It’s the 1980s. You’re living in Portland, Maine and you know one thing: don’t go to the East End. Before Munjoy Hill became the premiere neighborhood that it is, boasting million dollar homes and high-end restaurants, it was an undesirable part of town to be avoided. Undeniably Portland, but still not a place you’d want to bring the family after dark. But in the 40 years since then, the East End has seen unprecedented growth and change.
An unchallenged view of Casco Bay on the Eastern Promenade, lines of food trucks on the weekends and a thriving food culture make the East End one of the most desirable neighborhoods in town. While we’ve seen changes this past year due to unfortunate circumstances, let’s take a look at the establishments that ushered in a new age for Portland and how they’re doing in these wild times.
Katie Made Bakery
Established in 2000, Katie Made is a staple of the Munjoy Hill area. The Capron sisters founded this cozy little nook in the East End with the intention of bringing delicious, homemade goods to the people of Portland. Katie Capron, a self-proclaimed ‘New York and grandmother-trained’ baker produces the decadent desserts and treats for not only their bakery, but many restaurants, caterers, and coffee houses throughout the city. Jennifer Capron crafts the sandwiches with care, using house-roasted meats and homemade sauces.
Currently Katie Made is open Wednesday through Sunday, 8AM-3PM Wed-Fri and 8AM-1PM Sat-Sun. They are only serving carryout as their indoor space is closed.
You don’t need to be some high-end restaurant to become an East End staple. Hilltop Superette has been serving Munjoy Hill residents since the 1940s in many different forms, such as Mangino’s and Colucci’s. Only when the current owners came into ownership of the building on the corner of North St and Congress did it become the Hilltop Superette we know today. After extensive renovations, the Superette opened with the goal of serving the local community with convenient, affordable to-go dinners, lunches, and grocery needs.
They offer everything from dairy, baking supplies, canned goods, crackers, cookies, marinades, condiments, fresh produce, fresh cut meats and more. They offer all kinds of organic local produce and meats, as well as fresh to-go options such as subs, burgers, and more. They are still open 7 days a week, 365 from 6AM-10PM Monday-Saturday and 7AM-10PM on Sundays. Don’t sleep on this East End institution next time you’re in the market for a quick, quality lunch on the Prom.
With an origin story described as ‘Mainer meets Frenchie, who marry and together dream of opening a bakery’, Belleville is as close to authentic French baking as one could get on the peninsula. Established in 2017, Belleville quickly became a local and national darling with features in publications such as Bon Appetit. Lines are always down the block full of people eager to get their hands on some of the best French baked goods Portland has to offer.
Flaky, buttery croissants and sea salt-flaked chocolate chip cookies line the counters from 8AM-12PM Friday-Sunday and slabs of homemade pizza from 4PM-6PM also during the weekend. Enjoying breakfast and dinner all in one place was never more easy or more delicious.
Hilltop Coffee Shop
Another ‘Hilltop’ establishment in the East End but very different from the aforementioned Hilltop Superette, Hilltop Coffee Shop is another Munjoy Hill must. This little shop specializes in hot coffee and a plethora of baked goods such as pastel de nata, stacked breakfast sandwiches, and luscious topped toasts. In the past few years their offerings have expanded from just a few baked goods and coffee options to a wide array of unique, finely crafted treats thanks to new talent in the kitchen.
Before lockdown, they had just renovated their indoor space to accommodate more guests. In response to social distancing, this indoor space has been closed to the public but they now operate out of a new takeout window on Atlantic Street.
Blue Spoon is one of the oldest, most well-known bistros in the East End. Established 16 years ago in 2004, Blue Spoon has been serving brunch and dinner to generations of Portlanders and tourists alike. The current owners, Liz Koenigsberg and Will Lavey of Petite Jacqueline fame, came into ownership of Blue Spoon in 2018 from the previous owner, David Iovino. From burgers to benedict to beef tartare, the elevated menu at Blue Spoon is both comfort food and fine dining without ever feeling inaccessible or intimidating.
Currently Blue Spoon is only open for takeout and catering services.
The Front Room
Like Blue Spoon, The Front Room is a tried-and-true East End establishment that is known and beloved by many locals and visitors alike. A Mainer himself, Harding Lee Smith founded The Front Room in 2005, with his other ‘Room’ restaurants The Grill Room and The Corner Room not far behind in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Harding wanted to “make it a neighborhood gathering spot, to have the home feel like when you come into someone’s living room.” Each of the ‘Rooms’ share this particularly warm, cozy atmosphere, but The Front Room nails it perfectly. From fettuccine bolognese to croque madames, you could eat your way through The Front Room from breakfast til dinner!
Recently The Front Room reopened for the first time after 6 months of silence and is currently only doing takeout.
Jing Yan Restaurant & Bar
In the former Lolita restaurant space at 90 Congress St. Britt Langford and her husband, Leo Zhang plan to open an Asian restaurant there called Jing Yan. Their target opening date is Nov. 15. They will be offering Asian-inspired food + handcraft cocktails, sandwiches, skewers & rice bowls.