Harding Lee Smith, Chef, Restauranteur
About The Front Room
The Front Room is all you would expect from a neighborhood eatery. Loud bustling crowds and simple food with rich flavors, complimented by the signature look of an open kitchen and bar along the inner walls. Unlike the other restaurants in the “The Rooms” brand, The Front Room vetoed the idea of reservations, making it a first-come first-serve establishment.
Classic, wooden Hancock chairs adorn each table in this quaint version of the “The Rooms” brand establishments, now peppered around Portland, ME. Serving what Chef Harding has coined “New American Comfort Food”, the Front Room attracts many young professionals with its affordable brunch and dinner selections.
A Mainer by birth, Harding Lee Smith started The Front Room, now the first of 4 restaurants he owns in Portland, ME, after an apprenticeship in Venice, Italy, and a 6 year exploration of Maui, Hawaii where he was the chef of several well-known restaurants. It was not until the winter of 2005, at the venerable Back Bay Grill in Portland, that Harding embarked on his dream of opening of a casual neighborhood restaurant and bar.
Smith’s second restaurant, The Grill Room & Bar, immediately became a popular lunch and dinner spot and has been packed since opening in May 2008. Located at 84 Exchange Street in Portland’s historic Old Port district, the “urban steakhouse” features a wood-fired grill and pizza oven that turns out boldly flavored steaks and crisp pizzas from the open kitchen, featuring local, all-natural meats from Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport. The Portland Phoenix named The Grill Room the city’s Best New Restaurant of 2008.
Chef Smith opened his third establishment, The Corner Room Kitchen & Bar, in early July 2009. The restaurant is located in the space formerly occupied by the Salt Institute at the intersection of Federal and Exchange streets in Portland’s Old Port (110 Exchange Street). With the same comfortable rustic ambiance as the first two Rooms, The Corner Room features fresh house-made pastas, antipasti and artisanal breads – affordable rustic Italian-inspired food at its best.
“I wanted to make it a neighborhood gathering spot, to have the home feel like when you come into someone’s living room.” — Chef Harding