Winter blues got you down? If you love memorable food, noteworthy dining experiences and contributing to a good cause, the fourth annual Maine Restaurant Week can help relieve your cabin fever.
From now until March 10, restaurants throughout the state have an opportunity to showcase their dishes at budget-friendly prices. At some fine dining establishments a single entree can cost as much as $25 or more. During Maine Restaurant Week, customers can enjoy three meals for the price of one.
For $20, $30 or $40, patrons can relish a three-course dinner created specifically for Maine Restaurant Week. Some Portland restaurants such as David’s in Monument Square, Bull Feeney’s and The Salt Exchange will be featuring a three-course lunch for $15.
Inspired by restaurant weeks that take place in cities like New York and Boston, GBritt, a South Portland-based public relations firm, started Maine Restaurant Week in 2009. Since then, the 10-day celebration has attracted the interest of restaurant owners from Portland to Bangor. Bringing in new customers stimulates local economies during a time that can be rough for the restaurant industry.
“March is typically a slow month for restaurants. [Maine Restaurant Week] provides a nice boost from top to bottom,” said Gillian Britt, a GBritt partner. “Food vendors and suppliers see more ordering activity. Maine restaurants get more business and servers get paid more.”
Portland’s contributions to Maine’s booming food scene has made the city a key destination for Restaurant Week. With prime access to craft breweries, organic meat, produce and fresh seafood, Portland restaurants serve up some of the state’s finest local ingredients.
Known for their massive beer selection and mouth-watering pub fare, The Great Lost Bear at 540 Forest Ave. will be serving an appetizer, entree and dessert for $20 during Maine Restaurant Week. Customers can choose from classics like mac and cheese, a meat or veggie burger, and a Toll House cookie pie.
“It’s a really great deal for only 20 bucks,” said Dave Foster, social media manager and server at The Great Lost Bear.
With over 60 craft beers on tap, including local favorites from Baxter Brewing Company, Maine Beer Company and Allagash Brewing Company, The Great Lost Bear is perfect for a quick pick-me-up in between classes.
“There’s no place closer to USM that has such a variety of beer,” Foster said.
If you’d rather sip on a refreshing cocktail, Sonny’s has a list of over 15 specialty drinks that will knock your socks off. Located at 83 Exchange St., many of the beverages incorporate house-infused alcohol, from a lemon zest and thyme vodka to an Ancho chile-infused tequila. To add to the bold flavors of Sonny’s cocktails, lemon, lime and grapefruit juices are all hand squeezed.
Sonny’s cuisine is inspired by the flavors of Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. For $30 during Maine Restaurant Week, customers have choices like Cuban meatballs, tortilla pie and any dessert on the menu. A friendly, knowledgeable staff is quick to assist with food recommendations and drink pairings.
“I’d suggest the goat cheese salad appetizer, with the enchiladas entree and chocolate Creme Inglês for dessert,” said Sonny’s bartender Brendan Foley. “Pairing that with a strawberry hot pepper margarita or a Bunker [Brewing] lager would be a really good intro to Sonny’s.”
Sonny’s attracts an eclectic crowd, from those interested in a fine dining experience to customers just looking to relax at the bar. With a laidback atmosphere and modern decor, the restaurant is ideal for first dates, dinner with friends or simply unwinding after a big exam.
Porthole Restaurant, located at 20 Custom House Wharf, offers a mix between traditional favorites and fine dining. Described as “upscale comfort food” by executive chef Paul Dyer, Porthole’s menu features delectable breakfast and lunch options.
“Our homemade hash and eggs Florentine are some of our signature dishes, but all of the menu sells really well,” Dyer said.
For $15 during Maine Restaurant Week, customers can indulge in Porthole’s fresh, daily made soup appetizer, an all-you-can-eat fish fry or a braised short rib shepherd’s pie entree, and a roasted almond tiramisu dessert. According to Dyer, 90 to 95 percent of Porthole menu items are made in-house.
Porthole is also one of nine restaurants competing in this year’s Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off, a Maine Restaurant Week event set to take place on Friday, March 9 at Sea Dog Brewing Company in South Portland. Each restaurant will prepare their signature breakfast dish in hopes of winning the title of Maine’s “Champion of Breakfast.” Ticket sales from the event benefit programs that deter hunger and homelessness at Portland’s Preble Street.
Maine Restaurant Week has raised thousands of dollars for area non-profits, with proceeds from past Maine Restaurant Week events having gone to the Maine chapter of Share Our Strength, an organization committed to ending childhood hunger in America, the MECA Scholarship Fund, and The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.
“We’re very proud to be able to give back to the community,” Britt said.