2012 Year in Review: Eventide, Food Trucks, Pop-ups, Coffee, Distilling, Under Construction
It’s once again been a very busy year for the food and dining industry in Portland. I’ve scanned through the news and events for the past year and here’s my summary of the 2012 Portland Year in Food:
- Eventide – Eventide was the best new restaurant of 2012. The extensive selection of oysters, an inspired menu of small plate options and casual atmosphere have made a real hit that’s earned this Hugo’s spin-off rave reviews and a packed house. Visitors to our city have also discovered Eventide. The Wall Street Journal called it one of the nation’s most outstanding oyster bars, the James Beard Foundation named the Arctic Char at Eventide to their shortlist of favorite dishes for the year, and Food & Wine Executive Editor Dana Cowin included it on her list of the best restaurants of 2012.
- Food Trucks – after months of subcommittee meetings, debate and review the City finally approved an ordinance making food trucks legal in Portland. We were treated to a foretaste of food truck culture when the Great American Food Truck Race routed through Maine. By the end of the year 2 food trucks, Love Cupcakes and Esposito’s Food on the Go, were in operation. Deux Cochon is working on bringing their “southern food hooliganism” back to life in a food truck format, and a few other entrepreneurs are planning to launch food trucks in 2013. In October, several mobile food vendors banded together to kick-off Flea Bites which takes place in the Flea-for-All parking lot.
- Pop-ups – pop-up dinners and supper clubs came to life in 2012. David Levi ran Vinland, and Erika Joyce launched Cloak & Dagger. Damian Sansonetti moved to Maine and started running his series of Sonnet pop-ups, and visitors like CRUX and Outstanding in a Field ran pop-ups in Maine. In 2013, we can look forward to the launch of Chinese Laundry which “will be popping up all over town, 3-5 times a week. Find us at galleries, coffee shops, residences, First Fridays, and street corners. We’ll be equipped with warm buns and steamy dumplings.” Last but certainly not least there’s Pocket Brunch, a full immersion monthly eating experience that collaborating with guest chefs to offer 5-course Sunday brunches. Pocket Brunch has quickly become the hottest event in the city—tickets for the December edition sold out in less than 2 hours.
- Coffee – 2012 was a great year for the Portland coffee scene. Speckled Ax launched in May and Tandem Coffee Roasters launched in July. Both bring new perspectives on coffee and coffee service to our city. Speckled Ax, Tandem, and Bard have raised the bar for what we should expect from a great coffee shop. This year also saw the opening of Arabica’s new venue, Crema, the closure of Udder Place, a visit by the owners of Blue Bottle Coffee, and several collaborations between the city’s roasters and brewers: Tandem and Bunker, Bard and Rising Tide, Speckled Ax and Allagash. In December, Down East magazine published a survey of the Maine coffee industry.
- Craft Distilling – the micro-distilling industry got its start in Portland this year when New England Distilling’s first batch of Ingenium Gin appeared on store shelves. Novare Res is soon to launch In’Finiti, a distillery/brewpub, on Commercial Street and Maine Craft Distilling in East Bayside is just a few months away from selling their first batch of carrot gin. Three Sheets Mfg. is working on launching a locally made bitters. Hopefully, 2013 will see the continued expansion of this new segment of the Portland food scene.
- Under Construction – by the end of 2011 the Under Construction list had shrunk down to a handful of business, but during the year there was a renewed confidence and not only did we see the launch of 34 new eateries/bars/coffee houses/etc but the UC List has grown to include nearly 20 new ventures under development. Some notables for 2013 are the aforementioned In’Finiti and Maine Craft Distilling as well as Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, the Little Tap House, Salvage, Sonnet, the new old Miyake, and Harding Smith’s new Room on Custom House Wharf.
Notable Events of 2012
- January – Sabor Latino and El Rayo Cantina opened for business. The Portland Pie Council held the 3rd Annual Pie and Art Gala to celebrate National Pie Day, Novare Res and The Great Lost Bear were included in Draft magazine’s list of the nation’s best beer bars. Havana South, Bathras Market and Udder Place went out of business.
- February – Blackbird Baking acquired Two Fat Cats and Bayside Bowl won the WMPG Cajun Cookin’ Challenge.
- March – The Holy Donut, Catbird Creamery and Crema opened and the Cloak & Dagger supper club launched. The 3rd Annual Maine Restaurant Week took place, Miyake and Hugo’s made it on to the Opinionated About Dining list of the top 100 restaurants in the United States, Rob Evans sold Hugo’s to three of his staff: Arlin Smith, Andrew Taylor and Michael Wiley. Aurora Provisions catered a dinner for President Obama at the Art Museum.
- April – New England Distilling launched. Duckfat cook Melissa Corey won $10k on Chopped, the Portland Phoenix released the results of the Best of Portland readership poll. Gogi went out of business.
- May – Union Bagel, Speckled Ax, Captain Sam’s Ice Cream, LFK, Carmen at the Danforth and Spread opened. Maine Squeeze opened a 2nd location in the Public Market House. Bon Appetit included Miyake in their list of the 10 Best New Sushi restaurants in the country, and Y-Lime’s closed their retail shop in the Public Market House.
- June – Eventide, Portland Pottery Cafe, Sebastian’s and the Bier Cellar opened. Peter Weygandt was the special guest for a wine dinner at Caiola’s, a pair of finalists in the Great American Food Truck Race arrived in Portland, the 2012 Taste of the Nation took place. Three Sons was evicted from the Maine State Pier and District went out of business.
- July – The Loft and Flores opened. The City Council finally approved an ordinance to make food trucks legal in Portland, the Epicuranoid published a great article about Portland restaurants in the 70s and 80s, the first edition of Pocket Brunch took place, Urban Farm Fermentory announced a 5,000 sq ft expansion plan. Mr. Sandwich & Mrs. Muffin went out of business and Food Coma TV came to an end.
- August – Zen Chinese Bistro, Tandem Coffee, Roost, Kushiya Benkay opened and Maine Beer Tours launched. Portland Food Map celebrated it’s 5th anniversary. Food & Wine Executive Editor Dana Cowin was in town, Margaret Hathaway and Kark Schatz published Portland Maine Chef’s Table, and a group of prominent food bloggers visited Maine.
- September – Love Cupcakes, Teresa Esposito’s on the Go and Gather opened. From Away published a comprehensive primer on how to start a food blog, and Maine Home Cooking by Sandy Oliver and Pastries by Standard Baking were published. The Press Herald restaurant health inspection coverage began; the cost of repairs and the negative publicity eventually resulted in The Porthole going out of business.
- October – the Salt Cellar opened and Frosty’s opened a new branch in South Portland. Taste, Memory by David Buchanan was published, the inaugural Flea Bites took place, the owners of Blue Bottle were in town for a book signing, the Washington Post published an article about Portland dining, the 2012 Harvest on the Harbor took place. The Porthole closed as did G&R Dimillo’s.
- November – Buck’s Naked BBQ, Opus Ten, Otto expanded their location in the Arts District, Maine Brew Bus launched, Katie Made announced plans to move to Congress Street and the Food Coma Show premiered. Portland Beer Week and the Maine Brewers Festival took place, Joe Appel had an article published in Art of Eating, Erika Joyce announced plans for Chinese Laundry, Cantillon Zwanze Day took place at Novare Res. ILPM assembled an interesting list of Portland restaurants and the TV shows they’ve appeared on. Sebastian’s and Plush West End went out of business.
- December – Three Buoys, Taqueria Tequila and Veranda Asian Market opened and Vino Portland started up. Joe Ricchio announced he’s moving to Boston, Maine Craft Distilling secured their federal license, Holy Donut was featured on Anderson Cooper Live. Food & Wine Executive Editor Dana Cowin included Petite Jacqueline and Eventide in her list of the best restaurants of 2012, and the James Beard Foundation included the arctic char at Eventide in their list of the best dishes of 2012. Figa and the South Portland Wok Inn closed.
25 Restaurants Looked-up Most Often on PFM
- Schulte & Herr (4)
- Spread (-)
- Petite Jacqueline (1)
- Bar Lola (6)
- Blue Spoon (24)
- Bresca (5)
- Five Fifty-Five (10)
- Caiola’s (9)
- Eventide Oyster Company (-)
- Back Bay Grill (28)
- Zapoteca (2)
- Emilitsa (19)
- Local 188 (11)
- Grace (13)
- LFK (-)
- The Salt Exchange (17)
- Fore Street (25)
- Pai Men Miyake (23)
- El Rayo Cantina (-)
- Hot Suppa (31)
- Figa (8)
- Paciarino (18)
- Hugo’s (15)
- Zen Chinese Bistro (-)
- David’s (33)
The numbers in parentheses indicate their rank last year.
- Theresa Ciampi – her family owned Commercial Fruit and she was featured in Amato’s signature advertisement from the 1970s.
- Tyler Curtis Cole – a Portland chef who had worked at The Front Room and other restaurants.
- Joseph L. Discatio – the founder of Joe’s Smoke Shop.
- Dorothy Larsen – ran Moran’s Market with her husband Bernard.
- Ruth G. Leadbetter – the founded the Lobster Shack with her husband Jim.
- Russell Libby – the longtime Executive Director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.
- Stavros Elias Shamos – owner of the Quality Shop on Stevens Ave.