When I moved here 30 years ago, the only choice for barbecue in the Portland area was Uncle Billy’s Southside BBQ in South Portland. It remained that way for years. Then, in a relatively short period of time, along came Salvage BBQ and Terlingua, both in Portland; Elsmere BBQ & Wood Grill, with locations in Portland and South Portland; Moe’s Original Bar B Que in South Portland; Noble BBQ (and its food truck) in Portland; the Fahrenheit 225 barbecue food truck in Portland; and a new pop-up version of Uncle Billy’s, plus a new Uncle Billy’s restaurant, both in Portland.

Now Ri Ra, the Irish pub and restaurant in Portland, is getting in on the barbecue business with its plans to open a restaurant on Congress Street called Whole Hog.

As a native of Memphis and barbecue connoisseur, I’ve been one of the leading cheerleaders for more barbecue in Portland, so I never thought I would ask this, but … are we reaching a barbecue saturation point? Personally, I’ve always thought “the more barbecue, the better” because more competition usually raises quality. But can all these barbecue restaurants survive in a relatively small city?

The new restaurant will be at 480 Congress St. – just across from the Time & Temperature Building – and is to serve “authentic East North Carolina style” barbecue. The owners are Ciarán Sheehan and David Kelly, who founded Ri Ra in 1996. Kelly lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Since I posted this news online last week, I’ve heard from one of the managers at Ri Ra that this will be Rodney Scott whole hog-style barbecue, referring to the South Carolina barbecue pitmaster who won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southeast this year. Apparently, Spencer Brantley, Ri Ra’s managing partner in Portland and the person who will spearhead the new restaurant, was born and raised in North Carolina and is a “generational hog cooker.” Look for Calabash-style fried fish on the menu, as well. Calabash is a small fishing village just north of the South Carolina line that is known for its lightly-breaded, fried seafood.

The target opening date for Whole Hog is mid-November.


If you’re a foodie movie buff, listen up: Ali Waks Adams, the chef at the Brunswick Inn, will be cooking an Italian feast at 7:30 p.m. July 27 at the Robinhood Free Meetinghouse in Georgetown for fans of the 1996 film “Big Night.” The movie stars former Mainer Tony Shaloub, who graduated from the University of Southern Maine before moving on to the Yale School of Drama.

“Big Night” is about two brothers, Primo (played by Shaloub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci), who are struggling to keep their 1950s-era Italian restaurant in New Jersey alive. In a last-ditch effort to save the place, they plan a dinner of the most amazing food that Primo, the prickly but talented chef, can prepare.

Like the movie feast, Adams’ version of the dinner will include suckling pig and timpano, an elaborate, molded and layered pasta dish. Organizers of the dinner suggest: “Watch the movie to refresh your memory, and remember, don’t order spaghetti with your risotto!”

The dinner costs $80, which includes tax and tip.


If your vacation plans this summer include a trip Down East, here’s one more reason to stop at Vasquez Mexican Take-Out in Milbridge: Starting this week, and through August, the restaurant will serve breakfast burritos from 6 to 10 a.m. If you’ve never had their amazing burritos – at any time of the day – it’s worth a detour. For years, the Vasquez family fed the migrant workers in the blueberry fields – often from a bus they would move from field to field – then in 2014 they opened a permanent take-out stand at 38 Main St. Take the food to go, or there are plenty of picnic tables where you can sit and enjoy your tacos, pozole, gorditas and guarache. Prices are crazy reasonable, especially compared to Portland prices. Supreme tacos cost $2.50 each, a tostada is $3, and the huge burritos and chimichangas are $5 each.


On Thursday, Little Giant will celebrate its first anniversary with a four-course dinner with beer pairings from Oxbow – including a brew called Little Hunter made specially for the occasion. The dinner, including the beer pairings, costs $70. Reservations are recommended.

Little Hunter, according to Little Giant co-owner Briana Volk, is a barrel-aged ale made with Oxbow’s flagship beer and blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. It’s aged 6 months in single-barrel selects from Four Roses and Buffalo Trace bourbons. The beer, which will be released Thursday, will be available on tap only at Little Giant and the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club. Little Giant will have a limited number of bottles for sale in its retail shop.

After dinner, Hunt + Alpine Club bartenders will be at Oxbow on Washington Avenue making beer cocktails from 10 p.m. to midnight.


The Blue Spoon, the little American bistro at 89 Congress St. on Munjoy Hill, is changing hands. Elizabeth Koenigsberg, former manager of Petite Jacqueline, and chef William Lavey are purchasing the 30-seat restaurant from chef/owner David Iovino, who has owned the place since 2004, and hope to be the new owners by August.

Gross Confection Bar at 37 Exchange St., the dessert restaurant from Portland pastry chef Brant Dadaleares expected to open in October, has filed for its food and alcohol licenses from the city. And, lucky for us, the application includes a sample menu.

Gross (a term Dadaleares is known for in the local restaurant community – he uses it when he thinks something is delicious) will be a full-service dessert restaurant and bar during the evening, but will offer take-out treats, pastries and coffee during the day. The evening menu is divided into four sections: Taste ($7-$8), For One ($10-$15), Companion ($18-$21), and Entourage ($15-$18 per person, for parties of six or more). Each section has scrumptious-sounding choices, such as frozen lemon pudding cake and brown butter panna cotta. Or how about pear-and-ginger upside-down cake, warm carrot cake French toast, or dark chocolate, caramel and vanilla bean torte? As Dadaleares would say, gross!

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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