Here’s a look back at the 2023 year in food. It’s been a very busy year of events, openings and, sadly, of closings too. Read on for a refresher on the year we just experienced and for a look at the new restaurants, bars, pizzerias, and other business that are in the pipeline.
Closings – Some restaurant close every year whether due to retirement, lack of business success, owners interest in pursuing a new venture or external personal circumstance. However, 2023 has clearly seen much more than its fair share. 2023 has been notable not only for the overall number of business closures, but also for touching established businesses as well as more recent arrivals alike.
To name just a few there was Little Woodfords, Maine Mead Works, the Rosemont wine bar, and Bull Feeney’s in Q1, Blue Spoon (since reopened in Rockport), Tiqa, Full Turn and Timber in Q2 and Vena’s shared plans not to launch their new bar/retail shop, Petite Jacqueline, Rick’s Lobby Cafe, The Danforth, Wolf Peach in Camden in Q3, and the CBD on Congress, the Other Side Deli, Judy Gibson, Radici, The Snug and Cabana in Q4. See this page and the month-by-month recap below for a fuller accounting of the departures.
Hopefully as we head into 2024 we’ll see this peak in these losses to the food and dining community subside.
Maine Food Map – The energy that’s powered the Portland area restaurant scene for the last decade is also now making an impact on communities across the state. New hospitality businesses are launching in small towns like Waterford and Alna as well as in tourist destinations like Rangeley and Eastport. Nowhere has that entrepreneurial activity been more keenly evident than in the Midcoast. However, the last two years have also seen notable establishments opening in locations like Gardiner and Lewiston—cities that weren’t at the top of anyone’s #TheNextBiddeford list. A pandemic influenced in-migration to Maine from other states is one of the contributing factors which has brought experienced professionals to (or back to) Maine and a growing customer base for the businesses they’re creating.
Take a look back the 2023 reporting on the Maine food scene for more details, but here are some of the highlights:
- Beard Awards: The Quarry in Monson was a Beard Awards winner in the Outstanding Hospitality Category, and Nezinscot Farm in Turner was named a James Beard America’s Classics Award winner
- Kennebunk: Chefs Nate Norris and Annie Callan opened Bev’s Cafe and Market in Kennebunk
- Bath/Brunswick: Caballeras, BizziBuns, Oysthers, and The Abbey all opened. A new Holy Donut shop, Reverie Coffee and Linden + Front are under construction. After a long hiatus Tao Yuan reopened.
- Camden/Rockport: Costa Media opened in the former Wolf Peach building. Additionally, Albatross, the new bar at The Norumbega, The Place Bakery, Sea Hag Cidery and the relocated Blue Spoon opened. Buttermilk Kitchen is under construction.
- Thomaston: Honey’s is under construction and Uproot Pie Company just opened.
- Alna: The Maine Sunday Telegram named The Alna Store their pick for the Best New Restaurant of 2023.
- Greenville: the Blair Hill Inn hired Max Snyder as their new chef.
- Belfast: a new wine bar called Pulling Corks, and a taco/cocktail bar called Dos Gatos are under construction.
- Wiscassett: The “prettiest village in Maine” saw the opening of Jolie Rodger’s and Yonder, and Jodie’s took the place of Sarah’s.
- Blue Hill Peninsula: Travel and Leisure declared the Blue Hill peninsula “One of the Best Places to Eat in the U.S. Right Now“.
- Union/Warren: Alsace opened in Union and the Black Goat Test Kitchen opened in Warren.
- Lewiston: The opening of Bon Vivant brought fine dining back to Lewiston.
- Waldoboro: The Waldoboro Inn launched Ida’s their fun bar and pop-up collaboration venue.
- Gardiner: Table Bar launched a dinner service with chef Jimmy Leftis.
- Buxton: Oak & Ember opened in September.
- Saco: The Scandinavian bakery Fika opened.
- Waterford: The launch of Tallulah’s at The Waterford Inne.
Upcoming in 2024 – There remains a strong pipeline of new businesses under development in the Portland area. For a full list see our Under Construction list. Here are just some highlights to look forward to:
There are also several other exciting new projects in the works that we’ll be writing about soon. Check back soon for all the details.
Notable Events of 2023
- January – 11 Maine chefs and restaurants were on the Beard Awards semifinalists list. Salvatore’s Hoagies and Badger Bagels launched; the new LB Kitchen, Bake Maine Pottery Cafe and Auntie’s House opened, Badger Bagels debuted; Little Woodfords, Omi’s, Maine Mead Works, the Rosemont Wine Bar, and the Legion Square Market in South Portland closed.
- February – The Danforth (which has since closed) was selected by Imbibe magazine for their annual Imbibe 75 list of the “people and places who are helping to shape the way we’ll drink in the months ahead”. Caleb Landry, Adam Sousa, and Matt Brown announced plans to launch the Portland Distilling Company. Joseph Rank recently took over ownership of Big Sky Bread Company. Nezinscot Farm in Turner was named a James Beard America’s Classics Award winner. Lenora and The Ugly Duckling opened, and Rivalries closed.
- March – Double Great Coffee announced their plans for the former Hilltop Coffee space, construction began on Cantina Calafia, the Rose Foods guest chef bagel sandwich series, the New England Beer Summit and Maine Restaurant Week took place, Forbes has published an interview with Jonathan Baker about his artisanal ice business, Rebel Cheesesteaks announced plans to open a restaurant on Congress Street, Press Herald reports on how a maturing craft brewing industry is adding food service to evolve their business model. The Quarry in Monson was named a Beard Awards nominee in the Outstanding Hospitality category. A fire broke out at the construction site of the new Brea Lu Cafe location in Westbrook pushing back the opening date for the popular eatery. Papi and Thai Esaan opened and Maps reopened after an extended renovation. Maples shutdown their location in Yarmouth and moved to New Gloucester. Bull Feeney’s closed and Rwanda Bean closed their location on Thompson’s Point.
- April – The staff at Cong Tu Bot formed a union, Maine Seaweed Week took place, chef Johnny Spero from the Michelin-starred Reverie served a 9-course dinner in Portland, Crispy Gai sous chef Amadeus Florendo held a pop-up serving contemporary Filipino cuisine, Travel & Leisure published an article celebrating Biddeford, seven Maine food producers were winners in the 2024 Good Food Awards, Papi Door-gate got rolling, The Danforth and the Hunt & Alpine were recognized by Tales of the Cocktail in their 2023 Regional Spirit Awards. Freedom’s Edge announced plans to open a tasting room in East Bayside. Bread & Friends, Room for Improvement, Coastal Creamery, Modestman Brewing, and The End of Portland opened. Pat’s Pizza, Tiqa, Blue Spoon (which as since reopened in Rockport), Pho Huong, Captain Sam’s closed.
- May – The founders of The Great Lost Bear sold the business to longtime managers Michael Dickson, Mary Dickson and Andrew Pillsbury. Amovie called City of Servers about the Portland restaurant industry premiered. The Infatuation has published an eating guide to “The Best Restaurants In Portland, Maine“. Bloomberg has published a pair of articles on where to eat and stay in Maine and Portland. The Maine Sunday Telegram told the story of 5 food trucks that were making the transition to becoming restaurants. StarChefs featured 10 Maine chefs and sommeliers as part of their On The Ground photo series. Harshore and Oxbow began work to expand into the former Maine Mead Works space. Bar Futo held an 8-course dinner in collaboration with chefs Tracy Chang, Christine Lau, Tim Ma, and Shuai Wang, Sang Lee, and Nikhil Naiker. The Friends of Woodfords Corner launched a new farmers’ market. Cherished Possessions announced plans to open a new restaurant in Allen’s Corner. Full Turn, Stroudwater Distilling and Timber closed.
- June – The Quarry in Monson was the 2023 winner of the Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality, a fire took The Grill Room out of commission, Mark Law took over as the CEO of Rosemont Market, Cider Club Portland celebrated its 5th anniversary, Down East published an interview with Sam Hayward about his first cooking job which was on Appledore Island in 1974, Portland Wine Week took place, Bon Appetit included Rover in Biddeford and Rose Foods in Portland to their list of Very Best Bagels in the US outside of New York and the tristate area, Food & Wine has included Bite Into Maine in their list of America’s Best Lobster Rolls. Angoor shared plans to open a self-pour wine bar on Fore Street. Owl & Elm in Yarmouth, Khmer Kitchen, Volcano, Lecha, and the South Freeport Village Market opened.
- July – Ajambo Africa has published an article about the Oga Suya mobile Nigerian barbecue business run by Young Francis and Rose Barboza, Vena’s decided not to proceed with opening their bar and retail shop, George + Leon’s, the South Portland outpost of Modestman Brewing, Night Moves, Quanto Basta, Twirl, Little Pig, Bite Into Maine, the Clam Bar, and Henry’s Public House opened.
- August – Don Lindgren shut down the retail shop for Rabelais Books in Biddeford; the Western Hemisphere’s premier culinary bookshop will continue to operate online. Down East has published an interview with Lulu Ranta the chef/owner of The Quarry in Monson, Shahin Khojastehzad leased a spot at 52 Alder Street as a production space for his new company Handshake Digestif Bitters, LyAnna Sanabria on being named a semifinalist Best New Bartender by Punch. The Continental, Wander at Longwoods, Night Mares, and Lambs opened. Queenie’s Castle and Rick’s Lobby Cafe closed.
- September – The New York Times included Tinder Hearth in Brooksville in their 2023 list of the 50 restaurants they’re “most excited about right now”. Travel and Leisure declared the Blue Hill peninsula “One of the Best Places to Eat in the U.S. Right Now“. The Maine Sunday Telegram published a feature article about Joshua Miranda. Harshore Distilling released word of their line of Shorebird bourbons. 7 Maine food industry professionals were included in StarChefs list of Rising Stars in the Costal New England region. An all-star line-up of female chefs from Maine collaborated on multi-course Fabulous Femmes dinner to benefit MOFGA and to highlight Maine women in farming. Wine Enthusiast included Vessel & Vine and Maine & Loire on their list of The Best Wine Shops of 2023. Allagash was named the Brewery/Brewer of the year at the Great American Beer Festival. Matcha Mood opened in Portland and Barber Brothers opened in South Portland. Steve and Michelle Corry shared plans to close Petite Jacqueline, and both The Danforth and The Maker’s Galley closed.
- October – Chad Conley sold his stake in Ramona’s to his co-founder Josh Sobel. Papi beverage director LyAnna Sanabria is featured in a Wine Enthusiast article entitled 8 Hispanic Drinks Pros Making an Impact on the Spirits and Cocktail Scenes. The Maine Sunday Telegram publised a feature article on the fast growing Maine cider industry. The Prentice Hospitality Group purchased The Good Table in Cape Elizabeth. Cantina Calafia opened their takeout window while they continue the buildout of their restaurant, Rick Woods from the Rick’s Lobby Cafe found a new home at The Proper Cup. La Benedicion and Asia Eats opened in the Public Market House. When Pig’s Fly and Porttown opened and The Grill Room reopened after the fire that knocked them out of action earlier in the year. Botanically Curious shared their plans for a retail location on Congress Street. The Bar and Bites on Exchange Street closed as did the Bayside location of Banded Brewing, the Congress Street Coffee By Design location and the Other Side Deli on Veranda Street.
- November –Punch named Room for Improvement to their list of the Best New Bars of 2023, The Maine Sunday Telegram published a feature article about Marilou Ranta the chef/owner of The Quarry in Monson, Maxim magazine has published a list of the 10 Best Places for Drinks in and around Portland, chef Joseph Robbins was invited to cook at the White House Tribal Nations Summit. Construction began at Mesa Grande Taqueria, at Jerome’s in the former Snug space, and at Argenta Brewing in Bayside. Orange Bike Brewing launched, Broadway Bowl and Thistle & Grouse opened. Radici, The Snug and Judy Gibson closed and the owners of Solo Cucina shared they’d put the market up for sale.
- December – Big Tree Hospitality announced plans to relaunch their takeout restaurant XO Burger & Wings, Chocolats Passion won six medals from the 2023 Academy of Chocolate competition in London. Construction got underway for Bar Publica, Sacred Profane and Leisure Time Cocktails on Thompson’s Point. Nosh Tacos opened, Chocolats Passion opened their new West End chocolate shop, as did the bookstore cafe/bar Novel. Cabana, Citrus, and Taytene in South Portland closed.
Top 10 Articles
The most popular articles published on Portland Food Map in the past year.
- Salvatore’s Hoagies – first word of the new sandwich takeout business.
- Oak & Ember – first word about a new restaurant in Buxton.
- 2023 Beard Semifinalists – 11 Maine restaurants and chefs were named as awards semifinalists.
- Battery Steele – first word of the brewery’s expansion to Wells.
- Bistro Leluco – opening of the restaurant in South Portland.
- Wander at Longwoods – first word about the farm-to-table restaurant in Cumberland.
- Tacos La Poblanita – first word of their new restaurant in Westbrook.
- Thanksgiving List – the 2023 edition of our Thanks giving Resource list.
- Lambs – opening announcement for Lambs in South Portland.
- Lecha – first word about the new boba tea and ice cream shop in Deering Center.
For an additional perspective on the past year in food see the Maine Sunday Telegram Dine Out Maine: Best of 2023 article, and the Portland Old Port 2023 wrap-up.
This is the 14th year running that Portland Food Map has published a year in review article. Take a walk down memory lane by checking out these past editions that covered 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.