Maine has long been famous for its beauty and adventure-worthy landscape. As the snow flies and ice crunches under our feet, millions of people are planning next summer’s trips to our great state. According to the Portland Press Herald, in 2018, 36 million people visited Maine for sightseeing, hiking, camping, biking, and boating. Now that the international culinary magazine Bon Appetit recently named Portland as “The 2018 Food City of the Year,” Maine’s largest city has become a recognized destination for foodies – those who have a deep interest in food and a willingness to spend money exploring the hobby.
Portland’s emerging reputation is partly due to the growing number of New American entrepreneurs. Greater Portland has 389 places to eat, including restaurants, market stands, and food trucks. Nearly 80 are owned and operated by New Americans, according to Portland’s Food Map. Notably, more than half of the 15 places recommended by Bon Appetit are New American-owned.
Maine Restaurant Association reports that in 2016 Maine had 3,188 restaurants that generated $2.3 billion in sales, an average of $721,000 each. Some restaurants generated more than others, but based on these numbers, New American restaurants in Portland contributed roughly $57 million to the economy. While the financial contribution is great, the overall impact is striking – New American restaurants have helped land Maine on the international map as a foodie destination.
Tae Chong is Manager of Social Enterprise and Workforce at Catholic Charities of Maine