The 1990s were sort of a sweet spot in Portland history.

The Old Port had recently become a vibrant hub of restaurants and shops after years of being somewhat downtrodden, and the rest of downtown was starting to become reenergized, too. The city was not yet the hotel-filled international tourist destination it is now, so you could get often get a parking spot on the street on your first try.

As the Press Herald brings back Go, the name its weekly entertainment guide launched as in 1993, we thought it would be a good time to celebrate city eateries, bars, shops and other popular spots from the ’90s that are still here. Like the song on the TV show “Portlandia” tells us, “The dream of the ’90s is alive in Portland.” Sure, that show’s about the other Portland, but the sentiment is true here, too. Plus, the ’90s seem to be big everywhere lately, with radio stations playing more songs from that decade and its fashion trends resurfacing.

Portland has changed a lot since the ’90s, and people love to post online about how they wish this place or that place was still in business. It’s understandable to miss a favorite bar or diner. But it’s also important to celebrate the places that are still here, the places that have survived.

“Nobody says anything until they’re gone,” said Rosanne Griffin of Yarmouth, who lived and worked in Portland in the ’90s. “I love that there a lot of places still open. It brings back a lot of memories.”

Griffin says she’s glad she can still visit a couple of her favorite restaurants, Street and Co. on Wharf Street and Ribollita Italian restaurant on Middle Street. She’s also happy she can still shop for Christmas presents at Maxwell’s Pottery on Fore Street.


Here is a look at some places that were hot spots in the ’90s and haven’t cooled off. There are plenty more than we can list here, so go find your own ’90s dream place and make some new memories there.


Dock Fore, a neighborhood restaurant and bar on Fore Street in the Old Port, has been around since 1980. As Portland has become pricier and restaurants have become upscale, owner Shaun McCarthy says he’s been able to survive thanks to great employees and because his place is small and he keeps things simple. The food is not featured in Bon Appetit magazine, but you can get a Bud Light or a Miller High Life for $1.95 during the daily happy hour.

He has some regular customers who have been with him since the very beginning. He’s also developed a following among people who come to Maine in the summer and always make Dock Fore a stop. He says he hears a similar refrain from both groups.

“People always say thank you for still being here and for not changing,” said McCarthy.

Shaun McCarthy, owner of Dock Fore, an Old Port bar in business since 1980. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer



When Tony Barrasso started looking in 1992 for a Greater Portland location for his Anthony’s Italian Kitchen, he hoped to find place out on Route 1 or by the Maine Mall. But one day his realtor showed him a space at 151 Middle St. in the Old Port. He immediately noticed how many people were going in and out of another business in the building, Videoport. That place had a very loyal following and was known for clerks who knew more about movies than a New York Times film critic. The building also housed Bull Moose music and, beginning in 1995, Casablanca Comics.

People playing a Star Wars role-playing game at Casablanca Comics in Portland in 1997. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Barrasso decided the building’s foot traffic, especially from Videport, would bring him a ready supply of customers. He was right. Videoport closed in 2015  and Bull Moose, a Maine chain, closed its Old Port location in 2020. But, for years, 151 Middle St. was a bustling one-stop food and entertainment spot. People got their movies from Videoport, their records from Bull Moose, their comic books from Casablanca and their sandwiches and dinners to go from Anthony’s. Casablanca Comics and Anthony’s are still thriving today, and Barrasso is still behind the counter at his namesake restaurant, at age 83.

Tony Barrasso in a vintage shot of his Anthony’s Italian Kitchen, opened in 1992. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer


Zack Rand remembers the day his mom, Becky Rand, opened Becky’s Diner on the Portland waterfront in March of 1991. He was 8 years old and was loaded into a car with his five siblings at 6 a.m. and driven to the diner. In time, Rand and all his siblings – and many of his cousins – would work at Becky’s Diner.

His mom still works there every day. He thinks the place has survived as Portland has changed largely because of Becky herself, her personality and her vision for what people want. The place is a traditional diner on a working waterfront that attracts both locals and tourists, for its charm and its comfort food.

“Her vision was for a place where you’d feel comfortable no matter who you are,” said Rand. “There is no one who wouldn’t feel at home here.”


Gov. Janet Mills walks behind the counter at Becky’s Diner in Portland in 2022. The place opened in 1991 and has become a local landmark. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


The State Theatre on Congress Street in downtown Portland had been a porn theater before being remodeled and reopened in 1993 as a concert venue. It closed for a stretch between 2006 and 2010, but today, the State hosts acts from around the world, and its management also books outdoor concerts for Thompson’s Point on the Fore River.

Portland’s old City Hall Auditorium was renovated and became Merrill Auditorium in 1997. It continues to host a huge variety of music and performances, from classical and opera to touring Broadway shows and pop acts. The Cumberland County Civic Center – renamed the Cross Insurance Arena – opened in 1977, and in the ’90s hosted some of the biggest rock and pop acts, including Elton John and Guns N’ Roses. The current owners of the Nickelodeon Cinemas on the edge of the Old Port took over from the national chain Hoyt’s in 1998, and it remains the only movie house in Portland proper.

The crowd at a Rustic Overtones concert at the State Theatre in 1997. David MacDonald/Staff Photographer


Portland has long been a city of neighborhood bars and pubs, or places with that vibe, and many around since the ’90s or earlier are still open. In the Old Port, there’s Rosie’s, Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub and Three Dollar Deweys. On Forest Avenue, away from downtown, The Great Lost Bear has been known for beers and burgers since 1979. Ruski’s Tavern is a neighborhood landmark in the city’s West End.

Richard Pfeffer with brew kettle at Gritty McDuff’s in Portland, in 1988. Jack Milton/Staff Photographer


Before there were gourmet doughnuts served out of trucks, there was Tony’s Donut Shop, off outer Congress Street. Other favorite Portland eateries in the ’90s that are still open despite competition from waves of new places include Gilbert’s Chowder House on the waterfront; Pizza Villa, on Congress Street near Maine Medical Center; DiMillo’s on the Water, a floating restaurant housed in a former ferry in the middle of the waterfront; and Miss Portland Diner, which has moved a few blocks down Marginal Way.

Ribollita restaurant on Middle Street in Portland in 1997. John Ewing/Staff photographer


The eclectic gift shop Something’s Fishy, on Exchange Street in the Old Port, began selling just fish-themed stuff in 1982 but has expanded its gift and souvenir selection since. People who like good food have long relied on Harbor Fish Market, on Custom House Wharf, and Miccuci’s Italian specialty food store on India Street. And before the days when a 1940s Zoot suit was just a computer click away, Material Objects on Congress Street downtown was the place to go for vintage looks.

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