Sam Hayward stands in front of brick oven in 1996 that will be used at his new Fore Street restaurant. John Patriquin

1996 – Fore Street restaurant opens with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients. With a wood-fired oven and grill and rustic charm, it soon becomes Portland’s go-to spot for special occasions and a destination for visitors to the city.

2004 – Sam Hayward of Fore Street becomes the first Maine chef to win the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast.

2005 – Rob Evans, chef/owner of Hugo’s, opens Duckfat, a casual restaurant that will become known not only for its delicious Belgian fries cooked in duck fat but also for its long summer lines.

2005 – John Naylor and Scott Anderson launch Rosemont Market & Bakery, their own local foods grocery, now with six stores in Greater Portland and a seventh planned.

Harding L. Smith, chef/owner of The Front Room restaurant and bar on Munjoy Hill, preps food in the restaurant’s open kitchen in 2006. Gregory Rec

2005 – Chef Harding Lee Smith opens The Front Room on Munjoy Hill, the first of four “Rooms” restaurants he opened in Portland, becoming the first chef to open several independent restaurants in the city. By 2012, other Portland restaurateurs – including Jay Villani and Masa Miyake – are doing the same.

Owners of Five Fifty-Five, Michelle Corry and Chef Steve Corry at their Congress Street restaurant in 2003. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

2007 – Steve Corry, chef/owner of Five Fifty-Five, is named one of Food & Wine’s 10 Best New Chefs, an accolade that brings more national attention to Portland as a food city.

Masa Miyake sears tuna at Food Factory Miyake on Spring Street in 2007. Jack Milton

2007 – Masa Miyake opens the tiny Food Factory Miyake on Spring Street, and four years later moves it to a larger, more elegant space on Fore Street. In coming years, it is considered by many fans to be the best sushi restaurant in New England and even turns up on many lists of the best sushi in America.

2007 – Anestes Fotiades launches the online Portland Food Map, a roundup of Portland restaurant news that has grown along with the city’s restaurant scene.

Chef Rob Evans of Hugo’s in Portland with his award for the best chef in the Northeast from the James Beard Foundation in his kitchen at Hugo’s in 2009. John Patriquin

2009 – Rob Evans wins the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast for his work at Hugo’s.

2009 – The New York Times says that young chefs, great produce and low costs have made Portland “one of the best places to eat in the Northeast.”

2009 – Bon Appetit calls Portland “America’s Foodiest Small Town,” citing its artisanal bakeries, local beer, fresh seafood and “a ridiculous number of excellent restaurants.”

2009 – Pamela Laskey launches Maine Foodie Tours, a walking tour of the Old Port that shares the history of food in the city and stops at restaurants along the way for a bite to eat.

Heather Sanborn, co-owner of Rising Tide brewery in Portland, in 2014. Gregory Rec

2010 – Nathan and Heather Sanborn open Rising Tide Brewing Co. on Industrial Way, a part of the city that has become an incubator for craft breweries. Two years later, they move to East Bayside, a neighborhood now known as “Yeast Bayside” for the cluster of businesses there that rely on fermentation, from beer to coffee and kombucha.

2011 – The Portland Farmers’ Market adds a winter market, giving residents year-round access to local foods. Today the market, held Wednesdays and Saturdays in the warmer months, hosts 35 farms, about twice the number that sold their produce at the market in the 1990s.

2011 – Leigh Kellis makes her first potato doughnut and soon opens her first Holy Donut shop. Dark chocolate sea salt and maple bacon donuts quickly moved to the top of tourists’ bucket lists.

Diners line-up at the El Corazon food truck parked on Commercial Street in 2013. Tim Greenway

2012 – The Portland City Council gives the green light to food trucks. It will take another year or so to work out all the regulatory kinks, but bring on the tacos! And the sushi, the falafel, the barbecue – dozens now roam the streets.

Eventide Oyster Company on Middle Street in Portland in 2012. John Ewing

2012 – Eventide Oyster Co., Portland’s first contemporary oyster bar showcasing Maine-grown oysters, opens and gives new meaning to the phrase “long summer lines.” (See Duckfat, 2005).

2012 – The Portland-based Maine Brew Bus (now known as the Maine Brews Cruise) hits the road, shuttling beer lovers to craft breweries where they can drink without having to worry about driving.

2013 – Vinland opens and receives national attention for its pledge to serve only local foods, substituting local yogurt whey, for example, for lemons. The restaurant closed in 2020, a victim of the pandemic.

Chris Gould stands outside the location of his new Fore Street restaurant and bar, Central Provisions, in 2013. Gordon Chibroski

2014 – Chris and Paige Gould open Central Provisions, a small plates restaurant that quickly gains a national reputation. The Goulds, who worked for chef Ken Oringer in Boston before moving to Portland, are a textbook example of young food entrepreneurs moving to Portland for the quality of life and to raise a family.

A view from Terlingua’s original location on Washington Avenue and, across the street, Maine Mead Works and in the former Nissen building, Roustabout and Maine and Loire wine shop in 2015. Jill Brady

2015 – As Old Port and waterfront real estate becomes scarce, restaurateurs rush to lease space on inner Washington Avenue, which will become the city’s next hot drinking and dining destination. Newcomers like Terlingua (Texas BBQ), Hardshore Distilling (gin), Maine & Loire (natural wines), Oxbow Blending & Bottling (craft beer) and Maine Mead Works joined longtime restaurants Tu Casa (Salvadoran food) and the eclectic Silly’s. Today, visitors can walk down the street and grab an order of poutine with duck gravy at the Duckfat Friteshack, a glass of hard cider at Anoche, or a flight of kombucha at Root Wild – the city’s second kombuchery.

2017 – Chefs Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, co-owners (with Arlin Smith) of Eventide Oyster Co., The Honey Paw and Hugo’s win the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast.

2018 – Bon Appetit names Portland its Food City of the Year. Food tourists turn up in droves, with lists in hand of every restaurant mentioned in the magazine article.

Rob Tod, founder of Allagash Brewing. Photo courtesy of Allagash Brewing Co.

2019 – Rob Tod, founder of Allagash Brewing Co., wins the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional. Geary Brewing Co., founded in 1983, was the first craft brewery in New England (one of just 13 microbreweries in the United States), and Gritty McDuff’s followed five years later. But it was Allagash, founded in Portland in 1994, that really put Maine’s growing beer scene on the map.

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