The 2020 Year in Review

It’s been an extremely difficult year for restaurants and the entire world. No report can fully or adequately capture all that has happened and that we’ve experienced in the past 12 months. That said, here’s an attempt to provide a high level overview of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the rays of hope and sunshine that was the 2020 year in food for Portland:

  • Covid-19 – The pandemic crashed into the restaurant industry in the week leading up to Friday the 13th of March. It’s been a tortuous year for employees and business owners ever since. Everyone experienced the uncertainty of those early days, the rapid growth of takeout options, the eventual loosening of restrictions in the early summer that paved the way for outdoor and on-street dining, and the contraction in business as cooler weather and darker days arrived. A number of restaurants have permanently closed—each and every one of the having a ripple effect through the lives of their staff and the communities they were part of. The vaccine(s) have provided a light that we can see at then end of a long tunnel. Here’s to hoping for a better year in 2021.
  • Community – In response to Covid, the racial justice protests and hardship heightened by the recession we’ve seen the restaurant industry and the broader community work together and respond in new ways. In the spring efforts like Feeding the Frontline and Frontline Foods channeled donations from the public into free meals to medical staff who were working to respond to the pandemic. Cooking for Community was founded in Maine as a way to deliver meals to people in need while simultaneously supporting local restaurants, farms and fisheries. Thousands of Mainers took part in the Black Lives Matter protests. The restaurant industry showed its support by taking part in Bakers Against Racism, the Black is Beautiful collaboration beer project and Food Industry Action, and Mainers became new customers Black-owned restaurants, bars and other businesses informed by the list created by BlackOwnedMaine.com. Fork Food Lab established an entrepreneurial empowerment scholarship program and Mainers supported a Go Fund Me campaign to enable Me Lon Togo to move their shuttered Waterville restaurant to Camden. This list just scratches the surface…numerous efforts by individual restaurants and people have raised funds, created programs from scratch and otherwise stepped forward to help people in need.
  • Most Notable Openings – Against all odds, new food business have launched both pre/post pandemic and managed to hold on throughout the year. The most notable opening for me have been Magnus on Water in January, Judy Gibson in February, Leeward in March, Via Vecchia and Zao Ze Cafe in June and Liu Bian Tan in September, and the fearless launch of Solo Cucina Market on March 22nd. See the monthly chronicle for details on all 2020 openings.
  • Latin American and Caribbean – Options for Latin American and the Caribbean are on the upswing. Magnus on Water, Dos Naciones, Sal de la Tierra, Tacos y Tequila, Mi Pueblo Tacos y Tequila, and Pacifico all launched in the past year. In addition, Yardie Ting is planning to open a second location, Flores is building out a bigger restaurant at 431 Congress Street, a new eatery called Caribbean Taste in under construction in South Portland, and a Costa Rican/Honduran inspired restaurant called Cafe Louis is under construction in South Portland.
  • Upcoming in 2021 – There are a number of new businesses slated to open in 2021 and I expect additions to the list to accelerate as we head into spring. For the full list of new food businesses under development see PFM Under Construction list. Here are some of the current highlights:
    • Cafe Louis – a Costa Rican/Honduran inspired restaurant being opened by Eaux owner Evan Richardson and business partner Ben Ferri in South Portland.
    • Coveside Coffee – a new coffee shop in Woodfords Corner being launched by Andy Nesheim and Zara Bohan.
    • Dandy’s Handy Store – a market being opened in Yarmouth by Garrison chef/owner Christian Hayes.
    • Elda/Jack Rabbit – Bowman Brown will be re-opening Elda and launching a new bakery cafe in the mill building Biddeford.
    • Helm – a new oyster bar and restaurant located in the WEX building on Thames Street.
    • Papa – a new food truck being launched by Josh Amergian.
    • Pigeons – Peter and Orenda Hale are opening “fly casual” daytime neighborhood bar/eatery and with a daily happy hour in the space where they formerly operated Drifters Wife.
    • Sok Sabai – a new food truck being launched by Tina Nop that will serve  Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese food.
    • SoPo Seafood – a new oyster and wine bar and seafood shop in Knightville in South Portland.

Top 10 Articles

The most popular articles published on Portland Food Map in the past year.

  1. Big Takeout List (March 14th)
  2. Indoor/Outdoor Dining List (June 21st)
  3. Pandemic Casualty List (May 4th)
  4. Black-owned Restaurants List (June 1st)
  5. Rise of the Restaumart (April 21st)
  6. Maine Hospitality Workers Resource Guide (March 23rd)
  7. Vertical Harvest Coming to Maine (July 28th)
  8. Food Truck Tracking Apps (June 26th)
  9. Maine Heirloom Apple Guide (August 31st)
  10. Opening of NewYork Fried Chicken (June 7th)

Notable Events of 2020

Passings

  • Nancy Whipple Lord – a co-founder of the Seamen’s Club restaurant in 1973.
  • William M. “Bucky” Leighton, Jr., 70 –  a teacher at the Culinary Institute in Portland and a chef at Roberts Restaurant in Portland as well as a food service instructor at Portland Regional Vocational Technical Center in Portland.

For additional perspectives on the past year in food see Andrew Ross’s 2020 Best of list in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Here are links to the Portland Food Map year in review reports for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

New Year’s Eve/Day List

35 options and counting on this year’s New Year’s list. Check back, we’ll be adding more as more restaurants announce their offerings. Don’t see your favorite restaurant on the list? Check with them directly. Some restaurants may be open on NYE with their regular takeout/menu options.

If you know of any restaurants offering special New Year’s Eve/Day options please email me or post a comment below with  the details.

  • Bao Bao – a special 4-course takeout menu celebrates the dumpling in its many forms from around the world. Order online.
  • Broken Arrow – 6-course dinner with Champagne toast.
  • Central Provisions – takeout caviar, foie gras, dinner and drinks. Order online.
  • Chaval – has on offer a takeout 3-course prix fixe dinner as well as a flounder crudo appetizer and beef tenderloin on special on NYE. Order online.
  • Cocktail Mary – Their NYE Kit includes “A bottle of Anton Ohlig Brut Rose, Cantina del Pioppa Lambrusco di Modena, Famille St. Laurent Saint-Pourçain and Quinto Do Infantado White Port. Sex work, Negroni, Maple Old fashioned and Bellini for two.” $99.99. Order online.
  • Crispy Gai – fried chicken, caviar and Miller. Order online.
  • Duckfat Friteshack – an a la carte menu of American Chinese food. Order online.
  • Evo – a 5-course takeout meal which is a collaboration with Colin Wyatt former Executive Sous Chef at Eleven Madison Park. Order online.
  • Fore Street – full takeout menu. (207) 775-2717.
  • Highroller Lobster/Sun Oriental – a menu created in collaboration between Highroller and Sun Oriental Market available for takeout, on-site dining and delivery.
  • Hunt & Alpine – NYE takeout party kits (2 servings of 4 cocktails plus olives, Hunt’s nut mix, pickles) for $75. Order online.
  • Isa – a NYE takeout menu available for pre-order by calling (207) 808-8533.
  • Izakaya Minato – Omakase for 2, $80. Order online.
  • Judy Gibson – a snack pack for 2-4 people, “Smoked mussels, house made summer sausage, chicken liver pâté with elderflower-buttermilk jelly, spicy popcorn, mixed pickles and olives along with a bottle of bubbles for $60”. (207)808-8649.
  • Little Giant – Burger boxes, “fancy hotdogs” and champagne available to order on New Year’s Eve.
  • Luke’s – A takeout seafood tower and other options for New Year’s Eve. Order online.
  • Mr. Tuna – a variety of sushi options (chirashi, part box, maki platters, etc) for takeout. Order online.
  • North 43 Bistro – has a special NYE menu available for takeout of on-site dining.
  • Other Side Diner – a takeout prime rib dinner for 2 $75. info@othersidediner.com.
  • Petite Jacqueline – serving a 4-course dinner for $75 with optional wine pairings for takeout or on-site dining. They also have a canape basket for 4.
  • Roma Cafe – has a special NYE menu for takeout or on-site dining.
  • Round Turn Distilling –  French 75 cocktail kits. Order online.
  • Sebago Brewing Co. – has a NYE menu for takeout and on-site dining.
  • Small Axe – will be serving a takeout brunch menu on New Year’s Day. See menu.
  • Sur Lie – a takeout NYE differ for 2, $120 with options for add-ons wine or cocktails. Order online.
  • Terlingua – outdoor seatings at 4:30pm, 6:30pm, and 8:30pm for parties of 2-6 people; reservations required. Also a BBQ and bubbles takeout meal for 2, $165. Order online.
  • The Honey Paw – at-cost caviar: 30, 60 or 90 grams. Order online.
  • Tipo – 3-course takeout dinner for $60/person. Order online.
  • Top of the East – a NYE takeout Celebration Box that includes apps and dessert for 2, $60. Order online.
  • Urban Farm Fermentory – will be launching their new brunch service in the UFF tasting room on New Year’s Day, 8am to 6pm.
  • Verbena – a variety of takeout options for NYE and brunch the morning after.
  • Wine Wise and Chaval –a virtual wine dinner for two (deliver included) for $250 – order online. Also a takeout New Year’s Day wine brunch for two for $125 – order online.
  • Woodford F&B – three takeout hors d’ouevres options. (207) 200-8503.

Evo NYE Chef Collaboration

Chefs Matt Ginn and Colin Wyatt are collaborating on an Evo New Year’s Eve takeout menu.

Ginn is the executive chef of the Prentice Hospitality Group and Wyatt is the former executive sous chef from Eleven Madison Park. Wyatt and his wife Selena Juneau-Vogel recently resettled to the Portland area—part of a longstanding plan to return to Maine (where Juneau-Vogel grew up) that was accelerated by the pandemic.

The friendship between Ginn and Wyatt dates back to 2007 when they both worked for Steve Corry at Five Fifty-Five. As a reference back to those earlier days, the NYE menu includes a black truffle lobster lasagna as a nod to the truffle lobster mac and cheese that was a signature item on the menu at Five Fifty-Five.

The 5-course menu includes:

    • Caviar / Mini Pita Taramasalata / Everything Crumble / House Pickle
    • Maine Root Vegetable / Winter Citrus / Local Maine Scallops
    • Black Truffle Lobster Lasagna
    • Braised Short Rib / Delicata Squash
    • Petit Fours
    • Main Dessert
    • Celebratory Toast

You can pre-order Evo’s New Year’s Eve takeout dinner online, $130 per person.

Christmas Resource List

Christmas is a little more than a week away. Here’s an evolving  list of the takeout, dine in, or provisions options that I’ve learned of are. I’ll be adding to the list as restaurants and other food producers announce their plans:

    • Ada’s – family sized pasta and dessert option, order deadline December 21st for pick-up on December 23rd or 24th. Email hello@adaspasta.com to order.
    • Belleville – cookies and baked goods. Pick-up on December 23rd and 24th. Order online.
    • Big Tree Hospitality – a wide range of dishes and provisions for pick-up on December 23rd. Order online.
    • BlueFin – will be serving a special holiday menu on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
    • Boone’s – sides, mains and dessert, order deadline December 21st for pick-up on December 24th.
    • Botto’s – baked goods and breads. Pick-up on December 24th. Order online.
    • Central Provisions – takeout sides, dinner, dessert, order deadline December 20th. Order online.
    • Chaval – 4 different holiday cakes (call for gluten-free option) plus eggnog, order deadline December 20th. Pick-up on December 24th. Order online.
    • Cheese Shop of Portland – baked good, and cheese and charcuterie platters, order deadline December 18th for pick-up on December 23rd and 24th. Order online.
    • Dandelion Catering – has a Christmas menu, order deadline December 17th for pick-up on December 24th. Order online.
    • Dizzy Bird – meals for individuals and families as well as sides and desserts, order deadline December 20th for pick-up on December 23rd and 24th. Order online.
    • Evo – choice of five pound lamb or beef roast with a variety of sauces and roasted potatoes, $90 (includes tax). Order deadline December 22nd for pickup on December 23rd or 24th. Available cooked or marinated and ready to prepare at home. (207) 358-7830.
    • Greeks of Peaks – 3-course Greek takeout dinner for $33/person. Pickup in Portland or on Peaks on December 23rd. Order online.
    • Gross Confection Bar – Christmas desserts, order deadline December 20th for pick-up on December 24th. Order online.
    • Lake & Co. – meals for 2 or 4 people along with side dishes and desserts, order deadline December 17th for pick-up on December 24th. Order online.
    • Leeward – holiday take n bake dinner kit, order deadline December 23rd for pick-up on December 24th. Order online.
    • Little Giant – Ribeye steak roast with all the sides and dessert for 2 ($160) for pick-up on December 24th. Also a bûche de noël log, $35 for pick-up on December 23rd and 24th.  Order online.
    • Luke’s – takeout Christmas Eve lobster dinner for four, order deadline December 20th for pick-up on December 24th. Order online.
    • Mami – roast pork, ramen, dumplings and cookies, order deadline December 20th, pick-up on December 24th. Order online.
    • Norimoto – a variety of baked goods for pick-up on December 24th. Email to order atsukonorimoto@gmail.com.
    • Other Side Deli – apps, sides, main dishes and desserts order deadline December 17th for pick-up on December 24th. (207) 761-9650 for Veranda St, (207) 874-7414 for Vaughan St.
    • North 43 Bistro – has options for a breakfast, Christmas dinner and appetizers all sized for a group of 6 people. Order deadline December 18th for pick-up on December 23rd or 24th. (207) 747-4009.
    • Prairie Baking Co. – bûche de noël log, cookies, and holiday cookie kit. Order online.
    • Roll Call – Fully cooked 1/2 porchetta (feeds 10-15 people, $150) or 1/4 porchetta (feeds 5-8 people, $80) with reheating instructions. Order deadline December 15th for pick-up on December 22nd or 23rd.  (207) 200-4050 or email hello@rollcallmaine.com to order.
    • Scratch Baking – has a range of baked available for pick-up on December 23rd or 24th.
    • Sichuan Kitchen – has a family-sized Christmas menus for 3-4, 6-8, and 10-12 people. Order online.
    • Sur Lie – prime rib or ham dinners for 2 or 4 people, order deadline December 20th for pick-up on December 24th. Order online.
    • Sweet Woodruff Provisions – takeout pastry chef Kate Fisher Hamm is holding a pre-Christmas pop-up selling cakes, tarts and cookie boxes, order deadline December 18th. Order online.
    • Tandem – has yule log cakes and cookie boxes. Call to order (207) 760-4440.
    • Terlingua – 4-course dinner for 4 people, $165. Order online.
    • Tipo – has menus for a Christmas Eve cocktail party, and Christmas morning breakfast. Order online.
    • Two Fat Cats – cakes, pies and other desserts, pick-up December 22-24. Order online.
    • Union – 3-course Christmas dinner at the restaurant for $79 per person (optional pairings for $13), or a family style takeout meal for 2 $100 for pick-up on December 24th (order by the 20th). See menus. They also have a Christmas Eve brunch.
    • Verbena – appetizers, salads, mains annd dessertss, order deadline December 22nd fofr pick-up on December 24th. (207) 767-2011.
    • Via Vecchia – will be serving a Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve at the restaurant. 7-courses for $70 per person (with optional $25 cocktail and wine pairings). Make reservations.
    • Westin Hotel – takeout 4-course dinner , $42 for 1 person or $80 for 2 people; order deadline December 20th. Pick-up on December 24. Order online.
    • Wine Wise and Chaval are teaming up on a Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner on Christmas Eve (Sold Out), $190 for 2 people. Order online.

Restaurant industry folks please DM on instagram or email at anestes@portlandfoodmap.com with details on your Christmas Eve/Day options.

Additionally, if you’re able, please consider making a donation to one or more of these organizations to help fight hunger in Maine:

Reflections & Lessons from 2020

The Press Herald is hosting a webinar to gather reflections on the past year with members of Portland’s small business community.

The arrival of the pandemic this spring sent Maine business people into a scramble, searching for ways to keep the lights on while ensuring the safety of employees and customers. Several shared the thinking behind their difficult decisions and pivots in our Making it Work segments. Now we return to ask, “How did it all pan out?”

Participating in the webinar are.

    • Vanessa Santarelli, Your Maine Concierge
    • Andrew Volk, Alpine + Hunt Club
    • Krista Cole, Sur Lie
    • Mike Alfiero, Harbor Fish
    • Joanna Pease, Jibe Cycling Studio
    • Mary Allen Lindemann, Coffee By Design

The webinar is scheduled to take place this Thursday at 1pm. Register online to attend.

Oasis Cooking Classes

The Oasis Free Clinic is working with five Maine chefs to offer a online cooking class series. Classes are $75 and the funds raised will underwrite the medical and dental services Oasis provides to the uninsured. A new class takes place each month starting in January:

Calypso Sushi Pop-up

Chef Ambrely Ouimette is launching a takeout sushi pop-up. The Calypso Sushi (instagram) menu includes:

To place your order send a direct message to the Calypso Sushi account on instagram, and payment will be handled through Venmo. The two options for pick-up dates are December 14th and 15th, 11am – 7pm in Portland at Ishi Ishi Ramen on Washington Ave.

Winter Farmers’ Market

The first Winter Farmers’ Market of the season is taking place this Saturday, and will run through April 17th. As in past years the market is being held at 631 Stevens Ave, 9am – 1pm.

To address public health concerns,  the market is making some changes this year. As shared on the Farmers’ Market website they include:

    • Customers are asked to PRE-ORDER from farmers as much as possible.
    • Market is now a grab-and-go experience where customers efficiently shop and then promptly return home.
    • The market layout and foot traffic pattern have been designed for social distancing, please follow all signs.
    • Customers are asked to follow ALL our new Community Shopping Guidelines.
    • A SNAP-Only Information Booth will be available. Many farmers accept credit/debit directly a their booths.

This Week’s Events: Thanksgiving, Pacifico

WednesdayDaniel Iwasko from Duckfat is Wednesday’s guest chef at the Duckfat Friteshack Grill, and the weekday Deering Oaks Farmers’ Market is taking place.

Thursday – it’s Thanksgiving…see the list below for ideas on where to get ingredients and dishes for your meal.

SaturdayPacifico, a new Latin American restaurant in Saco, is scheduled to open.

Thanksgiving Resource Guide – a growing list of which restaurants are doing in person or takeout Thanksgiving dinners, as well as bakeries, markets and other providers with special offerings for Thanksgiving. While deciding on your own Thanksgiving Day meal plans consider making a donation to the Good Shepherd Food Bank to help fight hunger in Maine.

For more information on these and other upcoming food happenings in the area, visit the event calendar.

If you are holding a food event this week that’s not listed above, publicize it by adding it as a comment to this post.