Expanding on the brand, Portland dining is gearing up for stylish dining where hayseeds take a back seat to urban swells coming through the front door. But all are welcome!
Along with the glories of springtime is the spate of the season’s new restaurant openings in Portland. In number and scope these could rival last year’s slew of top contenders and pop more James Beard Awards. After all, they get can’t enough of us in New York’s food world since the latest buzz from our newly trendy hotels along Portland’s boulevards is that they’re racking up reservations from visitors panting for a taste of America’s smallest foodie town delights.
Of the 20 or so new establishments gearing up, here’s a briefing on those nearly ready to open. Bear in mind that many are still in construction phase and not up to visual snuff yet.
Honey Paw, 78 Middle St. Egads! They’ve taken over the street. Hugo’s, Eventide and now Honey Paw — don’t you just love the name — is nearly ready to open. I stopped in on Sunday and co-owner Arlin Smith was arranging bottles at the bar. Seating is one big communal sit down: dining bar at the windows, middle bar for dining on both sides and then the bar facing the bar itself. Unless you’re a devout low-carb freak, it’s a menu for one and all of infinite variations on noodles. And get a load of the kitchen. A masterpiece in full view. Probably opening within a week or two.
Terlingua, 52 Washington Ave. While this byway that connects Congress to 295 won’t win awards for urban good looks, it’s slowly but surely hitting a more gentrified stride. Terlingua will cast a welcome glow along the street even if the name refers to a ghost town in Texas. The menu is heavily Latin-influenced barbecue with pretty tempting dishes beyond smoke and mirrors of rubs and sauces. I’m looking forward to this one with its Latino-Tex-Mex flavor profile. At least a month or two before opening.
Figgy’s. 4 Walker St. You’ll find me first on line to enter this thoroughly unique offering for Maine palates with its take-out menu of southern food — in my opinion, the only true American cuisine. The specialty will be southern fried chicken with all the fixings plus other dishes for take out to have a meal of home cooking at home. At least a month away from opening.
Crooners and Cocktails, 90 Exchange. This bills itself as an old-fashioned cocktail lounge, a notion that conjures up a sultry jazz vocalist at the piano, singing in a dazzlingly dark space as soignee patrons canoodle on tufted red-leather banquettes. Dream on! Besides some fashionable cocktails there will be an appropriate dinner menu. This will all be interesting — or not! At least a month or two away from opening.
Tempo Dulu, Danforth Inn. We all know this is going to be the be-all and end-all of stylish Asian dining brought to us by the Camden Harbour Inn hoteliers who’ve transformed the Danforth Inn, in which the restaurant will be housed, into an uber Euro-style stash of posh. Chef Lawrence Klang will preside in the kitchen. But will there be maître d’s in white jackets shuffling you in to dine? About a few weeks away from opening.
Press Hotel-MC Union, 390 Congress. Not only will this lodging venue emerge as New England’s most stylish hotel north of Boston, but situated right across from city hall, you can get hitched there and skip across the street for the wedding dinner. More than that it will most likely become Portland’s hangout for the elite to meet, drink and dine with former Arrows restaurant stars and award winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier offering a menu of New American renditions of glorious food. At least a month — or more — away from opening.