A Brief History of Maine Restaurants

Maine just celebrated its 199th birthday! The rich history of the service industry here began even before Maine became a state. Jameson Tavern in Freeport was built in 1779 and established as a tavern by Captain Samuel Jameson in 1801. On March 15, 1820 it was at this very spot where commissioners met and signed the papers declaring Maine a state and sealing in ink a history that goes hand in hand with the restaurant industry.

While Portland has been getting a lot of recognition as a foodie city in the past few years, the restaurant scene is anything but new. The Maine Historical Society in Portland has a collection of menus going all the way back to the 19th century – including a menu from the original Boone’s, opened in 1898. Meredith Goad writes in the Portland Press Herald “I was thrilled to find a menu for this historic Portland restaurant… But the joke was on me. The menu was in pristine condition, but it was a ‘joke menu.’” Boone’s founders had not only a stroke of culinary genius in inventing the baked stuffed lobster, but also a sense of humor. Reading through the Boone’s “joke menu” is sure to give you a good laugh with items such as “Fricasee of Clam Wings” and “Dehydrated Sebago Water.”

Boone’s isn’t the only Portland restaurant with a long-standing history. The Eastland Park Hotel opened the Sun Parlor in 1927 which became the Top of the East cocktail lounge after the repeal of prohibition in 1933. Harbor Fish Market joined Boone’s on Custom House Wharf in 1969. Another Commercial Street staple, DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant, opened in 1982.

Equally as impressive as the early history of restaurants in Maine is the fact that many of those restaurants are still open today. Although many of these places have had some renovations over the years there is one thing that hasn’t changed – Maine has made its mark as a place to get some of the best seafood and other local fare in the country. With so many long-standing restaurants now joined by countless newer establishments pushing culinary trends, everyone is looking forward to what the future holds!