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:

  • arlinmikeandrewEventideEventide 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.
  • greatfoodtruckrace2012Food 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.
  • nathanielandcarolinePop-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.
  • tandemsignCoffee – 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.
  • stillsignCraft 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.
  • forleaseUnder 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

25 Restaurants Looked-up Most Often on PFM

  1. Schulte & Herr (4)
  2. Spread (-)
  3. Petite Jacqueline (1)
  4. Bar Lola (6)
  5. Blue Spoon (24)
  6. Bresca (5)
  7. Five Fifty-Five (10)
  8. Caiola’s (9)
  9. Eventide Oyster Company (-)
  10. Back Bay Grill (28)
  11. Zapoteca (2)
  12. Emilitsa (19)
  13. Local 188 (11)
  14. Grace (13)
  15. LFK (-)
  16. The Salt Exchange (17)
  17. Fore Street (25)
  18. Pai Men Miyake (23)
  19. El Rayo Cantina (-)
  20. Hot Suppa (31)
  21. Figa (8)
  22. Paciarino (18)
  23. Hugo’s (15)
  24. Zen Chinese Bistro (-)
  25. 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.

For some other perspectives on the past year see Edible Obsessions, the Portland PhoenixMap & Menu, Maine Eater, The Golden Dish and the Portland Daily Sun.

For more information on Portland’s food past see the 2011 Year in Review and 2010 Year in Review, as well as PFM blog posts from 2009, 2008 and 2007, and the Portland Food Timeline.

4 comments on “2012 Year in Review: Eventide, Food Trucks, Pop-ups, Coffee, Distilling, Under Construction

  1. Another wonderful summary of a crazy year, Anestes. Thank you so much for all of the work you put in to PFM.

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