A former stationery shop on Free Street is getting the El Rayo touch. By the end of July, tacos and tequila replace pens and paper at El Rayo’s new Portland taqueria in the heart of the city. Underneath soaring tin ceilings a work crew is adding the Mexican restaurant’s eclectic zing to the refined space.
“There is going to be a nice view from the deck. It will go up quick,” said owner Tod Dana, on a tour of the 40-seat raised deck about to be built over four parking spots out back.
Known for turning funky old spaces, like a gas station on York Street and a Cumberland Farms in Scarborough, into cool, laid-back, eateries, the team will add panache to this brick building in a neighborhood on the move.
Bar in progress
“After being slightly outside the downtown, we are right in the mix,” said Fisher, who is thrilled to be able to serve a new wave of office workers from City Hall to startups to artists and skateboarders. “There is a movement happening on Lower Free Street with Rhum, Sur Lie and the new home of Maine Surfer’s Union. We hope to join together and do some cool things.”
Grab and go breakfast burritos, frittatas, fruit and Carrabassett Coffee will soon be the new a.m. grog. A take-out counter will face customers when they walk. Made of the same stunning Indonesian wood in Scarborough, it wraps around to a classic bar seating 20. There will be room for 20 more in the rear, making this a slimmer, more uptown El Rayo.
“We plan on expanding our tequila list and lunch options,” said Dana.
Soup and salads to go or deck side takes the mid-day nosh options in the Old Port up a notch. And at night, El Rayo’s proximity to the Cross Insurance Arena will come in handy. “Imagine going to a Billy Joel concert and coming back for some margaritas here,” suggests Fisher.
Sounds like a plan. El Rayo, 26 Free St., Portland.