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Kosher in Portland, Maine

I'm driving down to Portland in Maine for a weekend soon - I've never been in Maine before in my life. Where can two kosher-observant girls find food in Portland? Are there any good not-too-expensive restaurants? What about supermarkets - are kosher products readily available there? (Sorry if that's a stupid question - google told me there's a Chabad and several shuls in the city, so we should be fine, I'm just double-checking.)

Thank you!

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  1. Maine is beautiful, and Portland's a nice little city - have a great trip!

    There is nothing kosher in Portland, although there has been a Chabad for the last few years. I have never had any contact with the Chabad and do not know what they offer. The nearest kosher restaurants would be in Boston (a couple of hours south) and the kosher bagel shop in Bangor (a couple of hours north, and the only place in Maine with a functional Orthodox community.) I have not visited the shuls myself, but my family has, and they're apparently beautiful and mostly defunct. The supermarkets have the sort of stuff you'd expect to find in a regular American grocery store not in a Jewish area - you'll have your 'kosher' section with Manischewitz products, plus all the usual food one buys in a regular supermarket. You may be able to find frozen kosher Empire chickens. My family goes to Maine for several weeks each summer, and only bring our meats, cheeses, and Shabbos foods. Otherwise, we do fine shopping for produce, cereals, bread, etc. locally, cooking with a hibachi, a few kashered burners in the house we rent, and double-wrapping in the oven. Some years we've had trouble finding pareve bread, which may be an issue for you if you keep chalav yisrael, although recently there have been pareve brands of both pitas and regular sliced breads.

    About a decade ago, we met a hot dog vendor in downtown Portland who called himself 'The Kosher Kid.' When we asked him where he got his hashgacha, he got quite insulted, and pointed to the sky :) We haven't seen him in years, though.

    9 Replies
    1. re: GilaB

      I imagine with a hibachi and some fish right out of the ocean, you can have some wonderful meals in Maine.

      1. re: GilaB

        Wow, thanks so much for all that information! Looks like we'll be okay with bringing some food and getting the rest from a supermarket - we can survive one Shabbat with a cold milchig meal. :) We'll be in a cheapish hotel room so unless we bring a portable burner (which I actually might have access to, come to think of it...) I don't think we'll be doing any cooking.

        1. re: elisheva


          GilaB is sadly mistaken on a number of counts. While it is true that there are no Kosher restaurants in Portland, synagogue life here is doing quite well. What is more, there are a wide variety of kosher products available in the grocery store--from fres h (yes--fresh, not frozen) Rubashkin's beef, to fresh (again, really fresh)Empire chicken and some frozen Empire and Ratner's take-out products. Plus, the Orthodox synagogue (full disclosure: I'm the President there) is going through a bit if a revival. Check it out at www.mainesynagogue.org. If you will be staying here for Shabbat, let the office know and we may be able to arrange for home hospitality. Plus, in our local grocery store you can buy whole fish (to inspect fins and scales) and fillet it your self. Pareve bread is just about ubiquitous. Plus we have a new Whole Foods, with a ton of kosher products, including rugulach, halvah, really yummy challah, and even shelf-stable cholov yisroel/kemach yoshon pizzas from Montreal.

          1. re: OrthoMaine

            I just found this thread, and while it's 2 yrs old, I thought I'd chime in! I agree that there is a strong Jewish life in Portland, lots of Kosher food in grocery stores, and also now I Kosher Food Coop through the Jewish Community Alliance, and also this week Little Lad's (a vegan restaurant in downtown Portland) is certified kosher under the supervision of our orthodox rabbi. The local orthodox synagogue has shabbat morning services every week.

            1. re: Emilykatemaine

              Thank you for the update. We will be in Portland this August and are glad to see that food is available. Is the vegan restaurant still certified? Which grocery stores carry kosher products? We hope to be spending Shabbos at the Shaarey Tphiloh and having meals with the Rav during our stay. Again, thanks for the update, and you might want to request that someone register the restaurant with Shamash.com's kosher database to help other travelers to the region.

              1. re: nrtopper

                I passed through Portland earlier this month, and swung by the vegan restaurant, which is still certified. I was not particularly impressed by the food, or by the vegan preachiness of the environment, but you can get a hot kosher meal there now, which is not to be sneezed at, and the staff is friendly and helpful. My husband's bean burger was significantly better than my 'chicken' salad, which was some sort of nut-based paste; the orange-something cookies were hard, crumbly, and slightly bitter from too much zest. I am certainly not anti-veggie, given that we generally only eat meat on Shabbos, but I found this food underseasoned and more full of self-professed virtue than flavor. Note that it's really a lunch place, only serving sandwiches after early afternoon and not open for dinner.

                1. re: GilaB

                  Whole Foods in Portland now has fresh kosher chickens and chicken parts available, plus lots more items in the bakery dept that are kosher.

                  1. re: GilaB

                    According to Kosher-NY.com, Little Lad's will no longer have a hechsher, after the certifying rabbi found giving it 'too time consuming.' http://www.kosher-ny.com/news.php?id=287

                    1. re: GilaB

                      Yes, little lad's is no longer certified. The rabbi was committed to it, but the problem is that so few people ate there, that it ended up not being so worth the time. He's very stretched here, as he is the only Orthodox rabbi aside from Chabad, so he has to pick and choose. He's focusing more on grocery stores.

        2. the Little Lads vegan restuarant in Portland is Not currently under rabbinic supervision. The hannaford's supermarket frequently has Empire kosher cold cuts in stock. In addition, Rabbi Herzfeld of Shaarey Tphiloh in Portland has been working with a pita and falafel ball place, Papou's Kitchen on the kosher falafel served there, but see the synagogue website www.mainesynagogue.org to make sure that the kashrut is up to date.

          1. Any more specific, updated information on what grocery stores sell kosher meat, chicken, cheese? Our family will be traveling to the Portland/Acadia area in August 2011.

            1 Reply
            1. re: SLB275

              Hi - there is now also a trader joes that carries kosher meat - I'm not sure about cheese, but you can call them - whole foods carries kosher valley and has ground turkey and chicken breasts, but I have been there when they are out of the chicken breasts - hannaford on forest ave hasn't been carrying fresh meat, as far as I know - there is also a modern orthodox shul if you need a shul - shaaray tphiloh

            2. Is there an kosher caterer in Portland? Who can send a meal to a hotel?

              6 Replies
              1. re: AdinaA

                Hi Adina,

                There is not a kosher caterer in portland. Do you need a frozen meal sent for an event at a hotel? which hotel?

                1. re: Emilykatemaine

                  Thank you. If there's not a local caterer, I'll work it out a different way. I had hoped there might be one, since there is a community.

                  1. re: AdinaA

                    Actually, I am a kosher caterer in Portland. I work out of Shaary T;Philot, Temple Beth El and often with Chabad. There is a wide variety of kosher food available in Portland - although I am not sure about Cholov Yisroel. Enjoy your visit here - it is beautiful right now.

                    1. re: phylcooks4u

                      Sorry - absolutely!!! I spaced that Phyl has her own busines...

                        1. re: AdinaA

                          for Phyl's phone number and also availability of other caterers, you can call Shaarey Tphiloh at 207 773 0693. www.mainesynagogue.org Phyl's food is excellent and is highly recommended. there are other options as well.

              2. What brands of parve bread are distributed in ordinary grocery stores in Maine?

                I will be in a small place, and want to phone the grocer ahead and discover whether we can count on parve bread.

                Arnold? Other brands I oculd ask the grocer about?

                5 Replies
                1. re: AdinaA

                  You should have no problem in The Shaw's Market on Auburn Street or Congress Street bin Portland. Many more throughout Maine. Shaws/Star Market is Boston area based and many of their own packaged baked goods are kosher under the KVH, including pareve bread. You also will find a good selection of both Arnold and Thomas brand goods.

                  Ndew England is not galut in terms of packaged kosher goods in mainstream supermarkets. Portland is only 2 hours from Boston and the same bakeries tend to supply all of a grocers stores in the region. It's not like being in the middle of Montana. Fresh bread easilly travels a few hours by truck.

                  Adina, I made this Portland specific as that was the topic of the thread, but you will find Shaw's and Hannafirds throughout Maine with plenty of packaged kosher and pareve bread, rolls, etc.

                  Where will you be (what town/city)?

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    Peak's Island. Where there is a small grocery called Hannigan's Island Market. I thought if I knew which certified, parve breads are distributed in Maine, it would be a more efficient phone call. Small groceries in really small New England towns don't necessarily have Star Market or Whole Foods they can have small local grocers who do sell national and regional national brands. Portland, of course, would. But it's not so simple to fly in and have a cab stop at Star market on the way to the dock....

                    1. re: AdinaA

                      Hannigan's Island Market carries JJ Nissen Bread, a New England regional brand that should be under the KVH. Unfortunately, I can't verify that tonight, but I should be in my local Stop and Shop that also sells this New England favorite on Wed and will look at the packaging for you. The market also carries Drake's cakes which are OU dairy.
                      Peperidge Farm is also distributed in Maine and may be stocked, they have many pareve breads under the OU.
                      Why don't you call the market and ask if they stock Pepperidge Farm or Arnold's.

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        Thank you. Yes, I do intend to phone them. I just want to be able to ask teh question in a way that a clerk who won't know a hechscher from a copyright symbol will be able to answer. I very much appreciate the info on the parve brands likely to be distributed in Maine.

                        1. re: AdinaA

                          Just an FYI for others who may be trying to generalize from these specific situations: brands which have hechsherim in one area of the country may not have the hechsher in another. Arnold's bread is kosher and parve in the NY area, for instance, but was not in some other cities I have seen it. Now for this situation, since Maine is pretty close to big cities where Arnold's, Freihoffer's, etc. have hechshers, I imagine they will have it where you--Adina--will be. However, someone who may be in North Carolina or Arizona or wherever cannot assume that the Arnold's or Pepperidge Farms bread there is kosher unless it says it is. And that is why it can be very tricky to ask a store clerk simply about a brand . . . in some states, the presence of the brand itself won't tell you whether that loaf is under hechsher.

                          On the other hand, most frozen bread products (like Lender's bagels) will have the same hechsher everywhere, and that kind of stuff is pretty common everywhere.

                2. http://www.mainesynagogue.org/drupal/...

                  Maine grocery stores are apparently supplied by the same purveyors who do southern New England, in all events, even in towns without a community, you find the regular tings on the shelves, like parve kosher breads form Arnold and other major bakeries, pita and bagels, lots of soft cheeses. Even fresh challah under the Boston va'ad - KVH turns out to be available in small markets in a summer places.

                  The links above are from Shaarey Tephiloh, the shul in Portland. Bangor and Old Orchard Beach also have shuls with nearby hotels. Check before you go, because small congregations in small communities can change. And just because Old Orchard has long had a summer shul does not mean that it will always have a summer shul.