Updated weekly, this round-up summarizes the latest restaurant news from New England, beyond the borders of Massachusetts — restaurant openings, closures, and more in Portsmouth, Providence, Portland, and elsewhere. (Find the archive of last season’s news here.)
Check back for updates every Tuesday — the most recent ones will always be at the top — and email email@example.com with any tips pertaining to New England restaurant news.
Note: Browse Eater’s New England maps, guides, and more here.
March 3, 2020 — Maine Icon Bob’s Clam Hut Closes Its Newer Portland Location; New Hampshire Restaurant That Maybe Invented Chicken Tenders Wins James Beard Honor; and More
FREEPORT, MAINE — Azure has closed after nearly two decades in business, citing an impasse in lease renewal negotiations. The restaurant served seafood and Italian dishes, and the owners were known for charitable giving and community service.
MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE — The James Beard Foundation has announced its 2020 “America’s Classics” honorees, six restaurants with “timeless appeal.” The foundation has been naming winners in this category since 1998, honoring restaurants that tend to be over a decade old, family-owned, and serving “quality food that reflects the character of their communities.” This year’s group includes Puritan Backroom in Manchester, which serves American and Greek comfort food and claims to have invented chicken tenders in the 1970s. It’s been around for over a century.
NORTH KINGSTOWN, RHODE ISLAND — The team behind West Kingston’s popular Tilly’s Cheesesteaks has a new project in the works in North Kingstown, Tilly’s Town Beach, an all-day diner with drinks. Hiring is underway; keep an eye on social media for updates on an opening timeline.
PORTLAND, MAINE — Vien Dobui (a 2020 semifinalist in the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Northeast award category) and Jessica Sheahan are expanding their acclaimed Vietnamese restaurant Cong Tu Bot’s kitchen by 300 square feet, enabling the team to add lunch service and to produce wheat noodles in-house. Lunch could begin before summer, initially looking similar to dinner. Lunch-only dishes will eventually be added to the menu.
In other Portland news, here’s a sneak peek at a sample menu for Helm Oyster Bar & Bistro, under construction at the WEX building on Thames Street. Get more of an in-person sneak peek at a pop-up event on March 8 at Tandem Coffee on Congress Street.
And in a sad Portland update, Bob’s Clam Hut has closed its Portland location after a year and a half, shifting focus back to its 65-year-old Kittery location. The Maine icon serves fried seafood baskets and sandwiches, burgers, seafood rolls, and other casual coastal fare.
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND — Warren, Rhode Island’s Chomp Kitchen and Drinks is adding a second location, expanding to Providence’s Fox Point neighborhood this spring. The new location will be at 117 Ives St., and yes, the Eagle Super Market sign will be preserved — but its light source has been updated from neon to LED. The second Chomp will feature the same burgers, sandwiches, and such as its big sibling in Warren, but “with a few new twists.” It’ll be open for lunch and dinner daily.
In other Providence expansion news, Bayberry Beer Hall is getting a sibling called Bayberry Garden, opening in fall 2020 at the Wexford Innovation Center. The spacious new spot from owners Tom and Natalie Dennen will seat about 100 inside and 100 outside and will feature full service, a new American menu, and craft beer, cocktails, and wine. Mike Seely — previously the culinary director of Waypoint, Alden & Harlow, and the Longfellow bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts — will oversee food operations at Bayberry Garden. Despite its big sibling’s identity as a beer hall and the “Garden” in the new restaurant’s name, don’t expect a beer garden: The restaurant will resemble a garden with lots of greenery, including around 15 living trees inside the dining room.
ROCKLAND, MAINE — Here’s why a Maine couple opened a Trump-themed coffee shop. It’s named Covfefe Coffee and Gifts, and it’s located in a town that Hillary Clinton won over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, 2,023 to 1,209.
Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Awards.
February 18, 2020 — An Acclaimed Maine Restaurant Will Expand; a Historic Rhode Island Restaurant Is for Sale; and More
BIDDEFORD, MAINE — A popular restaurant will relocate and expand in Biddeford. Elda — which landed on Eater’s 2018 list of the best new restaurants in the country — will take over the second floor of a building on the Pepperell Mill Campus. Owner Bowman Brown has also leased the first and third floors of the building and will bring a bakery and cafe to the ground floor. An additional restaurant with a different concept from Elda will reportedly open on the third floor come winter. Elda may open at the new location in early June.
CHARLESTOWN, RHODE ISLAND — The Wilcox Tavern, Rhode Island’s second oldest restaurant, is up for sale. Owner Mia Byrnes, who took over the restaurant three years ago, also operates Mia’s Prime Time Cafe in Pawcatuck, Connecticut. The building is a historic site, and Byrnes had invested in renovating the space when she took over in 2017.
PORTLAND, MAINE — A new restaurant has opened in the former Local Sprouts Space at 649 Congress St. Dos Naciones serves Mexican and Salvadoran dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with items including fried fish, tamales, burritos, pupusas, and more.
February 11, 2020 — A New Brewery Opens in New Hampshire; Vegan Food Is on the Way to Maine; and More
BIDDEFORD, MAINE — A vegan restaurant called Robin’s Table (420 Elm St.) is slated to open in Biddeford, where it will serve breakfast and lunch and provide cooking classes. Owner Robin Adams previously operated Adams Homestyle restaurant in Salem, New Hampshire. Robin’s Table could open sometime this month.
EXETER, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Sawbelly Brewing (156 Epping Rd.) is now open, serving a lineup of 10 beers plus a restaurant menu from its scratch kitchen. Its beers include IPAs, a kolsch, a New England-style IPA, and more, and the restaurant serves lunch, dinner, and brunch, with dishes like grilled octopus, veggie burgers, and a “grilled pork tenderloin taco feast.”
PORTLAND, MAINE — A restaurant that’s been in the works for a few years is now under construction in Portland. Broken Arrow will take over the former West End Deli space at 545 Congress St., under the direction of owners Holly and Lyle Aker. The planned restaurant will serve dinner, with dishes like steamed mussels, roasted and braised vegetables, pot roast, and meat and cheese selections. The restaurant will seat 47, with a 17-seat bar, and will eventually offer lunch service.
In South Portland, the Farm Stand (161 Ocean St.) has closed as the team of Penny Jordan and Ben Slayton transform the space into Solo Cucina, for which they are partnering with Paolo and Mercedes Laboa, who own Solo Italiano. The Laboas will bring a selection of prepared foods to the market, which will continue offering local foods for sale.
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND — An Andalucian-inspired tapas bar will open at 3 Steeple St. in Providence. The restaurant, Palo, is under construction, and while the project is in its early stages, an Instagram post hints at what the food will be like when it opens: “The food of ‘Al-Andalus’ draws from its unique location between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean, and is rooted in rustic and flavorful preparations.”
February 4, 2020 — A Zero-Proof Tea Bar Opens in Providence; Portland Restaurateurs Expand to Waterville; and More
BRUNSWICK, MAINE — Main Street Steak & Oyster, whose ownership team includes the owners of Yobo in Portland, is now open at 148 Main St. In addition to the namesake items, the new restaurant serves a grilled leg of lamb, burgers, grilled Arctic char, and more.
BURLINGTON AND WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VERMONT — Driving between Boston and Montreal? Here’s one essential meal stop to make in each direction.
PAWTUCKET, RHODE ISLAND — East Providence’s Borealis Coffee Company, a small-batch roastery and cafe, is expanding to Pawtucket early this year, opening a larger roasting space, tasting lab, and training facility. More details to come, but it’s actually a bit of a homecoming for Borealis: A few years back, founder Brian Dwiggins leased space in Lorraine Mills in Pawtucket, where he roasted one day a week before diving into the business full-time in East Providence’s Riverside neighborhood.
And in current Lorraine Mills news, the Miss Lorraine Diner is now open in a 1941 Worcester Streamliner at 560 Mineral Spring Ave., serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, with a full liquor license.
PORTLAND, MAINE — The Knotted Apron is now open in the former JP’s Bistro space at 496 Woodford St., with chef and owner Ryan Hickman — an alum of Chebeague Island Inn, Pine Point Grille, and Arrows — serving a “neighborhood bistro” menu of dishes like braised lamb tagliatelle, carrot risotto, and taleggio gnocchi.
Another new Portland arrival: Big Babe’s Tavern (60 Ocean St., South Portland), a musician-friendly venue — complete with overnight accommodations upstairs — that is now open and serving dishes like poutine, French onion soup, shepherd’s pie, and mac and cheese.
Also in Portland, after 35 years and 37 cheesecake flavors, Izzy’s Cheesecake has closed.
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND — Rhode Island Monthly is featuring a look at Ceremony, a modern tea house and zero-proof bar that opened a few months back in the former Tealuxe space at 231 Thayer St. The business grew out of owner Michelle Cheng’s direct trade tea importing company, Leafy Green Tea. Customers can learn about and sip plenty of teas and snack on Chinese pastries from Sino Box. There are also alcohol-free “wines” — cold brew teas served in wine glasses in red, white, and rose versions — and zero-proof cocktails such as the London Fizz (black tea, chocolate bitters, cinnamon, micro mint, and egg white) and Pink Me Up (salty tomato water, ginger-daikon syrup, peanut orgeat, tonic, angostura bitters).
WATERVILLE, MAINE — Portland Hunt and Alpine Club Owners Briana and Andrew Volk will open a “casual, classic American chop house” called Verna’s All Day at 150 Main St. in Waterville in late 2020, serving “locally-sourced food from farmers” and “classic cocktails.” The business, located in a Colby College-owned building, will also include “a small market and cafe-deli.” (Disclosure: The Volks are occasional Eater Boston freelance contributors.)
January 21, 2020 — Oprah Eats a Lobster Roll in Maine; a Gravy-Themed Restaurant Is Opening in New Hampshire; and More
BIDDEFORD, MAINE — Cocktail bar and restaurant Magnus on Water opened over the weekend at 12 Water St., named for a German philosopher and theologian from the 13th century, Albertus Magnus. The food menu includes barbacoa tacos, chocolate cake, and more. Beverage director Brian Catapang, service and wine director Brittany Saliwanchik, and chef Ryan Nielsen are all alums of Elda, as Portland Food Map reports, and Nielsen is also an alum of the acclaimed Armsby Abbey in Worcester, Massachusetts. (Elda is a Biddeford restaurant that landed on Eater’s 2018 list of the best new restaurants in the country.)
HARPSWELL, MAINE — In her 65 years, media mogul Oprah Winfrey had never tried a lobster roll or set foot in Maine, but that all changed with a recent visit — book club in tow — to the Dolphin Marina & Restaurant in Harpswell to discuss Elizabeth Strout’s book Olive, Again, which takes place in Maine.
“I got to have the first lobster roll I’ve ever had, which, may I say, was the best lobster roll I’ve ever had,” said Winfrey in a video posted to the Oprah’s Book Club Instagram account.
“I think that Popeyes chicken sandwich has some competition,” she added in a post to her general account.
The seasonal Dolphin Marina & Restaurant, which boasts enviable water views, has been around since 1966. The restaurant portion was revamped in 2011 and features 180 degrees of views from its multi-level, many-windowed space. It serves coastal Maine fare, including lobster stew, fish chowder, and more.
PORTLAND, MAINE — Palace Diner co-owner and Rose Foods founder Chad Conley and Rose Foods staffer Josh Sobel, a Philadelphia native, are working toward an early spring 2020 opening for Ramona’s, their Philly-inspired breakfast and lunch shop. One menu item will be a roast pork, broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone sandwich. When it opens, Ramona’s will be located at 98 Washington Ave., the former Flying Fox Juice Bar space.
SOMERSWORTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Seacoast chef Mark Segal, who moved to Portsmouth in 2002, will open a restaurant called, and featuring, Gravy on February 1 in an old rail station in downtown Somersworth (6 Main St.).
“[Gravy] is that common thread,” he told Seacoast Online. No matter where you grew up in America, you’re going to be eating some kind of gravy. It’s that simple item that has that connection for all of us. It’s nostalgic, it’s humble and at the same time, it’s nothing fancy.”
Diners will choose a gravy, a protein or starch, and sides, although pre-set combinations will also be available, such as the Burlington poutine (beer and cheddar gravy with Belgian fries, cheese curds, and apple smoked bacon). Also on the menu: a burger; salads; desserts such as bread pudding and cobblers; beer, cider, and wine; and milkshakes and ice cream floats.
January 14, 2020 — One More Year for a Sustainable Sushi Mainstay; a Nice Philosophy on Croissants; and More
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT — Chef Bun Lai has announced that he will close his longtime sustainable sushi spot Miya’s (68 Howe St.) “at the end of 2020, [with] the deepest gratitude in our hearts to everybody who has carried us along the way ... We chose to close — sooner rather than later — so that my family and I would still be healthy enough to be able to give back more but in other ways.”
On a longer post on the Miya’s Facebook page, Lai added that the restaurant will serve a one-page menu throughout the year — a rotating collection of Miya’s “library of original sustainable sushi recipes” — and the dishes will be priced “as low as possible so that more people will be able to experience something very meaningful that we all created together.”
The restaurant has been open for nearly 40 years, a unique mainstay in a city better known for its pizza and for birthing the hamburger as we know it, and has earned quite a bit of local and national acclaim over the years. Miya’s — which calls itself “the first sustainable sushi restaurant on Earth” — has always focused on serving seafood that is invasive or otherwise sustainable. The seafood is either rated a “best choice” for sustainability by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Environmental Defense Fund or is an invasive species. “The human appetite is one of the most destructive forces the planet has ever experienced, so our recipes strive to be restorative and regenerative,” states the Miya’s menu. (In fact, aside from the seafood and a few other items, the menu is largely vegan.)
Other sustainable options like wild grasshoppers make an appearance on the menu as well. Dubbed “chirpin’ chicharrón,” they come roasted and seasoned with spices and citrus, to be added to any soup, salad, or sashimi.
PORTLAND, MAINE — Roman-style pizzeria Ada’s is now open at 640-642 Congress St., serving lunch and dinner six days a week (closed Sundays). In addition to pizza, there’s pasta (with most options coming in two sizes), meatballs, salad, and a few desserts, including cannoli filled to order.
Speaking of pizza, Portland also has a new bar above Pat’s Pizza, Pie North (32 Market St.), that describes itself as a “speakeasy” arcade bar that “blend[s] retro-themed musical decor and classic arcade games.” The bar offers free play of its games and specials like $2 White Claws.
Also new to Portland: 207 Bar & Restaurant (337 Cumberland Ave.), serving food with African and Caribbean influences. A sample menu from a couple months back included dishes like Kenyan sausages, chargrilled and sauteed marinated goat, a Kenyan chicken curry, and more.
PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Three Portsmouth businesses — Port City Coffee Roasters, Cup of Joe, and Tuscan Market — are participating in an initiative called “Portsmouth Hanging Coffee,” based off the European idea of caffè sospeso (suspended coffe), where customers can pay for an extra coffee to be given to someone in need later.
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND — “The best way to eat a croissant is without guilt. Butter is good for you. Joy is, too.” Just a nice little line from a nice little interview in Rhode Island Monthly with baker Brian Leosz, who owns a croissant-and-coffee bike cart business called Butterbang.