Next weekend marks the unofficial start of the Maine tourist season, and every year new restaurants scramble to open in time for the influx of visitors, hoping to get a big, juicy slice of that economic pie. Open by Memorial Day, the feeling goes among restaurateurs, and hopefully the opening kinks can be worked out by the time the crowds really start to swell in July.

Here’s our look at new restaurants that are opening this season. You still have plenty of time to sample what’s new before it becomes impossible to get a table:

FLOOD’S

747 Congress St., Portland

Target opening date: May 31

For fans of Biddeford’s Palace Diner, this is one of the most anticipated openings of the year. Greg Mitchell, co-owner of the popular diner, is branching out on his own with this “modern-day tavern with Old World vibes,” as he describes it. The 45-seat restaurant is adjacent to, but unaffiliated with, The Francis Hotel. Flood’s (named after a character in the book “Old Mr. Flood” by Joseph Mitchell) will start by serving dinner Wednesday through Sunday, with lunch to come later. The bar will open at 4 p.m.

Although Mitchell will oversee everything, he has hired a head chef named Billy Hager, who most recently worked at Homestead, a well-regarded neighborhood restaurant in Oakland, California. Mitchell said they connected immediately: “He did the fine-dining world, lived a lot, and decided it was more engaging and satisfying to cook for regular people who are just grabbing a bite on a Tuesday night.”

Mitchell said his goal with Flood’s is to create a “really fun, satisfying neighborhood spot.” The menu will use traditional French and British cuisine as a jumping-off point, Mitchell said, but update the food for 2019 with “a little bit of a wink sometimes.” Dishes will include “hearty, tasty foods,” from a really good burger and a variety of salads to oysters escargot, Welshrarebit and chicken schnitzel. While he won’t serve trendy small plates, dishes will be “conducive to sharing,” Mitchell said.

The dining room at Flood’s (previously Bolster, Snow & Co.) has been completely renovated and now features oak paneling and a stone bar top.

 

Maine native Luke Holden will open a large Luke’s Lobster restaurant on the Portland Pier in early June. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

LUKE’S LOBSTER

60 Portland Pier

Target opening date: Early June

Luke’s will be making a big splash on Portland’s waterfront this summer. Most Luke’s Lobster restaurants, co-founded by Cape Elizabeth native Luke Holden, are small affairs in big cities, seating just 25 people. There are 27 of the restaurants in the United States, nine in Japan and one in Taiwan. The Portland Luke’s, which the company considers its flagship restaurant, is the second one in Maine (the first is in Tenants Harbor) and will seat 200 diners indoors and out, giving them a hungry seagull-eye’s view of the lobster business.

Diners walking into the year-round restaurant will be able to look through a big window on their left into the tank room of the company’s wholesale and distribution facility, or “buy station,” where crates of lobster are off-loaded from boats and either held for the restaurant or sent to the Luke’s processing facility in Saco. Ben Conniff, Luke’s co-founder and chief marketing officer, said that they’d like to offer customers tours of the buy station eventually.

“We’re really excited to do a lot of things that we don’t get to do in the bigger cities,” he said, “to have the space to not only put the lobstermen on display, but to work with other seafoods, play with the menu, have a really fun wine list and work with the local brewery partners.”

The menu in Portland will be “substantially different” from Luke’s menus elsewhere, Conniff said. The other restaurants are limited to lobster, crab and shrimp rolls; salad; and clam chowder and lobster bisque. The Portland location will offer a full seafood shack menu, with additional items such as fried whole belly clams and beer-battered haddock. Head chef Zac Leeman is a Maine native who comes from a fishing family – his father and grandfather were both fin fishermen from Portland – but he has spent a decade cooking professionally in Minnesota, the Virgin Islands and South Carolina.

In recent years, a lot of lobster-centric restaurants have opened in Portland. “What sets us apart,” Conniff said, “is we combine the best views in town with really simple preparation that features beautiful seafood first,” he said, “and we’ve kept the atmosphere very casual.”

COALS PIZZA

114 Preble St., Portland

Target opening date: June 11

Sure, Portland already has lots of options for good pizza. But how many have the “Dean Martin?” That’s a thin crust pizza topped with fontinella, fresh mozzarella, tomato, pepperoni and Pecorino and charred on the grill. You’ll not find a Rat Pack-style martini to pair it with at Coals Pizza, but you will be able to choose from lots of craft beers.

Billy Etzel owns two Coals Pizza restaurants in New York, one in Bronxville and one in Port Chester. Etzel, who has strong ties to Maine, is about to open his third grilled pizza restaurant, this one in Portland, in the former location of the Portland & Rochester Public House. Etzel plans to serve dinner Tuesday through Sunday, and will probably be closed Mondays. Lunch, to start, will likely be limited to weekends. Etzel will serve as executive chef.

Coals Pizza will have 50 seats, plus another 14 at the bar. The menu in Portland, Etzel said, will be “about 85 percent” similar to the New York menus, but he’s taking this opening as an opportunity to make some long overdue changes. The salads in New York, for example, are “a little dull to me, but I can’t change them because so many people like them,” Etzel said. He’ll create some new salads in Portland, using local produce. In fact, one of the biggest changes he wants to make with the Portland restaurant, he said, is to use plenty of local ingredients.

In addition to pizza and salads, the menu will feature burgers, chicken wings, soups and daily specials. Prices will be similar to those in New York, Etzel said, where Coals pizzas cost between $13 and $16.

THE GARRISON

81 Bridge St., Yarmouth

Target opening date: Mid-July

Anyone who has ever tasted chef Christian Hayes’ amazing food at Dandelion Catering Co., located in the old Sparhawk Mill on the Royal River, is likely to be excited that The Garrison is coming to town.

Last year, Hayes started offering takeout lunches from his catering company one day a week (think maple ham and beer cheddar sandwiches with apple relish), and at Christmastime, he held a flash sale of holiday sides and pies – the line ran out the door. Soon you’ll be able to try this Chopped Champion’s food in the comfort of a sit-down restaurant, his first.

Hayes has trouble describing his food, but agrees that New American with Asian and Mediterranean influences pretty much sums it up. He says the new restaurant will lean toward seafood and offer a mix of small and large plates. “Really, it’s just going to be refined, thoughtful food that I enjoy cooking,” he said.

Entrees will probably range between $25 and $35, he said, while smaller plates will cost $10 to $16. Dinner will be served Wednesday through Sunday to start, with brunch on Saturday and Sunday.

The Garrison will open with 40 seats, plus 14 at the bar. Hayes hopes to add a patio because the venue by the river is beautiful, but until he untangles the red tape that goes with getting town approval to seat diners outdoors, he plans to use his outdoor space for raised beds, where he’ll grow his own microgreens, herbs and flowers.

Inside, the floors will be polished concrete, and the bar will be handmade, from white oak and slate. The design is, Hayes said, “clean and industrial meets warm and modern. We’re trying to create a dynamic where we’re keeping the vibe and the energy of the mill, but putting a refined spin on it.”

The catering operation will remain open, overseen by head chef Kaitlynn Gatchell so Hayes can devote his time to the restaurant.

Hayes said the name of the restaurant refers to old military forts, where ammunition and provisions were stored and people felt safe within the walls.

“There have been garrisons on this river,” Hayes said. “I want it to be a place where people feel like they’re coming home. It’s a fortified place where they can block everything out and have the provisions they need.”

MONTE’S FINE FOODS

788 Washington Ave., Portland

Target opening date: July 1

Even longtime Portland chef Steve Quattrucci finds it difficult to describe his new business. It’s not a traditional restaurant, but it’s not just another grocery store, either. Monte’s is an Italian market, a bakery and a takeout restaurant with limited seating, all wrapped into one. Located in the former Angelone’s building on the corner of Washington and Ocean avenues, Monte’s Fine Foods will have a dining bar in the market, with additional seating on an outdoor patio, for customers who want to eat their food on site. A grab-and-go case will be filled with Quattrucci’s creations and foods from local vendors. At the al taglio-style pizza station, the Roman-style pizza baked in large, rectangular trays will be cut to order and sold by weight, the way it’s done in Rome.

The market-cafe will also sell pizza pinsa-style, a multigrain pizza that will be made to order in 14-inch pies. Pinsa, Quattrucci said, was served in the taverns of ancient Rome, where it was made with whatever grains were on hand. It resembles an airy flatbread and the dough takes four days to make, he said. “It gets baked on the fourth day, and gets baked twice,” Quattrucci said.

Quattrucci recently hired Pamela Plunkett, formerly of Little Bigs Bakery in South Portland, to handle the dough production, using his own recipe. Once the market is established, he’ll ask her to try making amaretti cookies, Roman pastries and more, ideas he’s gathered from trips to Rome and New York.

Monte’s will open with a core menu of pizza and sandwiches made with Monte’s housemade breads. Look for housemade vegan pepperoni and vegan cheeses as well.

ISLAND LOBSTER CO.

20 Island Ave., Peaks Island

Target opening date: Memorial Day weekend

If you’re looking to give your summer visitors a real Maine experience, this may be it. Hop on the ferry to Peaks Island and take a short walk up the hill to feast on an iconic Maine meal with stunning views of Casco Bay. Island Lobster Co., open for both lunch and dinner, is the reincarnation of the Peaks Island House restaurant. Its menu is loaded with classic Maine foods – lobster rolls, local oysters, broiled Maine scallops, steamed mussels, clam cakes, fish chowder, red hot dogs and blueberry pie. Wash it all down with a selection of local craft beers.

The restaurant’s 70 seats are on a picnic-style deck, where customers can watch their lobster coming in fresh off the owners’ boat. The owners of Island Lobster Co. are Thom and Katie Werner – he is a commercial lobsterman and she is a Peaks Island native. The couple ran a lobster pound in the Sebago Lake area for 10 years, and sold that business to a cousin so they could take on this new project full time.

Their chef is Brendan Tobin, formerly of Old Port Sea Grill in Portland, and the general manager is Marcus O’Toole, formerly of Flatbread in Portland.

Katie Werner said diners will pay family-friendly lower prices for lobster at Island Lobster Co. since the catch is coming directly from her husband’s boat, with no middlemen to pad the bill. It’s just one reason they call this place a “trap-to-table” restaurant.

QUINN’S BARDEGA

79 Mellen St., Portland

Target opening date: Before July 4

Shawn Freeman sees his mission at Quinn’s Bardega, the cafe planned for the Mellen Street Market convenience store, as serving up “style and grace for the blue-collar race.” Quinn’s Bardega, he said, will be “about just serving people who are hungry at a fair price.”

Since buying the convenience store in October, Freeman and Tim Ly, both of Portland, have been working to expand the business. Chantal Do, a business consultant who used to work for her mother at Kim’s Sandwich and Cafe on St. John Street, which closed in 2016, is also part of the team and has already brought back Kim’s locally famous bánh mi to the market.

Freeman, who has worked at Tomaso’s and the now-shuttered Joe’s Boathouse, says the menu will be “a little bit of everything” and is designed to encourage regulars. Appetizers and entrees will be priced from $4 to $15. The cafe will have 35 seats, including about 10 at the bar, and will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“We’re going to have a farm stand at some point,” Freeman said. “Currently we have free-range eggs that come from Porter Farm.”

BÁNH APPETIT

171 Cumberland Ave., Portland

Target opening date: Late May, early June

Years after the inexpensive bánh mi at Kim’s Sandwich and Cafe got Portlanders hooked on the Vietnamese sandwich, it seems to be everywhere. Enter Bánh Appetit, a new eatery that specializes in the sandwich. This place is owned by Tuyet Thi Le, who is part of the same family that started Huong’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Pho Co. and Pho Huong in Portland, and the soon-to-open Melting Pot Variety in Westbrook.

Le will make both traditional bánh mi and weekly special versions. Also on the menu will be banh bao, steamed buns filled with ground pork, cabbage and wood ear mushrooms; and bánh pateso, a savory puff pastry filled with ground pork, mushrooms, onions and paté. Le said she also plans to offer a main course option every day, such as a stir fry with soup and white rice.

WATERING HOLES

BREWERY EXTRAVA

66 Cove St., Portland

If you like Belgian-inspired ales, this new, 5,000-square-foot brewery in “Yeast Bayside” may become your new hangout. It will have a 1,000-square-foot tasting room with outdoor seating and a dozen beers on tap. Doors are scheduled to open in early July, with a grand opening in mid-July.

COCKTAIL MARY

229 Congress St., Portland

This East End cocktail lounge comes from Isaac MacDougal, who has worked as the head bartender at Izakaya Minato in Portland. The target opening date, according to MacDougal’s license application with the city, is June 1.

Grand Central Wine Bar at 7 Railroad Ave. in Gorham will open sometime this summer on the top two floors of a building that’s under development. Photo courtesy of Karen Nason

GRAND CENTRAL WINE BAR

7 Railroad Ave., Gorham

Maine native Karen Nason moved back to the state from New York City to open this wine bar, which will have a spiral staircase, big windows, a baby grand piano and a clock modeled after the one at Grand Central Terminal in New York. The bar will serve tapas and host wine tastings, live music and special events. Nason said construction has fallen behind schedule, but she hopes to open the bar by September.

GRIPPY TANNINS

16 Middle St., Portland

This combination wine shop and tasting lounge from Lindsey B. Murray of Scarborough opened May 8. The company’s mission is “to create a space to learn about and taste small production wines from all over the world before taking them home to enjoy.” The shop and lounge will be open Tuesdays through Sundays, with somewhat different hours.

MAGNUS ON WATER

12 Water St., Biddeford

This 30-seat bar promises “an intimate cocktail bar experience” and a menu with locally foraged ingredients. The four partners in the business include Brittany Saliwanchik and Brian Catapang, who created the original beverage program at Elda, a well-regarded fine dining restaurant in Biddeford. The bar is expected to open in late summer or early fall.

THREE OF STRONG SPIRITS

35B Diamond St., Portland

The city that once had Rum Riots will soon have a new rum distillery. Three of Strong Spirits, in Portland’s East Bayside, is scheduled to open the last week of June. The master distiller is Graham Hamblett, formerly of Dogfish Head Distilling Co. in Delaware. In addition to making its own rum – including a spiced rum with a spice blend created by chef Evan Mallett, owner of The Black Trumpet restaurant in Portsmouth – the distillery will sell aged Colombian rum.

THE WHISKEY BARREL

82 Hanover St., Portland

Portland’s first live country music bar is scheduled to open June 1. The place has already signed its first national act, Carter Winter (he has performed with Travis Tritt), who is playing a gig at The Whiskey Barrel on June 29. The bar is owned by John Ferrara and Dennis Mahoney, both of Medford, Massachusetts, and has a stage, dance floor, 32 indoor seats, a bar that seats 26, and an outdoor patio that seats 40.

SECOND LOCATIONS

ADA’S KITCHEN

642 Congress St., Portland

At the original Ada’s Kitchen in Rockland, the staff makes handmade pizza and pasta. The Portland location will serve Roman-style pizza and fresh pasta in a more casual atmosphere, and customers will be able to buy the restaurant’s fresh pasta to take home. The chef is Siddharta Rumma, who last worked in Portland at Trattoria Fanny, an Italian restaurant that closed in 2017. As of press time, the new location had not yet been issued its city building permit, so owner Jenn Rockwell said it may not open until August.

BLAKE ORCHARD

561 Forest Ave., Portland

This juice bar – the original location is at 19 Exchange St. – has already held a pop-up event in its new Forest Avenue shop, but as of press time had not set a firm opening date (although likely in late May or early June, according to information provided by an employee). Blake Orchard makes smoothie bowls; nut “mylks”; and raw, cold-pressed, nutrient-dense juices, such as the Skin Cleanser, which contains cucumber, pineapple, celery, spinach and lemon. The ingredients are organic, locally sourced whenever possible, and packaged in glass bottles.

LB KITCHEN

231 York St., Portland

LB Kitchen, a cafe at 249 Congress St. that is both popular and good for you, will open a second location in June, this one in the West End. At the new location, co-owners Lee Farrington and Bryna Gootkind are partnering with Stewart and Liz Strawbridge of South Portland, the owners of a new nonprofit integrative medicine community space at the site. The match with the wellness center is no accident: LB’s menu features healthful food such as grain-and-vegetable bowls, salads, smoothies, and dishes made with bone broth.

Po Boys & Pickles is opening a second location this summer, this one in downtown Portland. Photo courtesy of Christopher Bettera

PO BOYS & PICKLES

225 Federal St., Portland

Owner Christopher Bettera said his second location is way behind schedule, and he doesn’t want to even guess at an opening date. When it does open, look for a menu that’s smaller, but similar to the one at the original New Orleans-style sandwich shop, located at 1124 Forest Ave.

QUIERO CAFE

3 Deering Ave., Portland

Quiero Cafe, a casual restaurant in Saco that serves Latin street food, opened a second location in Portland on May 13.  It is open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The menu includes empanadas, tamales, quesadillas and Cuban sandwiches, as well as smoothies, limeades and tropical juices.


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