Posted: February 27, 2018
Maine’s most iconic foods
Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Up Next: Watch for Willem Dafoe and other actors with Maine ties at the Oscars
We’ve got world-class restaurants here in Maine that offer up a tapestry of eclectic cuisine in pretty much all corners of the state.
Some of our chefs win huge awards. Some of our restaurants are impossible to get reservations at. Maine is a foodie’s paradise, and we love that about our state.
But we also don’t want to forget about our roots, our basics, our core loves. Because sometimes the only thing that is going to hit the spot is a red hot dog washed down with a Moxie. With the opening of the Maine Historical Society exhibit “Maine Eats” coinciding with Maine Restaurant Week, we put together a collection of the foods and drinks that define Maine. Some are comfort foods, some are classics and one will give you a brutal hangover if you’re not careful.
Allen's & Milk
Maine's love affair with Allen's Coffee Flavored Brandy knows no limits. As a state, we drink massive amounts of
it, and it has been our most popular booze for many years, though it's bottled in Somerville, Massachusetts, by the
longtime spirits family M.S. Walker. According to the legend mentioned on its website, Allen's arrived in Maine in
the late '60s, and the first to soak it up were Down East fishermen. These days, it's enjoyed by just about every
segment of the over 21 population and the quintessential cocktail is Allen's and milk, better known as a sombrero.
It's one part Allen's and one part milk served over ice. We just can't get enough.
Staff photo by Gregory
Red Hot Dogs
Not unlike the argument between New England and Manhattan clam chowder, so goes the battle of the "regular" versus
red hot dog. W.A. Bean & Sons in Bangor has been in the meat business since the 1860s, and one of its staple
products is the Red Snapper frankfurter. Sure the color is, well, kind of garish, but that hardly matters. These
dogs snap and are a Maine tradition. That said, there are other brands available, but for real-deal Maine dogs,
Bean & Sons has the market cornered. There's a retail store at 229 Bomarc Road in Bangor, and the entire product
line is available at beansmeats.com
Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette
Among one of Maine's most tasty and longstanding comfort foods is the many varieties of B&M Beans. Not only are
they delicious, the aroma that wafts from their Bean Pot Circle factory on the edge of Portland's Casco Bay is
heavenly. The retro factory has been producing its famous baked beans since 1913, and B&M celebrated its 150th
birthday last year. George Burnham founded the company back in 1867 with a focus on packaging meat, vegetables and
fish. Soon, a gent named Charles Morrill came into the picture and Burnham & Morrill Co. was born. We have these
two fellows to thank for figuring out just the right combination of beans, spices and condiments to make their
beans a household name. The factory still uses 200-pound iron bean pots suspended from the ceiling, and as you can
imagine, it goes through massive amounts of pea beans, molasses, cane sugar and several other ingredients that make
these beans so tasty we could eat them right out of the can.
Staff photo by John Patriquin
We're not going to start the age-old argument of what is the perfect Italian sandwich and what are the "right"
ingredients for one. Instead, let's celebrate the fact that the ubiquitous Italian sandwich is a Maine staple, and
the unofficial headquarters for them is Amato's. Order a large "Real Italian," and you'll end up with a glorious
creation of cheese, ham, chopped onions, sliced pickles, sliced tomatoes and smattering of Greek olives on a soft
roll with a special blend of oil. This is the sandwich that has been the cornerstone of Amato's since 1902 and is
sold in its 19 locations statewide. Paired with a bag of chips and something carbonated? Sheer
Staff photo by Gordon Chibroski
There are two schools of thought about Moxie and only two. People either love it or they hate it, but it's unlikely
you'll hear anyone say, "It's OK." But considering there's a giant Moxie Festival every year in Lisbon, clearly
enough people love the stuff to make it a Maine staple in liquid form. According to the official Moxie Facebook
page, it all began in 1884 when Dr. Augustin Thompson whipped up "Moxie Nerve Food" carbonated tonic in Lowell,
Massachusetts. Fast forward to the '20s when, incredibly, Moxie outsold Coca-Cola on a national scale. But by the
'50s, the love affair was mostly over except for here in New England. These days the mysterious brown elixir is
bottled at Moxie Beverage Co. in Bedford, New Hampshire, and has cult status. As for Dr. Thompson, take one guess
where we has born? If you said Maine, you'd be correct – Union to be exact. And, if there's one thing we Mainers
have, it's plenty of moxie, so it only makes sense that a drink with that name is such a hot commodity. Lest there
be any remaining doubt, Moxie was named the official soft drink of Maine. Chug, chug, chug!
Staff photo by
There's one thing that locals and tourists seem to have in common: a mad love for lobster rolls. From high-end ones
in fine dining establishments to roadside ones up and down the Maine coast, lobster rolls are the quintessential
Maine classic, especially during summer months. It's all about the bun, the right amount of mayo, some perfectly
drawn butter and the freshness of the meat. It's also all about being able to eat our favorite crustacean with ease
and without nutcrackers and a bib.
Staff photo by Gordon Chibroski
Sometimes it's the simplest things that mean the most, and a prime example is the whoopie pie. They don't require
all that many ingredients or work to make, and yet they're sweet and scrumptious masterpieces. Which is probably
why you can find them at just about every convenience store, general store, bakery and diner in Maine. They come in
different sizes and flavors, but we prefer the classic chocolate with white marshmallow filling. The sugar shock is
real, but so is the satisfaction. In 2011, the Maine State Legislature declared the whoopie pie our official Maine
treat. We agree!
Staff photo by Andy Molloy
How much do Mainers love blueberry pie? We love it so much that, in 2011, the State Legislature designated
blueberry pie, made with wild Maine blueberries, as the official state dessert. Whether you're making it home with
blueberries you spend the afternoon picking or are having a massive slice topped with whipped cream from Moody's
Diner, blueberry pie is king. Now move over and surrender your fork!
Staff photo by Gabe Souza
What's unique about fiddleheads is that they're foraged. You don't just plant them in your garden and harvest them
a few months later. That is not the way of the fiddlehead. Fiddleheads are the coiled fronds of young ostrich
ferns. Said coil looks like the head of a fiddle; hence the name. You can only find them for a couple of weeks in
the spring, mostly from farmers markets and local farm stands, along with a handful of co-ops, natural food stores
and Whole Foods. As for recipes, a quick search revealed that they can be enjoyed beer-battered, sautéed, baked in
a quiche and boiled and served with a butter and salt.
Staff photo by Joe Phelan