Maine foodies are proud of the state's vibrant, creative food scene, which has gained national attention for its world-class chefs. Portland—which Bon Appetit magazine named "America's Foodiest Small Town" and The Food Network named as one of its top five "Most Delicious Destinations"—has a well-known restaurant scene and is home to four of the state's five winners of the coveted James Beard Award. But you can also taste award-winning dishes at heralded restaurants across the state. You can search for restaurants by name, town or region to plan your perfect foodie adventure.
Maine's roster of celebrated chefs includes:
Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley in Portland
In 2013, Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley were named Food & Wine's best up-and-coming chefs of New England for their Portland restaurant Eventide Oyster Co.
Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, of Arrows in Ogunquit
After being nominated six times, Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast in 2010. When they opened their restaurant in 1988 in a hand-hewn 1765 farmhouse in Ogunquit, they found Maine's culinary scene to be “bleak,” Frasier recalls. They couldn’t find good olive oils, decent bread or fresh organic greens. So, out of necessity, they began growing or making as many primary ingredients as they could. Today, patrons come to stroll through their lush gardens and enjoy the rustic but elegant ambiance of what Bon Appetit magazine called “one of the ten most romantic restaurants in the U.S.” In 2006, Gourmet ranked Arrows #14 of “America’s Top 50 Best Restaurants.”
Rob Evans, of Hugo’s in Portland
Rob Evans won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast in 2009, on his second nomination. In 2004, Food & Wine magazine named Evans one of the "Best New Chefs in the U.S." Originally trained as an electrician, Evans quit that field and went to work for such prestigious restaurants as The French Laundry and The Inn at Little Washington before opening Hugo's in 2000. He was inspired by the quality of local ingredients in Maine, especially the fresh seafood—and he likes that “the change of seasons keeps you on your toes.”
Sam Hayward, of Fore Street Restaurant in Portland
Sam Hayward, who won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast in 2004, had always cooked as a hobby. When a friend invited him to run the kitchen at an oceanographic lab on one of the Isles of Shoals in 1974, he “fell in love with the Gulf of Maine—not just the breathtaking seascape but the whole biological system.” In 1999, he opened Fore Street, which was #26 on Gourmet magazine's 2006 list of "America's Top 50 Best Restaurants." Hayward works hard to support Maine producers as exclusively as he can. He says he’s often skeptical about new cooking innovations—"but I’m never skeptical about a beautiful artisanal cheese or a perfect head of Maine lettuce.”
Melissa Kelly, of Primo in Rockland
Melissa Kelly was raised on Long Island in a family of Italian cooks, including her grandfather, gourmand and butcher Primo Mangani. After working at several restaurants, including Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse and The Old Chatham Sheepherding Company—where she won the James Beard Award in 1999—she opened Primo with partner and pastry chef Price Kushner. She says she was drawn to Maine by “its old-world charm and the drastic change of seasons that brings a changing bounty to the table.”
Steve Corry, of 555 Congress Street in Portland
Steve Corry—whom Food & Wine magazine named one of the “Best New Chefs in the U.S.” in 2007—began his professional life as a beer maker and came to Portland with plans to open a brewpub nearby. But a stint at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont led Corry and his wife, Michelle, to open 555 Congress Street in 2003. In 2012, the Maine Restaurant Association named Corry "Chef of the Year." When the Corrys first came to Maine, they thought they detected early signs “of something that would blossom into a major culinary scene," Steve Corry says. "But what’s happened is almost unbelievable—not just at restaurants, but with the farmers and the farmers’ markets, the cheese makers, so many more. The whole thing is growing into something better than you’d find even in Boston. What’s happening in Maine is not just a trend or a fad. It’s a movement with deep roots. It’s staggering, really.”
Jonathan Cartwright, of The White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport
The White Barn Inn is the only restaurant in New England to win both the AAA Five Diamond and Mobile Five Star Awards. It also topped Conde Nast Traveler's “Best of the Best” award for any restaurant at a resort worldwide. But Executive Chef Jonathan Cartwright, who came to The White Barn Inn in 1996, never dreamed of this job. “I wanted to be the first Englishman to win the Tour de France,” says the native of Sheffield, England. But as he worked at various restaurants, including The Savoy in London, Cartwright decided that cooking and cycling have a lot in common. “They required similar teamwork, commitment, dedication, hard work and patience. I found that I enjoyed cooking very much.”