Best of 2022 Awards

Portland Old Port has kicked off their Best of 2022 readership awards program. The readership-driven voting program is a three-step process.

Step 1 – now through June 30th you can nominate your favorite businesses in the dozens of categories which range from Best Ambience and Best Bagel to categories like Best Wings and Friendliest Staff.

Step 2 – the first round of voting will take place on all nominations from July 1st to July 14th.

Step 3 – the top voted entries from step 2 will be on the ballot for a final election from July 15th to July 31st.

Beard Awards Impact

This week’s Portland Phoenix checked in with some of Maine’s nominees to ask what impact being a Beard Awards nominee has had on their business.

Now, as we move forward in a world where COVID-19 isn’t gone and chefs, cooks, servers, and bartenders have endured through it and most likely changed their models and practices, do awards matter? I spoke with three local finalists about what the nominations meant to them and their restaurants.

Parker’s and Buxton Common Closing

The Buxton Common has announced plans to close as of this Friday,

This Friday we celebrate our 4th anniversary and it is with bittersweet emotions that we announce that this Friday will also be our last night of dinner service. Though, in the future, we will continue some limited catering, we have made the difficult decision to suspend our regular dinner and take away service.

We have much gratitude and appreciation for the people through the years who have helped to make The Buxton Common a special place for our workers and guests. And a deep thank you goes to all the people who run town hall, the transfer station and safety departments who have helped to welcome us to town.

Parker’s in North Deering has announced they are closing this Saturday after 33 years in business.

Please be advised that some menu items may not be available due to our closing on June 25.

We extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for your patronage over these past 33 years.

It is difficult to call you customers and patrons when we truly consider you friends and, in many cases, family.

The decision to close was extremely difficult and bitter sweet. Again, thank you all so much for making us a part of your lives.

Two New Breweries: Newscapes and Idiomatic

Maine beer fans will have two more breweries to choose from.

Newscapes Brewing (website, facebook, instagram) recently launched in Portland. The brewery was launched by Jeff Curran and is located at 163 Washington Ave. You can learn more about their line-up of beers on their website. They’re open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 8 pm.

A new brewery called Idiomatic Brewing (website, instagram) is under development. The founders have a decade of combined industry experience in Maine and elsewhere. Their first three beers will be Ninety in the Shade (4.6%, lager), Missed the Boat (6.2%, American IPA), Sliced Bread (6.3%, dubbel-style ale). Launch timing and location details are still TBD.

Upcoming Events: Disco Jalisco, Ales for Tails, GMRI, Sicilian Wine Dinner

Tuesday – a new food truck called  Disco Jalisco (instagram) is scheduled to launch at noon at Austin Street on Fox Street.

ThursdayRoma Cafe is holding a Sicilian wine dinner.

Sunday – the Animal Refuge League’s annual Ales for Tails fundraising event is taking place with 17 Maine breweries and 4 food trucks.

June 29Gulf of Maine Research Institute CEO Don Perkins will sitting for a live interview with the Press Herald.

July 1 – it’s the opening day of Fake Restaurant #2 at the Washington Baths. The month long pop-up will be “slinging traditional ((and not-so-traditional)) versions of Greek cuisine” on Fridays and Saturdays during the month of July.

July 14KitNA is holding a tasting event at their West Bayside location.

July 15-17 – the Yarmouth Clam Festival is taking place.

July 21Magnus on Water chef Ben Jackson will participating in the Outstanding in the Field series with a dinner at Glidden Point Oyster Farm in Edgecomb.

July 23Chaval chefs Ilma Lopez and Damian Sansonetti will participating in the Outstanding in the Field series with a dinner at Dandelion Spring Farm in Bowdoinham. The Wavy Days Beer Fest is taking place.

July 25 – 30 – the Kneading Conference is taking place.

August 13 – the 91st Annual Saint Peter’s Bazaar.

August 19 – 21 – the 2022 edition of the Maine Apple Camp is taking place.

September 3Tender Table is holding their 2nd Annual Food & Art Fair in Congress Square Park.

September 19 – 25Maine Lobster Week is taking place in Skowhegan.

September 23 – 25 – the Common Ground Fair is taking place in Unity.

October 9 – the Maine Cheese Guild is holding Maine Open Creamery Day.

Reviews: Magnus on Water, Nom Cafe

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes a 4 star review of Magnus on Water, and

The cocktails are pretty terrific, too. Start with a session-sipper like the fizzy Rubix Cube and progress to something a little stronger, like the balanced, dandelion-infused Strawberry Moon Negroni. And as for food, it doesn’t get much better than James Beard finalist Ben Jackson’s intuitive, nearly flawlessly executed dishes. Menus change with the seasons and availability of ingredients, but if you can snag a bowl of dill-seed, bay and coriander-marinated carrots, grab them. The same goes for confit rabbit served over farro and a dollop of fresh yogurt striated with lovage-leaf purée.

this month’s edition of Mainer includes a review of Nom Cafe.

My wife started with an order of parzhen ($9): crisp slices of breaded-and-fried eggplant served with Lutenitza, a savory-sweet spread of tomatoes and red peppers. For her main course she chose Belgian waffles ($14) with berries and maple syrup. The waffles themselves were pretty good, but the boneless fried chicken ($5) stole the show — it was tender and crispy, with a compelling blend of spices and herbs.

Father’s Day Article, Student Cookbook

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes a Fathers’ Day article about dads at three restaurants, and

For dads in the food service business, Father’s Day is mostly just another work day. But it’s also a time for fathers who run generational family restaurants to consider their family legacies, and remember vital life lessons they learned working for and with their own fathers. It’s a day that gives them a chance to appreciate how their own children helped them with the business, and to dream of the day when they can hand it down to the kids, just as their parents and grandparents did before them.

a report on a new cookbook created by culinary students at LearningWorks.

Seventeen of the students graduating from the LearningWorks YouthBuild program at the end of June have something rather unexpected to add to their resumes: cookbook author.

My Kitchen Their Table: Nathaniel Meiklejohn

Welcome to the June 2022 edition of My Kitchen, Their Table, an interview series with the chefs and culinary professionals who work hard to satisfy our small city’s big appetite. This month we’re featuring an interview with Nathaniel Meiklejohn from The Jewel Box. Photos and videos will continue to expand on the story on instagram, so stay tuned.

If the hardcore band Stormfront had made it big, no one would have ever tasted the exquisite cocktail creations of Nathaniel Meiklejohn — and that would have been a serious shame. Meiklejohn, who goes by Nan’l, was a member of the straight edge band throughout high school and continued to abstain from alcohol until he was twenty-one years old. He studied jazz guitar at the University of Maine in Augusta, but his career trajectory changed as he became more experienced in the restaurant industry.

During college, Nan’l bartended at The Liberal Cup in Hallowell and developed an appreciation for craft beer. In Portland, he bartended at Downtown Lounge on Congress Street, was the first male “cocktail waitress” at Fore Street, and spent five years at Local 188 learning how to make essential cocktails under the “legendary bar wizard,” John Myers. Although he mastered classic cocktails and the fundamentals of mixology, he felt his creativity was stifled in a restaurant setting.

An artist at heart, Nan’l found other avenues to develop his craft. In 2012, he teamed up with Joel Beauchamp and Katie and Josh Schier-Potocki from 158 Pickett Street Café (now closed) to launch a pop-up brunch series known as Pocket Brunch. The ticketed brunches were held at various locations, from restaurants and bars to sailboats and greenhouses, and featured multiple courses centered around a common theme.

Pocket Brunch encouraged Nan’l to take risks and think outside of the box. For the “Baller Brunch” at Broadturn Farm, he concocted a clear bloody mary made with horseradish-infused tomato water and poured it over a neatly chiseled ice sphere. He pushed cocktail boundaries at a dozen brunches, including one at his very own bar, The Jewel Box.

The Jewel Box debuted in September 2014 with widespread support from the community, and in 2022 earned a James Beard Award semifinalist nomination for Outstanding Bar Program. His intriguing and ever-changing selection of cocktails drew clientele to a portion of Congress Street that had little going on at the time. Inspired by his former neo-victorian apartment on State Street, The Jewel Box glitters with chandeliers, brass fixtures, velvet curtains, and a floor-to-ceiling mural commissioned by local painter Elizabeth Kleene.

Despite its Victorian aesthetic, the vibe is far from stiff and pretentious. A glistening disco ball, eclectic music, and an all-inclusive atmosphere make The Jewel Box a lively and welcoming space. Continue reading to discover what Nan’l wants you to experience when you visit The Jewel Box, why he loves gin, where he goes in Portland for a great meal, and how he spends a day eating his way through Kittery.


AR: How does the experience at Jewel Box differ from your typical cocktail bar?
NM: It’s an intentional experience. I want people to focus on each other, not a TV or their phone. Bars usually cater to masculinity, and I wanted to do everything as feminine as I could. I wanted to make a bar for women and trans or underserved people. I definitely channeled both of my grandmother’s energies. I have some of their things on display — like that little deer on the top shelf.

AR: What is one of your favorite cocktails at The Jewel Box?
NM: The Shallow Grave is one of our go-to drinks. It’s definitely for adventurous types. It has Laphroaig Select single malt scotch whisky, Rothman & Winter creme de Violette, Regans’ orange bitters, housemade ginger honey syrup, and fresh-squeezed lime juice. It’s this wild mix of smokey, floral, fruity, and grayish-purple in color, like an ominous dark storm cloud.

AR: Do you have a favorite spirit?
NM: I gravitate towards gin. It has so many little secrets you can coax out with different ingredients. Every gin distillery has its proprietary blend. One of my favorites is Uncle Val’s. It’s super botanical and kind of sweet. You can just put it on the rocks and drink it. Back River Gin is made in Maine. That one is really nice; it’s super floral. Ransom is my favorite aged gin.

AR: What are your go-to restaurants in Portland?
NM: Cong Tu Bot is one of my favorites. I’ll try whatever is on special. The chicken pho is next level. They care about marginalized communities and other important issues. Vien and his partner Jessica also helped with some of the pocket brunches. I eat at Honey Paw a lot. They have several gluten-free options. I go there when I want a flavor party. I love Cong Tu Bot and Honey Paw because they’re not afraid of bold flavors.

AR: Where do you recommend going for a special occasion?
NM: I love the floor-to-ceiling aesthetics of Fore Street and the whole atmosphere there. It’s just really beautiful, and everything is so well-sourced. It’s fun to watch the chefs cook and listen to all the communication between the expo and kitchen.

AR: Where do you recommend for takeout?
NM: My staff and I order from Mi Sen a couple of days a week. It’s so good, and the staff is so sweet. I get the drunken noodle usually with tofu. The veggies in it are so fresh and crunchy. I also really like the satay chicken skewers, and the ginger noodles are amazing.

AR: Are there any restaurants you’re looking forward to trying for the first time?
NM: Generally, I don’t eat gluten, but occasionally I cheat. When I do cheat, I’m going to Leeward.

AR: What are your favorite restaurants outside of Portland?
NM: I recommend spending a day in Kittery — not the main strip, but right on the water. It’s like a little village within a one-block radius where you can get some of the best food in Maine. When I go to Kittery, I’m going to Lil’s Bakery first for a coffee and cruller. Then, I’ll go to lunch at Anju Noodle Bar. I usually go shopping at the strip mall and glassware hunting at the thrift stores. Then, I’ll have dinner at Black Birch. They always have a couple of salads on special, and I get whichever they recommend. I love their poutine and the deviled eggs. They always do something fun with them. Then, I’ll end the day with a drink at Wallingford Dram.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Previous editions of My Kitchen Their Table have featured Courtney Loreg, Chad Conley  Atsuko Fujimoto, Matt Ginn, Jordan Rubin, Cara Stadler, Thomas Takashi Cooke, Ilma Lopez, Bowman Brown, Brian Catapang, Kelly Nelson, Lee Farrington & Bryna Gootkind, Jake and Raquel Stevens, and Tina Cromwell.

The My Kitchen Their Table series is brought to life through the talent and hard work of food writer Angela Andre Roberts, and the generous sponsorship by Evergreen Credit Union and The Boulos Company.

The Infatuation on Portland

The Infatuation has published an eating guide to Portland.

Maine is known for being a place where you can indulge in the fantasy of lobster for every meal. And sure, incredible lobster rolls abound but Portland is also a cultural destination in its own right. We have close proximity to both hikes and gorgeous beaches, the best bus stops in the US, and the potential to run into more moose than people. The best part, though? There’s so much to eat, lobster or otherwise, as you explore Maine’s most populated city.

Highlighted in the article are: Belleville, Bite Into Maine, Central Provisions, Chaval, Cong Tu Bot, Crispy Gai, Duckfat, Eventide, Flatbread, Fore Street, Hot Suppa, Leeward, Minato, Norimoto, Onggi, Rose Foods, Scales, Tandem, Terlingua, The Shop, and Yosaku