Look into Portland’s beloved restaurant scene before it was a foodie destination

PORTLAND, Maine —  Before it became a world-class foodie destination and engine of the city’s economic fortunes, Portland’s restaurant scene looked like a lot of fun.

That’s how old-school Portlander Abraham Schechter remembers it. The city library’s archivist, Schechter recently assembled a trove of historic menus and scenes from 1980s Portland restaurants for public viewing in the library’s digital collection.

Containing menus from 67 restaurants, bars and cafes, the new archive traces Portland’s nationally recognized food scene to its gritty, artsy origins.

Schechter found the menus years ago buried in a forgotten box in a storage room. It took the pandemic, which shuttered the library to the public, to give him the time to digitize the collection.

“I have always wanted to do what I just finished,” Schechter said of the project.

Many of the menus are handwritten or custom-printed by local artists and designers, allowing for flourishes of personality,

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With CORE, Portland’s flagship food cart pods expand beyond city center

Food carts weren’t always in the plan for the new Collective Oregon Eateries pod. Five years ago, when Mandy Kao started helping her in-laws redevelop the former Farm House restaurant on Southeast 82nd Avenue, the hope was to transform the space into the kind of sprawling Chinese banquet hall Portland hasn’t seen since Legin’s 2012 closure.

But Kao was wary. Her father-in-law, who also owns Om Seafood nearby on Southeast Powell Boulevard, was preparing to retire, and she knew a successful banquet hall would require a significant investment in time, energy and employees. Instead, she and husband, Hanry Ho, suggested something with a bit more Portland flavor: a combined food hall and food cart pod with room for two dozen small businesses, bright murals, live music and a full bar.

“Portland is a cart pod city, so we threw out an idea: ‘Why not do a food cart pod?’”

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