Is Scarborough the new Margaritaville?

el rayo cheryle

Cheryl Lewis, chef.

The final coat of paint is being applied. Floral picnic benches wait in the wings. In the giant open-kitchen, a vat of tamales will soon appease hungry suburbanites. Rejoice Portland outlanders, El Rayo Taqueria has landed in your hood.

Long a beloved Portland staple at the corner of High and York streets, the Mexican cantina takes its show south to ply Maine’s fastest growing community Scarborough with spice and top-notch tequila. Throw in a festive Sunday brunch and Maine-made tortillas and the Route 1 strip between SoPo and Saco no longer seems like a culinary wasteland (sorry Anjon’s).

el rayo kitch

The bar where killer margs will be served.

“It’s been a long haul,” said a beaming Cheryl Lewis, in her sparkling new kitchen as workers milled about this week.

Turning the former Cumberland Farms into a tasteful 4,200-square-foot contempo cantina, El Rayo raises the bar for more than bar food.

“We will have ribs, tlayuda, which is basically Mexican pizza, and huevos rancheros on the weekends,” said Lewis, executive chef. “It’s meant to be fun and delicious.”

And speaking of fun, have you tried their margaritas? Happy hour may be dangerous on this pedestrian unfriendly strip, so drink like you have to drive home.

Since Lewis, who opened Aurora Provisions in Portland’s West End in 1998, has a knack for retail, the Scarborough outpost will carry sauces, cheese and locally milled tortillas from Tortilleria Pachanga. A takeout area will be jammin this summer.

el rayo bar

The stunning wood bar at El Rayo south.

“It’s great to be out here,” said Lewis, a Pine Point resident who rides her bike through a marsh to get here. “It is astonishing how many people, a lot of my contemporaries, live here.”

The word is out, it’s OK to live off the peninsula. Now those of us that do have a headquarters worthy of (if not better) than Portland. So when does El Rayo South open? “When we are ready,” said Lewis, whose wink and nod signaled next week!

Look for live bands, an outdoor deck ensconced by trees, and eventually an urban garden. Ole!

El Rayo, 245 Route 1, Scarborough.

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.