PORTLAND — For the sixth year in a row, restaurants and those who enjoy them are gearing up for a statewide celebration of Maine’s dining culture.
Maine Restaurant Week, which officially runs March 1-10, will begin with the Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off, Friday, Feb. 28, at 7 a.m. at the Sea Dog Brewing Company, 125 Western Ave., South Portland. It will end with The Signature Cocktail and Dessert Event, Sunday, March 9, 5:30 p.m., at Prime Mercedes-Benz, 137 U.S. Route 1, Scarborough.
Both events have gained popularity over the years, enabling food and beverage professionals to showcase their talents side by side, while competing for “Best of Maine” titles.
Two added events this year are intended to attract new crowds.
The Pancake Races, a relay-style race in which contestants flip pancakes, will take place at Maine Craft Distilling, 101 Fox St., Portland, and the Bowl Big Bowling Tournament, where teams of four bowlers will each be paired with a culinary professional, will take place at Bayside Bowl, 58 Alder St., Portland.
Aside from the events, this year’s MRW has more participating restaurants, in more places, than ever before.
Spokesman Jim Britt said Maine’s statewide version of Restaurant Week was modeled on the popular restaurant weeks hosted in cities around the country, but with a wider range of pricing options to accommodate a variety of dining styles. Participating restaurants are offering three-course dinner menus, with $25, $35, $45 and $55 options, and lunches set at $15.
While some restaurants are an annual mainstay, others see the event as their chance to get noticed in an already thriving hospitality hub.
At Portland & Rochester Public House, 118 Preble St. in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood, owner Garrett Fitzgerald will be utilizing Restaurant Week’s festivities to showcase the style of a new pub menu, traditional cuisine, and flavors of the Northeast.
“This is the time we want to get people in, let them know that we are here for spring and summer,” Fitzgerald said. Portland & Rochester will be offering the $25-per-person option.
Even in March, while most restaurants are working with skeleton crews, Restaurant Week has become an anticipated calendar event.
“The greatest compliment of all is when owners tell us their dining room was full of new faces,” Britt said. “They know some will only come back if it’s a special occasion, like an anniversary or birthday. They also know there’s a chance that some of those new faces in the dining room will become loyal, lifetime customers.”
There’s also a charitable ingredient to Maine Restaurant Week. Fundraising beneficiaries this year are Preble Street and Big Brothers Big Sisters. More information, tickets for all the special events, and restaurant menus can be found online at mainerestaurantweek.com.