There is lots happening behind the brown wrapping paper covering the large front window at 90 Congress Street on Munjoy Hill. More than you ever suspected. There is a cuisine shift occurring – from a former Spanish bistro to a Chinese restaurant.
The take-out at Jing Yan, following an upcoming successful health inspection, will open the day before Thanksgiving; Wednesday, November 25th at 11:00 am. until 10:00 pm. This will be a welcome addition for residents of the area who have been without a quality restaurant on the Hill in recent months. The Front Room and the Blue Spoon have been closed for different reasons for months. Jing Yan replaces the Spanish restaurant , Lolita, that vacated the site last year after a popular run in the neighborhood.
Take-out food will be available until the pandemic is under control and restaurants can open up more fully then they currently can. It’s a small space, seating 30 people. A sampling of the menu will include rice bowls, small plates and sandwiches. Kung cao chicken sandwiches are included on the menu according to owner Britt Langford. Chris Petrillo, an experienced chef, will run the kitchen. Britt worked at the Portland Harbor Hotel and has managed several seafood restaurants in the Portland area.
Curious about why a young woman from Falmouth without a culinary education is starting up an Asian restaurant in Portland, Britt, 31, explained: Out of college, where she was an International Affairs major, Britt taught English to college students in China for six years. During this time, she missed bakery products as she enjoyed them here at home. The Chinese do not use butter in their baking she said. Rather baked goods are oil based. She started a successful bakery that she managed for two years. Then Britt and her Chinese husband decided to return to the US and pursue their shared culinary interest in southern Maine.
This culinary transition isn’t the first one that 90 Congress Street has undergone. Once known as the “concrete bunker,” before it’s current iteration because there were absolutely no windows in the building anywhere; the entire building was home and art studio to Don Ogier, 83, for years. Still a resident of the Hill, he told mhn.com recently that he had a skylight installed in his studio on the right side of the building. He placed his easel right smack underneath the skylight to compensate for the lack of light from the lack of windows. Don, a Fulbright Scholarship winner and college art instructor in Massachusetts, sold the building to Luke MacFayden at one point. Luke wanted to expand his itsby, bitsy coffee shop across Congress Street in the current jewelry business of Willa Wirth.
Luke is the son of a prominent New York architect. Not surprisingly, he completely renovated the “concrete bunker” and added stunning wood paneling from barns around the state that his business partner located. Luke redesigned the front facade of the building adding large front windows and an entry way. There is no resemblance these days to the original concrete wall. For a long-time, Luke ran his much expanded coffee shop in the right side of 90 Congress Street. He always believed that Munjoy HIll needed a coffee shop. Luke also renovated some old buildings on India Street. Eventually, he sold the 90 Congress Street space to Guy and Stella Hernandez and their business partners. Luke moved out of the area to run a Maine farm.
How this post returns to the new Chinese restaurant opening up next week, has me puzzled. Any ideas?!!
For more background information on 90 Congress Street, please visit post herein dated November 16, 2013.