Maine, also known as “Vacationland,” gets pretty congested with tourists in the summer. Hotels are expensive, restaurants are packed, and driving through any town center is a nightmare. In the winter, it’s quite the opposite as most people avoid the snow and rain that the cold months bring. Thankfully, during the 1st week of March every year, Maine Restaurant Week takes place to give local businesses a little boost during the off-season. (Find out more on their website here).
What Is It?
Maine Restaurant Week features restaurants throughout the state that choose to participate. These restaurants create special menus for the week in which diners get to choose 3 courses for a set price. For $25, $35, $45, or $55 depending on the location, you get to pick an appetizer, entree, and desert from the special Maine Restaurant Week menu. Some restaurants just offer items off of their regular menu for a lower price, like Boone’s Fish House and Oyster Room. Others go all out by curating a gourmet menu just for the week, like David’s 388 in South Portland.
While this is a good week for local businesses, it is an even better week for local diners and foodies. This is an awesome opportunity to try new restaurants that you normally wouldn’t go to, and most likely for a more affordable price than on any regular day. Also, with less tourists in the winter, restaurants are not as congested and provide a more enjoyable experience.
The Restaurants I Tried During Maine Restaurant Week
Boone’s, located on a popular wharf in the heart of the downtown Portland coastline, took an interesting approach to luring in local diners during this week. Since it’s a big destination for tourists to get fresh Maine seafood, locals tend to avoid it, especially during summer..
They posted their Maine Restaurant Week online to attract local diners, but once we got there they did not hand the menu out to everyone. We had to specifically ask for the special menu. Since it included items from the regular menu, they didn’t want to lose money by giving everyone the set price 3 course meal option. Their tactic worked for my boyfriend and I, as we never would’ve eaten there if it wasn’t Maine Restaurant Week.
On the other hand, David’s 388 promoted the heck out of their Maine Restaurant Week menu. They had it plastered all over their website, gave it to everyone dining there, and the waitresses explained the menu as soon as we got service. It was an incredible treat to order from the special menu, and it was a one-time opportunity to eat the gourmet food we were served.
Located in a much less popular area than Boone’s, David’s used Maine Restaurant Week to get as many people through their doors as possible in hopes of gaining their loyalty in the future. Their tactic also worked for us as we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and will definitely be returning soon!
Maine Restaurant Week is especially exciting around the Portland area, with its huge number of restaurants that grow every year. Portland was named the Restaurant City of the Year in 2018 by bon appetit magazine. If that doesn’t say something about the quality of food available, then I’m not sure what will! If you don’t live in the Portland area, but still want to enjoy Maine Restaurant Week, you’re in luck. There are a few partner hotels that offer room discounts during this week, making it easier and more affordable to get your foodie on.
Speaking of foodie, let’s get to the best part… THE FOOD.
The Best Meal From 2 Years of Trying Maine Restaurant Week
I have decided to showcase my favorite meal from attending Maine Restaurant Week the past 2 years. David’s 388 outdid my highest expectations by a longggggg shot. The restaurant has a cute, warm, and welcoming atmosphere accompanied by absolutely impeccable service. The food was to die for. I looked forward to every bite as I was eating, and although I was stuffed at the end, I wanted to order all 3 courses again right then and there.
Appetizer: I ordered roasted butternut squash and apple bisque with blue cheese crostini and cinnamon crème fraiche. My boyfriend got shrimp and lobster in anise cream. Both were excellent and started off the meal on a great foot. Herb bread sticks came out at the same time…need I say more? Bread = yum.
Entree: Porcini mushroom pappardelle pasta with exotic mushrooms, Madeira, tomato, arugula, goat cheese. There are honestly no words for how delicious this was. My boyfriend ordered slow braised pork osso buco with maple mashed sweet potato, baby kale, and pickled mustard seed, which was dark, rich, and dreamy.
Dessert: the perfect way to end this perfect meal. We split the Maine blueberry sorbet and the salted caramel cashew chocolate torte with raspberry coulis.
Might I add that each of our meals was only $35?! A serious gourmet steal.
I can’t wait to try more restaurants during the 2020 Maine Restaurant Week. Until then, at least I have pictures to remind me of the good eats in 2019.
Maine Restaurant Week website: https://www.mainerestaurantweek.com/
David’s 388 website: https://www.davidsrestaurant.com/about-davids-388
Boone’s Fish House and Oyster Room website: https://www.boonesfishhouse.com/