I’ve scanned through the records for the past year and here’s a summary of events and trends for 2018:
- Restaurant City of the Year – national attention came at a quick pace in 2018 including a Best New for Elda from Eater and for Rose Foods and the new Drifters from BA. Eater national critic Bill Addison added Palace Diner to his list of the nation’s most essential restaurants, and Kate Krader from Bloomberg picked the sushi roles from Mister Tuna for her list of the best things she ate in 2018. However, easily the most impactful story of 2018 came in early August when Bon Appetit named Portland their Restaurant City of the Year. Restaurant staff had about five minutes to enjoy the recognition before seemingly everyone in North America got on a plane or in their car to come for a visit, determined to eat at every cafe, bar and bistro on the list.
- Closings – Unlike the last few years, 2018 might have been as notable for the restaurants that closed as for the restaurants that opened. The beloved West End cafe Aurora Provisions went out of business. After nearly 4 decades in operation Three Dollar Deweys closed up shop (and is reopening under new ownership). Longtime Old Port eatery Federal Spice closed right before Christmas. Beard nominated chef Brian Hill closed Francine Bistro in Camden. Other restaurants we said goodbye to in 2018 include Tempo Dulu, Valley Chinese Cuisine, Abilene, Big J’s Chicken Shack, the comeback of Uncle Billy’s, East End Cupcakes, Babylon, Bolster Snow, the Commercial Street Rosemont and Juiced. Fork Food Lab was slated to close but saved by a new owner.
- New Restaurants – there were, a number of new restaurants and other food businesses that opened in 2018. Mister Tuna opened up in the Public Market House, Crown Jewel launched in Diamond Cove, Sonny’s converted to Black Cow, Drifters moved into a larger space, and Sagamore Hill, Forage Market, Bob’s Clam Hut, Simply Vegan by Silly’s opened to name just a few. However, my choice for the two best new restaurants of 2018 are Cara Stadler’s Lio and the Exchange Street Cajun restaurant Eaux.
- Locations – Inner Washington Ave remained a hot neighborhood in 2018, however looking forward I expect to see more new establishments popping up in Bayside and along Forest Ave particularly in Woodfords Corner.
- Wine City – the inaugural Portland Wine Week was a smashing success this year, showing that this is as much a city of wine lovers as it is beer geeks. Portland Wine Week compromised 53 different events including professional development lectures, wine dinners, a grand tasting, a closing gala and a multi-restaurant passport program.
- Upcoming in 2019 – The number of new food businesses under development has significantly dropped off in comparison to the last few years. Of the 20 or so new ventures being tracked on the PFM Under Construction list, the ones I’m most looking forward to in 2019 are:
- Candy’s – a cross between a coffee shop/cocktail bar/cafe and a queer community space.
- Dizzy Bird – a chicken rotisserie restaurant serving ‘honest to goodness’ elevated scratch comfort foods.
- Name TBD – Palace co-owner Greg Mitchell is opening a new restaurant in the West End.
- Gross Confection Bar – Brant Dadaleares’s new Exchange Street spot serving an “ever changing selection of high-quality artfully-plated desserts, cocktails, dessert wines, and digestifs” in the evening, and take-out pastries and coffee in the mornings.
- LB Kitchen – Lee Farrington is bringing her bone broth, grain bowls to a second location in the West End.
- Monte’s Fine Food – a neighborhood specialty market and and casual restaurant on outer Washington Ave.
- Quiero Cafe – this Saco-based restaurant is opening a 2nd location in Bramhall Square.
- The Garrison – Chopped champion chef and owner of Dandelion Catering, Christian Hayes, is opening his first restaurant in Yarmouth.
Top 10 Articles
The most popular articles published on Portland Food Map in the past year.
- Simply Vegan – opening announcement for Simply Vegan by Silly’s
- Portland Zoo – opening announcement for the Portland Zoo on Fox Street
- Crown Jewel – news on the upcoming opening of Crown Jewel
- Pizzarino – details on Pizzarino, the new pizzeria on Fore Street
- Independent Ice Co. – opening announcement for the Independent Ice Company
- Public Market House – news on the 3 new vendors (Sichuan Kitchen, Mr. Tuna, Totally Tubers) destined for the Public Market House
- Biddeford – first word on Dizzy Bird and Time & Tide Coffee in Biddeford
- Poke Pop – upcoming opening announcement for Poke Pop in Longfellow Square
- Monte’s – first word on Monte’s Fine Food
- Three Dollar Deweys – first word on the re-opening of Three Dollar Deweys
Notable Events of 2018
- January – Troy Mains from the Harraseeket was named the MRA Chef of the Year, Allagash Brewing and Gold Star Honey were award winners at the Good Food Awards, Portland Stage put on a production of Babette’s Feast, the European Bakery in Falmouth changed hands, Baxter’s Fine Candies moved from the West End to Westbrook, Immigrant Kitchens author Lindsay Sterling was a finalist for the New York Times 52 Places travel writer position, Arcadia announced plans to expand, the new Benkay restaurant opened on Middle Street and Francine Bistro closed in Camden.
- February – 11 chefs and restaurants were named Beard Foundation semi-finalists, Andrew Taylor, Mike Wiley and Arlin Smith began working on a proposal for an Eventide cookbook, word broke on Portland Wine Week, Barton Seaver’s book American Seafood was named an IACP finalist, City regulatory enforcement has ended in-house meat curing programs at Portland restaurants, the parent companies of Tempo Dulu/Opium in Portland and Natalie’s in Camden declared bankruptcy, Black Cat Coffee changed hands, the new Drifters Wife, Tally’s Kitchen, Sebago Brewing, The Proper Cup, Bow Street Beverage and Stone Fort Distillery opened, and Valley Chinese Cuisine closed.
- March – the award-winning author and the ‘godmother’ of the natural wine world Alice Feiring visited Portland for a book signing, 2 Mainers were named Beard Foundation award nominees, Emil Rivera was the guest chef for a dinner at the Beard House, Maine Restaurant Week took place, the Maine Historical Society launched a Maine Eats exhibit, the Food Network has published an eating guide to Portland, chef Christian Hayes beat out the other contestants on Chopped, Sam Hayward, Ilma Lopez, Sara Jenkins, Paolo Laboa and Troy Mains were the featured chefs at the 17th Annual PSO Wine Dinner, Urban Sugar changed their name to Eighty 8 Donut Cafe, Foley’s Bakery changed its name to Scattoloni, Tipo ran a guest pizza chef series, Black Cow, a 2nd Union Bagel, Veranda Kitchen & Bar, Little Spruce Baking, Quill Book & Beverage and Walkers Maine opened, Abilene, Big J’s Chicken Shack and Tempo Dulu/Opium closed and Artemisia stopped their dinner service.
- April – Chef Austin Miller from Mami competed on Chopped, Jim and Gillian Britt became part owners of the Harvest on the Harbor festival, Uncle Billy’s leased the former Abilene space, Maine Foodie Tours owner Pamela Laskey won the 2018 Award for Innovation & Creativity at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, chefs from Central Provisions, Chaval and Walkers Maine teamed to serve a dinner at the Beard House and Andrew Chadwick from the Sea Glass was also a guest chef at the Beard House, Standard Baking considered launching a food cart, Maine Lobster Shack, IceIt Bakery, Blue Lobster Wine Company opened, and a 2nd Two Fat Cats opened in South Portland.
- May – Shipyard shared plans to transform their Hancock Street brewery into a brewtel, Beer Advocate included Battery Steele in their list of the 50 best breweries of the past year, chef Jason Daly competed on Chopped, and Locally Sauced, Rwanda Bean, Eaux, Bier Cellar Gorham, Greeks of Peaks, Duckfat Frites Shack, Sagamore Hill, Uncle Billy’s, Legends Rest, Vantage Point, Truffle Truck, Definitive Brewing opened.
- June – Bon Appétit has included The Purple House, Ten Ten Pié and Hot Suppa in their list of America’s Favorite Neighborhood Restaurants, the inaugural Portland Wine Week took place, the newly redesign Portland Food Map website launched, East End Cupcakes close, and Lio, Waypoint Provisions, Clam Digger, the Noble BBQ food truck and Brickyard Hollow opened.
- July – Matt Ginn beat out the competition on Chopped, Nancy Harmon Jenkins taught a food writing workshop in Rockport, the Boston Globe took notice of the developments taking place along Forest Ave and in Woodfords Corner, Eater named Elda to their list of the Best New Restaurants in America, Bon Appétit included Rose Foods and the new Drifters Wife in their list of the 50 Best New Restaurants in America, Three Dollar Deweys closed, word spread that Fork Food Lab was shutting down, and Heritage Seaweed, Strata, Crown Jewel, Poke Pop, Simply Vegan by Silly’s, Bob’s Clam Hut, Independent Ice Company and Dunstan Tap & Table opened.
- August – Andrew Knowlton from Bon Appétit has named Portland the 2018 Restaurant City of the Year, Blue Spoon changed hands, Hella Good and Aurora Provisions closed, and Pizzarino, Hana Thai, The Steam Machine, Forage Market and Good News Coffee & Package opened.
- September – Fyood Kitchen founder Maddie Purcell won the Outstanding Young Entrepreneur award from SCORE, Babylon and Uncle Billy’s closed, and Chocolats Passion, Hero’s and The Cheese Shop opened.
- October – the 5th Annual Heirloom Apple Tasting took place, Fork Food Lab announced plans to continue under new ownership, Lars Taylor from The Honey Paw came in 2nd place at the national Lamb Jam competition, and Crunchy Poke, Root Wild, Portland Zoo, All those Who Wander, Mister Tuna, Maine Oyster Company opened.
- November – the lobster emoji launched onto cellphones everywhere, the 2018 New England Food System Innovation Challenge took place at Saint Joseph’s College, 5 Maine food producers named finalists in the 2019 Good Food Awards, Palace Diner was named to Eater’s 2018 list of America’s Most Essential Restaurants, a new owner stepped forward to reopen Three Dollar Deweys, Civil Eats published an article on the innovation and growth of the Maine grain industry, the Commercial Street Rosemont, Bolster Snow and All Those Who Wander closed, and Time and Tide, Totally Tubers, Stars & Stripes Brewing and De Nada Empanadas opened.
- December – Palace Diner co-owner Greg Mitchell announced plans to open a new restaurant in the West End, Bard barista Milo DeGoosh placed 11th place at the national USBC qualifying event, Kate Krader from Bloomberg included the Chutoro Hand Roll from Mr. Tuna in her list of the Best Restaurant Dishes of 2018, Grace, Federal Spice and Juiced closed, and Farm to Coast Cafe, Austin Street Brewery and N To Tail opened.
Top 25 Restaurants
- Tuscan Table (-)
- Bolster Snow Co. (-)
- Drifters Wife (>25)
- Chaval (2)
- Little Giant (4)
- Yobo (21)
- Tipo (1)
- Benkay (>25)
- Black Cow (-)
- Sichuan Kitchen (7)
- Izakaya Minato (5)
- North 43 Bistro (>25)
- Isa (6)
- Lazzari (>25)
- Highroller Lobster (>25)
- Lena’s (-)
- Cong Tu Bot (8)
- Blue Fin (>25)
- Piccolo (15)
- Petite Jacqueline (14)
- Roma Cafe (13)
- Five Fifty-Five (>25)
- Baharat (3)
- Central Provisions (>25)
- Emilitsa (>25)
The numbers in parentheses indicate their rank last year. The order of the list is determined by the number of times these restaurants were looked up on PFM during the year.
- Claire Z Cramer, 64 – Maine restaurant critic and food writer.
- Bernard Larson, 88 – co-founder of Moran’s Market.
- Randall H. Gifford Jr., 90 – co-founder of Gifford’s Ice Cream.
- Katsuaki Suzuki, 67 – founder/chef of Ramen Suzukiya.
For some other perspectives on the past year see The Blueberry Files, Portland Magazine, the Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram, Peter Peter Portland Eater, and Portland Phoenix.
Here are links to the Portland Food Map year in review reports for 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.
4 comments on “2018 Year in Review: City of the Year, Closings, Wine Week, Top Stories, Passings”
Thanks so much for this Anestes! I’m always a day late/dollar short on what’s happening in Portland, now that I’m living in Waterville (we just lost a restaurant after they invested in a huge pizza oven brought over from Italy — Ital-iah was the name. Bad spelling = bad branding).
Kate, Hopefully that investment paves the way for someone else’s success in that space. Will all the investment by Colby in downtown Waterville, I’m optimistic about its future.
Also agree re: Eaux, hope they’re able to make it work this year, although it’s nice having a great place to go to and know it’s not going to be impossible to get seated…
I’m not surprised that the Simply Vegan post was your most read of 2018. I hope you will consider reporting on more vegan happenings in the local food scene in 2019. Happy New Year!