Full Belly Deli reopens in the Old Port

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“Yes!” “Yes!” “Yes!” The immortal words of Meg Ryan, shouted while noshing on a sandwich at Katz’s Deli, are ringing through Portland this month with the news that the Full Belly Deli is reopening.

In January, owners of Portland’s authentic Jewish deli said their days were numbered. So after 28 years on Brighton Avenue they made their last Reuben and called it a day. But some things are too good to walk away from.

“We are coming to the Old Port,” co-owner Jim Meserve said with pride this week.

The owners have not officially confirmed the exact location where your next pastrami on rye is coming from, but are leaning heavily toward the corner of Fore and Market streets. The storefront, in a historic brick building on the same block as Bull Feeney’s, was last occupied by Orange Leaf frozen yogurt. A May 1st opening is slated.

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Coldcut corner. Potential new location for Full Belly Deli, 263 Fore St.

“We are talking with a lot of landlords,” said Meserve. “No one does what we are doing. There are very few places in the country that do what we do.”

From corned beef, to Reubens, to tongue sandwiches (that’s right), smoked and cured in house, the deli fills more than bellies, it reignites the dream of dill pickles, hold the mustard, schmear and a side of potato salad. Big City food for here or there. “There used to be 3,000 Jewish delis in this country, now we are down to 150,” he said.

Hardly a tragedy in the Old Port, where edible options abound, but a void filler nonetheless. “There are a lot of places to grab a burger. We are offering macaroni and potato salad, pickles spears, knishes,” said Meserve. “People love it.”

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Order up. Hope your belly is empty.

Full Belly 2.0 will add delivery, catering and deli sandwich kits for boat, beach or picnic. Styrofoam grab-and-go coolers will be packed with a pound of cheese, pastrami, corned beef, pickles and a loaf of bread for your next shindig. “Everything is custom and handmade,” said Meserve, including matzo ball soup.

The Full Belly survived by its worth-the-trip smoked meats piled high between signature marble rye, its proletarian atmosphere and pluck. But the far-flung location, miles from the heart of the city, was starting to take a toll.

“It was a successful location for over 20 years,” said Meserve.

Still, newcomers to the mini strip mall were hard to come by. By landing squarely in the Old Port, “we will still get the regulars and will be able to attract tourists,” he said.

I’ll have what she’s having!

Look for an update this week on exact FBD location.

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.