Dean's Sweets helps take the sting out of tax day

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Despite the tumbleweed atmosphere gripping Exchange Street in the Old Port, there is no shortage of new restaurants and bars opening up around Portland.

But first – Dean’s Sweets at 82 Middle St. is giving away truffles. Go in, tell them you heard about the “Tax Day Truffle” offer, and you get a free truffle. The freebie runs through April 15, the deadline for filing income taxes.

The Salt Exchange is going into the space at 245 Commercial St. formerly occupied by the law firm Drummond Woodsum. Charles and Martha Bryon are opening the place, which will focus on “small plates.” A sample menu includes several cheese plates, a rabbit pate dish and lobster risotto. There will be some outdoor seating, too.

The Danforth Inn, long owned by Barbara Ward (nee Hathaway), is switching hands. Kimberly Swan was granted approval Monday to serve alcohol and provide entertainment at the West End inn. The new owner also plans to have a small restaurant.

The Ohno Cafe, 87 Brackett St., has switched hands. Chris Cook sold the popular West End neighborhood hangout in March to Chris Beth.

I haven’t been to Luna Rossa, the new Italian place in the former Pavilion space at 188 Middle Street., but they’re advertising dueling pianos.

Pearl is open at 444 Fore St., the site of several former college-student hangouts, most recently Onyx. Before that it was Liquid Blue and before that, the Better End. The space has traditionally been attached to 446 Fore St., but the new owner split it off and is billing Pearl as a high-end nightclub, with table service and private seating areas. 

Bard Coffee Roasters opened this week at 183 Middle St.

Congress Street has a couple new restaurants: Barava, an African and Middle Eastern eatery, is open in the former Uncle Billy’s space at 653 Congress St. There’s also a new raw (as in not cooked) food place, GRO Cafe, at 437 Congress St., slated to open soon, if it hasn’t already.

The former One-Eyed Jack’s on Commercial Street is now Olive Cafe. It serves breakfast and lunch with a Mediterranean vibe. The cafe is located at 127 Commercial and is run by Rayan and Charlotte Elkhatib.

Restaurant Grace, the eatery under construction at the old Chestnut Street Church, has hired a chef. Eric Simeon, who has worked at restaurants in New York and Philadelphia according to the James Beard Foundation Web site, will be in charge of the kitchen.

In South Portland, Three Brothers Eatery, an Italian place, opened at the former J.P. Thornton’s spot at the intersection of Broadway and Nelson Road. The Maryland-based franchise serves pizza, subs and calzone.

A few other people and places won awards recently:

Christian Gordon, executive chef at the Inn on Peaks Island, was named chef of the year by the Maine Restaurant Association. Gordon’s next kitchen mission for Shipyard Brewing Co. (which owns the inn) is to open a new Sea Dog Brewing Co. restaurant at the old Eggspectations spot at 125 Western Ave. Sea Dog, with locations in Topsham and Bangor, is also part of the Shipyard empire. The new location is expected to open in May.

Chef Will Beriau, chairman of the Culinary Arts Department at Southern Maine Community College, was given a lifetime achievement award by the association for his work as a chef and culinary educator. 

And Hugo’s, at 88 Middle St., got a mention in the national Opinionated About Dining survey. The survey ranks fine dining establishments in the U.S. and Canada. Hugo’s got a rating of 94 out of 100, making it a highly recommended restaurant ranked at the same level as Craft, Daniel and Gordon Ramsay in New York, among several other recognizable names.

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kbucklin-op.jpgKate Bucklin likes to eat almost as much as she likes to shop. She can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or