Summer in Maine is a short window. It’s a time to slow down, get outside and soak up the warm weather before it inevitably disappears just a few months later. It’s also a time to give your oven a rest and sample some of the newer eats that are popping up around town on a weekly basis, and there’s plenty to look forward to.
Not sure where to start? Here are a handful of spots to check out right now, as well as others slated to open in the coming months.
Those who look back fondly on pre-theater dining experiences at BiBo’s Madd Apple Cafe (23 Forest Ave.) will need to revisit the space sooner than later, as it now houses a Korean-focused venture called Yobo. Husband-wife duo Sunny Chung and Kim Lully are bringing traditional Korean cuisine with a twist to Portland, serving up satisfying bowls of bibimbap alongside plates of tender short ribs and local Maine unagi.
Yobo | 23 Forest Ave., Portland | Tues-Sat 5-9:30pm | 207-536-0986
Though barely off the ground, Lazzari has already proven itself with a signature take on wood-fired pizza you won’t find anywhere else in town. The sausage and onion pie with house-made ricotta and rosemary is a perfect introduction to the menu, but don’t skip the highly-addictive, popcorn chicken-like fried olives. Oh, and they have a soft serve machine.
Lazzari | 618 Congress St., Portland | 11 am-1 am | 207-535-0368
Luis's Arepera & Grill
Though having made the relocation from Saco to Forest Ave. quietly and with little fanfare, Luis’s Arepera & Grill is serving up solid Venezuelan, which isn’t exactly abundant in Southern Maine. The arepas are the stars of the show here — thick corn tortillas fried golden-brown and stuffed with a variety of meats and vegetables. Grab a side of avocado sauce, and you’ve got yourself a beyond-solid lunch.
Hakka Me is traditional Cantonese food on wheels, and it’s a beautiful thing. With barely two weeks under its feet, this brand new addition to Portland’s growing fleet of food trucks is serving up heaping portions of Chinese sticky rice, long beans in garlic sauce, ginger chicken and more delicious dishes for criminally low prices. Find them on Spring Street for lunch during the week.
Hakka Me | hakkame.com | 207-583-5743
Another mobile temple of culinary delights, Thainy Boda — the vehicular incarnation of Boda’s brick and mortar — feels like a necessary addition to the city streets. Quail eggs? Check. Skewers? Oh, yeah. It’s (mostly) everything you love about Boda, possibly outside of your apartment right now.
Thainy Boda | www.thainyboda.com | 207.766.6616
Casco Bay Creamery
Ice cream on the waterfront? Yes, please. Casco Bay Creamery lives within a tiny renovated railroad ticket booth on the Eastern Prom Trail onced owned and operated by the Narrow Gauge Museum and Railroad. Open 10am-10pm seven days a week, this family affair is serving up twelve flavors of Maine’s classic Gifford’s ice cream. Did we mention waffle cones?
OPENING THIS SUMMER
Piccolo owners Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Lopez are bringing their very own incarnation of Spain to Portland’s West End this summer in the form of Chaval. Located in the space previously occupied by Caiola’s, Chaval promises a casual atmosphere with top-notch service and thoughtful, inspired takes on Spanish cuisine from two of the city’s most talented and personable chefs.
Chaval | 56 Pine St., Portland | www.chavalmaine.com
Andrew and Briana Volk (of Hunt and Alpine) are preparing to imminently open the restaurant portion of their West End curated neighborhood store Little Giant. With a kitchen helmed by Boston chef Rian Wylllie, The 60-seat eatery will feature New England-influenced European cuisine and should serve to be an exceptional addition to Danforth St. this summer.
Little Giant | 211 Danforth St., Portland | www.littlegiantmaine.com
Cong Tu Bot
Inner Washington Ave. continues to grow as a food-crawl destination, and you can add Cong Tu Bot to the list of outstanding boutique eateries on this dense little stretch of road. East Enders in search of heaping bowls of Vietnamese pho will no longer have to leave the neighborhood come summer, and Cong Tu Bot’s menu boasts items (like Saigon flan w/ coffee ice) you won’t find anywhere else in the area.
Cong Tu Bot | 57 Washington Ave., Portland | Thu-Mon 5-10 pm | http://congtubot.com/
Anyone who has been to a Noble Barbecue pop-up dinner at Oxbow’s Portland location knows that these people are serving up the real deal. Think house-smoked pork and brisket, spit-fired chicken and mac n’ cheese (spiked with jalapeños) tasty enough to give Salvage’s already excellent BBQ a run for its money. This sandwich-focused eatery is slated to open in early July at 1706 Forest Ave.
Noble Barbecue | 1706 Forest Ave., Portland | 207-299-6995
Tao Yuan and Bao Bao’s Cara Stadler is getting ready to embark on her third restaurant opening this September, appropriately located at 3 Spring St. Lio will be inherently wine-centric, though very much a restaurant as opposed to being a simple wine bar. According to early press, the menu will be highly inspired by seasonality and created with wine pairings top-of-mind. The space was previously occupied by Styxx, an LGBTQ nightclub which closed in January after being in business for 30 years.
Lio | 3 Spring St., Portland | 207-899-9379
Those who spent time at the Roma Cafe in the West End (above the modern-day incarnation of the Bramhall) prior to its closure in the early 2000s remember what was in many ways a different Portland, and a much different dining scene in the city. Under new ownership, the Roma Cafe will rise again this August, promising Italian wines, classic cocktails and a true-to-form Italian-American menu. Fingers-crossed it brings a touch of the “Old Portland” back to life.
Roma Cafe | 769 Congress St., Portland