The most popular restaurants that opened in 2016

Wow, what a year it has been. Although some would say it’s been a rough year socially and politically, at least it's been a pretty swell one for the local culinary scene. Several restaurants opened in 2016, but these are the ones I consider delightful. 


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When the owner of Vinland decided to open an Italian restaurant, many of us weren’t sure what the outcome would be. But then we remembered that trend-wise, 2016 has really been the year of the Italian restaurant. Here in Portland, 2016 brought us Rossobianco — though it's currently closed, reportedly until February. But before their closing, Rossobianco brought much needed Italian food to the West End. Fresh pasta, homemade sauces and a killer wine list made Rossobianco the place to be. Here’s to hoping 2017 brings back Rossobianco and their amazing pastas. 3 Deering Ave., Portland



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Rhum Food + Grog

Portland was in desperate need of something unique and exotic in its bar scene. After all, there’s only so many speakeasy holes and hidden basements that hipsters can go hang out in. 2016 brought something Portland didn't know it wanted until it arrived: a tiki bar. Not just any tiki bar, but a tiki bar owned by restaurateur Jason Loring, a titan in the scene, well known for his popular restaurants Nosh, Slab, and the recently opened Big J’s Chicken Shack on Thompson's Point. Rhum is the ultimate getaway, even if it’s just for a few hours. A raw bar, gorgeous cocktails, and a seriously cool hidden entrance (with octopus doors) help prop up the seafaring, island getaway atmosphere that is Rhum. For those looking for some food to nosh on, their sweet kaya toast is unusual, but will satisfy those that like both sweet and savory dishes, topped with an egg. Magnificent with one of their popular $5 cocktails that can only be found during happy hour (Mon-Fri 4-7 pm). 4 Free St., Portland


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Portland Meatball Company

Italian food has been on our brain in 2016. This past year, a camera store was converted into the Portland Meatball Company, which boasts great food, meatballs, and a surprising amount of bar space. Most importantly, the meatballs are far from ordinary. Their contents range from chicken to beef to duck, even vegan chickpea. Yes, Portland has many award-winning James Beard restaurants, but now the city also has meatballs that make people stop and smack their lips. They are simple but decadent. It comes as no surprise, considering Portland Meatball Company is owned by Noah Talmatch, who also owns Timber and The North Point, two popular establishments that Portlanders and tourists flock to. 104 Exchange St., Portland



Petite Jacqueline

Petite Jacqueline

Portlanders were shocked when it was announced that Petite Jacqueline was closing at the very end of 2015. But in June of 2016, the French bistro reopened, sharing space with their own Patisserie. Petite Jacqueline was formerly housed in Longfellow Square, next to Pai Men Miyake and LFK. After being reopened, Petite Jacqueline’s fans lined up for their burgers, steak frites, boeuf bourguignon, and of course, their legendary chocolate pot de creme46 Market St., Portland



Solo Italiano

One of this year's new restaurants isn't actually all that new. Solo Italiano has been the talk of the town with both locals and food writers for months, but it was once called Ebb & Flow. It seemed like Ebb & Flow would finally break the curse of their space, but instead, it was reincorporated as a true Italian restaurant, Solo Italiano. A new chef was hired, the menu was changed, and now Solo Italiano is infinitely more popular than Ebb & Flow ever was at its height. Classic Italian fare is served, with a concentration on fresh ingredients, original recipes and a welcoming atmosphere. 100 Commercial St., Portland


The Drifter’s Wife

Take a tiny natural wine bar and add an award winning chef and you may find the success of The Drifter’s Wife — but it's very unlikely. Named one of Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants in the country this year, The Drifter’s Wife, with its locally sourced menu, became a hit. 63 Washington Ave., Portland


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Big J’s Chicken Shack

2016 has been the year that Thompson’s Point shine in popularity and a big reason for that is Big J’s Chicken Shack. Not only did Jason Loring open Rhum last winter, but in August also opened the immensely popular Chicken Shack at Thompson’s Point. The Chicken Shack features Nashville style hot chicken, sandwiches, and comfort food sides like mac 'n' cheese, Tijuana street corn, and baked beans. For those that enjoy a little imbibing, Bissell Brothers is located next door, as well as the Cellardoor Winery and Stroudwater Distillery. As the only restaurant on Thompson’s Point, the Chicken Shack has earned the cred of a hip place to eat in any season. Expect it to become even more popular in 2017. 4 Thompson's Point, Portland


Pho Co.

Pho Co.

For those that love noodle soups that warm the soul, there's a very new provider in town. Pho Co. in the Public Market opened this earlier this month and is serving pho, curries, and other Vietnamese classics. In Portland, there's certainly an abundance of places to find ramen, but pho hasn't been quite as popular. Having a central downtown location that serves pho is incredibly convenient for those that live or work in Portland. The broth is big on flavor, and the menu aims to fill up everyone, one meal at a time. And for tea lovers, Pho Co. is serving artichoke tea, which is unusual but naturally sweet. During Maine winters, tea and pho from Pho Co might be the coolest way to stay warm. 28 Monument Sq., Portland

Last modified onMonday, 27 February 2017 13:35