The Food & Dining section in today’s Maine Sunday Telegram talks with business owners about the current state of the restaurant industry, and explores the need for federal and state programs to help them survive.
In Maine, especially in Greater Portland, small, independent restaurants are a huge part of both the economy and culture, drawing visitors from all over the country who come here to explore the city’s food scene, named the best in the nation in 2018 by Bon Appetit. Many of these restaurants, often owned by the chef, have suffered enormously during the pandemic, and say that efforts to help them so far have not been enough. The state shut down restaurants in mid-March and allowed them to reopen in June, initially only to outdoor dining in Maine’s more populated counties, then two weeks later to indoor dining with requirements for capacity, spacing, mask-wearing and sanitization – measures that cost money to implement and reduced the number of customers that could be served, on top of those unwilling to dine out because of the health risks.
Restaurant critic Andrew Ross tries to identify “what made Drifters Wife and Piccolo so special“.
Both restaurants shut their doors permanently last month – Portland’s first high-profile casualties of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But it’s only now, after weeks of thinking about their absence, that I’ve started to see why the two restaurants were so important, and how their example can become a model for whatever sprouts from the fallow of the city’s locked-down food scene.