PORTLAND, Maine — The holidays are over. Your Christmas tree is browning nicely on its side in the dooryard. The fruitcake and candy canes are gone. There’s nothing but crumbs in your sugar cookie tins, destined for sewing supply storage.
Here comes the winter blahs — or maybe not.
Looking around social media and local food blogs, there’s enough “now open” and “coming soon” Portland-area restaurant news to keep your taste buds on the edge of their seats, or rejoicing with glee, until the spring flowers bloom. Neapolitan pizza, squash toast, biscuits with gravy and scads-more sushi are all on the 2023 comfy-foodie menu.
Here’s what’s happening.
Night Moves Bread
695 Broadway, South Portland
Former Biddeford bakery Night Moves is slated to re-open on the South Portland waterfront in the spring. Owner and baker Kerry Hanney made a national name with the southern Maine establishment’s savory breads and sweet treats made with local grains milled on site before closing in 2022. In 2020 Food & Wine magazine named Hanney’s bakery one of the country’s best.
“Can a loaf of sourdough have terroir, just like wine? If yes, Kerry Hanney’s would be Maine in bread form — one of the region’s most forward-thinking bakers leans heavily on local grains and mills them herself,” the magazine wrote. “There are a whole lot of bread people out there nowadays, ready to bend your ear about this stuff; the follow-through here is impressive.”
According to Portland Food Map, Night Moves’ new digs will also feature coffee, tea and espresso drinks to go — plus bottles of wine and cider. Home bakers will also be able to snag bags of house-milled grains. The South Portland location is along the city’s greenbelt trail system, and outdoor waterfront seating will be available.
Bake Maine at Portland Pottery Cafe
118 Washington Ave., Portland
Earthenware-themed cafe Portland Pottery is under new ownership and separating from the clay-and-kiln half of its identity. Henceforth, the Washington Avenue venue will be known as Bake Maine at Portland Pottery Cafe.
According to Portland Food Map, new owners Doug and Kristen Perry are doing some light renovation work on the space before re-opening, possibly as early as the weekend. An updated menu will include sandwiches, wraps, toasts and baked goods for breakfast, and soups-and-sandwiches fare at lunchtime. The Perrys formerly operated the 1690 House Bakeshop and Cafe, as well as A Cafe and Bakery. Both were in Wells.
“We will be doing things a little different,” they posted on the old Portland Pottery Cafe Facebook page. “We plan to modernize the menu as well as a few new pastries. We will be bringing lattes, espresso, and cappuccino to you asap.”
That social media account is being given up in favor of a new, Bake Maine-branded version.
According to an Instagram post, Bake Maine at Portland Pottery Cafe will offer the classic North African and Middle Eastern breakfast dish called shakshuka. The zesty concoction features poached eggs in tomato and roasted red pepper sauce with parsley and feta cheese.
The Grill Room
84 Exchange St., Portland
Taking advantage of upper Exchange Street stalwart Swiss Time’s departure this month, woodfired chops-and-seafood purveyor the Grill Room is getting bigger.
According to the Portland Old Port website, Chef Lee Smith Harding is working with city officials on permitting, with a goal of taking reservations by summertime. The expanded restaurant space will include the addition of a raw bar — called the Side Bar — serving oysters, of course.
347 Cottage Rd., South Portland
Mediterranean-inspired Bistro Leluco opened over the weekend in South Portland. The seasonal and local-ingredient heavy eatery also sports a full bar with craft cocktails, wine and local beers. Menu items include a bluefin tuna crudo with burnt orange, squash toast with farmers cheese and octopus with paella rice.
Michele Trizzino and Antonio Rappazzo launched the new venue with chef William Durst. Rappazzo and Trizzino have long hospitality industry resumes and recently moved to the area from New York City. Bistro Leluco is the culmination of their long-held dream of running a restaurant of their own. The name of the restaurant is inspired by the names of Trizzino and Rappazzo’s three children Leo, Lucca and Coco.
Chef Durst hails from Vermont where he worked at Burlington’s Hen of the Woods, and was the sous chef at Prohibition Pig in Waterbury.
George + Leon’s
9 Cumberland St., Westbrook
Roast beef food truck George’s North Shore is moving inside to permanent Westbrook digs, where it will be known as George + Leon’s. A lease has been signed, and the new venue expects to be open by late spring or summer.
“It is time for us to grow into a space for friends and family to come together to enjoy a delicious sandwich and an ice cold beer,” reads a post on Instagram. “Thanks to everyone who has made this dream possible and we will see you real soon.”
Owner and truck operator Logan Abbey opened the initial business in January 2020, naming it after his pet chihuahua-and-pug George. The dog was named for “Seinfeld” character George Costanza. The brick-and-mortar restaurant is adding the “+ Leon’s” in honor of Abbey’s infant son, of the same name.
83 Middle St., Portland
By summer, there will be three places to get a Mr. Tuna sushi fix in Portland. Along with the Market House stall and food truck, co-owners Jordan Rubin and Marisa Lewiecki have announced they’ve leased a good-sized Old Port space on Middle Street.
The new space will feature a revamped Mr. Tuna menu as well as a full bar serving cocktails, sake, beer, wine. Rubin told Portland Food Map the new, 25-seat restaurant will bring his original vision for the business to life. He originally started Mr. Tuna as a food cart in 2017. Mr. Tuna’s public market location opened in 2018.