Looking to combine their respective backgrounds in cooking and art, husband and wife Jay and Allison Villani opened Local 188 in 1999 with friends Pat Corrigan and Matt Purington. The cafe / gallery was an instant hit as artists and foodies lined up to feed their senses.
Eight years later "local" moved to a new space across the street that retains the same features that made the original so popular – a culinary bar which overlooks the open kitchen, comfortable lounging area and a dining room set amongst local art.
Staying true to Maine’s seasonal offerings, Chef Jay Villani, Chef de Cuisine Aaron Hovarth and sous chefs Josh Craigue, Jason Burrows and Adam Golderg construct a menu that is both innovative and familiar. Ingredients are sourced from local farmers, foragers, and fishermen. Many components of the menu, such as breads, charcuterie, pickled vegetables, and desserts, are prepared in-house. Local 188 has its roots in Spain but draws influence from all over the Mediterranean to create a unique blend of old and new.
Local’s wine list features over 200 bottles and is a true labor of love for general manager Garry Bowcott and wine director Jenny Gardiner. Selections range from the standards to the esoteric with specialization in Spain, France and Italy.
Bar manager Jeremiah Davis presides over the beer and cocktail list. Jeremiah brings 7 years of mixology experience to local along with a precise knowledge of local and national micro brews.
“The seafood paella came with perfectly cooked mahogany clams,mussels, salmon and Maine shrimp along with green beans and the requisite long grain rice w/ it’s saffron seasoning and color. There is something soul satisfying about seafood and rice and Local 188 has caught the essence of it with the Spanish classic.”
N.L English, The Maine Sunday Telegram
“Pulsing with energy and filled with diners enjoying the new surroundings,local 188’s famous tapas shimmer invitingly across a big mirror in a scroll reminiscent of a Toulouse Lautrec interior. According to owner/chef Jay Villani the menu descriptions are deliberately vague as the nature of hunting for the city’s freshest ingredients dictates surprise.”
Diane Hudson, Portland magazine
“While the old space had a certain artsy, campy vibe —
enhanced by the small, well-worn dining room and the edgy art shows —the new restaurant is filled with a bohemian elegance. The huge dining room contains two bars (one overlooking the open kitchen),an eclectic assortment of tables and chairs and a dedicated lounge area.Deep purples and rich burgundies add a nightclub feel that’s buoyed by comfortable couches and a bench salvaged from the St. Lawrence Arts & Community Center.”
Avery Yale Kamila, Switch magazine
"Local 188 pride themselves on using the freshest ingredients, often from local farmers and fish markets. For visitors during brunch hours, their peach pancake, although bigger than most human heads, is the lightest and fluffiest pancake in Portland. You don't even need maple syrup to make their pancake delicious. The huge dollop of whip cream on top of the golden cake covered in fresh peaches is enough to satisfy the worst sweet tooth"
Stacy Normand, USM Free Press