Hero today, gone tomorrow. It’s hard out here for a sandwich shop.
On Monday, Hero, the months old lunch counter, launched as a joint venture from the owners of OTTO and Empire Chinese Kitchen, abruptly closed leaving downtown Portland office workers, addicted to their rotisserie chicken sandwiches and deluxe soups, wondering where their next gourmet feed is coming from.
Open since March, Hero we barely knew ye.
According to Eric Shepherd, OTTO’s marketing manager. “The restaurant simply was not performing well enough to justify keeping it open. We greatly appreciate the loyal and enthusiastic guests who supported us over the past several months, and the employees who worked so hard.”
And In June, the partnership with co-owner Todd Bernard of Empire dissolved, said Shepherd. Bernard sold his interest in the business a month ago.
Executive chef Max Brody, a CIA grad and former resto owner himself, said lunch business was brisk, but the short-lived dinner service never flourished despite an impressive rotisserie and inventive, made-to-order chef-driven fare.
“We had a very good lunch crowd, but it’s difficult to run a business with two and a half hours of service,” said Brody, who took the hit personally calling the closure “humbling.”
Though Hero opened with a bang, the fervor in Maine’s foodiest city was hard to maintain. “There was not enough marketing behind it. We had a lot of momentum out of the gate, but not a sustained, concerted effort,” said Brody, who felt Hero’s story got lost in the fast-changing foodscape.
The chef, new to Portland, plans to stay with the OTTO group and may help owners Mike Keon and Anthony Allen reinvent this key City Center space.
Meanwhile, across town, OTTO’s burrito brother OCHO is temporarily closed. A pending move to Longfellow Square awaits, confirmed Shepherd. In the meantime, Keon and Allen are focused on a new pizzeria off the peninsula.
“Our new Back Cove location, which will be a bit more family-friendly with spacious booths and a private room for gatherings, will be opening later this month. The full-service expansion of OCHO at 190 State St will follow soon after that,” said Shepherd Wednesday.