It’s been another busy and challenging year. Here’s an attempt to provide a high level overview of the 2021 year in food:
- Covid-19 – the pandemic continued to have a big impact on all our lives. With surge in cases that bookended the year in Maine and a peak in the spring Covid-19 continued to have a ripple effect across the industry from outdoor dining in the depths of winter to supply chain issues to a challenging labor market. Vaccines improved conditions during the summer but the delta and omicron variants have driven up case numbers and hospitalizations resulting in customers becoming more cautious and less numerous as we head into winter. A small number of restaurants have implemented their own proof of vaccination policies and in late December a petition is began circulating among Portland restaurants that calls on the City Council to make that a city-wide approach for indoor dining. Despite all the headwinds, new food business projects continue to get launched—a sign that food entrepreneurs feel a sense of hope and optimism about what’s to come in 2022.
- Food Truck Boom – Food truck launches continued to surge in 2021. The Press Herald, Mainebiz, Maine Public, Bangor Daily News all wrote and discussed this trend. At one point this past summer there were almost 50 trucks on the streets or under development in Portland. Over the past decade, many businesses that started as food trucks have transitioned into brick and mortar businesses. It will be interesting to see if that’s also the case with this new set of mobile food entrepreneurs.
- Knightville – There always seems to be some section of town which is a focal point for new restaurant development. In 2021 that new bright spot has been the Knightville neighborhood in South Portland. SoPo Seafood, BenReuben’s Knishery, Cafe Louis opened and Taco Trio moved to new digs. They all joined the Knightville veterans like Smaha’s Legion square Market, The Bridgeway, The Snow Squall, Verbena’s, Cia Coffee and relatively recent opening by Solo Cucina, Judy Gibson, and Foulmouthed Brewing. The former Taco Trio space is now vacant and there are other store fronts that may come on the market so we’re likely to see more growth here into 2022.
- John Woods – John Woods passed away at the age of 57. Woods was a co-founder of Full Plates Full Potential and was tireless fighter in the battle against childhood hunger in Maine. His work touched the lives of so many people and made Maine a better place. In his memory Full Plates established the John T. Woods Innovation Fund.
- Upcoming in 2022 – For the full list of new food businesses under development see PFM Under Construction list. Here are some of the current highlights:
- Bread and Friends – a brick and mortar bakery/cafe being launched by a pair of couples who moved here from the Bay Area. In 2021 they started selling wholesale and at some local farmers’ markets. B&F will be located at 505 Fore Street and is slated to open in late summer.
- Dila’s Kitchen – a Turkish eatery located on the second floor of the Public Market House. Watch for them to launch in early 2022.
- Hi-Fidelity Beer – a low ABV brewery and community space in East Bayside.
- Lenora – a taco bar focusing on Mexican-inspired street food being launched by partners from from Lone Star Taco Bar and Deep Ellum in Boston. Watch for them to launch in early summer.
- Twelve – located in the reconstructed Pattern Storehouse from the Portland Company Complex, Twelve will feature the culinary talents of Matt Ginn and Colin Wyatt.
- TBD – Gin & Luck (the parent company of Death & Co.) is opening an as yet unnamed restaurant and bar in the Danforth Street location formerly occupied by Little Giant.
- Wicked Fresco – a food truck that was originally slated to open this past summer. Wicked Fresco co-owners Camila Sohm and Eric Mendoza plan to tap into their Colombian and Salvadoran food cultures and Maine seasonal ingredients to serve a menu of sweet and savory salads as well as sides and hand-crafted sodas.
- Zu Baker – a neighborhood boulangerie in the West End being launched by Barak Olins this spring.
There are also several other exciting new projects that are currently under wraps but will go public soon. Check back later this year for details.
Top 10 Articles
The most popular articles published on Portland Food Map in the past year.
- Valentine’s Day List (February 6th)
- Vy Banh Mi food truck (January 20th)
- Stacks Pancake Company (April 19th)
- Lucky Pigeon gluten-free brewery (January 21st)
- Apres in East Bayside (April 19th)
- Luna and Salt Yard (March 11th)
- Jackrabbit Cafe (March 31st)
- BenReuben’s Knishery (March 11th)
- Wayside Tavern (April 22nd)
- Launch of Truckalico (March 14th)
Notable Events of 2021
- January – The City Council extended outdoor dining permits through to May 10th, the Maine Sunday Telegram reported on the high demand at local food pantries, Eat Drink Lucky completed a survey on outdoor/indoor dining perspectives during the pandemic, a new company called Huga began beta testing a heated seat pad for use at outdoor dining spots, the East Ender launched a guest chef series, Terlingua launched a BBQ collaboration series, and seven Maine food producers won Good Food award winners. Sugar High Donuts, the Iron Side Whiskey Bar, Coco Cones and Rover opened.
- February – Eater published an article about the Preble Street food program, an essay by Carmen Harris (co-founder of Magnus on Water) appeared in the inaugural issue of For the Culture, the city decided to extend some street closures into 2021, and Thrillist published an eating guide to Portland. Helm, Thoroughfare, S+P Plant-Based Foods, the C. Love Baking Academy opened. Bill’s Pizza closed their location in the Old Port to make way for a new Holy Donut, Binga’s Stadium closed their Free Street location, and Cheevitdee closed.
- March – John Woods passed away at the age of 57, Maine Restaurant Week took place, Food & Wine included Forage, Rover and Scratch Baking on their list of the Best Bagels in America, owners from Cheevitdee and Mi Sen began working on a new restaurant called Mitr, The Maine Farm to Table Cookbook was published, Mainer News delved into the early days of Rob Evans and Nancy Pugh’s work at Hugo’s. Belleflower Brewing, Siblings Bakery, Vy Banh Mi, and the Foodtruckalico phone app launched. MJ’s Wine Bar closed and owner Mark Ohlson began converting the space into what would become Citrus.
- April – Two city councilors considered how to regulate food delivery companies, Rose Foods kicked-off a guest chef series, chef Khristian Martinez held a Salvadoran pop-up at Central Provisions, the Press Herald published a 5-part series on the impact the pandemic has had on the restaurant industry, Ben Jackson joined the team at Magnus on the Water. Onggi and Ruby’s West End opened. Roll Call closed their sandwich shop on Clark Street.
- May – Work began on a second volume of the Maine Community Cookbook, Joe Ricchio interviewed Krista Kern Desjarlais for the Food Coma Maine podcast, a group of restaurants collaborated to raise money for organizations fighting AAPI hate. Soul Food Paradise, BenReuben’s Knishery, Paddy Wagon, La Fritanga, Cheese Louise, Caribbean Taste, Pigeons, Speckled Ax on Walton Street, Rwanda Bean on Thompson’s Point, Curbside Comforts, DiMillo’s on a Roll, Coveside Coffee, The Pink Waffle, Snowology, Buzz Coffee, Higgins Beach Market, and Jackrabbit Cafe opened.
- June – the 3rd Annual Portland Wine Week took place, demolition of the Brian Boru building was averted. Il Leone, Crispy Gai, Taste of 243, Luna and Salt Yard opened, and Strata moved into their new shop. Pigeons closed.
- July – Construction began on Hi-Fidelity Brewing in East Bayside, the Washington Post published an article about Bresca and the Honey Bee, the owner of Barrett Made and and a cofounder of Austin Street began work to launch a nonalcoholic brewery called KitNA. Cafe Louis, Brickyard Hollow, Citrus, Eighty 8 Donut Cafe, Apres, Stacks Pancake, the Witty Monkey and Wayside Tavern opened; Cakes Extraordinaire moved to Yarmouth and Bam Bam moved into their former space on Brighton Ave. Figgy’s closed.
- August – Little Giant, Hunt & Alpine and Crown Jewel became the first establishments to implement proof of vaccination policies for indoor dining, there was a change in management at Back Bay Grill, Gather in Yarmouth went up for sale, the Boston Globe published an article on 101-year old lobsterwoman named Virginia Oliver, Bravo Maine moved to Brighton Ave, Belleville leased space for a new production bakery on Forest Ave, Phil Rosenthal and his camera crew were in town filming for a Maine episode of Someone Feed Phil. Lucky Pigeon, Nibblesford, Quanto Basta, Moonday Coffee, Zephyr Ice, the Rosemont wine bar on Thompson’s Point opened. One Fifty Ate closed after two decades in business. Coco Cones and the West End location of Other Side closed.
- September – Gin & Luck began work to launch a new restaurant in the former Little Giant space on Danforth Street, Cantillon Zwwanze Day took place at Novare Res, Bard began work on a second location in the Portland Foreside development. Flores, Sarah’s Farmstand Kitchen, Tokyo Sushi Ramen, SoPo Seafood, and the La Mega coffee cart opened.
- October – Fork Food Lab share initial plans for a larger new location in South Portland, the New York Times included Cong Tu Bot in their list of the 50 most exciting restaurant in America., Vena’s announced plans to reopen on Congress Street. Norimoto Bakery opened on Stevens Ave, the new Taco Trio, Friends & Family, Falafel Time, the Cinnamon Girl food truck and the Soul Food Paradise location in the Maine Mall, The Portland Board, and Rathskeller on Wharf all opened. Emilitsa closed and Regards began construction of their new restaurant in their space at 547 Congress Street.
- November – 10 Maine food producers were named finalist in the Good Food Awards, Harvest on the Harbor took place, longtime food reported Meredith Goad retired from the Press Herald, Lenora took over the long vacant Walter’s space, and Tandem began renovations of their original cafe on Anderson Street. Butcher Burger, Maker’s Galley, Ghee, Cellardoor, Old Port Nutrition, and the Brunch 207 food truck opened. Big Sky closed their location in the Public Market House.
- December – Barak Olins began work to open Zu Bakery on Clark Street, Scratch Baking kicked off a major renovation of their Willard Square location, Big Tree Hospitality partner Mike Wiley announced plans to leave the business, restaurant owners began circulating a petition asking the City Council to implement a proof of vaccination requirement, Mimi Weissenborn was hired as the executive chef at Sur Lie. Buzz Coffee, Free Street, and Dirty Dove opened, and Arcadia opened at their new location on Congress Street. Ada’s, Bubble Mania, Yeto’s and D&G closed in Biddeford.
- Hope Hushion, 44 – a former sous chef at Fore Street.
- Abiodun Jerry Olubi, 38 – a former chef at 207 Bar and Restaurant.
- Thomas Smaha, 77 – the longtime owner of the Smaha’s Legion Square Market in South Portland.
- Anna Maria Tocci, 43 – former co-owner of the North Star Music Café.
- Dylan Webber, 31 – co-founder of Definitive Brewing.
- John Woods, 57 – co-founder of Full Plates Full Potential.
This is the 12th 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 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.