This weekend marks the unofficial beginning of tourist season in Maine, and conjures thoughts of all things summer – lobster rolls, flip flops, temperatures that don’t make you feel like an extra in the movie “Frozen.”

Restaurants are busy preparing for the descending hordes. They’re hiring extra staff and dressing up their patios so we can all soak up some extra sun while dining al fresco.

And suddenly, calendars are brimming with fun food- and drink-related events.

Over at Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room, owner Harding Lee Smith is preparing for the restaurant’s first full summer season. Smith said he’s already noticed “a major uptick” in business as the weather has warmed, and with his deck overlooking Portland’s waterfront, the competition for seats is only going to get heavier as the weeks go on. Smith will be nearly doubling his staff for the summer and hopes to have them all trained by this weekend.

In addition to hiring extra people to bus tables and act as parking lot attendants, Smith also has to have a banquet staff to run the restaurant’s function space. Boone’s will be hosting events most nights of the week beginning in June, he said.

The preparation for summer, Smith said, is a bit like spring cleaning or getting the camp ready. His staff is power-washing decks, repairing patio furniture and buying new silverware, glassware and china. The air conditioning system needs some maintenance work, and ice machines are getting tune-ups so they’ll run at full capacity.


The menu, of course, also is changing, with the addition of lighter summer fare.

“We are starting to see the lobster prices come down a bit, finally, from a brutal winter,” Smith said. “We will go from 500 pounds a week to nearly 300 pounds a day.”

Dining outdoors is one of the great pleasures of a Maine summer. Yes, you can do that anywhere in the country, but here in Maine, after six months of winter or near-winter, we appreciate it more.

Piccolo, the rustic Italian place on Middle Street, is adding six outdoor seats this year on a small wooden deck built in front of the restaurant. Portland Hunt & Alpine Club is adding 14 outdoor seats so you can watch the human circus in Post Office Park while you sip on your barrel-aged Negroni.

The most anticipated new outdoor seating this summer will be at Slab, the new restaurant Jason Loring and Stephen Lanzalotta are opening at 25 Preble St. in Portland, in the old Portland Public Market building.

With more than 150 seats on the patio and 20 draught lines, Slab will be the place to go this summer for an after-work beer and a slice, er, slab. There will be live music and a 12-foot projector screen for games, movies and functions. (I propose we have our next big staff meeting there.)


Yes, we’ve written about it before, but Loring just gave us his latest update: He’s still got no opening date, but swears it will be in June. Rising Tide Brewing Co. just brewed a small-batch collaboration beer with Loring and his staff that will be served at the opening, so we know it’s getting close.

I’ve also got definitive start dates for three new food carts and trucks, which is another good option for dining outdoors.

Gloria Pearse’s Annapurna Thali food cart, which will serve channa masala and other Indian fare, will open June 13 at 101 Fox St., the home of Maine Craft Distilling. Aside from special events, she’ll be there every day, since her cart is too large for city sidewalks.

Fishin’ Ships, the new fish-and-chips food truck, will debut at Rising Tide Brewing Co., 103 Fox St., on May 29. They’ll be serving up seafood from noon until 8 p.m.

Clayton Norris, owner of a new food truck called CN Shawarma, plans to open the first week of June. You’ll find him in the areas throughout the city that are zoned for food trucks; he will be posting his exact location daily on Facebook and Twitter.

Norris’ truck will specialize in shawarma sandwiches (spit-roasted meat, sliced and placed in soft pita), falafel (chick pea fritters), fresh grain salads and a variety of house-made sauces and pickles. The menu, he said is inspired by the culinary traditions of the Eastern Mediterranean region.


If you’d rather toast the dog days of summer with a cocktail or a cold local brew, there seems to be an unusual number of creative new events coming up.

The first one celebrates a fabulous story that every resident of Portland should know. As you may have learned in history class, Maine was one of the first states to pass an alcohol prohibition law, thanks to Portland Mayor Neal Dow, known as the Napoleon of Temperance. Four very dry years later, on June 2, 1855, Portlanders discovered that Dow had hidden a stash of rum in City Hall. Thousands of thirsty citizens descended upon the place in protest.

Here we are, 159 years after the so-called Rum Riots. Let’s have a drink to celebrate.

That’s exactly what bartenders are hoping we’ll do May 31-

June 2, when local bars will hold special events in commemoration of the uprising and to celebrate the city’s new cocktail culture.

“We’re seeing really great distilleries open up and making really great products, and also there’s great bartenders in tons of places around here doing interesting things,” said Briana Volk, one of the owners of the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club.


The first event is a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the cosmo on May 31 at the Top of the East. (Drink a cosmo or two, then go home and watch “Sex and the City” reruns.) Sample a variety of rums June 1 at In’Finiti Fermentation & Distillation, then head over to the Fernet Branca Industry Party at Portland Hunt & Alpine Club (and take a turn at the Fernet Wheel O’ Swag). Or take a Harvey Wallbanger sunset cruise June 2. For a schedule, go to

This year, Volk said, is just the beginning. She’d like to see Maine Rum Riots become an annual cocktail fest along the same lines as Cocktail Week in that other Portland.

“We’ve kept it pretty small to be really approachable and realistic for being our first year,” she said. “But we would love to be able to in the future have master classes and bring in these great cocktail historians to teach seminars.”

If tequila’s more your speed, you’re in luck. This summer, Zapoteca is adding 10 to 12 new mezcals and tequilas to its already impressive list.

Whether you’re searching for the summer’s best dish or just want to enjoy a refreshing cocktail, take advantage of a new venture from the Maine Brew Bus. Beginning in June, the Hop and Go Shuttle Service will offer free rides from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays to a selection of restaurants and bars on the Portland peninsula.

Zach Poole, owner of the Maine Brew Bus, said he hopes to have all the stops finalized by the end of this week, but so far Rising Tide, Maine Craft Distilling, Maine Mead Works, Urban Farm Fermentory, Nosh Kitchen Bar, Slab, Arcadia National Bar, Little Tap House, Salvage BBQ, Andy’s Old Port Pub and Sebago Brewing have all expressed interest, as have many of the downtown hotels.


You can sign up for the Maine Brew Bus newsletter for more details as the service comes together, or visit the website currently in the works, which will soon have a complete schedule. Go to

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad


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