Is Portland running out of restaurant space?



The third restaurant for Shannon and Tom Bard is not the charm — yet. The owners of Zapoteca in Portland and Mixteca in Durham, N.H. planned to open Toroso last fall in the Schwartz Building in Portland’s Congress Square. Now they are moving on.

“I wasn’t able to create an open-kitchen that was accessible to the people,” said Shannon of her “high-end, contemporary Spanish” work-in-progress.

After more than two years of considering the boarded-up historic, clocktower manse, Bard said the light-filled, 20-foot-high soaring space with massive windows wasn’t able to accommodate their plans.

Under this graffitied scaffolding at the corner of High and Congress streets, the pair was set to create a “noisy, vibrant and busy,” Madrid-type restaurant Tom said last April. The hotspot would have further cemented the square’s status as a vibrant hub on the rebound.

The building’s interior was to be lovingly restored to reveal marble and exposed girders, said Tom. Smack dab in a busy nexus across from the Westin and Portland Museum of Art, this would have been a showpiece.

Now, the search continues. The Bards are committed to the concept and Shannon envisions toggling between Zapoteca and Toroso on foot. She returns to Spain this year for more intensive tapas training.

“This will be a great spot for another restaurant,” said Shannon. But there is no telling how much $$ a prospect would have to sink into the space.

The couple live in Kennebunk and are not ruling out other communities for Toroso. “We’ve had a few prospects in other towns,” said Bard.

Meanwhile, the space vacated by Mesa Verde around the corner on Congress Street has been empty for almost a year. Will the Bards downsize, hold out for the perfect Portland spot, or take their concept South?

Is Maine’s foodies city running out of workable restaurant space??

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.