Lolita, known for simple yet carefully crafted plates of Mediterranean food, is closing in three weeks. Derek Davis/staff photographer

Lolita, a small and worldly bistro and wine bar on Munjoy Hill, will close in three weeks, its owners announced Tuesday.

Guy and Stella Hernandez, owners of the popular restaurant at 90 Congress St., announced their decision to close in a long post on Facebook. The last dinner service will be Sept. 2.

The couple said no one is sick, they are not out of money, and they owe no one – indeed, they say they are having the best summer in the six years the restaurant has been open. So why close? “Because some things really are more important to us right now,” they wrote on Facebook.

“The restaurant has a sneaky way of cutting to the front of the line in life,” they wrote. “It’s the thing that’s on fire (sometimes literally) that draws your energy. It’s been our way of life and it’s been absolutely grand. But now we’re ready for more – more time for us and our family.”

The Hernandezes also own Hilltop Coffee at 100 Congress St.

Lolita was known for its mostly Mediterranean cuisine cooked by executive chef Guy Hernandez and its well-regarded wine list, curated by Stella Hernandez, who is a certified master sommelier. Andrew Ross, the Portland Press Herald’s restaurant critic, recently included the restaurant on his list of the best 75 places to eat and drink in Greater Portland.

The Hernandezes, opened their first restaurant, Bar Lola, in 2006 at 100 Congress St.; they were both trained as architects. In November 2013, they closed Bar Lola, promising its fans they would be back soon with another restaurant. Lolita opened the following spring, with the help of the couple’s new business partner, Neil Reiter, and his wife, Lauren. Lauren Reiter designed Lolita’s interior, which includes reclaimed wood, a zinc bar, and a custom wood-fired grill. The partners said they wanted to create a place reminiscent of an Old World bodega where people gather to share good food and conversation.

The Hernandezes were not immediately available for comment.

Restaurant changes hands

Portland restaurateurs Jason Loring and Michael Fraser have purchased the Congress Bar and Grill, located at 617 Congress St.

Loring and Fraser declined to comment, for now, about their plans for the Portland restaurant. A sample menu submitted with their city restaurant license application includes chicken and waffles, steak frites and crispy pork chops, as well as burgers, salads and sandwiches. According to the application, the new owners expect to be running the restaurant by mid-September. It’s unclear if the restaurant will close for a time before Loring and Fraser take over.

Loring and Fraser also own Hunker Down, a restaurant at Sugarloaf ski resort in Carrabassett Valley. In addition, Loring is a partner in the Portland restaurants Nosh and Slab, and Fraser is sole owner of Roma and the Bramhall Pub, both on Congress Street in Portland.

Congress Bar and Grill, owned by Deb Glanville, opened in the late 1990s and has a wide-ranging menu that includes a variety of sandwiches, sides and casual entrees. Before that, the location was home to Norm’s Bar & Grill.

It’s magically delicious

Leslie Wyman, a cook at Byrnes’ Irish Pub in Bath, is one of 10 regional winners in a national recipe contest for her Lucky Charms Cheesecake. Photo courtesy of General Mills Foodservice

A cook at Byrnes’ Irish Pub in Bath is one of 10 regional winners in a national recipe contest sponsored by General Mills Foodservice in Minnesota.

Leslie Wyman won $5,000 for her Lucky Charms Cheesecake in the company’s Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest, as well as $1,000 to share with a local nonprofit. Wyman chose to donate the $1,000 to the Maine Cancer Foundation in honor of her grandfather, who died of esophageal cancer last year.

The contest also has a social media component. (What contest doesn’t these days?) Through Aug. 16, log onto the General Mills Convenience and Foodservice Facebook page and vote for Wyman’s recipe by “liking” the photo of her cheesecake. The photo that gets the most votes will win an additional $1,000 for charity. As of this writing, Wyman’s cheesecake was running third.

The contest requires cooks to use at least one General Mills Foodservice product in their recipe. Wyman used Gold Medal Yellow Cake Mix and Lucky Charms cereal in her cheesecake.

Byrnes’ Irish Pub is located at 38 Centre St. in Bath, and has a second location in Brunswick. Wyman has worked there since she was 15, starting out as a dishwasher and working her way up to cook. General Mills will celebrate Byrnes’ win at 4 p.m. Aug. 21 at the pub, handing out the winning checks along with samples of Wyman’s cheesecake.

The grand prize winner will be announced on Aug. 26.

Grab a beer to go with that Italian

Joe Fournier, owner of A&C Grocery at 131 Washington Ave., has been approved for a license to serve beer and wine.

Fournier said in his liquor license application that it “hasn’t been easy” for his business to survive after two years of “almost chronic road work” just outside of A&C, which sells grocery items and prepares sandwiches to go. Fournier said city workers have been separating sewer and stormwater runoff lines, replacing the water main, and rebuilding the sidewalks on Washington Avenue. “They were literally pulling out cobblestones and trolley tracks,” he said.

Fournier said his customers have been asking for the opportunity to eat on site and enjoy “an adult beverage,” so he plans to add seating in the form of four picnic tables in front of the grocery. He also plans to get out of the retail grocery business, except for selling a few token items such as farm-fresh eggs and milk. Instead, he’ll concentrate on expanding the sandwich menu and other deli selections. The grocery is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

You might need a map to find MAPS

Portland residents Connor Montello and Truman Leddy are under contract to buy Maps, a basement bar at 64A Market St. in downtown Portland. The closing date is expected to be Sept. 16.

The beer-and-wine bar is known for its eclectic decor, grilled cheese sandwiches, cakes and vinyl record collection. Vikki Walker and her husband, Kyle Tzrinski, opened Maps in 2014.

The new owners plan for the bar to be open from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 4 to 11 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.

Shrimp and pea wiggle, anyone?

Meet Annie B. Copps at a signing for her new cookbook. Photo courtesy The Countryman Press

Nina June in Rockport is hosting a cookbook signing with chef and food writer Annie B. Copps from 2 to 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 24.

Copps, former food editor of Yankee and Boston magazines, is the author of the new cookbook, “The Little Local Maine Cookbook” (The Countryman Press, $14.95). (The book was profiled in the Portland Press Herald July 28.)

Nina June, located at 24 Central St., will serve small bites inspired by the book at the event.

 

 

 

 

 

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