Sure, there are exceptions, but unless you’re paying for luxury accommodations, the restaurants attached to chain hotels tend to be a little, um, boring.
Chef Kimmo Meronen hopes to change that at the Best Western Merry Manor Inn, at 700 Main St. in South Portland, just where the feeder road for I-295 begins.
The hotel owner, the Bangor-based Lafayette Hotels group, opened The Maine Table in June, in the spot where a Governors once stood. It hired Meronen to fulfill the restaurant’s motto: “Fresh Maine food.”
Meronen was born and raised in Finland, but left his homeland at age 22 when he got the travel bug. He has worked in Spain, Costa Rica, Houston and Berkeley, Calif. Here in Maine, he has worked at Eventide Oyster Co. and, most recently, worked with chef Adam White at The Salt Exchange in Portland.
Then the Lafayette group called and asked him to design a menu of Maine foods. He has stocked the kitchen with everything from Kate’s Butter to Eastport mussels and Raye’s Mustard.
“I buy all the seafood from the wharf, mainly from Harbor Fish, some from P.J. Merrills,” he said. “We try to use Native Maine (Produce & Specialty Foods) as much as we can. We don’t necessarily work with farmers yet directly, but we’re definitely looking forward to doing that, maybe next summer. I stop at the farmers market frequently, but I can’t really say we’re using 100 percent Maine ingredients yet.”
Meronen estimates that about half the menu is seafood, a selection that includes clam chowder, scallops, lobster mac and cheese, and fish and chips. There are several lobster dishes available. The menu also includes dishes like baked stuffed meatloaf and local mushroom stroganoff.
He’d like to keep a neighborhood feel to The Maine Table so he can draw customers from South Portland and Scarborough, as well as visitors.
“Obviously we cater to the hotel, but we’re trying to build up a reputation that, although we are associated and we are in a hotel, we’re still a neighborhood restaurant,” Meronen said.
Dinner is served from 5 to 9 p.m. daily (there is no lunch service). The bar is open at 4 p.m., and Meronen said he’s just about to launch a bar menu, so food will be available until it closes at midnight.
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: