Open season for new restaurants in Portland

lolita

Springtime in Portland means restaurants are popping like tulips. Or is it lilacs? No matter, new spots Lolita and Timber come out smelling like roses this week. Walking up Munjoy Hill Wednesday night en route to the long-awaited opening of Lolita, the comforting scent of woodsmoke pierced the air.

Inside the vermilion space, formerly Hilltop Coffee, a packed roomful of local media buzzed about. The bar, lined with plates of steak, clams and grilled vegetables, was an asador in overdrive. Loaves of fresh baked bread, looking like a celiac’s nightmare, tempted artistically from a basket on the corner.

“I’ll grill anything and everything that can be grilled,” said chef Guy Hernandez, demonstrating his custom, hand-cranked inferno with a wide smile. guyme

The new act for Guy and wife/partner Stella, formerly of Bar Lola, is anything goes any time of day. The idea is to impart the abundance of a European market. A place that “makes you feel good,” said architect Lauren Reiter, who helped the team express their new endeavor through design. Industrial chandeliers illuminate this exciting space where strangers became fast friends — at least for the night.

“It’s so nice to have people in here,” said Stella, a warm host and Munjoy Hill resident.

Besides a shiny, new meat slicer ready to portion out a smattering of meats such as duck pastrami from Portland and Jamon Serrano from Spain, a hammered, vintage espresso machine caught my eye. Though the owners of Hilltop Coffee, now next door, serve Coffee By Design by day, Lolita has its own blend roasted in Brooklin. We like that.

lolota coffee The mysterious Bucklyn Coffee created a medium roast that, like the restaurant, is designed to “deliver a comforting reprieve from the day’s momentum.”

Judging from the vibe Wednesday night in the sexy, oblong space, they delivered.

Lolita, 90 Congress Street opens next week (no firm date).

Down on The Exchange, mod steakery Timber opened Thursday night by the owners of The North Point. Proprietor Noah Talmatch was holding forth at the bar as a well-dressed crowd dug into aged angus steaks. A piano player tickled the ivories and a beaming lawyer-type with brief case in hand came in to wish him well. Expectlow lights, hand-cut wood wall reliefs and a happy hour that just might make you rethink your evening plans.           timber  

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.