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Woodford Food + Beverage, Portland

Woodford Food & Beverage

Tucked into the Back Cove of Portland, Maine on Woodford’s Corner is a crown-shaped diner. A soft glow emanates from its picture windows. Inside, a young family snuggles into a corner booth, munching on burgers and fries. A grey-haired couple slices into their steaming plates of swordfish steak and baked stuffed lobster. A troupe of hip 20-somethings gathers at the bar as the mustachioed bartender prepares their hand-crafted cocktails. Vinyl records accompany the sound of the cocktail shaker and warm conversation. 

Craft Cocktails Portland

Woodford Food & Beverage (or Woodford F&B) is at the nexus of Woodford Street, Deering, and Forest Avenue. It’s the focal point where the neighbors of Portland come together.

Birch Shambaugh and Fayth Preyer came to the neighborhood in 2007 from Brooklyn to start their family. When they spotted the unusual building that housed a mortgage company at 660 Forest Avenue, they immediately thought “that should be a…”

Woodford F&B Portland

The couple did some digging and discovered that 660 Forest Avenue was the site of the very first Valle Steakhouse, built in the early 1940s. In the post-prohibition era when the steakhouse was built, Woodford’s Corner was a vibrant and bustling neighborhood epicenter, and Valle’s was the place to go for family celebrations, graduation, prom.

Valle's Steakhouse Portland | Woodford F&B

Donald Valle would go on to open 12 more restaurants along the eastern seaboard. His menu featured surf and turf favorites like prime rib and lobster, and at one point, Valle’s sold more lobster per week than anyone else in the country.

A fire damaged the first Valle’s Steakhouse at this location in the 1950s, and the current building was erected shortly thereafter in the shape of a crown to match the Valle’s iconic logo. The building eventually became Valle’s Main headquarters until the turn of the 21st century when it was taken over by a mortgage company.

Woodford F&B Front Window
Logo by Portland design firm Might & Main

Flash forward to to 2007. Birch and Fayth, seeing the building’s potential, write regular letters to the owner for years until, in 2014, the mortgage company goes belly up. “I got a phone call almost two years ago now, out of the blue, and he said, ‘well, you are persistent. Are you still interested?’” With his 6-week-old son in one arm and his phone in the other hand, Birch looked at Fayth, and Fayth looked at Birch and they just knew they had to take the leap.

Diner and Brasserie Portland

On a truly dismal February day, the couple entered the building for the first time. They sat on some folding chairs, surrounded by eerily empty offices, wires hanging like jungle vines, gnarly carpet and a busted fax machine and watched the bustling traffic through the giant picture windows.

Portland Diner and Brasserie

“There was a cognitive dissonance between the flurry of activity out there at this notoriously crazy intersection and how deceivingly calm it was in here,” says Birch. “It really took nothing more than that for us to know we’d made the right decision.” The two pulled their friend and chef Courtney Loreg into the fray and began their transformation.

Birch Shambaugh, Co-Owner of Woodford F&B
Birch Shambaugh, Co-Owner of Woodford F&B

Their goal was to create a cross-section where American roadside dining meets traditional brasserie with a touch of old-school lunch counter– and that’s exactly what the place evokes, centered around the long wraparound counter that welcomes diners by day and transforms to a chic bar by night.

Craft Cocktails in Portland

The space and all its angles presented some challenges for Birch and Fayth, but they decided to embrace the unique design quirks, starting with the ceilings lined with the original fir planks– the same color now as they were 50 years ago. “We loved them up a little bit and all of a sudden realized what a warm glow they provided,” says Birch.

Hipstorical Restaurant Portland Maine

Then, during the building’s demolition, they pulled up four inches of adhesive, flooring, and carpet to find the floor of their dreams in the terrazzo tiles that they lovingly restored. The ceiling and floor were the first pieces of the puzzle that helped inform many of the other design decisions that followed.

Woodford F&B's Welcoming Staff
Woodford F&B’s Welcoming Staff

It’s clear upon visiting Woodford F&B that great thought went into every detail of reimagining this unique and welcoming place, and Birch confirms that assumption. “I can’t tell you how long we labored over what the finish of the tile was going to be,” he says, “but ultimately it was clear as a bell to us that it should be a matte finish on big, square tiles.” It took the team two months to arrive at that decision.

Best food in Portland Maine
Some serious Deviled Eggs

The zinc counter top reflects the glowing sconces behind the bar, another detail designed by Birch and inspired by the linestra light fixtures developed in the 1950s as lighting for movie stars’ makeup mirrors.

Hip Diner Portland, Maine

An old IBM clock above the counter takes you back to the last day of elementary school, when you watched the second hand with anticipation as it ticked its way around to summer. Birch bought several clocks before he found the perfect one.

Best Burger in Portland Maine

The same thought and themes that went into the restaurant’s design also, unsurprisingly, went into creating the menu. Chef Courtney’s menu breathes new life into old comfort food favorites and regional dishes like deviled eggs and baked stuffed lobster, with a few odd balls in the mix to keep you on your toes. “The process of resuscitating some of these things and putting a little bit of our own spin on them reflects what we’re trying to accomplish in the physical space, says Birch. “We try to bring out the best in a dish that belongs in this environment.”

Steak Tartar Portland Maine
Steak Tartar

The result of all this thought and detail is an unpretentious neighborhood place with a very special energy. A place where you can have a burger and a beer at the bar after work and the same place where you go with your family and friends to celebrate with champagne and oysters.

Foie Gras Portland, Maine
Woodford F&B’s Foie Gras


Could this be a sign of a speeding up of change in this neighborhood? “Sure,” says Birch. “But what I see when I look around is vitality and life in a space that didn’t have it before.”

That rebirth and vitality is only possible because of the vision of Birch and Fayth. It all started that fortuitous day in 2007 when they spotted an old, stuffy mortgage building that most locals drove by each day without a passing thought.

Patrons at Woodford F&B in Portland

“Sometimes there’s a kind of epiphanous, eureka moment, with old buildings in particular,” says Birch. “There’s a smidgen of foresight, but often it’s as much luck and timing. And if and when it comes to fruition, sometimes it can be truly magical.”

Suggestions for more hipstorical places in Portland? Email me and help me build my archives!

Press Hotel, Portland

The first time I visited Portland, Maine two years ago, the old Press Herald building appeared to be an abandoned building, sitting sad, lonely and retired at the corner of Federal and Exchange Street. Just a year later on my next visit to this vibrant city, the beautiful old building had experienced a restoration and resurgence like no other, making it perfect for my first Hipstorical hotel.

Exterior Press 780

I love meeting other people who share my passion for historical preservation and restoration, so I was incredibly excited for Jim Brady, owner and developer of The Press Hotel, to give me a tour of the hotel and point out all of its lovingly restored details. I loved seeing the passion and excitement in him as he took me on my tour.

Historic_Exterior 780

The Press Hotel was built in 1923 and was home to the Portland Press Herald, the state’s largest newspaper, until 2010 when it moved down the street to its current location. Jim Brady returned to Portland in 2011 after spending some time abroad and found that the building was vacant. Construction started in 2013, and the hotel opened in May of 2015.

Entrance 780

From the moment you step through the front door of the hotel, you can tell that so much thought went into not only the preservation and restoration, but also the design. Portland has a rich artistic and creative community, and Jim shared with me how it was important to him to take advantage of that by featuring art by local students and artists throughout the hotel. Jim saw an opportunity to create a high-end, boutique experience for travelers that didn’t exist yet in Portland. It was important for him to create a space that reflected the culture and feel of Portland for visitors.

Swarm 780

My absolute favorite art installation in The Press Hotel, and what drew me in as soon as I stepped in the lobby, was a piece called “SWARM.” The installation features a collection of vintage typewriters affixed to a wall in a circular formation, designed by artists at the nearby Maine College of Art (MECA) to represent the chaos of a newsroom. You can also find an installation using the vintage typewriters’ cases near the front desk.

Window 780

Jim did his best to preserve as many historical aspects of the building as he could, including the original marble and stairs in the entryway and the staircase to the left of the front desk. The window in the entryway is framed by letter press-inspired boxes—a nod to its printing press roots.

Tables 780

In the lobby, Jim and his design team chose an ink blue and orange theme, giving it a retro vibe. Chairs, tables, and textiles were designed by local artists and craftsmen like Angela Adams and Nelson Metal Fabrication. These tables (above) feature stories from different decades of the Portland Press Herald.

Front Desk 780

Behind the front desk, the newspaper theme continues with a letterpress art installation featuring letters of all sizes, fonts, and colors. (Insider detail: the orange letters spell “resurgam,” which means “to rise again” in Latin—Portland’s motto.)

Letters 780

The letterpress work can also be found on the hotel directional signs throughout the hotel’s hallways, pointing to rooms and meeting spaces in the hotel with names like “The Newsroom,” that reflect the hotel’s history.

Wallpaper 780

The hallways’ wallpaper features actual headlines from the newspaper throughout history, and tumbling typewriter keys cover the carpet.

Union Smoothie 780

My day started with breakfast at UNION, the hotel’s restaurant. The quiche and a carrot smoothie were a perfect start to my day, and I loved how they used newspaper clippings as a dining accessory.

Bed 780

The tasteful design aesthetic continues in The Press Hotel’s guestrooms.

Fox 780

My favorite details were the long writer’s desk, the leather chair with “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” printed on the back.

Water 780

I was in love with The Press Hotel’s logo and all of the quotes featured on the “do not disturb” sign and other signs throughout the guest rooms and in the lobby.

Soap 780

I even loved the luxurious, lavender boutique C.O. Bigelow bath products in the bathroom. It’s thoughtful details like these that really make a difference in a guest experience.

Suite 780

Guests can rent the penthouse suite with private access to a rooftop deck. And your very own vintage typewriter.

Gallery 780

The lower level of the hotel once housed the printing presses. Jim and his team wanted to make the best use of the high ceilings and art-gallery feel by creating an art gallery that is open to the public and features works from local artists.

Scale 780

Another great detail in the lower level is the preserved scale located in the hotel’s gym. It once measured paper before it went to press.

Typewriter 780

My stay at The Press Hotel was one I won’t soon forget. There were so many thoughtful details that went into the design and restoration of the hotel that I felt like Jim and his team not only truly cared about history and the building, but also about me as a guest. Whether you’re a Portland local or a visitor to the area, a stay at The Press Hotel is a must!

Suggestions for more hipstorical places in Maine? Email me and help me build my archives!