After a pandemic-fueled winter and spring of fast-flowing vegan food news, the breakneck pace of plant-based announcements continues this summer in Maine.
Speaking of fast flowing, on July 22nd a water explosion occurred in the purely vegan Robin’s Table in Biddeford. The restaurant was closed when it happened and will not reopen.
“I’m so sad and yes, angry,” said owner Robin Adams after the incident. “But I’ll get over it. For now, I’ll take a step back, take a deep breath and smile, knowing that Robin’s Table was successful and appreciated. As for the future? No idea.”
Robin’s Table first opened in March 2020, just before the pandemic lockdown began, and the restaurant then closed for more than a year. His fate remained uncertain until the end of April when Adams reopened. That summer, like many restaurants, Robin’s Table struggled to find enough staff to limit opening hours.
“Ironically, my last business day was my best business day,” said Adams. “I finally felt like it was going to happen. The people found us. I’ve had reservations, cake orders, and standing orders from two large companies for monthly orders. I went to the restaurant on Thursday to make my preparations and the plumbing literally burned out due to a problem in the building behind me. “
Adams said a worker tried to clean a clogged pipe in the adjacent building, resulting in sewage in their once-clean restaurant. Should she find another location, Adams doesn’t know “whether I can afford” to open the restaurant a third time.
There’s no denying that the closure is a loss to the local vegan community. I wish her the best.
The other vegan news this summer is rosier. For one, Fred’s Fried Dough returned to the Old Port’s late night scene for the first time since 2019 in mid-July. In addition to the vegan deep-fried batter, there is also vegan ice cream on the trolley. The shopping cart posts its location details to @fredsfrieddough Facebook and Twitter, and @fredsfried _dough on Instagram.
Last month the news broke that the all-vegan Peace Ridge Sanctuary is planning to open a horse shelter on 640 acres in Freedom. The sanctuary must raise $ 650,000 to build a horse stable and other necessary facilities. Right now, an anonymous donor is doubling all donations, and if the sanctuary can raise $ 50,000 by October, it can break ground before winter. By the time the stables are built, requests to take in abused and neglected horses pile up at the sanctuary in Brooks, with no space in the existing barns to house the large animals.
In the past few months there has also been news about a new vegan grocery cart, new vegan retail store, new vegan cafe on the farm and a new vegan donut shop. Here’s a look at these latest developments.
SOUTHERN FOOD CART IN CORNISH
The Greenhouse by SAO food truck got a quick test start in the fall of 2019 and even hosted a vegan wine tasting at Cellardoor Winery in Portland, followed by a winter of planning and preparing a big launch in the spring of 2020. But owner Shelby Anne’s plans from Oates for the introduction of the purely vegan food cart have been turned upside down by the pandemic. Instead, Oates took the cart back to Atlanta, where she was born and raised, to serve her vegan home-style cooking during the unsafe year.
But this summer, The Greenhouse by SAO Cart returned to Maine, with a home base outside of The Local Gear in Cornish and pop-ups at other locations and events where Oates served a rotating menu of masala street corn, carrot dogs with black bean chili , Grilled mushroom pusher, grilled cheese sandwiches, chickpea frittatas and pasta salad.
“You will definitely taste some of my southern roots,” said Oates, “especially with the staples that I put on the menu more than others, like my sweet southern SAO cornbread or my slow-cooked kale, but I also help vegans happy to find a solution that sometimes needs to be tackled, like a nicely charred and melting SAO grilled cheese. I’ve served my BBQ Shroom Sammich a lot this summer, which is mostly leek and shiitake, on a thick piece of grilled Italian bread topped with a SAO house garlic and smoked paprika spread. It was a hit at the Ossipee Valley Music Festival and will soon even be served at a wedding I’m hosting. “
The food truck has popped up at Steep Falls and Kezar Falls and will be at Doles Orchard in Limington for apple picking season. Check out social media (@saocooksandcatering on.) Facebook) for weekly schedule updates.
LITTLE LAD’S GOES INTO RETAIL
Since June, fans of Little Lad’s famous popcorn and its former cafes (the last of which closed in 2015) have been flocking to Main Street in the town of Corinth, Penobscot County, where the vegan food company opened a small store selling its full line of products as well Sandwiches, soups and balls with up to 20 flavors of Nice Creme.
The new Little Lad’s Shop is housed in a former bank building with outdoor seating and a drive-through window where customers can take phone orders. Little Lad’s is best known for its popcorn, but the store stocks all of its 100+ products, including cereal, crackers, and fruit tarts, made in the Popcorn Factory 80 feet down the street.
In the store, a whole shelf is crammed with bags of the signature popcorn in all its flavors. Fridges and freezers hold drinks, takeaway sandwiches, veggie burgers, frozen dinners, and nice creme pints. The store also makes sandwiches to order and offers breakfast items, soups, and desserts.
“We also currently have some locally grown berries and usually fruits and vegetables for sale,” said owner Maria Fleming, who recently hired more people at the production facility to meet the ever-increasing demand.
Fleming said the store had been busy this summer, with tourists stopping on their way to Moosehead Lake, customers making pilgrimages at past Little Lad restaurants, and locals swinging through the takeaway window for lunch.
Little Lad’s store is open on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
SEAT IN THE FRONT ROW AT FRINKLEPOD
In July, a sidewalk café called Snagglebites opened next to the vegetable fields at Frinklepod Farm in Arundel, serving fresh farm lunches. The short menu includes plant-based bowls, salads, and bite-sized snacks. The café is open Thursday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“For years we have been thinking about offering more lunch options in the summer,” says Flora Brown, who runs a farm with her husband Noah Wentworth. In winter, the certified organic farm sells prepared food from its winter warehouse, which is closed during the busy summer season. “This winter we took the plunge and bought a used lunch cart that we turned into Snagglebites.”
The name comes from the children’s book “Uno’s Garden”, which was loved by Brown and Wentworth’s daughters, and which is the name of the farm. Supported by the courtyard’s large kitchen, the trolley extends the food prep area from the summer market and enables customers to watch their vegetable bowls and salads being prepared.
“We realized that preparing lunch right in front of our customers’ eyes would enable them to see how it was being prepared and hopefully even inspire them to prepare a similar dish at home using ingredients from our farm shop”, said Brown. “We also wanted to minimize the food waste and packaging challenges we experienced when trying to fill our retail coolers with prepared food.”
Most Snagglebites bowls start with a rice quinoa pilaf topped with a choice of baked Heiwa tofu, hummus, or fresh vegetables (raw or grilled). This is drizzled with peanut ginger, barbecue, or green goddess sauce (all made on the farm). New to the bowl menu is the Black Bean Bowl with tortilla chips and potato queso.
LOVEBIRDS OVER THE BORDER
Mainers can’t get enough vegan donuts, and now the all-vegan lovebirds Donuts in Kittery prepares to take its goods over the bridge and across the border to a shop in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The new shop will be located in the pedestrian-friendly Vaughan Mall.
“The Portsmouth location is much smaller than the Kittery location, more of a boutique city cafe designed primarily for takeout with some seating inside,” said Tamara Monroe, who owns the Ryan MacDougall business.
On the weekends, Lovebirds regularly reaches the limits of the number of customers to be served, so that the expansion is the logical next step. All donuts continue to be made in Kittery, where the kitchen was built with the intention of serving multiple stores. Monroe says it takes seven minutes to get from Kittery Bakery to the Portsmouth store.
To prepare for the new retail location, Lovebirds has added bakers and is in the process of hiring more baristas to move between the two stores. The new location offers the same monthly menus and online ordering as the original. That means flavors like this month’s Hunneecomb, a ganache-dipped brioche donut, stripped with butterscotch and topped with homemade vegan honeycomb candy, will be available at both locations.
Monroe said they hope the Portsmouth Lovebirds will open this fall. In the meantime, look for their donuts at Kittery Shop and Nectar Cafe, Grateful Gardens at Rocky Acres and Strand Cafe (all in York), and Copper Branch in Portland and Frinklepod Farm in Arundel.
Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at
Since its inception, MOFGA has had a friendly attitude towards vegetarians