No two Portland restaurateurs are more dynamic and far reaching than Dana Street and chef Sam Hayward who both helped put Portland on the nation’s foodie map. And now they’re doing it again. This time on the city’s valuable waterfront.
Dana Street, Portland’s most venerable restaurateur (Fore Street and Street & Co.)n and his partners, which include Fore Street chef and co-owner Sam Hayward, have officially announced that their dream of opening a seafood restaurant on Portland’s waterfront is finally being realized.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Street confirmed that the deal was inked recently to lease the space at 68-72 Commercial St., which is physically located on Maine Wharf, in the city’s central waterfront district and adjacent to the Casco Bay Terminal. The two-story building now under renovation will accommodate the restaurant’s approximately 7,000 square foot ground level space with offices above. The dramatic interior has towering ceilings flanked by large casement-style windows overlooking both sides of the wharf with easterly and westerly views. It will seat 144, making it one of the largest restaurants in the city.
It hasn’t been named yet, but Street described it to me as a classic New England seafood house reminiscent of the way fish houses were in the early part of the 20th century as brasserie-style dining rooms. While he didn’t go into much detail about the menu, he offered this: It will resemble the simplicity of Fore Street’s straightforward approach, using the finest and freshest local ingredients. The focus will be on seafood but will also include steaks, chicken, lamb and pork done in the inimitable style of Hayward and his team of chefs. The food will be at once old-fashioned yet contemporary. Picture baked scrod served with New England succotash or brilliant skillet potatoes in cream, classic corn bread and real clam chowder made with pork belly in a rich, milky broth. All that and flashbacks to the classic dishes from their former Scales restaurant could add up to some mighty fine dining.
Next door to the restaurant space is Street’s Upstream Trucking, a seafood company co-owned with George Parr, who is their fish forager and manager. In addition to its wholesale operation, it will have a small retail fish shop open to the public.
If you believe in the verisimilitude of six degrees of separation, the parties involved in this venture have come full circle. Street and Hayward’s much-loved Scales Restaurant that was in the old Portland Public Market building until around 2006 got gobbled up in a Byzantine real estate deal when the Libra Foundation shed its downtown holdings, which included the public market that housed the restaurant. Investor Stephen Goodrich bought the building for his company, Power Pay, of which he was CEO. He sold the company (but still retained the real estate) and ultimately purchased the Maine Wharf last year from Eric Cianchette, owner of the Portland Regency and countless buildings in the Old Port and elsewhere. Goodrich is now landlord to Street and his partners.
Whether all this signifies Portland’s penchant for networking deals, one thing is clear: It looks like we’ll have another great restaurant to put on our reservation list. Look for a 2015 opening date sometime in the summer.