New, Novel and Noteworthy
Bagels, coffee, oysters, ice cream, Latin fare and star chefs are all elements of the new dining and food establishments that will arrive on Portland’s shifting culinary landscape in the weeks ahead. Let’s see who will survive and who might not.
Three restaurants are already headliners in a race to open in this competitive field. Eventide, which I wrote about here (April 9, “The New Masters at Hugo’s”) is the ongoing brainchild of the new owners of Hugo’s. As of now it’s still under construction with an opening scheduled for late June as Portland’s first full-fledged oyster bar.
Nearby, Spread, at 100 Commercial Street, is scheduled to open on or about June 1. The space has been an ill-fated one for the two prior restaurants: Oolong, the erstwhile Asian eatery and Gaucho Charruscaria, part of an Argentinian steak-house chain, which was an unmitigated flop.
Spread, however, could be the tide turner. It’s owned by Jung Hur, longtime head chef of Fuji and it will feature New American bistro fare. But the kicker here is the provenance of its cooking team. The three chefs manning the stove are Brandon Ruble, formerly of Petite Jacqueline, Derek Federico, formerly of Five Fifty-Five and San Francisco transplant Chris Long, who was the executive chef at the highly regarded Eos in San Francisco after his tenure at the renowned Charlie Trotter's in Chicago. This is surely a team to watch
A quick glance at the upcoming menu features a fusion of flavors: pan seared stripe bass with white miso, grilled flatiron steak with charred radicchio, cilantro and mole, lobster sliders with tarragon aioli, lemon and chervil and glazed Cornish hen with soba noodles, ginger and peanuts to name a few.
Another star chef comes to Portland in the guise of Carmen at the Danforth. Chef Carmen Gonzalez was lured to Maine from Florida by her long-time friend, Kim Swan, the hotelier (The Danforth and the Pomegranite) and real estate honcho (Swan Sotheby’s International Realty).
The inn, a historic Georgian Revival mansion and one of the grandest in the city, has ransformed its principal first floor rooms into three beautifully appointed dining rooms. Cocktails are served in the main salon before diners segue to the three beautifully furnished dining rooms.
Gonzalez is renowned for her Latin-inspired cooking that merges an American sensibility with the bold flavors of her Puerto Rican roots.
The restaurant opens this Friday and it promises to be one of the most luxurious dining spots in town. It will serve dinner nightly and a Sunday brunch.
The Union Bagel Company is the latest upstart food company to hit the Portland peninsula. These are bagels made with organic flour and for now are being baked in the basement community kitchen at the Public Market House.
You can buy them at K Horton’s at the Public Market as well as Local Sprouts, Holy Donut and Crema. I had one at Crema, Portland’s newest coffee emporium that’s housed in a dramatic warehouse style space at 9 Commercial Street. I found the bagel a bit chewy and dense, though it had nice sour-dough overtones. Union Bagel is striving to merge organic methods with a New York bagel mantra. I failed to see the similarities. For now the best locally sourced bagels come from Scratch Baking and the Rosemont Market.
For those who need yet another ice cream shop in which to lick and slurp, Captain Sam’s at 136 Commercial is a family run business that opened recently just in time for the tourist throngs who lick and slurp perambulating down Commercial Street. It’s owned by husband and wife team Karen Morgan and Lindsay Scott. There are 16 flavors of ice cream made on the premises and the flavors will change regularly
Another new eatery in the works is Sebastian’s, at 339 Fore Street, a space that has seen many restaurants come and go. There’s a big Shipyard Brewing banner in the window next to the Sebastian’s logo, a tip off that this will be a casual beer and burger hangout. I peeked inside and it looks nice enough with the usual accoutrements. As they say in the trade TBD.
John Golden makes no bones about sharing his opinions. If you'd like to share yours, email him at email@example.com