Maine’s Best New Restaurants

Barbecue. Small plates. Noodle shops. There is so much happening in Maine dining right now that it’s hard to keep up — but we have. Presenting our 31 favorite Maine restaurants to have opened in the last two years. Hope you’re hungry.

Photographs by Adam Detour
Sous chef Rose Valentine in the kitchen at 3Crow.

Rich Southern food meets (mostly local) craft beer and an expertly curated whiskey selection at Rockland’s 2-year-old 3Crow. Sleek, modern décor and a warm, candlelit atmosphere strike the perfect balance of urban cool and cozy comfort. Best reason to go: Every Tuesday is Taco Tuesday, with inspired tacos (think smoked brisket, local cabbage, and grilled corn) for $2.22 each and special prices on tequila drinks.

449 Main St., Rockland. 207-593-0812.

11 Central
This dinner-only spot in downtown Bangor has a menu that’s mildly supper-club-ish — pork chops, grilled swordfish, seafood alfredo — in a contemporary, but unintimidating room that takes advantage of the building’s exposed brick and a rotating crew of featured artists. Best reason to go: The creative pizzas (lobster artichoke, Thai chicken), thoughtful wine list, flowers, and candlelight make for a lovely and rather affordable date night.

11 Central St., Bangor. 207-922-5115.

Slow-roasted pork shoulder crowds a bowl of shoyu ramen at Anju.
Slow-roasted pork shoulder crowds a bowl of shoyu ramen at Anju.
Anju Noodle Bar co-owner Julian Armstrong.
Anju Noodle Bar co-owner Julian Armstrong.

Co-owners Gary Kim and Julian Armstrong already had a thriving kimchi business under their belts when they opened Anju Noodle Bar, their brick-and-mortar Korean noodle shop serving ramen, pickled Maine tofu, and more. Best reason to go: The impossibly fluffy, house-made pork bun, stuffed with shredded pork, pickled cucumber, hoisin mayo, and red onion.

7 Wallingford Sq., Kittery. 207-703-4298.

Bao Bao Dumpling House
Rising star Cara Stadler already had a hit on her hands with Tao Yuan in Brunswick, and when she opened this more casual Portland cousin last October, the crowds descended. Who wouldn’t love small plates of mix-and-match dumplings filled with creative innards like kung pau chicken or lamb, black bean chili, and peanut? Best reason to go: Bao Bao is a crazy popular lunch spot, and with a kitchen that’s open until 1 a.m. on summer weekends, it’s giving Boda a run for its money as Portland’s late-night go-to.

133 Spring St., Portland. 207-772-8400

Wash down your Seoul dog and tater tot poutine with a cold Thai ice tea at Portland's Blue Rooster Food Co.
Wash down your Seoul dog and tater tot poutine with a cold Thai ice tea at Portland’s Blue Rooster Food Co.
Blue Rooster Food Co. co-owner Dan McCarthy.
Blue Rooster Food Co. co-owner Dan McCarthy.

Blue Rooster Food Co.
The eccentrically named sandwiches and hot dogs at Blue Rooster Food Co. reside at the delightful intersection of casual feel and gourmet flavor. Case in point: $5 hot dogs come slathered with house-made condiments like sauerkraut and chimichurri. Best reason to go: Unbridled decadence, manifested in dishes like bacon-wrapped hot dogs, delicately fried brussels sprouts, and tater tots smothered in gravy, cheese curds, and bacon.

5 Dana St., Portland. 207-747-4157.

Bramhall Pub
Billing itself as a “neighborhood place,” Bramhall Pub serves up the kind of hearty eats you’d expect from a low-key bar (beer-braised sausage, bacon-infused burgers) with a few surprises, like prosciutto-wrapped Maine salmon with asparagus and wild rice, or smoked turkey spring rolls with roasted squash and apple cider gastrique. Best reason to go: Unbeatable drink specials — like a shot and a pint for $7 and select bottles for just $2.

767 Congress St., Portland. 207-805-1978.

Read our review, from September 2014.
Read our review, from September 2014.

Central Provisions
This Portland hotspot still draws crowds more than a year after its launch in February 2014 — all thanks to a tailored menu of tasty small plates (categorized as either Raw, Cold, Hot, or Hearty) like crab and waffles, roasted bone marrow, and fried artichoke salad. Best reason to go: The order-as-you-go adventure. Let go of the traditional progression of appetizer, entrée, and dessert — here, dishes arrive as they’re prepared, and diners frequently keep a menu at the table, should another plate pique their interest.

414 Fore St., Portland. 207-805-1085.

David’s KPT
David’s KPT (the third of four restaurants opened by acclaimed Portland chef David Turin) offers a little bit of everything, from traditional faves like chowder to exotic options like a Catalan seafood-and-bread stew. But the real draw is the knockout view of Kennebunkport Harbor out the giant picture windows. Best reason to go: That up-close harbor view makes any meal — even a casual lunch — feel like a ritzy summer vacation.

21 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport. 207-967-8225.

Breakfast and lunch get the all-star treatment at Dutch’s — think egg sandwiches made with tender, from-scratch biscuits and topped with house-made maple sausage, or a chicken salad sandwich featuring feta-brined chicken, olive tapenade, and a touch of sweetness from juicy Asian pear. Best reason to go: The Big D, a hot dog dressed in pimento cheese and whole-grain mustard, encased in a flaky croissant blanket. Otherwise known as an undisputed breakfast of champions.

28 Preble St., Portland. 207-761-2900.

Ebb & Flow
As the name suggests, Ebb & Flow is all about the ocean. Mediterranean-inspired dishes include whipped roe, charred octopus, cioppino, seared Maine scallops, and grilled whole branzino. Best reason to go: The crudo bar, where extreme seafood lovers can savor fresh selections of raw fish.

100 Commercial St., Portland. 207-780-0227.

El Rayo Taqueria
El Rayo’s flagship Portland location has been around since 2009, and their expansion to nearby Scarborough last year ensured that even more Mainers can enjoy perfectly priced Mexican standards in a cheery, colorful dining room. Best reason to go: Five-dollar burrito Mondays. El Rayo’s 1-pound burritos come with a choice of seven savory fillings: chicken, steak, carnitas, beans, vegetables, sautéed mushrooms, or grilled fish.

245 Rte. 1., Scarborough. 207-494-1000.

Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill
This garage-turned-BBQ joint boasts an impressively varied menu (from grilled pizzas to barbecued oysters to blackened catfish) plus the expected Southern standbys. Best reason to go: Elsmere’s custom-built meat smoker (named “Mama” by the owners) holds 600 pounds of melt-in-your-mouth meat at a time — and it’s claimed to be the only one of its kind north of D.C.

448 Cottage Rd., South Portland. 207-619-1948.

Read our review, from March 2014.
Read our review, from March 2014.

Empire Chinese Kitchen
Opened in late 2013, this casual spot introduced dim sum — traditionally, a Chinese brunch of small plates — to hungry Portlanders. Best reason to go: Lobster dumplings. East Coast meets Far East in these chewy, intensely satisfying steamed pockets, each stuffed with lobster meat, coriander, and fresh bamboo shoots and served with salty soy sauce for dipping.

575 Congress St., Portland. 207-747-5063.

Enio’s Eatery
Simple, elegant Italian dishes rule the day at Enio’s — from sautéed calamari to bowls of house-made cavatelli to wood-grilled lamb and veal. Best reason to go: The intimate atmosphere. With just 36 seats, one dedicated cook, and not much elbow room to speak of, an evening at Enio’s has all the trappings of a repast at a real European café.

347 Cottage Rd., South Portland. 207-799-0207.

Forks in the Air Mountain Bistro
This contemporary Rangeley outpost proves that you don’t have to stay in Portland for a fresh, show-stopping meal. Best reason to go: A welcome break from the seafood-saturated coast. Spring for comfort food like mac and cheese with Pineland Farms cheddar or grilled pork tenderloin with apricot chutney atop a cheesy, red pepper–studded brioche strata.

Read our review, from November 2014.
Read our review, from November 2014.

2485 Main St., Rangeley. 207-864-2883.

The Gothic
The fourth restaurant in famed vegetarian chef Matthew Kenney’s empire, The Gothic serves meals that are at once excitingly innovative and comfortingly familiar. Best reason to go: Chef Ryan McKeown makes an art out of veggie cuisine. You’ve never had potatoes, cauliflower, or kale as elegantly prepared and beautifully presented as this.

108 Main St., Belfast. 207-338-4684.

Read our review, from January 2014.

Andrew Taylor, Mike Wiley, and Arlin Smith have reinvented the venerable restaurant founded by their mentor, Rob Evans. Dinner is a multi-sensory experience, with most of the seating at a bar overlooking the kitchen, and the small plates of meats, seafood, and veggies arriving with choreographed precision. Best reason to go: The zen atmosphere. The cooks are serene preparing Hugo’s genre-defying cuisine, their soothing rhythm washing across the dining room.

88 Middle St., Portland. 207-774-8538.

Read our review, from December 2014.
Read our review, from December 2014.

The menu at Lolita spans the breadth of Mediterranean culture: Tuscan white bean soup mingles with Moroccan chickpeas and Spanish hams. Guests can order small plates to share or choose more traditional entrée portions for a hearty meal. Best reason to go: The enormous wood-fired grill at the center of the restaurant. It adds warmth to the room and rustic, smoky flavor to Lolita’s artful dishes.

90 Congress St., Portland. 207-775-5652.

The Lost Kitchen
Impossibly rustic, intensely local, über-buzzy, with a talented chef whose backstory comes straight out of Joseph Campbell. Erin French was an up-and-comer when she first opened The Lost Kitchen in Belfast in 2011; this reboot is one of Maine’s most intriguing new restaurants. Best reason to go: The farm-to-table ethos is palpable, local produce really shines in every dish, and the renovated grist mill setting is as romantic as they come. For more on Erin French and The Lost Kitchen, including photos, read “Lost in Transition,” our companion feature from our April 2015 issue!

22 Mill St., Freedom. 207-382-3333.

Mill 67
Mill 67 delivers laid-back pub food (fish and chips, burgers, cheesy bread, bacon meatloaf) in a newly renovated space that used to be home to a textile mill. Best reason to go: The relaxed atmosphere and stunning décor — exposed brick, soaring ceilings, gigantic windows, and rough wooden accents all pay homage to the building’s past. Eater Maine voted the spot that state’s best-looking restaurant in 2014.

61 Washington St., Sanford. 207-324-6767.

Millbrook Company
After taking over a storied, shuttered drive-in (with a dramatic view of the Bagaduce River), owner Jill Smith nixed nightly dinner service this winter (it’ll be back a couple nights a week after the restaurant’s spring break), but Millbrook is still a brunch must-stop for creative benedicts, hashes, and baked goods. Best reason to go: Blue Hill peninsula-dwellers line up for the sticky buns.

160 Snow’s Cove Rd., Sedgwick. 207-359-8344.

Our April cover dish: Gulf of Maine lobster gnocchi with asparagus from Portland's Outliers Eatery.
Our April cover dish: Gulf of Maine lobster gnocchi with asparagus from Portland’s Outliers Eatery.
Outliers Eatery executive chef Jonathan Dexter.
Outliers Eatery executive chef Jonathan Dexter.

Outliers Eatery
Once home to notoriously rough dive bar Popeye’s Ice House, this Old Port space got a chic reinvention in 2013. Now Outliers Eatery, its ever-changing New American menu — big on locally sourced ingredients like redfish and crispy pig ears — has earned rave reviews ever since. Best reason to go: Creative cocktails that nod to literary greats like Hunter S. Thompson (Rum Diaries, a blend of rum, yellow chartreuse, celery syrup, celery bitters, soda) and Ernest Hemingway (A Well Lit Place, a refreshing mix of light beer, rum, guava, and grapefruit).

231 York St., Portland. 207-747-4166.

Read our review, from July 2014.
Read our review, from July 2014.

Central and southern Italian cuisine — heavy on seafood, citrus, and bright spices — form the foundation of the menu at this cozy, 20-seat hideaway. Sip from the all-Italian wine list for added authenticity. Best reason to go: Sunday Supper. Each week, the kitchen cranks out a unique, five-course meal for lucky diners who make the reservation list.

111 Middle St., Portland. 207-747-5307.

Salt & Honey
After a successful first year in Dock Square, chef Jackson Yordon has expanded the homey breakfast and lunch spot to include full dinner service. Best reason to go: Simple French toast gets an unexpected burst of summery flavor from sweet, warm peach butter.

24 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport. 207-204-0195.

Jerusalem artichokes with bacon, watercress, parsley, and grain-mustard-and-lemon vinaigrette at Rockport's Salt Water Farm.
Jerusalem artichokes with bacon, watercress, parsley, and grain-mustard-and-lemon vinaigrette at Rockport’s Salt Water Farm.

Salt Water Farm
Stop in for an unfussy, farm-fresh breakfast, lunch, or dinner at this rustic-yet-elegant midcoast spot. Many of its ingredients come straight from its sister farming operation in nearby Lincolnville. Best reason to go: Outdoor deck seating overlooking the boats and glittering waters of Rockport Harbor — it’s a summer lunchtime favorite of Down East staffers.

24 Central St., Rockport. 207-236-0554.

Salvage BBQ
Owner Jay Villani and his team traveled all over the American south to learn the ways of authentic barbecue before opening Salvage in the fall of 2013. The result? A simple menu starring slow-cooked brisket, ribs, chicken, and pork with all the traditional fixings. Best reason to go: The down-home dining experience: Order at the counter, sit family-style on long benches, and eat from paper-lined metal trays.

919 Congress St., Portland. 207-553-2100.

Chef Stephen Lanzalotta made his thick Sicilian pizza famous at Miccuci Grocery until a much-publicized falling out in June 2014. With the opening of Slab, his solo venture, Portlanders can once again get their cheesy, chewy fix. Best reason to go: The Slab, of course — and, if you’ve got room to spare, try a funky dessert, like an “ice cream” sandwich with ricotta semifreddo between two sweet macaroons.

25 Preble St. Ext., Portland. 207-245-3088.

Sur Lie
Portland’s renaissance of shareable small-plate restaurants continues with Sur Lie, where dishes are separated into three intriguing tiers: Crisp (endive salad, minty sweet pea hummus), Pleasant (cream of white beans), and Bold (BBQ mushrooms and shrimp-topped garlic bread). Best reason to go: Addictive bites like baked-then-fried peewee potatoes, served with cool aioli and a punchy, umami sprinkling of seaweed dust.

11 Free St., Portland. 207-956-7350.

Attention, Portland-area carnivores: Timber offers an astounding selection of locally sourced, 100 percent grass-fed angus beef, plus whole and half chickens cooked on-site in a giant rotisserie oven. Best reason to go: Three words: batter fried bacon. It’s decadent, to be sure, but with a drizzle of Maine maple syrup, we’re tempted to file it under “a few bites won’t kill you” and just enjoy.

106 Exchange St., Portland. 207-805-1469.

Van Lloyd’s Bistro
This father–son–daughter-in-law operation embraces a from-scratch philosophy and global influences: the daily house-made sausage might be Italian; the house-made pasta could appear in an Indian-influenced tikka lasagna (with house-made ricotta). A cozy, unexpected find on the Damariscotta waterfront. Best reason to go: No predicting what’s going to pop up on this eclectic menu — feral boar ribs, anyone?

85 Parking Lot Ln. (behind Main St.), Damariscotta. 207-563-5005.

Read our review, from March 2015.
Read our review, from March 2015.

Vinland takes the locavore movement to its pinnacle: it claims to be the country’s first restaurant to serve 100 percent local and organic food. Every last ingredient on the menu is sourced from the state of Maine. Best reason to go: The Tasting Menu. It’s a splurge at $90 per person, but it’s an unforgettable, eight-course study in the bounty of Maine-grown food.

593 Congress St., Portland. 207-653-8617.

Plus 10 to Watch in 2015

Now that you’re hungry, a few of this year’s highly anticipated restaurant openings.

This month, Comida uproots from its original Camden location and relocates to downtown Rockland, where the menu will depart from Mexican classics to include more Spanish cuisine, plus a full selection of Latin-inspired craft cocktails and Spanish and South American wines.
421 Main St., Rockland. 207-230-7367.

East Ender
In March, Karl Deuben and Bill Leavy of the much-loved Small Axe Food Truck took over this pubby room, which always felt more like a neighborhood joint than a destination restaurant (for better or for worse).

47 Middle St., Portland. 207-879-7669.

The Honey Paw
The team behind Portland’s Eventide Oyster Company and Hugo’s adds a third venture with this “nondenominational noodle shop,” opened in March.

78 Middle St., Portland.

Isa Bistro
NYC restaurant vets (and husband and wife) Isaul Perez and Suzie St. Pierre opened this cozy Bayside bistro in February, offering an eclectic, seasonal array of plates.

79 Portland St., Portland. 207-808-8533.

M.C. Union
Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, proprietors of M.C. Perkins Cove and Boston’s Italian-inspired M.C. Spiedo, forge ahead with M.C. Union at the Portland Press Hotel, a boutique hotel in the renovated Press Herald building, set to open in April.

119 Exchange St., Portland. 800-971-2000.

Pig + Poet
Top Chef finalist (and one of People’s “sexiest men alive”) Sam Talbot will prepare signature pork dishes and reinvent Maine classics like fish chowder at the Whitehall Inn, old haunt of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

52 High St., Camden. 207-236-3391.

Sam Hayward and Dana Street’s New Venture
There’s much buzz about the Fore Street team’s plans for a (yet unnamed) seafood restaurant on Portland’s waterfront. Details remain elusive — which, of course, creates more buzz.

68-72 Commercial St., Portland.

Tempo Dulu
Opening in late April in the Danforth Inn, this Portland spot promises intriguing cuisine — Dutch-influenced Indonesian food — in a classic, fine-dining atmosphere.

163 Danforth St., Portland. 207-879-8755.

Tiqa opened in January with an enticing “pan-Mediterranean” menu — everything from falafel and hummus to Spanish paella with Maine lobster.

327 Commercial St., Portland. 207-808-8840.

The Velveteen Habit
Any restaurant launching in the farmhouse once occupied by Ogunquit’s beloved Arrows will have big shoes to fill. All reports indicate that owner Benjamin Goldman, who’s planning a “farm-style” menu supplemented by the onsite garden, will be up for the task. It’s slated to open this month.

37 Ogunquit Rd., Cape Neddick. 207-216-9884.