2011 Year in Review

It’s once again been a very busy year for the food and dining industry in Portland. I’ve scanned through the news and events for the past year and here’s my summary of the 2011 Portland Year in Food:

  • Whoopie Pies – whoopie pies were a hot topic in early 2011. In order to further establish Maine as the true home of the whoopie pie, the state Legislature considered naming it the State Dessert but ran head on into the powerful Blueberry Lobby. Compromise was struck in April with the whoopie pies being named the State Treat and ceding the title of State Dessert to blueberry pie. Whicked Whoopies contributed to the hoopla by building a 1067 pound pie beating out the prior title in Pennsylvania by more than 800 lbs.
  • Food Trucks – The city’s ban on food trucks stopped Bite into Maine from operating their lobster roll truck in the Old Port. Inspired by their story, Creative Portland Corporation took up the challenge and been very active in raising the issue for review by the City Council. The Press Herald has issued an editorial in favor food trucks and a volunteer committee assembled by CPC has proposed a set of guidelines that will hopefully get review and approval by the City Council in the new year.
  • Schulte & Herr – Petite Jacqueline, The Holy Donut and Zapoteca all generated a lot excitement in 2011, but the most unexpected and talked about new businesses to emerge last year was Schulte & Herr. The small German restaurant run by Steffi and Brian Davin has received raves reviews from almost the first day they opened. Who could have imagined that a small German Cafe on Cumberland Ave would have opened at all, much less generated so much enthusiasm in 2011?
  • Dessert – many of the new openings this year are focused on satisfying Portland’s sweet tooth. Gorgeous Gelato, Foley’s, Bakery on the Hill, The Holy Donut, and Bam Bam Bakery to name just a few. The fascination with cupcakes continued into early 2011. East End Cupcake opened a retail store on Fore Street, several other cupcake vendors entered the fray. A group of 5 food bloggers convened for round 2 of a comparative cupcake tasting. My sense is that restaurants have been investing more effort in their dessert menus in 2011 as well.
  • Make Mine a Double, Again – Last year’s trend of restaurateur’s doubling up continued into 2011: Five Fifty-Five opened Petite Jacqueline, Nosh opened Taco Escobarr, Slainte opened Gogi, Walter’s opened Gingko Blue, Aurora Provisions opened the Museum Cafe. The trend doesn’t show any signs of weakening in 2012. Already on the books we have El Rayo’s plans to open the El Rayo Cantina and the Riverhouse, Silly’s plans to open Silly’s with a Twist, and Arabica’s plans to open Crema.
  • South of the Border – Portland restaurateurs continued to try to answer the demand for Latin food. Gogi, Taco Trio, Hella Good Tacos, Taco Escobarr and Zapoteca all opened in 2011, The Wine Bar got into the act with a summertime taco lunch option, and both the El Rayo Cantina and Sabor Latino are slated to open this year. Now if only we could see an equal focus this year on addressing the dearth of great Chinese food in Portland…
  • Expansion Fervor – while a lot of new establishments opened in 2011, the number business under construction went through a steady decline all year. At the start of 2012 there were 20+ eateries in the works and by December the Under Construction list dropped to as low as 6. A few additions late in the year have tempered the decline but it still looks like the growth rate has tapered off.

Notable Events of 2011

25 Most Popular Restaurants of 2011

  1. Petite Jacqueline (-)
  2. Zapoteca (-)
  3. District (>25)
  4. Schulte & Herr (-)
  5. Bresca (1)
  6. Bar Lola (2)
  7. Miyake (19)
  8. Figa (>25)
  9. Caiola’s (9)
  10. Five Fifty-Five (4)
  11. Local 188 (10)
  12. Boda (3)
  13. Grace (15)
  14. East Ender (-)
  15. Hugo’s (>25)
  16. Walter’s (11)
  17. The Salt Exchange (6)
  18. Paciarino (14)
  19. Emilitsa (17)
  20. Gogi (-)
  21. The Thirsty Pig (-)
  22. Taco Escobarr (-)
  23. Pai Men Miyake (23)
  24. Blue Spoon (16)
  25. Fore Street (24)

The numbers in parentheses indicate their rank last year.


  • Michael Barriault – photographer and food blogger who published PortlandTown died of cancer at the age of 64.
  • Stanley T. Bennet II – the President of Oakhurst Dairy passed away at the age of 64 after a battle with cancer.
  • Frederick P. Dyer – founder of Dyer’s Variety on Portland Street passed away at the age of 90.
  • Taylor Griffin – President of The Rogers Collection died in a car crash at the age of 40.
  • Bob Mathews – the longtime owner of Botto’s Bakery on Washington Ave died at the age of 78.
  • John Palanza – owner of Uncle Andy’s Bakery in South Portland died at the age of 89. He ran the bakery for 45 years starting in 1951.

For some other perspectives on the past year see From Away, Edible Obsessions, The Golden Dish and the Portland Phoenix.

For more information on Portland’s food past see the 2010 Year in Review, PFM blog posts from 2009, 2008 and 2007, and the Portland Food Timeline.

Markets, Markets and More Markets

I’ve recently been updating the PFM lists of ethnic markets and variety stores and there have been several changes and additions:

New Food Blog: Eat Here. Go There.

A new food blog entitled Eat Here. Go There. has been added to the Food Map blog list. The author is a transplant from West Virgina and a self described “newbie Mainer, writer, bon vivant, wife, and puppy momma”. The most recent two posts are reviews of Pai Men Miyake and Boda.

Finally, Ben decided on the Pork Hocks braised in Star Anise, which the menu told us is one of the most popular dishes in Thailand! Score! The pork was so tender it came apart easily with a fork, and it tasted great, with just the slightest hint of licorice from the star anise. All in all I thought it was one of the most interesting combinations of spices I have ever had in a dish. I would consider it a must try for anyone.

This and That

A collection of food news and links for your Saturday morning:

  • Miyake has leased the space adjacent to Paciarino on Fore Street. They’ll be moving their Spring Street sushi restaurant there later this year.
  • Brown paper is up in the windows of the old Katahdin on High Street and the Restaurant for Lease sign is down. There’s no word yet on what kind of restaurant it will be but I’ve added it to the Under Construction list.
  • The folks from Dobra Tea recently took a break from getting their tea house on Middle Street ready for the grand opening to be interviewed for a book about tearooms in America. Dobra’s grand opening is scheduled for March 31.
  • According to documents filed with the city, Bonobo pizza is changing hands. The new owners, Louise Murphy and Denise Compton,  plan to “operate the business in much the same manner as the original owner and chef.”
  • According to a job posting on Craigslist, Chef Eric Simeon is leaving Grace to “to pursue his own dream of opening a restaurant of his own.”
  • Chef Jeff Hodgdon from The Salt Exchange appeared on the local Fox morning show yesterday. Hodgdon had been the sous chef at TSE and took over the kitchen when Jacob Jasinski left for a job in California last Fall.
  • Saturday is the last day of the 3rd Annual Maine Restaurant Week.

New to the Map: Cannoli Joe’s, Chubby Werewolf, Expanding Horizons Food and Tandoor Bakery

I’ve posted four new additions to the Food Map: