2010 Year in Review
A lot happened the past year in our little culinary paradise: restaurants opened and closed, major trends and minor ones emerged and lots of wonderful food was crafted and gratefully consumed. I’ve scanned through the news and events for the past year and here’s my summary of the 2010 Portland Year in Food:
- Trader Joe’s –Easily the biggest food story of the year was the opening of Trader Joe’s. Each step in the process was widely covered in print and online: the late 2009 leaks from Trader Joe’s store clerks in Massachusetts, steps in the FTC approved sale of the old Wild Oats property, breathless articles in the week leading up to opening day and coverage of the Grand Opening itself. Once the market opened there were reviews of their beer and wine selection, reports on the lack of gate access to the Bayside trail, commentary on crazy appeal of the place, the gridlock in the parking lot, and so on. In late December, the West End News even published a commentary on the commentary.
- Cupcakemania – cupcakes have turned into a full blown product segment in 2010 with at least 4 bakeries (Tulips, Cha Cha, Cakeface, Buttercup) devoted to the little snacks and many others producing them on the side. There’s even a Portland blog who’s sole focus is to seek out the best cupcake in Portland and three other bloggers banded together to review 12 cupcakes from 7 different bakeries. Even Google’s new Book Ngram Viewer seems to concur that cupcakes are hot.
- Longfellow Square – there’s been a lot of change in the area in and around Longfellow Square: Pai Men Miyake, Boda, Yordprom Coffee all opened in or near the square. Local Sprouts opened in the renovated Portland Hall. King of the Roll underwent a facelift during the summer and in November Hot Suppa started dinner service. An Asian fusion restaurant named Gogi is under construction where Barava used to be and the Corry’s are starting up a casual dining restaurant in what had been Evangeline. A little further down Congress Street Quimby Colony set up shop in the old Roma Cafe. The former restaurant has been the location for a number of food events including the Rabelais cookie swap with Joanne Chang from Flour. There are still a few vacant store fronts in Longfellow Square available for anyone who wants to join in on the fun. Perhaps in 2011 a cupcakery could fill the spot left vacant by Tropa Wine Co.
- Pizza, Pizza Pizza – the city saw an uptick in the number of pizzerias in 2010. Pat’s Pizza returned to Portland, Siano’s opened a third location, Pie in the Sky opened at the Public Market House and Otto’s expanded their original location and went on to open a much larger pizzeria at the foot of Munjoy Hill. Maple’s even got in on the act by opening Pizza Magnolia in South Portland.
- Korean Anyone? – Korean cuisine emerged from the long shadow of Portland’s Thai and Sushi restaurants. Happy Teriyaki transformed into Korea House to become Portland’s first restaurant to focus exclusively on Korean Cuisine, and both Soju and Little Seoul opened their doors. For a time, until the close of Soju, Portlanders hungry for Korean had 3 venues to choose from.
- Moving – Chiang Mai and Katahdin moved from their longtime homes. Local Sprouts graduated from the basement of the Public Market House to the steel clad building at 645 Congress Street and Spartan Grill moved next door to the Public Market House through a buyout of Zarra’s Monumental Coffee. Lastly, Rosemont Market expanded operations with a move across Brighton Ave.
- Farming – a mild Winter and unseasonably warm Spring lead to what one farmer referred to as the “best growing year I have had for 30 years“. There were additional vendors at the Farmers Markets, an effort to start a 3rd market day on Monday, Cultivating Community started a set of neighborhood farmers markets, the Winter Market found a new home and is returning for a second season, there was an heirloom tomato CSA during the Summer, and a rare apple CSA this Fall.
- Ice Cream – MDI Ice Cream and Catbird Creamery joined longtime Old Port favorite Beal’s this Summer, Spartan Grill owner Mike Roylos opened Harbor Scoop Shop at the corner of Cumberland and Washington, Bonobo re-opened their ice cream window, Maple’s opened a gelato scoop shop in South Portland, and in December Gorgeous Gelato opened on Fore Street in the Old Port.
- Make mine a double – the trend of restaurateurs owning more than one restaurant continued in 2010. Jay Villani who owns Local 188 opened Sonny’s, the owners of Green Elephant converted Bangkok Thai into Boda, Michael Boland and Deirdre Swords who own Havana in Bar Harbor opened Havana South on Wharf Street, Big Sky opened Pie in the Sky Pizzeria, Bar Lola bought Hilltop Coffee Shop, Masa Miyake opened Pai Men Miyake, and several of the restaurants under construction will continue the trend. This isn’t a recent phenomena. Back in the 1980’s Steve and Rose Harris bought Ruski’s and opened Rosie’s. In the 1990’s Dana Street owned Street & Co. and co-founded Fore Street; he also went on to open a pizzeria on Forest Ave and a casual seafood restaurant called Scales in the Public Market.
Calendar of Notable Events
- January – Dual Site Dinner Theater took place at Whitney Art Works, both Nosh and Sonny’s (see photos of the opening from PortlandTown) opened their doors.
- February– Boda opened and Katahdin moved to Forest Avenue.
- March– the 2nd Annual Maine Restaurant Week took place, Skinny Cart BBQ begin service on Washington Ave, Yordprom Coffee opened in the West End, and Otto gave birth to Enzo.
- April– Kamasoutra opened on the second floor of the Public Market House, Cranberry Island Kitchen moved into Portland, and Pat’s Pizza opened on Market Street.
- May– Soju replaced Thai Chef Buffet, Siano’s opened their third pizzeria, South Portland landmark Red’s Dairy Freeze was severely damaged by a fire, and later in the month Cape Elizabeth landmark The Cookie Jar reopened after being knocked out of commission by a storm in 2006.
- June– Local Sprouts, Bayside Bowl and Havana South all opened. New York chefs Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo were in town for a book signing, Joe Appel started writing a weekly wine column for the Portland Press Herald.
- July– Venue Music Bar and Whaddapita both opened on Forest Ave.
- September– Pai Men Miyake and Little Seoul opened for business, Norm Jabar shut down the East End Grill and the North Star Music Cafe closed.
- October– the 3rd Annual Harvest on the Harbor and the 4th Annual 20 Mile Meal took place, Trader Joe’s and Figa opened, and Happy Teriyaki became Korea House.
- November– Soju closed, District opened on Danforth Street, Rosemont Market on Brighton moved across the street, Evangeline closed, and wine expert Bob Kacher was in town for a dinner at Havana South.
- December– Otto East and Gorgeous Gelato opened followed the next day by 15 Exchange, Mousse Cafe closed, and wine guru Terry Thiese and his wife, chef Odessa Piper, were in town for a book signing and wine dinner at Bar Lola.
The 25 Most Popular Restaurants of 2010
Every month I publish a list of the 10 restaurants looked up most often on Portland Food Map. Here’s the top 25 list for 2010.
- Bar Lola
- Five Fifty-Five
- The Salt Exchange
- Local 188
- Blue Spoon
- Po’Boy’s & Pickles
- Back Bay Grill
- Hot Suppa!
- Havana South
- Pai Men Miyake
- Fore Street
- Bob Smith died unexpectedly in December at the age of 49. Bob was a chef, a cheesemaker and a friend to many people throughout the Portland food community.
- Jack Rosen passed away at the age of 76. He worked the counter at Full Belly Deli which was started in 1987 by his son David.
- The co-founder and longtime owner of the Sportsmen’s Grill, John Severino died at the age of 80 in late September. The Sportsmen’s Grill operated on Congress Street near the intersection of Saint John from 1952 until 1999 when it was damaged by a fire.
- Eric Hartglass, Mister Bagel himself, passed away at the age of 64. He started the Mister Bagel chain on Forest Ave in 1977.
- Amedeo Reali died at the age of 83 after a lifetime working at and running the family restaurant. His father, Vincenzo Reali, opened The Village Cafe in 1936. Amedeo Reali oversaw the expansion of the 20 seat cafe into a restaurant that could serve 500. The Village Cafe closed in 2007.