SERIOUS BREAKFAST Will Scratch get some new competition?
The events of the last decade have spoiled our taste for speculation. This aversion to speculation seems likely to affect the Portland food scene in the coming year. Notable upcoming developments will focus upon the safe and familiar — reopenings, spinoffs, and sandwich joints.
There is no easier way to win hearts than to assemble a terrific sandwich. Sandwiches are so easily elevated by transcendent bread (easily found here in Portland) and a few quality ingredients that it is incredible so many go wrong. With plenty of newly opened or opening cafés, delicatessens, and sandwich shops, at least a few have got to get it right. A likely candidate is the FRENCH PRESS, out in Westbrook. It was recently opened by the guys from Uffa and the Frog and Turtle, and they seem likely to take making good sandwiches seriously. The French Press should be a good breakfast spot too, since they serve a variety of fresh, warm donuts. Even bad donuts are good when they are warm, and based on the Frog and Turtle's donuts, these are not going to be bad donuts. Rumor also has it that they are taking the breakfast sandwich as seriously as the folks at Ohno Café, 158 Pickett, and Scratch.
Closer to town there will be plenty of new places to try sandwiches et cetera in the new year: downtown, the NOSH BAR (where the White Heart used to reside) is calling itself an "upscale delicatessen." The PICNIC BASKET (right near Pat's Meat Market on Stevens), and Po' Boy on outer Forest will cover the farther reaches of town and the ZETA CAFÉ is new to South Portland.
Another trend will be reasons to return to classic Portland restaurants. WALTER'S has moved from its tight Exchange Street space to what looks to be a roomier spot in the TD Bank building. The cuisine at Walter's tends toward experiments with unusual combinations of ingredients. But the restaurant, which is old enough to have been present at the birth of Portland's era of good food, has become a comfortable and familiar local institution. Walter's did fusion food before it was a trend, and kept it up long after. But if the tone of the menu changes with the new location I will not be surprised.
Meanwhile another established downtown restaurant, KATAHDIN, is moving farther off. Katahdin has been best loved for its excellent martinis (and welcoming bar banter) and was a great spot for a drink and snack downtown. In moving a ways out on Forest Avenue, Katahdin will probably need to change its reputation from a place to drop by for drinks into a dinner destination. South Portland's SNOW SQUALL, closed for many years, was recently refurbished and reopened. The old version offered traditional New England cuisines in comfortable décor.
The new year will also bring spinoffs of several successful Portland ventures. The Beans of Maine, who have done pretty well for themselves, will be serving LOBSTER ROLLS ON EXCHANGE STREET. SIANO'S PIZZERIA did not strike me as the most likely candidate to expand when it opened in Deering a few years back. But nonetheless it will take over Una's old space to open its third location and first downtown. On the more upscale side of things, HAVANA in Bar Harbor will bring its good reputation to a new Portland location.