The Salt Yard Review, Vegetarian History

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram includes a review of The Salt Yard at the Canopy Portland Waterfront Hotel,

…It has done so partly through decor that incorporates work from local artisans, as well as through Maine-themed food and beverage options at its ground-floor restaurant, Salt Yard Bar & Café – a restaurant without a dining room. The lack of a dedicated evening dining space is not a liability when you’re able to sip bar ambassador Katrin Miller’s inventive, generally well-composed cocktails. Her Moxie Old Fashioned is a knockout and works well as a pairing for a bowl of poutine-like Korean Beef Fries made with Maine potatoes, or a delightfully messy Salt Yard Burger made with Pineland Farms beef.

The paper also shares the history and impact of the Good Day Market on the vegetarian food scene in Portland back in the late 20th Century.

A landmark vegetarian business called the Good Day Market that opened in Portland in 1970 would go on to cultivate at least five memorable vegetarian establishments and continues to flavor the city’s food scene today.

Looking Back at April 2009, 2014, and 2019

The Portland Food Map archive  provides a chronicle of the past 16+ years of the Portland restaurant scene. While a lot of the reporting here is about what’s happening now and coming next, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at what the hot topics were from 5, 10 and 15 years ago.

Here’s are highlights from April 2009, 2014 and 2019:

Looking Back at March 2009, 2014, and 2019

The Portland Food Map archive  provides a chronicle of the past 16+ years of the Portland restaurant scene. While a lot of the reporting here is about what’s happening now and coming next, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at what the hot topics were from 5, 10 and 15 years ago.

Here’s are highlights from March 2009, 2014 and 2019:

  • Silly’s won the 2009 WMPG Cajun Cookin’ Challenge with a vegan dish.
  • Word was out about El Rayo and the construction of their first restaurant which was located at the corner of High and York Streets. Cheryl Lewis and Norine Kotts headlined the launch of El Rayo.
  • Chef Jeff Landry opened his new restaurant The Farmer’s Table. It was located in the Commercial Street building now home to Elevation Burger. Type A Diversions opined, “For those seeking simply prepared, well-executed comfort food, The Farmer’s Table fits the bill; it is a great new addition to Portland’s food scene.”
  • Micucci’s started work on a line of bottled pasta sauced developed by their then chef/baker Stephen Lanzalotta.
  • Construction of The Corner Room got underway.
  • Freaky Bean closed their remaining two coffee shops.
  • The Maine 2009 Beard Awards nominees for 2009 were Fore Street for Outstanding Restaurant, and Rob Evans, and Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier for the Best Chef: Northeast category.
  • The Washington Post published an article about Munjoy Hill in 2009 that highlighted: North Star, Hilltop Coffee Shop, Rosemont, The Front Room, Duckfat, Colucci’s and Homegrown Herb & Tea.
  • Joe Ricchio launched his food blog Portland Food Coma in March 2009. One of the very first posts was a list of “Ten Things to Eat in Portland…[when you] have no time or patience for being disappointed”. The list includes dishes at Thanh Thanh 2, Haggarty’s, Tu Casa, Bresca, La Bodega Latina, Huong’s, Hugo’s, Hot Suppa and One Fifty Ate. Joe has since gone on to run a wide variety of media initiatives and is currently operating the Food Coma Private Dinners series.
  • Construction began at 442 Fore Street on Pearl, a bar and lounge. The building is now occupied by Venus and Mars, one of Portland’s many cannabis shops.
  • The Hella Good Taco food cart purchased Steve & Renee’s Diner in 2014 where for a time they served a hybrid Hella Good/Diner menu.
  • Coffee By Design opened their new coffee shop and roastery in East Bayside on March 4, 2014.
  • The Portland police made a recommendation to the City Council not to renew Sangillo’s liquor license, which then led to a campaign to save Sangillo’s.
  • Maine Craft Distilling released the first batch of their single malt whiskey, 50 Stone.
  • In 2014, the coffee industry insider publication Sprudge published an article about the coffee service at Hugo’s and the restaurant’s partnership with Tandem Coffee Roasters. “Hugo’s has transformed the finale of an already transformative dining experience.”
  • Details emerged about the development of Slab, and of The Jewel Box.
  • Tandem announced plans to open a second location at 742 Congress Street.
  • Justin Velgos, Mark Woollard and Billy Flaherty launched unofficial Uprising iPhone app for people who have taken on the challenge of drinking their way through The Uprising beer list at Novare Res.
  • Red Sea open on Washington Ave in the space that was formerly occupied by Safari.
  • The Maine College of Art is offered a set of Culinary Arts classes as part of their continuing education program in the summer of 2014.
  • Word was out in 2019 that a wine bar and wine shop called Lorne was under construction in Biddeford. Lorne will be permanently closing this summer.
  • Ten Ten Pié went out of business. They were located on Cumberland Ave in the space that’s now home to Banh Appetit. Ten Ten’s baker, Atsuko Fujimoto, has since gone on to open her own business Norimoto Bakery.
  • Bird & Co. opened on March 12, 2019 in Woodfords Corner.
  • Natalie DiBenedetto, chef/owner of Figgy’s, become the latest Chopped Champion from Maine.
  • Rob Tod from Allagash Brewing Co. was a 2019 Beard Awards nominee in the Outstanding Wine Beer or Spirits Professional category.

See the entries published in February and January for more memories from Portland’s recent food history.

5-10-15: February 2024

The Portland Food Map archive of posts provides a chronicle of the past 16+ years of the Portland restaurant scene. While a lot of the reporting here is about what’s happening now and coming next, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at what the hot topics were from 5, 10 and 15 years ago.

Here’s are highlights from February 2009, 2014 and 2019:

  • In 2009 One Longfellow Square and Rabelais Books announced the launch of a food film series. The idea was that each month they partnered with a local chef who’d select a food film that was meaningful to them and prepare a meal to complement the screening at One Longfellow.
  • Backyard chickens were a hot topic and in early 2009 the City Council passed an ordinance to make them legal to raise in Portland.
  • Rob Schatz launched his food blog Eating Portland Alive in 2014. A decade and 3,651 posts later and Schatz is still going strong as an Johnny-on-the-spot instagram account about the Portland food scene.
  • Ten years ago the Beard Foundation released the names of 7 chefs and restaurants semifinalist for the 2014 awards program: Fore Street and Primo for Outstanding Restaurant, Rob Tod at Allagash for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional, Cara Stadler at Tao Yuan for Rising Star, and three chefs in the Best Chef:Northeast category: Brian Hill from Francine Bistro, Ravin Nakjaroen at Long Grain, and Masa Miyake from Miyake.
  • Cronuts (invented and trademarked by Dominique Ansel) were all the rage in 2014. South Portland bakery Little Bigs was selling out their weekly production in 30 minutes with customers driving from as far away as Brunswick to get their hands on the trendy baked good.
  • Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly served a pop-up Indonesian dinner at Nosh. The Pisha-Dufflys went on to help Big Tree Hospitality (then known as AMA) launch The Honey Paw in 2015 and then moved to Portland, Oregon where they have won acclaim for their restaurants Gado Gado, Oma’s Hideaway and The Houston Blacklight.
  • What was likely Portland’s first tortilla factory, Tortilleria Pachangalaunched on Industrial Way in 2014.
  • Word broke that Guy and Stella Hernandez, owners of Bar Lola, were working to launch of a new restaurant called Lolita.
  • The Press Herald hired Peggy Grodinsky to be the newspaper’s food editor. Grodinsky continues to lead the Food & Dining team at the Maine Trust for Local News to this day.
  • Chris and Paige Gould launched their new restaurant Central Provisions. It would go on to get a Best New Restaurant Beard Award nomination the following year.
  • An antique Maine law was unearthed that prohibited Maine establishments from listing the ABV of the alcoholic beverages on their menus. The legislature quickly passed an update to eliminate the outdated provision.
  • Five years ago the Beard Foundation released the names of 9 chefs and restaurants semifinalist for the 2019 awards program in the Best Chef: Northeast, Outstanding Restaurant, Outstanding Baker, Outstanding Wine Beer or Spirits Professional and Outstanding Service categories.
  • In 2019, brothers Sam and Rob Minervino bought Pizza Villa from the sons of the founder Michael Regios. Pizza Villa was founded in 1965.
  • Word broke about the development of a new cocktail bar and restaurant in Biddeford called Magnus on Water, and also the first report emerged about Perennial Cider Bar in Belfast.
  • Evan Atwell opened his most excellent knife shop Strata in one of the Black Box incubator spaces on Washington Ave.

Check back next month for a look back at the hot news from the March of 2009, 2014 and 2019.

5-10-15: January 2024

The Portland Food Map launched in August 2007 and the archive of posts provides a chronicle of the past 16+ years of the Portland restaurant scene. While a lot of the reporting here is about what’s happening now and coming next, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at what the hot topics were from 5, 10 and 15 years ago.

Here’s are highlights from January 2009, 2014 and 2019:

Check back next month for a look back at the hot news from the Februarys of 2009, 2014 and 2019.

The Great Lost Bear

The beer bar and restaurant we know today as The Great Lost Bear was founded in 1979 by Dave Evans, Weslie Evans and Chip MacConnell. Now after more than four decades in business, ownership of The Bear is being handed off to the next generation. Longtime managers Michael Dickson, Mary Dickson and Andrew Pillsbury signed paperwork Monday and became the new owners of the iconic Forest Ave establishment.

The Great Lost Bear launched in the pre-craft beer era in Maine. Geary’s was Maine’s first modern craft brewery and it sold its first beer in 1986. Gritty’s opened in 1988, and Shipyard and Allagash didn’t launch until the middle of the next decade. A very early beer list at the Bear consisted of Heineken, Saint Pauli Girl, Molson, Bass, Ballantine, Michelob, Miller Lite, Guiness, Miller and Budwiser and few draft beers. Now clocking in at ~70 taps of craft beer, the original Great Lost Bear draft line consisted of just four taps.

As the local brewing industry has developed, The Great Lost Bear has been a witness and essential supporter of the Maine craft beer industry. Here are some thoughts from Allagash founder Rob Tod,

The folks at the Great Lost Bear were the first to take a chance and put my beer, Allagash White, on tap. And since then, they’ve been institutional in supporting and expanding the popularity of the beer scene here in Maine. I’m glad to see that I’ll be able to enjoy a pint at the Bear for many years to come.

Weslie and Dave Evans moved to Portland from North Conway where they worked in the restaurant industry—Dave as a cook and Weslie in the front of house. When they decided to launch their own business they moved to Portland and eventually found a location on Forest Ave in what had been the Bottoms Up rock club. At the time the back half of the building was home to Nappi’s Bakery. The Evans’s and MacConnell leased their half of the building for $800/month.

Dave Evans was the first chef of the restaurant and over the years the menu has grown from a four page list to the behemoth it is today. While a lot has changed over the years, there a few dishes—and Weslie Evans’ wonderful illustrations and lettering—that have been constants including the French Onion Gratinee, Spinach Salad, and the I’ve Never Haddock Like This.  The vegetarian section (Carnivore’s Beware!) made it’s appearance in 1981.

See below for a look at the cover art (cropped to fit) of GLB menus from the very early days through the version in use today. You’ll notice the first in the series uses the name The Grizzly Bear which was the original name of the business. It was changed, after a legal challenge from an pre-existing West coast operation called Grizzly Bear Pizza in 1981 to the new (and much better) moniker we use today.

Best of luck to the new owners as they steer The Great Lost Bear forward in the years to come.


Old Port Tavern Closing

The Press Herald reports that the Old Port Tavern is closing. New Year’s Eve will be their last day in business.

The Old Port Tavern on Moulton Street will close its doors on Saturday night, New Year’s Eve, ending a 50-year stay in the heart of a waterfront district known for its lively nightlife and plethora of dining options.

Housed in the basement of the historic Mariners Church Building, the Old Port Tavern opened as a restaurant and bar in 1973. Richard Herrera, 71, and his business partner, Charlie McGee, 75, have operated the tavern for five decades, but have decided to retire after the business serves its last round of drinks Saturday night.

A History of Maine Restaurant Unionization

The Maine chapter of the AFL-CIO has taken a look at the history of restaurant union organization in Maine.

As early as the 1890s, Maine restaurant and hotel workers began organizing and forming worker organization known as “labor and benefit” orders, according to labor historian Charlie Scontras. In 1919, members of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees’ International Alliance and Bartenders’ International League of America (HERE) established locals in Augusta and Portland. Then in 1928, the Portland local brought HERE’s international president, Edward Flore, and an organizer to the city where they reportedly “met with good success, adding several new houses to the fair list and strengthening the Local.”

The History of Whip and Spoon

Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram delves into the history of Whip and Spoon, a kitchen supply store that operated in Portland for nearly a quarter of a century.

Fifty years ago this month, two transplants from Washington, D.C., started a business that became the Whip and Spoon – a Portland kitchen shop that would flourish in tandem with the country’s growing interest in cooking and entertaining. During their nearly two-and-a-half decades in business, the couple’s store supplied Mainers with the means to upgrade their eating and drinking at home.

An Oral History of Beetle’s Lunch with Cheryl Lewis & Norine Kotts

Back before they moved to Portland and opened Cafe Always and went on to found Aurora Provisions and help launch El Rayo, Cheryl Lewis and Norine Kotts were part of the team that opened the Beetle’s Lunch in Allston. Professor Janice Irvine at University of Massachusetts has recorded and published this oral history interview with Kotts and Lewis about those early days.

But first there was Beetle’s Lunch! Before moving to Portland, Lewis and Kotts were two of the four lesbian co-founders of Beetle’s Lunch in 1982, a café in Allston, Massachusetts. Known as a queer-punk space also welcoming of locals, Beetle’s was named the”1983 Best Punk Restaurant” by Boston magazine. I lived a block away from Beetle’s during that time, while a graduate student at Brandeis University, and frequented the café several times. Almost four decades later, I moved to Portland from Massachusetts. Serendipitously, I met Cheryl and Norine at a dinner party. We immediately discovered, and bonded over, our shared history at Beetle’s. As a sociologist, I knew their stories would be those of a radical generation reimagining work, politics, and food. In this oral history, they recount Beetle’s origin story, and the daily pleasures and challenges of launching and running a restaurant (while in their 20s!). More broadly, their stories capture that dynamic historical moment of feminist and queer politics, a nascent food revolution, the emergence of alternative community spaces, and early ‘80s experiments in establishing collective workplaces. This oral history covers the period ca. 1981-83.