Portland is not the only place in Maine that has restaurants.

That’s just one of the things that Maine Restaurant Week helps people discover. This year’s event will include eateries stretching from Ogunquit in the south to Presque Isle in the far north. Participating restaurants offer specials and discounts during a slow time of year, so locals get a chance to try a place when prices are lower and when it’s not crowded with tourists.

And by searching the Maine Restaurant Week website, you can find an out-of-town or out-of-the-way restaurant that just happens to pique your interest. Yes, Portland has a lot of great restaurants and gets a lot of love from national foodie publications and websites. But there are creative and innovative chefs all over Maine, and Maine Restaurant Week is a good time to look for them.

“For us, it’s a fun way to get some exposure and get people to come somewhere a little different for them,” said Bryan Dame, co-owner and chef of Dara Bistro in Cumberland. “It’s a good way to shake off the winter doldrums and make the 10- or 15-minute drive from Portland to see what we have here.”

Dara Bistro in Cumberland is participating in Maine Restaurant Week, as a way to entice new visitors. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Maine Restaurant week starts Friday and runs through March 12, with more than 70 eateries signed up to participate as of last week. Some might have discounts or special items to entice customers, others offer multiple-course dinners with a fixed price. You can find specific menus and other information by looking up the restaurant on the event’s website.

This year’s restaurant list includes some in towns that perhaps you’ve never been to, like The Causeway Restaurant in Spruce Head or Dolce Amici in Norway. If you’re looking for an excuse to go to Brunswick in early March, check out Noble Kitchen + Bar. The restaurant week special there is a fixed-price dinner ($55) that includes lobster bisque, pan-seared Gulf of Maine salmon and blueberry galette. The restaurant week website allows you to search by city, so you can pick where you want to go.


You can also search for the meal you want, including breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or dessert, as well as for vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free options.

Maine Restaurant Week is also a chance for chefs to show what their places offer and what they can do.

At Dara Bistro, choices in the three-course dinner ($45) include the daily soup, roasted beet salad or champagne braised mussels for the first course and vegetarian paella with saffron and winter vegetables, chicken and dumplings with cornmeal gnocchi and mushroom gravy or Maine salmon with sunflower and pancetta braised winter vegetables for the second course. Dessert choices will include a seasonal creme brulee and a toasted banana bread with burnt honey and thyme ice cream.

The paella at Dara Bistro in Cumberland. Photo courtesy of Dara Bistro

At SoPo Seafood, a market and raw bar in South Portland’s Knightville area, the specials show off the seafood as well as other fare. For $24, dine-in customers can choose one of the following meal deals: four oysters or chowder, a trout roll or veggie burger and a gelato or non-alcoholic beverage; lobster bisque and an option of any toast: avocado, smoked trout or smoked salmon, plus a non-alcoholic beverage; a rice bowl with one protein plus a beer, Prosecco or non-alcoholic beverage; four oysters plus four crudo spoons, tuna, salmon, scallop and caviar.

“It’s a fun way to get people to see what we do, and obviously, winter is a tougher time of  year, so we’d like to get people in,” said Joshua Edgcombe, co-owner of SoPo Seafood.

Edgcombe added that the recent closings of two popular food spots very near his location – Judy Gibson and Solo Cucina Market – helps emphasize how difficult running a restaurant is and how “every little bit” of extra publicity or extra business helps.


At Thistle & Grouse in Portland, which opened in December, co-owner and chef Bobby Will says the menu will focus on food from local farms and providers. The $55, three-course restaurant week menu will highlight “the best of what’s in season.” One dish on the menu will be a curried chicken pot pie with local root vegetables and rye crust. The chicken comes from Tide Mill Organic Farm in the Down East town of Edmunds and the rye comes from Maine Grains in Skowhegan.

“I’m really big on the idea of community, and I feel like (restaurant week) gives people the opportunity to to maybe visit a restaurant they can’t afford in peak season,” said Will.

A farm-fresh chicken pot pie will be part of the Maine Restaurant Week offerings at Thistle & Grouse in Portland. Photo by Isaac Remsen

Maine Restaurant Week also includes several special events, including classes or talks at various locations. People can get details on all the events, reserve spots or buy tickets on the restaurant week website.

A presentation called The Art of Specialty Coffee Blending will be held at 10 a.m. March 9 at Coffee By Design on Diamond Street in Portland. For $125, people will get to “explore the world of coffee flavors, experiment with different beans and unlock the secrets of creating your own blend.” Later in the day, at 1 p.m., the same location will host a talk on Rwandan coffee by importer and coffee farmer Jean Cristophe Rusatira. Tickets are $50.

For chocolate lovers, there’s an event called The Dream Chocolate Bar Class at Camden Harbour Inn in Camden on Saturday at noon. It’s an interactive candy-making shop where attendees can make their own “dream” candy bar, including all the ingredients and personalized wrapper. It’s $185 a person, or complimentary if you book a two-night stay at the inn starting March 1.

One annual crowd-pleaser is The Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off, which allows people to sample breakfast fare from 10 or so Maine chefs, for $35, and then vote on their favorites. The event is the day before restaurant week begins, Thursday, Feb. 29, from 7-9 a.m. at Sea Dog Brewing Co., 125 Western Ave., in South Portland. Tickets can be ordered on the event website.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.