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Leslie Bridgers

After a decade reporting on the news of Portland's suburbs, Leslie is excited to let loose on MaineToday, where the scoops are more ice cream, less scandal -- much like her life. After hours, you can find her reluctantly covering right field for the company softball team, bowling a straight ball at Bayside or wandering down from Munjoy Hill in search of food and drink.

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Posted: February 26, 2018

For the 10th year, Maine Restaurant Week lures locals and boosts business

Written by: Leslie Bridgers

A busy night at Local 188, a perennial Maine Restaurant Week participant.

Photo by Ted Axelrod

When Maine Restaurant Week started in 2009, there was no Central Provisions or even Eventide. Harding Smith’s Rooms had only just begun to multiply, and mashed potato pizza wouldn’t appear until a few months later, when Otto opened its first location, in the Arts District.

A restaurant boom, no doubt, was in motion, as evidenced later that year, when Bon Appetit named Portland “America’s Foodiest Small Town.” But the culinary tourists weren’t coming in droves then, creating lines out doors at all times, in all weather.

After noticing restaurant weeks popping up in other cities and seeing the need for a boost to business during the slower winter months, public relations and marketing professionals Gillian and Jim Britt asked around to see if restaurant owners would be interested in participating in a similar event here. They were.

Now in its 10th year, Maine Restaurant Week started with about 50 restaurants and has drawn between 70 and 90 in the years since then. Some that have participated every year include Back Bay Grill, Five Fifty-Five, Local 188 and DiMillo’s. This year, the restaurants are located in 20 towns throughout the state, as far away as Sargentville and Rangeley, though the vast majority are in Portland.

Aside from helping restaurants get through the end of winter, the event offers diners the opportunity to try new places at a lower price. The participating restaurants, which range from pubs and pizza joints to high-end eateries, create three-course, fixed price menus for the event that cost between $25 and $55. Some also offer lunch menus, starting at $15.

An entry in the Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off

Photo courtesy of Maine Restaurant Week

Maine Restaurant Week, which is actually 12 days, this year from Thursday through March 12, also puts on three special events: the Incredible Breakfast Cook-off, which is scheduled for Wednesday at Sea Dog Brewing in South Portland; Crave, a coffee and baked goods tasting Sunday at Coffee By Design; and Spirit Quest, a self-guided tour of downtown Portland bars and restaurants on March 11, with cocktails and paired bites at about a dozen locations.

Steve Hewins, president and chief executive officer of the Maine Restaurant Association, said he likes how Maine Restaurant Week “encourages people out of their winter hibernation to enjoy restaurants that they’ve wanted to try but hadn’t yet had the opportunity.” From a broader perspective, he said, it “sends a positive message and reinforces the importance of Maine’s restaurant industry to our economy and quality of life.”

According to taxable sales figures from Maine Revenue Services, the restaurant industry grew by 43 percent from 2009 to 2017, to a value of $2.8 billion. The Britts estimate that Maine Restaurant Week has infused about $20 million into the state’s economy.

David Turin, whose restaurants – including David’s in Monument Square – have participated every year, said he has come to rely on the jolt in business during the slower months, like he does with New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. But unlike those one-night boosts, he said, “it’s like 12 Saturdays in a row.”

With Portland’s restaurant scene continuing to grow in size and reputation, Turin has seen changes in dining trends. Winters aren’t as bad as they used to be, and Maine Restaurant Week probably draws more people from out of state now. But, he said, his restaurants still get locals who’ve planned out visits to as many as eight different restaurants for the event, some of whom will become new customers.

“It really feels to me like a festival,” he said. “I know that we always meet new people.”

That’s what chef Niko Regas hopes is the effect on his family’s Greek restaurant, Emilitsa, which is joining the event for the first time this year. He said the restaurant often gets calls from diners during Maine Restaurant Week asking if Emilitsa is participating. With the Congress Street restaurant’s 10th birthday coinciding with the 10th annual restaurant week, he said, his family thought it was a good time to get on board. “We said, ‘Why not?’ ” said Regas.

Although he said their business continues to grow every year, the growth in the number of restaurants in Portland since Emilitsa opened also makes it harder to stand out.

“A lot of people don’t know we’re even there,” he said and hopes Maine Restaurant Week will help change that.

This list is subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, including pricing and menu details, go to

For a roundup of all the restaurants with photos, look for the Maine Restaurant Week Diners’ Guide.

Sea Dog Brewing Co.

The Brunswick Hotel and Tavern
Oaks & Maple Cafe

Hartstone Inn
Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn
Sea Dog Brewing Co.

The Good Table Restaurant
Sea Glass Restaurant

Shipyard Brew Pub

Bueno Loco
Esidore’s Bistro

Linda Bean’s Maine Kitchen and Topside Tavern

Slates Restaurant

Federal Jack’s
The White Barn Bistro

Fish Bones American Grill
Fuel Restaurant

Back Bay Grill
BlueFin North Atlantic Seafood
Bolster, Snow & Co.
Bonobo Wood Fire Pizza
Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room
Congress Squared
Corner Room Italian Kitchen & Bar
Cumberland Club
David’s Opus Ten
DiMillo’s on the Water
El Rayo Taqueria
Evo Kitchen + Bar
Five Fifty-Five
Flatbread Co.
Front Room Restaurant and Bar
Grill Room
Hot Suppa
Liquid Riot Resto-bar
Little Giant
Little Tap House
Local 188
The North Point
Petite Jacqueline
Ri Ra Irish Pub
Sebago Brewing Co.
Solo Italiano Restaurant
Sur Lie
Tempo Dulu
Timber Steakhouse & Rotisserie
Twenty Milk Stret
Union Restaurant
Vignola Cinque Terre

Forks in the Air Mountain Bistro

El El Frijoles

El Rayo Taqueria
Sebago Brewing Co.

David’s 388
Sea Dog Brewing Co.

Sea Dog Brewing Co.

Casa Novello


The Tiller


Crave: Coffee and Delights

Noon to 2 p.m. Sunday. Coffee By Design, 1 Diamond St., Portland, $30 in advance, $35 at the door.
Maine Restaurant Week invites you to an afternoon of coffee and food exploration of the international variety. Feast on sweet and savory treats created by local bakers and pastry chefs. Participants include Walter’s, The Frisky Whisk, Dean’s Sweets, Bixby & Co., Cakes by Babbs, Foley’s Gourmet Bakery, Landry’s Confections, Stones Cafe & Bakery, Standard Baking Co., Baristas + Bites, Love Kupcakes and Sur Lie. And you’ll be quenching your thirst and fulfilling caffeine needs with sips from Vena’s Fizz House, Norway Brewing and event host Coffee By Design.

A cocktail and bite pairing for Spirit Quest.
Photo courtesy of Maine Restaurant Week

Spirit Quest

2-5 p.m. March 11. Old Port and Congress Street bars and restaurants, $45 in advance, $50 at the door.

Stroll through downtown Portland, sipping and nibbling along the way. Each location on this self-guided tour will offer a cocktail paired with a bite, so you can stay nourished while you sample the local elixirs. Make your way from Five Fifty-Five and Congress Squared on Congress Street, to Monument Square to stop at David’s and Sur Lie, then off to The Press Hotel’s Union and Inkwell, down to Timber, Petite Jacqueline and The Armory in the Old Port, then RiRa and Tiqa on Commercial Street. Or whatever route suits you.


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