This month’s edition of Mainer News includes a feature on Rob Evans and Nancy Pugh as they made their way through the early days on their Portland careers with Hugo’s and the founding of Duckfat.
When Evans and Pugh bought Hugo’s in the fall of 2000, all they had was trust in each other’s strength and ability. They certainly didn’t have any money, and though Chef Rob went on to earn many accolades, including a James Beard Foundation award in 2009, it took a decade to attain financial security. Only in the past year or two has the couple — who sold Hugo’s to a group of its employees in 2012 — felt that Duckfat Culture had evolved to the point where they can rely on the team to run the perpetually busy restaurant without them being in the building.
The March issue also includes a report on a visit to Panda Market in Buxton and an article about using cocktail bitters with beer.
The Courier reports on two Biddeford restaurants impacted by the pandemic. Jonesy’s Main Street Cafe is closing March 28th, and the 86 year old Wonderbar is for sale.
The popular landmark’s beginnings are familiar to many. Charlie and Archie Droggitis started Charlie’s Cafe in 1935, selling beer and sandwiches in their parent’s former shoe repair shop location on Washington Street, said Charlie’s son Spiros Droggitis. A couple of years later, Archie bought a mahogany bar in Boston, had it shipped to Maine, and another brother, Ted, suggested changing the name to Wonderbar. Soon, four brothers were involved in the business — Jimmy and Alex joining Archie and Charlie.
Maine Food for Thought has published their recent panel discussion on Maine food history.
On the panel were Steve Bromage, Don Lindgren, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, Sandy Oliver and Darren Ranco.
Several businesses are celebrating major decade anniversaries this year:
Maria’s Ristorante which was founded by Anthony and Madeline Napolitano and moved last year to the former Espo’s building on Congress Street.
Dock Fore was founded by sisters Susan and Nancy Hezlep in the space that had long been the home of Zeitman’s Grocery Store. Three Dollar Deweys opened at the intersection of Union and Fore before moving around the corner in 1995 to their location on Commercial Street. Deweys closed in 2018 and re-opened in 2019 under new ownership.
PFM data is a little sparse on what was taking place in 2000. It falls in the gap between my historical research and when the site started. Do any of you remember any establishments that opened in 2000?
Nosh, Sonny’s, Boda, Yordprom Coffee, Kamasouptra, Bayside Bowl, Pai Men Miyake, Wine Wise and Trader Joe’s opened.
A number of businesses are celebrating major decade anniversaries this year:
Legion Square Market was founded in 1939 by John Smaha.
Botto’s Bakery, Micucci’s Grocery and the Miss Portland Diner all opened fur business in 1949. Joseph Botto founded the bakery and sold it to Everett Mathews in 1982. Micucci’s Grocery was founded by Leo and Iris Micucci and is now run by their son Rick and his wife Anna. The Miss Portland was originally located at 175 Forest Ave.
Harbor Fish Market, The Lobster Shack and Lib’s Dairy Treats all go their start half a century ago.
Dave and Weslie Evans and Chip MacConnell opened a bar originally known as The Grizzly Bear. They changed the name to The Great Lost Bear in 1981 after a legal challenge from an West Coast business called Grizzly Bear Pizza.
1989 was a banner year for long lived openings. Ken Ng opened Panda Garden, Dana Street opened Street & Company, Susan Eklund opened Susan’s Fish & Chips, and Hi Bombay!, Brea Lu Cafe, Marcy’s, the Armory Lounge, and Parker’s all opened.
No doubt there were many openings in 1999 but I don’t have the data immediately at hand to detail them out at this time. I had just moved to Portland in 1998 and do clearly remember the opening of Local 188 in 1999.
Here’s a look at the top stories from a decade ago in January 2009:
- Portland Food Map launched a new homepage which incorporated the progenitor of the news blog you’re reading today.
- Paciarino held their grand opening, and Papaya King opened on Dana Street.
- Portland Police asked the City Council to deny the liquor license renewal for the Cactus Club.
- Little Lad’s Bakery & Cafe worked with Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld from Congreation Shaarey Tphiloh to bring their operation in alignment with kosher food preparation standards.
Discover Maine magazine has published an article on the history of Pat’s Meat Market.
Here’s a look at the top stories from a decade ago in December 2008:
- In their list of 2009 food trends Epicurious declared “Portland (Maine) is the new Portland (Oregon). Abundance of great chefs, restaurants, and local foodies? Check, check, and check. Want examples? Visit Five Fifty-Five, Hugo’s, and Fore Street to start.”
- In response Portland Oregon blogger Patrick Alan Coleman wrote “I’m challenging Portland, Maine, to a fight. If they want our gold leaf coated, slightly salted, smoked chocolate crown, then they’re going to have to come over here and take it! I dare ’em!”
- Portland clocked in at #7 on a list of beer towns with 1 brewery for every 15,706 people. I imagine the ratio is a lot smaller now in 2018.
- Mims Brasserie and The Kitchen both closed.
- After a very long time under construction, Corey Jones opened Loco Pollo. It was located in the space currently occupied by Terlingua.
- Maine Roasters Coffee and Freaky Bean Coffee Co., which merged their operations in 2007, went their separate ways.
- The Phoenix named Emilitsa the Best New Restaurant of 2008.
Here’s a look at the top stories from a decade ago in November 2008:
- Olive Cafe took over the space formerly occupied by Mike Keon’s restaurant One-Eyed Jack on Commercial Street.
- Steve Corry was quoted in an article for Single Edition, “The way we see it is that if someone is willing to come in alone to dine with us then he/she has an elevated level of expectation that we will strive to exceed.”
- Hugo’s held the 8th Annual Potato Dinner, “7-course meal featuring Maine grown potatoes and other root vegetables”
- Dean’s Sweets opened at the original location on Middle Street on November 22nd.
- The Maine episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern aired.
- Both Binga’s Wingas and Al-Mustaqim Halal Market were damaged by a three-alarm blaze in Bramhall Square. The Binga’s building was replaced by Peloton Labs, but the Al-Mustaqim space has just undergone considerable renovation and is now in 2018 available for lease.
- A campaign called Take Back the Tap was having some success in getting restaurants to stop serving bottled water.
Here’s a look at the top stories from a decade ago in September and October 2008:
- The Forage Kill Grow Deathmatch took place.
- The Portland City Council voted to “ban smoking in outdoor dining areas before 10 p.m.”
- Michael Bauer visited Portland writing that “Portland is . . . about a tenth of the size of San Francisco, yet in terms of food, it’s every bit as sophisticated”.
- Chef Lee Skawinski from Cinque Terre/Vignola served a dinner at The James Beard House.
- Big Mama’s Diner closed.
- A bicycle food delivery service called Veloport launched.