Food & Wine magazine ranks Biddeford’s food scene among America’s best

A busy Jackrabbit Cafe in Biddeford on Thursday. Food & Wine magazine chose Biddeford as one of four “Small towns with big food scenes.” Shawn Patrick Ouellette / staff photographer

BIDDEFORD – For anyone who needed even more proof that we live through a golden age of food and dining in Maine, Food & Wine magazine’s latest issue names Biddeford as one of four American “small towns with big food scenes.”

Grouped with Bozeman, Montana; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Greenville, South Carolina; Biddeford is described in the magazine as Portland’s “quiet older sister with great taste.” Food and wine editors who compiled and ran the list in line with a story about 11 of America’s “next big food cities” named six Biddeford food companies in the listing, including Magnus on Water, Night Moves Bread, Jackrabbit Cafe, Elda, Palace Diner and Lorne Wine, along with the city’s precious food and beverage bookstore, Rabelais, and The Lincoln Hotel, is scheduled to open this summer in one of the city’s renovated mills.

Maine food is definitely on fire these days. Some obvious examples: Five Portland chefs and restaurants earned finalist nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards this summer, Lakin’s Gorges Cheese won best in class at the World Championship Cheese Contest last month – the first time ever for a Maine cheesemaker to win at the prestigious international competition – and Tandem Coffee + Bakery was included in a recent Financial Times roundup of “the best independent coffee bars in the world.” And just last year, Food & Wine included three Maine bagel stores on its list of the best bagels in America, including Biddeford’s Rover Bagel.

Fawning is nothing new. Bon Appetit magazine named Portland the restaurant city of the year in 2018, citing Biddeford as an up-and-comer, calling the city “the best reason to drive 18 miles south” for Portland.

But now it looks like Biddeford has arrived, ready to share Portland’s spotlight and step out as a dining destination in itself. In the summer, about a third of the restaurant customers in this small town of about 22,000 come from abroad, said Delilah Poupore, CEO of Heart of Biddeford.

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“We’ve had a pretty cool food scene for several years now, so it’s very gratifying to get this attention,” Poupore said. “We have food here that you usually have to go to a big city to find.”

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME

“A lot of it’s like the movie ‘Field of Dreams.’ He’s no stranger to tribute, after six James Beard nominations and being named by Food & Wine as one of the country’s best new chefs in 2009.

The Browns first opened Elda on Main Street in 2017. “We probably would not have had the courage to do so if Palace Diner had not been here before us,” Anna Brown said.

Chad Conley, co-owner of Palace Diner since 2014, said: “We’ve seen Biddeford change a lot since then. We came in at the right time. There’s been steady growth ever since and I do not see it slowing down. preliminary.”

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Conley and others also credited the city council for buying and then demolishing Maine Energy Recovery Co. the waste incinerator that had plagued the city with harmful odors and roaring garbage trucks since 1987. “It was not possible to take potential businesses on a tour of downtown as it smelled like it did,” Poupore said.

The Palace Diner in Biddeford on Thursday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / staff photographer

“When you look at Biddeford and what really made it regain its energy, you have to talk about Elements,” said Don Lindgren, owner of Rabelais, referring to the city’s main street gathering place for books, coffee and beer. , which opened. in 2013. ”Elements were central to it. That’s undeniable. “

Lindgren believes that Elements served as an unofficial staging for many of the entrepreneurs who opened restaurants or other businesses in the city over the past many years, and he is not alone in this mindset.

“You have to give Elements credit for putting Biddeford on the map,” said Morgan Brockington of Portland, a customer at Jackrabbit Cafe on Thursday. “They brought good coffee to Biddeford and paved the way for (café) Time & Tide and Jackrabbit.”

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Elements co-owner Michael Macomber said that when Elements first opened, it was the only bookstore in town, as well as the only store with premium coffee or craft beer. He said the food and wine praise for Biddeford “is not surprising given the way the city’s progress has been (building). There is a good collection of business owners who see an environment here that offers new and exciting ventures welcome. ” He added that he has seen pedestrian traffic in the city increase dramatically in the last few years due to more places to live.

YOUNG, HIP AND HAPPY

Today in the center of Biddeford, where 300 new apartments have opened over the last six years, the median age is 29, which is 16 years younger than the median across the state, Poupore said, pointing to one of the clear reasons for the city’s recent revitalization – the city is young, hip and happening.

“I could not rave more about Biddeford,” said Hannah Gauthier, another customer who ate lunch at Jackrabbit Cafe on Thursday. She was attracted to living in the nearby refurbished mill apartments, mainly because of Biddeford’s exceptional food offerings. “The city has everything I need for food and more. I am very proud to live here.”

“If I were to live anywhere other than Portland, it would be Biddeford,” said Brockington, who commutes to work in Biddeford from Portland.

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Kerry Hanney, the famous baker behind Night Moves Bread, said that glowing articles like Food and Wine are wonderful news for the city and can lead to further economic development but can also bring challenges.

“Sometimes this kind of attention that can get the circumstances that made it possible in the first place can be just a little bit less,” Hanney said.

SEEKING GREATER DIVERSITY

In fact, even the business owners who were driving on the current wave of good publicity lamented rising rents in the city. “We have found that it is a struggle for people who want to work for us because they can not find a place to live at an affordable price. And I think that will be a persistent problem, ”said Anna Brown. “We want the city to continue to grow. We want everything from food trucks to fine dining here, and there is enough space to accommodate it all.”

“We always knew Biddeford was ready to become one of the great food centers in Maine,” said Brittany Saliwanchik, co-owner of Magnus on Water, which opened in January 2020. “There’s this intangible entrepreneurial spirit here, and businesses that have so much heart and soul in them. ”

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Saliwanchik said Magnus’ ownership team chose not to open the fine-dining restaurant in Portland, where it would be “one more restaurant in a city with lots of good restaurants already. In Biddeford you have the opportunity to help a community grow and have a real impact on the city’s economic development. ”

Like Brown, Saliwanchik hopes Biddeford continues to attract more culturally diverse restaurants and eateries. To that end, Poupore said a shawarma shop, a taco restaurant, a vegan restaurant and an “elevated” Irish pub are scheduled to open over the next few months. Poupore said the city needs to rebuild its dinner and brunch offerings after losing local favorites like Biscuits & Company and Yetos last year, at least in part because of the pandemic. Also at the end of this summer, Biddeford will host five breweries, Poupore added.

“There’s still so much more room to grow,” Saliwanchik said. “That’s what’s so exciting about Biddeford.”


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