Vegan dishes available on the new after-hours takeout menu from Mama Le’s at Bánh Appétit in Portland are (clockwise from the top): goi cuon (tofu spring rolls), hu tieu xao chay (wide noodle stir fry), banh mi dau hu (Mama Le’s tofu banh mi) and com ca ri chay (coconut curry stir fry). Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

Spring means growth, and that’s certainly true for plant-based news this year. Read on for the latest restaurant openings, reopenings and bakery happenings.

After-hours vegetarian kitchen has launched

The Bánh Appétit takeout shop in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood has added an after-hours vegan and vegetarian menu. The special menu is the creation of, and named for Huong Le, whose daughter Tuyet “Snow” Thi Le owns Bánh Appétit. It’s called Mama Le’s.

Huong Le founded and operated the sit-down Vietnamese restaurant Huong’s in Portland from 2000 until she sold it in 2018. Huong’s offered vegetarian food but was never exclusively plant-based.

“I’ve always wanted to open a vegetarian and vegan location but did not believe it would be sustainable 24 years ago,” Huong Le told me with translation help from Tuyet Thi Le. “Nowadays, I see that there is a much larger community of vegetarians and vegans.”

Huong Le immigrated to Portland from Vietnam in 1990. During a recent trip to Vietnam, she stayed with an uncle and his family, who are all vegan, and she tried many plant-based dishes at his home and in local restaurants. “He made my favorite pho chay,” Huong Le said. “Chay” is the Vietnamese word for vegetarian, and the Mama Le’s menu includes a pho chay with squash, bok choy and vegan beef.


Mama Le’s opened in March. The menu, available from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, includes spring rolls, egg rolls, banh mi, noodle stir fries, coconut curry and nightly specials. Call 207-613-9399 to order.

“My mother and siblings are always talking about how Portland is such a foodie city,” said Tuyet Thi Le, but they’ve also noticed the city’s dearth of vegetarian restaurants. “If it’s a hit, maybe I will open a separate location.”

Twelve chef cooks at Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park, the three-Michelin starred vegan restaurant in Manhattan, has been hosting a series of dinners in collaboration with former chefs as a way to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Colin Wyatt, the executive chef at Twelve in Portland, was the featured chef on March 27 offering a six-course meal highlighting his favorite flavors of Maine and New England. Wyatt, who offers vegan options for all courses at Twelve, was the executive sous chef at Eleven Madison Park for almost seven years.

Heiwa Tofu gets $50,000 more to expand

Heiwa Tofu in Rockport recently received $47,500 from the state of Maine to upgrade its electrical infrastructure, as part of the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan. The recent grant follows $450,000 the state awarded Heiwa in 2022 as part of the Agriculture Infrastructure Investment Program. Both grants will help the company expand its facility in an effort to increase its capacity.


“We’ve continued to be at or near capacity for some time now,” owner Jeff Wolovitz said. “Even if I don’t do any sales work, we just grow. Every year, there are more and more people that discover our product.”

Last year, Whole Foods stores in New York and New Jersey began carrying Heiwa, which doubled the number of stores selling the organic tofu.

The electrical service upgrade should be complete by summer, he said. Meanwhile, an architect is drawing up plans for an addition to Heiwa’s existing building, which will require town approval and additional financing.

The high cost of construction has forced to company to scale back its plans “to what we really need to increase capacity significantly,” Wolovitz said. He’d like construction to begin in late fall 2024, but said it could be delayed to the following spring.

Boja’s Bungalow aims to reopen

Greenville vegetarian restaurant Boja’s Bungalow, which opened in 2021 and was closed last season for renovations, plans to reopen this season with a slimmed-down menu.


“I am going to do things very differently,” owner Angela Higgins said. “I am putting in an order at the window station and reconfiguring the building. I will not be offering hot food, most likely.”

Instead, Boja’s Bungalow will offer vegan ice cream, smoothies, juices and grab-and-go sandwiches and salads. Higgins hopes to reopen the doors this spring.

Blake Orchard Juicery plans new spots

Portland vegetarian juice bar Blake Orchard Juicery’s expansion plans are going forward apace.

Hiring and construction are underway for the new Brunswick location, at 2 Station Ave., Suite 1, where owner Alexandra Blake Messenger aims to open in May. Messenger is still seeking town approval for a new Scarborough location, but hopes to have that juicery open at Dunstan Village, on Route 1, in the fall.

All locations will offer the same menu of smoothies, juices, plant milks, smoothie bowls, coffees and wellness drinks.


Stewards sought for Good Life Center

Brookville’s historic Good Life Center, once home to the late back-to-the-landers and vegetarians Helen and Scott Nearing, is seeking this summer’s stewards. The stewards live on-site in a furnished apartment and maintain the veganic gardens, do light maintenance work and welcome visitors to the property made famous by the Nearing’s book “Living the Good Life.” Stewards receive a modest stipend, garden vegetables, private access to the Nearing library and must agree to eat only vegetarian food while on the property. Find more information at

Vegan bakery news roundup

The vegan and gluten-free b+b Bakery recently moved from the Old Port to the IGA plaza in Cape Elizabeth, where it hoped to have its new retail operation up-and-running by the time you read this. Meanwhile, the previously shuttered, non-vegetarian Bam Bam Bakery of Portland has reopened at 125 Bucknam Road in Falmouth, with its full line of gluten-free and some vegan baked goods. Bam Bam is open Saturdays and Sundays.

In Westbrook, Italian restaurant Casa Novello has started making vegan cannolis. In addition, the restaurant’s pasta, bread and marinara sauce are all vegan. The restaurant offers vegan cheese for its pizza and stocks vegan cream.

South Portland-based The Whole Almond, which has been making and selling vegan baked goods at the Brunswick Winter Market, is now wholesaling them, including pumpkin coffee cake, apple-carrot-ginger muffins and blueberry-rosemary scones. The Sip House in Freeport and Vickies’ Veggie Table in Biddeford both carry baked goods from The Whole Almond.


The Searsport-based Portable Pie Place food truck, which set up at the Camden Snow Bowl for the winter, has recently added vegan options, such as a tofu pot pie and a vegan curry pie. In Oxford, vegan and gluten-free food manufacturer Healing Home Foods has added chocolate chip biscotti to its line.


Nectar of Maine in Bridgton has closed. Rose Heggeman opened the vegetarian restaurant and smoothie bar in 2021 and closed it on March 23. “Due to rising costs and unexpected expenses, Nectar at the Highland Lake Resort will be closing its doors,” she announced on social media last month. She indicated, however, that Nectar might return in another form in the Bridgton area.

Nina Holland, who owns the vegetarian restaurant Toast in Kittery, recently announced she intended to close the counter-service establishment on April 6. Holland, who opened the shop in 2021, posted the news on social media in early March. “The business is not failing,” she wrote. “It continues to grow.” But personal reasons influenced her decision to close, she said. She thanked her customers for their support.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

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