Do your eyes deceive you, or is there activity in the former home of Figa? Indeed, it's hard to miss that something is coming to 249 Congress Street, given the chalkboard message, "Hi, we are working on it." The note is signed "LB Kitchen," and it's the latest endeavor from the chef/owner of Figa, Lee Farrington. She closed her popular Portland restaurant in fits and starts almost three years ago and it's been vacant since, still adorned with a sign of what was. Farrington, the owner of the building, tried to rent the space but gave up after three drawn-out deals fell through, including one false alarm in late 2013.
Now, finally ready for a new project, she and her partner (the "B" in LB Kitchen, who asked not to be named yet due to a work conflict) are renovating the establishment. Follow their progress on the company's Instagram account, and chew on these five tidbits while you wait for an opening sometime between spring and summer 2016:
1) It's a cafe. Look for counter service breakfast and lunch Monday to Friday and some kind of brunch on weekends. What, no supper?
2) Night time is the right time for a monthly dinner series. The two are planning to make the space convertible for pop-up ticketed events once a month, "a combination of chef collaborations and theme dinners." This seems to be a growing trend for female chefs in particular who have families and don't want to be "married to the line and essentially have a child that is a restaurant for the rest of your life," as Farrington's partner put it. Krista Kern-Desjarlais has a similar plan for seeking the elusive work/life balance when her bakery The Purple House opens in North Yarmouth.
3) Bowls are in. "Breakfast bowls, hearty quinoa bowls, salads, maybe also build-your-own," really easy to eat in or take out. Farrington might even bring back her beloved wild boar for a lunch bowl.
4) The food will be "clean and whole." That is, healthy and tasty, food that "tastes great and is great for you." Farrington's partner works in the natural foods industry, which will influence the offerings. Fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, kombucha on tap, a simple coffee program, the aforementioned bowls — there will be vegetarian options, but the concept is "not going to be vegetarian or vegan, so clean is a good term, if maybe not the sexiest."
5) It's globally-inspired. It won't be "entirely local like a Vinland," though "of course as much as we can will be." Think of Figa's menu, which "was globally inspired, a little bit from all over. We feel inspired by the food in Maine but also in Japan, so I think it's hard to put in a little box."