KENNEBUNK, Maine — Under a gabled roof on Port Road, a dining destination is taking shape. On Monday restaurateurs Shannon and Tom Bard closed on a 6,000-square-foot building that will become a Southern Maine culinary attraction when it opens this summer.
The new concept for the owners of Portland’s Mexican restaurant Zapoteca is multi-tiered and ambitious. Their project will house a Spanish restaurant, bistro, cooking school, market and catering company on several floors. Out back there will be an event barn.
“This is my dream project,” said the chef, on a tour of the space Tuesday. It was last occupied by Kennebooks.
Her Spanish tapas flagship Toroso will open first.
Flames will rise high in an open kitchen, where Shannon Bard and her chefs will whip up Spanish signatures such as paella and steak (small and large plates) before guests’ eyes.
“You’ll get to talk to chefs. Cooking is a show these days,” said Shannon Bard, who is no stranger to stagecraft.
Around the corner, the former children’s books section takes an adult turn. A cuvee system, which keeps wine at ideal temperatures, will dispense Spanish and Portuguese vino by the glass. There will be up to 40 single pours available. The Bards are looking for a mixologist to create the next wave in artisan cocktails.
A pile of old barn board sits on the counter and a patchwork of decorative tiles hint at things to come.
“All the restaurants in Spain are rustic,” said Shannon Bard, who has cooked throughout Spain in preparation for her new establishment. “This will be both rustic and modern.”
Tom Bard has opened restaurants across the country, in Asia and the Middle East, for companies like Ruby Tuesday and Applebee’s. The space, which includes a deck, lower patio and up to 50 parking spots, was just what they were looking for. Their partners are Amanda Howland and Marc Christensen, a team Shannon Bard has worked with on culinary projects in the past.
“Everything is here. This brought it all together,” said Tom Bard, coming in from the backyard where the barn will soon be erected.
Behind the house, a hand-pegged post-and-beam barn will be wedding central.
“That will be our event barn,” said Tom Bard, who foresees being able to accommodate approximately 200 people for nuptial bashes.
The husband and wife team looked for years in the Forest City for the right venue for a Spanish tapas restaurant, but nothing clicked. This rambling house had been on the market for two and a half years. It allows them to do much more.
“It’s ideal,” said Shannon Bard, who will have room to expand her popular bold cuisine with a catering office and has an apartment to house visiting chefs from Spain. “It will allow us to grow faster.”
Open year-round, the establishment will attract diverse crowds. Appealing to locals is important to the couple, who live in town.
“We are catering to locals. And tourists want to be where the locals are,” said Shannon. Their brood of teenage children will work here, too.
“It fulfills a need for the community and Tom and I at the same time.”
Toroso, 149 Port Road, opens in June. Salud Bistro and the barn will open afterwards.