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Hugo's ready to welcome Portland diners after 4-month renovation

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Hugo's ready to welcome Portland diners after 4-month renovation

PORTLAND — Hugo's, the iconic, 25-year-old restaurant at 88 Middle St., is scheduled to end a four-month hiatus and reopen next week.

The restaurant is accepting reservations for dinner beginning Monday, July 8, said Arlin Smith, one of the business' three owners.

Founded in 1988, Hugo's was shuttered in March for renovations. The work includes installing a curved, 18-seat bar for drinks and dining, and an open kitchen that "lets everyone see the process of our cooking," Smith said.

Gone are the wrought-iron wall sculptures, mirrors and confined spaces. "We wanted to break down the walls, and get rid of the formality," he said.

The bar is made with 160-year-old birch that was sourced from the bottom of Moosehead Lake. The lounge also features chairs made by famed Maine furniture-maker Thos. Moser.

The new Hugo's will seat a few less than its predecessor, a deliberate choice to create a more "open" atmosphere, Smith said. But the restaurant will still handle more than 40 diners. The menu is eclectic – drawing from what is "foraged, fished and farmed," with an emphasis on local ingredients, according to Smith.

Smith, along with partners Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, also own Eventide Oyster Co., a popular oyster bar they opened next door in 2012. The rapid growth of that business has allowed the trio to overhaul Hugo's sooner than they expected, Smith said.

Despite the changes and the pent-up anticipation foodies have expressed on the Hugo's Facebook page, diners won't be shocked when they walk in the door next week, he added.

"We just look at this as a needed renovation," he said. "It makes sense for our style of food. In a way we're just being more cohesive with our definition of Hugo's."

Smith, Taylor and Wiley are the third owners of Hugo's. It was previously owned by chef Rob Evans, who won a James Beard Award as Best Chef Northeast. Hugo's was started by chef Johnny Robinson, who named the establishment after his son.

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or whall@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.