A snapshot of what it was like to eat in Maine in early 2012.
- By: Paul Doiron
There’s a page on Facebook that really makes me feel my age. It’s called the Portland Maine Encyclopedia of the 1960s, ’70s & ’80s. We wrote about it last year in the magazine, but like any wiki-type project it continues to grow and evolve in interesting ways. If you haven’t already guessed from the title, the page is a sort of group stroll down memory lane to the days before the Old Port was the Old Port and the cost of the Million Dollar Bridge seemed a noteworthy extravagance worth celebrating. (A recent thread charted the many restaurants that have occupied the oddly curved building at the corner of Commercial and Dana streets, currently home to the Farmer’s Table.) If you want to get a quick sense of how dramatically Portland has changed over the past three decades, this Facebook encyclopedia is a good place to start.
Many of the reminiscences are devoted to food. Extinct eateries — the Sportsman’s Grill, Alberta’s, the Village Café — evoke lengthy discussions. Most of the memories are fond, as you might imagine; nostalgia always seems to cast a golden glow over the tarnishes of the past. I don’t post comments myself, but I often find my mouth watering in agreement when someone mentions the Italian sandwiches at the now-gone Terroni’s Market during its heyday, when lines formed on Park Avenue at lunchtime.
These days Maine is celebrated so routinely for its fine dining that it’s hard for many newcomers to believe that until recently our state was a lackluster place to eat. The reason we remember the better bakeries and restaurants of yore is because there were so few of them. Today, a magazine like Down East has the opposite problem when it sets out to offer recommendations for best burgers and exquisite cups of chowder. How do we choose? The short answer is that we ask around (including on our own Facebook page), we listen to what other people are raving about, and then we hit the road to taste for ourselves. The result is a package [page 46] that is highly opinionated, personally vetted — and by no means comprehensive. If “Cheap Eats” doesn’t prompt furious debate, then we’ve done something wrong.
It helps to think of this entire issue as a snapshot of what it was like to eat in Maine in early 2012. It wouldn’t surprise me if, decades from now, someone on some future version of Facebook exclaims, “Remember that first ‘wicked good’ food issue of Down East?”
- By: Paul Doiron