Monday, March 8, 2021

New Restaurants in South Portland, Maine: 2021 Update

It's been just over a year since I published my last look at all the new restaurants opening in South Portland. And so much has changed—between Covid, South Portland's continuing popularity, and surely some would point to the minimum wage increase in Portland (which I whole-heartedly support), many restauranters are headed over the bridge to SoPo. 

The last update detailed the opening of Big Babe's Tavern and three businesses coming soon: Judy Gibson, Solo Cucina Market, and the unnamed Matt Moran project in the old Terra Cotta building. Big Babe's has since closed. Music venues and restaurants have both been hit hard during Covid, and as Big Babe's was both, I imagine it was especially difficult to keep the business going. Owner Ginger Cote listed the building for sale in July and is searching for a new location for the tavern. Big Babe's we hardly knew ye. 

Judy Gibson opened last year on March 4th (oof, that opening announcement video on Instagram is hard to watch knowing what we know now). I went late that evening for some light snacks and a fabulous butterscotch pudding. The restaurant had a great outdoor dining set up last summer/fall, and I enjoyed my birthday dinner there in mid-October. 

Since the outdoor tent has come down, chef Chris Wilcox and crew have been offering a to-go menu of fried chicken and cocktails. I haven't gotten to the fried chicken yet, but this research is bumping it to the top of the list. That chocolate pudding cup is calling my name. 

To the right of Judy Gibson sits the shuttered Uncle Andy's Diner. This business closed last May after 66 years in business as a result of the pandemic. SoPo Seafood is opening a retail seafood operation with a raw bar in the space. You can read more about the details of SoPo Seafood's new venture at Portland Food Map

To the left of Judy Gibson is the shuttered RJ's Pub—another South Portland institution put out of business by the pandemic. Chef Evan Richardson of Eaux in Portland is opening a restaurant in this space that will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner with baked goods in the morning and small plates at night. Richardson says the restaurant will have a Costa Rican and Honduran theme. The opening date is reportedly March or April via PFM

This restaurant row is forming right down the street from Taco Trio, which is opening a second location in Saco. The popular Mexican spot is closed for a while to focus on that project but should open here soon (its Facebook says early March).

Other restaurants in South Portland open for takeout/limited indoor dining over in this area of South Portland include The Snow Squall, Foulmouthed Brewing, Cia Cafe, and Bridgeway Restaurant. If you haven't visited downtown Knightville in a while, come over and check out all the changes. You can reward yourself with an Italian pastry at Solo Cucina and some JG fried chicken. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

First Look at Batson River Brewing & Distilling in Portland, Maine

Batson River Brewing & Distilling opened a Portland location a few weeks ago, and thanks to the pandemic (boo, hiss), I opted for takeout from the restaurant. I did take a quick tour of the new location in Bayside and I'm definitely looking forward to spending some time here once it's safe to do so. 

Batson River opened its first location in Kennebunk's Lower Village in late November 2018. The Kennebunk tasting room is a cozy two-story location with a bar on the first floor, a game room upstairs, and an expansive deck that overlooks the village. I've visited a few times, but my interest was recently renewed when it debuted private, reservable "fish shacks" on the patio this fall. 

These cute shacks are heated and offer a sheltered way to dine out during the pandemic winter. We checked one out on a very rainy Saturday in December when it was so cozy inside with the sound of the rain falling on the roof (and many kudos to the servers who had to dash from the restaurant to the shacks in the rain!). 

The Kennebunk location offers a menu of pubby comfort food and drinks made from its own spirits, as well as its own beers. I enjoyed the fruity bitterness of a Jungle Bird, made with the Dixie Bull Rum rum, Campari, pineapple, and lime juice. 

A few weeks later, I heard the Portland tasting room was ready to open. It's located in Bayside near the bowling alley in a building that was formerly part of the Portland Public Works facility. The renovated space is 9,000 square feet (!!!) with 18-foot-tall ceilings and a huge fireplace. 

All decked out for the holidays, it really made a beautiful first impression, with its manor home/hunting lodge vibe. 

The space has two bars, each serving six draft beers from Batson River and cocktails made with their vodka, gin, rum, and bourbon. There's a large center bar and several larger tables in the front room, with plenty of space to spread out (the capacity right now is limited to 50 people). The backroom has another bar and chairs grouped around low tables. 

Upstairs, as in Kennebunk, is a game room with shuffleboard, foosball, and board games. The games are on hold right now, as everyone is to be seated while in the restaurant, but this will be a really fun space once we can mill about again. 

At home, I enjoyed Nashville hot wings with a dry spice rub (there are also barbecue wings) and a wood-fired pepperoni pizza. The menu also offers pub fare like burgers, a delicious roasted cauliflower dish that we tried in Kennebunk, fries, poutine, and grilled cheese and tomato soup. 

One note: the takeout menu is more limited than the restaurant menu, so make sure you're looking at the right menu before you begin crafting your takeout order. 

We also enjoyed beer and a cocktail to-go (pandemic perk!)—the Cleaves Cove IPA, which was a pleasant balance of malt and hops, and the Snow Day cocktail, a horchata and rum take on egg nog. 

It was so fun to check out a new restaurant! Admittedly, it would have been more fun to cozy up by the fire and have a drink in this beautiful new space. I'll leave it up to you whether you dine in or grab some to-go food from the tasting room, but definitely add it to your list of new places in Portland to explore. 

Batson River Brewing & Distilling | 82 Hanover Street, Portland | 207-800-4680