklyn, New York.

Parrott-Wolfe and his business partner, Matt Noyes, expect to open by April at 290 Thompson’s Point. The 2,000-square-foot space can seat about 50 and was previously home to Rwanda Bean, which has since shrunk its space to a small corner separated from Leisure Time by a dividing wall.

The bar boasts a 41-foot granite bar leftover from when the space hosted Cellardoor winery.

Parrott-Wolfe said Leisure Time will serve 8-10 draft cocktails and a variety of freezer cocktails. The allure of the freezer drinks is that the low temps make the liquid more viscous, creating a “velvety mouthfeel,” he said.

The venue will also offer lunch and dinner service, headed up by Chef Emma Reed, with dishes including pierogies and hand-cased sausages.


Parrott-Wolfe said he hopes Leisure Time will be able to add a distillery and production facility later in 2024, adding that they have been eying possible Biddeford locations.


Since losing Emilitsa in 2021, Portland has been short on Greek cuisine. That’s about to change, as operators of the Greeks of Peaks food truck aim to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Mágissa, in East Bayside this spring.

Mágissa will be located at 91 Anderson St., briefly the home of Full Turn restaurant, and Baharat before that. The venue can fit nearly 50 people, plus another 15 or so, seasonally, outside.

“Barring any large disruption, it should be open in the beginning of April,” said co-owner Nancy Klosteridis, noting that her team is sourcing construction material and furnishings from in-state to avoid delivery delays. She said the name is Greek for “witch,” a word they chose “because it calls to mind the kind of concocting, mixing and experimenting that goes into our old family Greek recipes.”

Mágissa will likely be open Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The lunch menu will be similar to the Greeks of Peaks food truck, with gyros, salads, mezze and Greek-style baked goods, while dinner will range from small mezze plates to family-style dishes.


The new restaurant will have a lounge area with a “rustic taverna feel” near the bar. The bar program includes cocktail and spritz menus and a variety of nonalcoholic drinks, including a selection of Greek coffees and teas mixed with Greek flavorings.

With pastry chef and co-owner Emily Otero in the mix, “There’s a whole world of Greek pastries both savory and sweet that we are going to explore through the lunch and dinner programs,” Klosteridis said.

“A big part of this restaurant is going to be continuing a legacy of cooking that started with my great-grandparents and has been passed down,” she said. “And the care for cooking and for what cooking brings to family and community will also be part of it.”

Klosteridis intends to ensure that prices at Mágissa stay reasonable. “The menus we’re developing focus on having an economical feel to it,” she said. “We really want to find that middle ground of affordability while not moving away from high-quality products. We want this to be a place you can afford to eat more than once a week.”

Off Track Pizza

This two-story pizzeria coming to Exchange Street aims to fill the late-night slice void in the Old Port, particularly since Pat’s Pizza and Old Port Slice Bar closed earlier this year.


Off Track Pizza is located at 15 Exchange St., previously occupied by Lupita’s and, years before, the original home of Walter’s.

The new pizzeria is co-owned by Mitchell Ryan and Mark Hibbard, with backing from the Miranda Restaurant Group. Ryan is currently executive chef and Hibbard is beverage director at Via Vecchia, another Miranda Group property. Ryan said he and Hibbard chose to call the venue Off Track as a nod to their shared enthusiasm for gambling.

When the partners first announced the project in October, they’d hoped to be open by January. But delays in receiving critical pieces of equipment, like their pizza oven, has pushed back the target launch date to April, Ryan said.

Open for lunch and dinner, Off Track will feature about eight kinds of New York-style pizza by the slice, or whole 18-inch pies. Ryan said they’ll also offer six to eight “simplistic, Italian-style” sandwiches, containing three or four ingredients on focaccia bread baked fresh daily.

The pizzeria will also sell a variety of pre-packaged housemade cocktails.

Ryan said the upstairs dining room at Off Track can seat between 40-50, while the counter-service operation will have limited seating downstairs. Ryan said they may construct a special takeout window to serve customers late at night without having them enter the restaurant.


A rendering of the express takeout counter at Oun Lido’s. Image courtesy of Jackie Zhao

Oun Lido’s

When owners of the hip Washington Avenue Vietnamese restaurant Cong Tu Bot announced last spring that they planned to open a sister restaurant in the Old Port, they felt confident they’d be open by the end of 2023.

But big projects rarely seem to meet their original timelines, particularly in a post-pandemic world. So it was hardly surprising when co-owner Vien Dobui said in December that the buildout of Oun Lido’s at their 30 Market St. space – formerly Pat’s Pizza – would be delayed, perhaps indefinitely, by an HVAC issue in the kitchen.

Happily, Dobui and his team were able to secure a repair team that would allow them to remedy the issue, and with luck open Oun Lido’s sometime in February. “We are working to get things in order as soon as possible,” Dobui said. “How long that might take is still unknown, but right now there’s no plan for major infrastructure changes.”

The Oun Lido’s space is massive, 5,200 square feet spread over three floors. Dobui said they plan to launch Oun Lido’s in phases, floor-by-floor.

The basement level of the restaurant is entirely taken up by the kitchen, and will be the first to open in February. Dobui said upon launching, he envisions offering takeout lunch and early dinner, with limited seating on the ground floor.


“Our first goal is to get that kitchen up and running again and get that counter service going. It’ll be like a daytime express takeout counter like you would find in any kind of Chinatown or Little Saigon, where there’s fast comfort food with (Chef Bounahcree “Bones” Kim) Bones’ aesthetic, Cambodian with some Chinese and Vietnamese influences,” Dobui said. “It’s going to feel very hole-in-the-wall and lo-fi.”

The second phase, to come later in 2024, will launch the dining room and bar on the ground floor, which will be open for dinner service. “We’re trying to be a little bit more opulent and luxurious, romantic and moody than we are at Cong Tu Bot, still with some level of quirkiness we like to have in things we do,” he said of the design plan for the dining area and bar.

Dobui said they’re still finalizing Oun Lido’s bar program, but he expects the house cocktails will be similar to Cong Tu Bot’s, comparing their drinks to pop songs: “They’re simple, catchy, with a sneaky complexity that’s not obvious right away.” The beverage program will also include a selection of boba teas.

The third phase of the project, timeline still TBD, will be to turn the third floor into a private karaoke room. Upon launching, Oun Lido’s will be open five days a week.

Dobui said he hopes for Oun Lido’s to eventually be open all day. To that end, Chef Kim has been serving prototype Oun Lido’s breakfast dishes at Cong Tu Bot on weekends, and the toasted bao breakfast sandwich with char siu bacon ($9) has already made a splash.

“There’s a pretty big following for the breakfast sandwich that Bones has been doing,” Dobui said. “On the weekends, it’s the one that gets tagged (on Instagram) the most. And it hits the sweet spot of affordability and everyday deliciousness.”


Peter Murphy, owner of Rebel Munchies & Libations, oversees renovations at the new bar and restaurant. Photo by Josh Hand

Rebel Munchies and Libations

In 2019, when Peter Murphy launched Rebel Cheesesteaks, his business was a food cart pulled by an electric bicycle.

Rebel is scaling up, to say the least. Murphy aims to open Rebel Munchies & Libations in late January or early February at 649 Congress St., the 3,000-square-foot former home to Dos Naciones Mexican and Salvadoran Cuisine.

Rebel Munchies & Libations will be open Thursday through Monday from  5 p.m. to 1 a.m., with the kitchen remaining open until closing time.

“We’re doing the late-night thing,” Murphy said. “We’re definitely going to be leaning into junk food, but also having some good vegetable options on our menu, too.”

A native of Princeton, New Jersey, Murphy started Rebel so he could share some of his home region’s tastiest treats with Mainers. He said the restaurant’s menu will include his food cart’s standards like the Rebel OG, a classic cheesesteak with shaved steak with American cheese, along with roast garlic mayo or horseradish cream, topped with caramelized onions and sautéed peppers. Rebel also has a vegetarian cheesesteak option with smoky mushrooms.


The brick-and-mortar space allows Murphy to expand his cart menu to offer sides like twice-fried potatoes, a Caesar cole slaw topped with buttered toasted bread crumbs and fresh grated Parmesan cheese, and a wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, tomato jam, fried shallots and fresh herbs.

Large cheesesteaks ($17) come on a 10-inch roll, small ($9) come on 5-inch rolls, all with locally baked bread. The new menu will also feature housemade chicken nuggets (4-piece for $8, 8-piece for $15) with a selection of dipping sauces, as well as desserts like Dirt Cups ($7).

“We’re trying to keep this cost-effective for people,” Murphy said. “Doing smaller half sizes is important to me, so that somebody can come in and get a bite to eat for under $10.”

The bar will serve a selection of beer – including Miller High Life in frosty mugs – along with a small wine program and riffs on classic cocktails. Murphy said his team is installing a new bar in the space, and local muralist Jared Goulette will paint Rebel branding images on the walls.

“We’ve got lots of room in here to have a lot of fun,” Murphy said. “I can guarantee if you come through our doors, you’re going to have a big smile on your face.”

Sacred Profane


Sacred Profane‘s original brewpub in Biddeford has been a rousing success right from the get-go; it launched in 2022.

But the facility was not big enough to withstand the company’s growing pains, which Sacred Profane Director of Operations Michael Fava said he and his founding partners knew from the start.

The team had chosen to fill their Biddeford space with as much brewing equipment as possible, leaving little room for storing packing materials and raw ingredients. Fava and his remaining partner, head brewer Brienne Allan, found the solution on Thompson’s Point.

Specifically, 4 Thompson’s Point, a massive 5,100-square-foot-space that was previously home to Stroudwater Distillery. While the Sacred Profane team had only been looking for warehouse space, the prime Thompson’s Point real estate seemed to justify opening another brewpub as well.

Fava said most of the Thompson’s Point space will be used to store items like printed cans, which they buy in bulk by the tractor-trailer-full, along with grains, hops, glassware and more packaging material.

The new facility will also have tanks where they can store beer produced in Biddeford, freeing up production flow at the original brewery enough to effectively double Sacred Profane’s beer-making output.

Along with serving Sacred Profane’s Czech-style pale and dark lagers, the Thompson’s Point tasting room will have a small menu. It will include snacks, soups, salads, sandwiches and some Eastern European treats like stew and pierogies – items that don’t generate grease vapors, because they won’t be installing a hood system in the kitchen.

Sacred Profane aims to open on Thompson’s Point by mid-February.

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