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World Tour of Food & Restaurants in Greater Bangor + Eastern and Midcoast Maine!

Early March to March 12, 2021 was Maine Restaurant Week (+/-). As a sub-set, we celebrated our immigrant/New American-owned restaurants and worldly cuisine-themed restaurants in Greater Bangor, especially Bangor, Brewer, Old Town, and Orono, as well as other communities, like Ellsworth, on our Facebook page. As we took the tour around the world, folks highlighted and added their favorites, especially if we missed anyone (and made a few mistakes as well!). We hope we encouraged many to grab some takeout for those few weeks and beyond at these wonderful establishments to let to those businesses and entrepreneurs know we are here for them! Here are the highlights by country.

Day 1: Chinese Restaurants. So who’s hungry? We start with our many restaurants with an influence/connection to Asia, particularly from various parts of China for today. The author’s go-tos are Oriental Jade and Fresh Ginger Fusion as well as Happy China Buffet.

Annnnddd while we are on the topic of restaurants, Asia, and equity & inclusion – did you know many of our perceptions of MSG and ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ are really outdated, wrong, and even racist? Here are some articles from the BBC, LA Times, and CNN on the topic.

Day 2: Japan. Sticking with the Asian continent & islands, we focus today on Japanese Restaurants or those of Japanese influence/fusion or sushi focused. Yoshi is great – yum! We’re also fans of Umami Noodle Bar.

Day 3: Thailand! We actually have a few choices in our area. Thai Orchid in Orono was mentioned a few times – Yes! We also like the no nonsense but oh so good Thai Etc and Mama D in Downtown Bangor.

Day 4: Vietnam. Pho Hoa Grill (Website, Yelp) in Bangor. We love the pho chicken broth and array of ingredients.

Day 5: Korea. We’re not sure exactly when – but we’re excited about Korean Dad opening up in Bangor in the Spring. Check out his dishes on their Facebook Page while we wait – we’ll be the first in a socially distanced line for pick-up (for now)! And some BDN press coverage.

  • Flavors of Korea/Seoul Shack – Belfast Farmer’s Market (BDN Coverage) – coming soon

Day 6: Incredible India! Taste of India Inc. in Bangor does a wonderful job of presenting the many different tastes and dishes from India’s diverse regions. There is the big difference between some northern regions’ preferences for vegetarian dishes and the south’s leaning to spicier fare. But with its mountain ranges, deserts, rain forests, and seashores, you can imagine the regional cuisines are so different and wonderful in their own way. Check out the dish you are ordering online and what region it originates from or ask the staff at Taste of India – ENJOY!

Day 7: Sri Lanka has its own unique tastes from other South Asian cuisine – a little more seafood, tropical fruit, and spice – and very good! We’re very lucky to have Serendib (Website, Yelp) in Ellsworth serving Sri Lankan (and Indian) dishes! I’m particular to the wild boar dish (yes! wild boar), dhal, and the fresh lime soda.

Day 8: Mediterranean Food – Greece and Lebanon. Today we’re moving to the Mediterranean region with influences from countries such as Greece and Lebanon. The author’s go-tos are Manny’s Greek Grill – Ellsworth, KEBAB DEN – Bangor, and Kosta’s Restaurant & Bar – Brewer.

Day 9 – Ireland and Irish Pubs. I’m having a real tough time saying which one in the area I like best. Paddy Murphy’s Bangor is our go to but we love Geaghan Brothers Brewing Company too. Our kids love Finn’s Irish Pub in Ellsworth and its funky building. I think that is why we love the pubs so much – most, if not all, are very kid/family friendly!

Day 10: Bella Italia! Is there any country’s cuisine that has had a bigger influence on American cuisine? The country known for its fresh produce and food – origin of the Slow Food Movement. We have many choices in our area that are inspired by Italian cuisine. Tesoro New Italian Restaurant and Novio’s Bistro, are local favorites for a variety of dishes and pizzas! Angelo’s Pizzeria is a favorite and owned by a first generation family. A little further out there is Provender Kitchen + Bar in Ellsworth, Meanwhile in Belfast, and the oh so good Italian Bakery+, Holy Cannoli – Waterville.

True story: When the author was a SAHD taking his son to daycare in Rome, the staff eventually told him not to cook lunches anymore because a few hours old pasta was not OK. I always imagined the staff laughing and tossing out the food I made each day after I left, as the nonnas/nonne looked on shaking their heads in disapproval…American foodies have nothing on every day Italians…

Day 11: Togo, West Africa (sandwiched right between Benin and Ghana on the coast). Me Lon Togo (Yelp) in Camden offers traditional and fusion dishes with flair, primarily from Togo but also other countries like Ghana, Senegal, and Morocco as well as France, as they rotate the specials menu often. It’s worth the beautiful drive down Route1! Here is some great coverage on their journey.

And let’s remember Africa is not a country, but a continent of 50+ unique countries and cuisine. May we welcome many more restaurants, their owners, families, friends, and colleagues from different parts of Africa in the future!

Day 12: Jamaica. Today is officially the last day of Restaurant Week – but we’ll be going thru the weekend – too many choices! Today Jamaica! We were sad to see Jamaican Vybz Take-Out Restaurant close in Bangor (while we’re at it Cubita Libre too – sigh). But there is Taste Jamaica (Website, Yelp) in Ellsworth with rave reviews. We are guessing JJ’s Jerk Shack (Website) food truck will be back on the road as well in the summer! For now, drive out to Ellsworth and get your fix!

Day 13: Mexico. Our family’s comfort food – Mexican…nom, nom, nom. Our Gotos are Las Palapas Brewer and Bangor and Miguels Mexican Grill & Cantina. We have a date night 1-hour +/- driving rule radius – so you can also check out Buen Apetito – Waterville and catch a movie while you’re at it. In the summer months, we highly recommend Vazquez Mexican Takeout – Milbridge for the food and the drive along the Downeast Coast. Do call ahead (they run out fast) – grab your food – and drive a ways to eat by the seashore…nothing better. Buen provecho!

Day 14: Final Day – markets, stores, food trucks, and side hustles from the home. All the informal places where we can find different foods in our region: the markets, stores, food trucks, and the side catering hustles from folks’ homes. Lots of ‘foodpreneurs’ get started with these types of venues before putting up their own ‘shingle.’ For markets with worldy food offerings, our favorites are Bangor’s European Market and Belfast Farmers’ Market – lots of choices of breads, sweets, and cuisine from different parts of the world. Food trucks as well are picking up in Bangor, Belfast, and Ellsworth. For Bangor, watch Bangor Parks and Recreation for who will be on the waterfront for the summer (they announced at the end of May last year).

While there are no specific restaurants or food-related businesses that we know of in our region (please share if you do!), we would be remiss not to mention the origins of and influence from African-American and Native American communities on modern American cuisine. Here is a BBC article on Native American food and vegetables becoming part of our “normal” diet here and in Europe and how some are raising up those influences and dishes more explicitly, called “The Crucial Legacy Missing from US Food” as well as a link to food resources from the National Museum of the American Indian. There is much written about African-American influences on cuisine, how slavery shaped much of it, and the awful erasing and sad depictions of Black chefs and cooks, but most of us do not know the full story. Here are a few articles: one called How Enslaved Chefs Helped Shape American Cuisine as well as articles on the history of barbeque and soul food and some cuisine resources and articles from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Adrienne Miller is releasing “Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue,” April 27, 2021.

Hope you had a good ‘trip’ with us, got hungry, and got out there and bought some takeout! All of our foods come from somewhere else – even what is considered to be American. What is great are the new and wonderful tastes and varieties to try – not that one is better than the other. Enjoy and let us know how it went!