MK Kitchen staffer Nola True mixes whips cream and Belgian chocolate to make chocolate mousse. The restaurant is participating in Maine Restaurant Week, March 1-12. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Maine Restaurant Week will be more of a moveable feast this year.

The annual event is known for bringing attention to restaurants all over the state, by drawing people to dining rooms for special menus and three-course meals. But this year, with the pandemic still here and restaurant capacity restricted, many participants will be offering their menu items for takeout and for outdoor dining too. Large events that are usually part of the week, including the Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off, won’t be held this year.

Maine Restaurant Week will be held March 1-12 with restaurants around the state participating. Diners can find out what special menus restaurants are offering, and which ones are doing indoor dining, outdoor dining or takeout by going to the event website, MaineRestaurantWeek.com.

For many of the upscale restaurants participating, it will be the first time they offer takeout during restaurant week. Many started offering takeout only when COVID-19 first closed dining rooms last year.

The panko-crusted haddock, with lemon risotto, from MK Kitchen in Gorham. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“Takeout is completely new to us since the pandemic. It’s really helped us,” said Lisa Kaldrovich, co-owner of MK Kitchen in Gorham. “Some days we’re booked up (with take-out orders) by 5:30 p.m.”

Kaldrovich and other restaurant owners say they’re glad Maine Restaurant Week is being held this year, in its usual early-March time frame. March is always a slow time for restaurants, but will be especially so this year. Restaurateurs feel Maine Restaurant Week will help re-focus attention on eateries and help them gain new customers, because it always has in the past.

“The first time we did restaurant week, we were blown away with how many new people it brought in,” said Kaldrovich.

Last year, Restaurant Week squeaked by in the nick of time. It came to a close just before the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Maine. The event began in 2009 and has been held annually.

Maine Restaurant Week organizer Gillian Britt, of gBritt PR, said the usual $495 participation fee for restaurants has been waived this year, with help from several sponsors. Maybe because that, there is a wider variety of eateries participating this year representing a wider geographic area, spreading a little more inland and little farther from Portland in all directions, Britt said, including Doolin’s Pub in Litchfield and Jonathan’s in Ogunquit.

Maine Craft Distilling is trying out it’s new three-course menu during Maine Restaurant Week, Britt said, and Pat’s Pizza, a longtime Maine establishment, is a new entry this year with locations in Brunswick and Yarmouth. Restaurants can offer special multi-course dinners, but they don’t have to. They can serve whatever dishes or deals they can come up with, said Britt.

Solo Italiano in Portland will be offering a five-course meal for takeout during Maine Restaurant Week. Photo by Erin Little

The Maine Restaurant Week website, as of mid-February, listed more than 43 participants, but restaurants have until March 1 to sign up, so that number should grow, Britt said. Of those listed, most were offering  indoor dining, more than 25 were offering curbside pick-up or takeout, and 11 have outdoor seating.

Clicking on the name of a restaurant pulls up its Restaurant Week menu (though some were not posted at press time) and its address, website link and contact info.

Evo Kitchen + Bar in Portland is offering a three-course “tasting menu” for $45 which lists chickpea fries with Harissa yogurt, duck leg with sunchoke/black garlic/cherry glaze and cod with almond, brown butter and capers, among the choices. The food is available for takeout or eat-in.

Little Giant in Portland is also offering a three-course meal for $45, with choices including Tortilla Espanola with wild mushrooms and trout roe, fried chicken with coriander and aji Amarillo and coconut sorbet with toasted coconut. It’s offered to go or to eat in Little Giant’s new heated and covered patio area.

A three-course dinner at MK Kitchen is $35, and choices include rigatoni bolognese with tomato, beef and pork sausage, bacon breadcrumbs and parmesan, as well as truffle mushroom risotto. Vanilla flan, chocolate mousse and tiramisu are the dessert options. The food is for curbside takeout or dine-in.

Sur Lie in Portland will be open for Maine Restaurant Week, March 1-12. Photo courtesy of Sur Lie.

Guidance from the state limits the total number of people in a restaurant to 50 “per room” with no more than two rooms being used. Tables must be spaced at least six feet apart. The Maine Restaurant Week website says that masks will be required at all times at the restaurants, including at tables while not eating or drinking.

Sur Lie in Portland is taking the opportunity of Maine Restaurant Week to reopen the restaurant’s dining areas. For much of the pandemic, the restaurant has been selling “farmers baskets” of ingredients and three-course mix-and-match dinners that can be picked up cold and heated up at home.

Krista Cole, owner of Sur Lie, said Maine Restaurant Week has always brought her new customers. The event this year will help focus attention on the struggles of restaurants, which began nearly a year ago.

“This year, I think it’s more important than ever, with the hospitality industry struggling so much,” said Cole. “It’s really important to get this renewed focus on the industry and people trying to support us.”

MK Kitchen staffers Emily Gagne, left, and Johanna Piekart prepare gnocchi. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


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