Cover: Staff tight, Miranda’s Rockland’s Café and Parker’s Restaurant are forced to close permanently

Café Miranda in Rockland 2011. Photo by Tim Greenway

Cafe Miranda, which has broken hearts in Rockland and beyond, said it expects to end its 29-year operation on Saturday because it does not have enough staff.

A June 14 post on the Facebook page of the Rockland restaurant — which is owned by Chef Kerry Altiero — read in part, “What we have is great staff, great location, and the best customers in the best city, but what we don’t do you have enough staff to work more Three days a week….If we fail to perform some miracle of events, it is time to pass the torch on. It is time for someone else to possess this magical and soulful location on Oak Street.”

Altiero said his kitchen would need three more skilled chefs to be able to operate at full capacity. Labor shortages have been a problem in the restaurant industry since before the pandemic. “At this point now, the staffing problem is endemic everywhere, and acute in the restaurant business.”

The funky and fun restaurant at 15 Oak St. Building a loyal following over the years, with Altiero’s eclectic, multi-ethnic roster and fun style. More than 400 commenters flocked to Cafe Miranda’s Facebook page to share their discontent with news of the impending closure.

Saturday will be the last Miranda Café service. “We’re not going out with a tissue box, we’re going out with a rock ‘n’ roll list,” Altiero said.

Meanwhile, back to North Dearing…

With PARSE LABOR MARKET, PARKER’S RESTAURANT CLOSES

After 33 years in business, Parker’s Restaurant will close its Washington Avenue doors forever on Saturday, facing the same staffing issues as Cafe Miranda.

“There is very little qualified kitchen help,” said Jeff MacDonald, co-owner, noting that while Parker has a chef, assistant chef and prep chef, they would need four to six more skilled kitchen workers to be able to maintain the restaurant. The owners announced the June 25 closing Tuesday on their Facebook page.

MacDonald continued, explaining that the problem was not new or surprising to Parker: “Employment has been a problem for everyone for the past two years.” “The job market is scattered. But if you don’t have horses, you can’t pull the cart.”

MacDonald said he sympathized with Café Miranda. “If you’re launching a quality product and not finding the people to produce it, you can’t just lower your standards of perfection,” he said. “And if you can’t serve your customers properly, that puts a lot of pressure on everyone.”

Firewood fermentation expands to a free port

Goodfire Brewing is pressing ahead with plans for a new Freeport tasting room, restaurant, and brewery that owner David Redding said may open by the second week in September.

Redding, located in the Route 1 building that previously hosted the Conundrum wine bar and El Jefe, the taco bar, said the new Goodfire location was a year and a half old. The Goodfire team renovated and expanded the structure, making it much larger than its original five-year-old location in Portland, with more amenities as well.

Freeport’s outdoor seating area spans over 4,800 square feet, with an additional 5,000 square feet of space inside. Redding expects to be able to accommodate up to about 130 customers in total. By contrast, Goodfire’s Portland tasting room is 1,500 square feet, and has a maximum capacity of about 90 customers.

Freeport’s tasting room will also have 24 taps, double what Goodfire now has in Portland. The open plan facility will also feature vaulted ceilings, a gas fireplace and a private dining room.

Redding said Goodfire has appointed Ben Christie, a former chef at Hugo’s in Portland, as executive chef for the Freeport project. Reading said Kristi will compile a menu of “high-quality casual dining” along with the snacks. Kevin Nelson, the former General Manager of The Honey Paw, will join Goodfire as the General Manager of Freeport.

Whoopee! WHOOPIE FESTIVAL RETURNS

After taking two years off due to the pandemic, the Maine Whoopi Bay Festival returns to downtown Dover-Foxcroft on Saturday.

Running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the event features 20 bakers and thousands of pies, along with live music, rides, games for kids, artists, artisans, vendors, and other activities.

Festival organizer Patrick Myers said that while there were challenges to restarting the festival, the event remained mostly unchanged. “Some bakers are unable to attend due to staffing issues, but we have many new bakers participating this year, which means we will have a lot of little pies,” he said, adding that most of the festival’s usual attractions are back, including live music by a band Doughty Hill Band, pie-eating contests, and magic shows.

Myers advised festival-goers to look out for yellow signs indicating “festival parking,” which leads to the Piscataquis Valley Fairgrounds. After parking at the fairgrounds, guests can catch a shuttle bus downtown to enjoy the festival, the largest annual event in the province of Piscataquis. “There is no way to find a parking space in Dover on festival day,” Myers said. “You’ll save time and frustration if you go to the fairgrounds and ride a bus.”

Admission to the festival is $5 per person, and free for children 12 and under. Organized by the Center Theater and the Piscataquis Chamber of Commerce, the event is the largest annual fundraiser for both organizations. For more information, visit the festival website.

Support for local brochures in ALES FOR TAILS

The Greater Portland Animal Shelter Association is holding its annual fundraiser, Ales for Tails, in South Portland on Sunday.

The dog-focused beer festival runs from 2-5 p.m. at Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse on Fort Road. About 17 Minecraft breweries are participating in this year’s festivities, along with four food trucks.

Tickets cost $60 online, or $70 at the door. Admission includes six (8 ounce) pours into brewery booths, parking and a commemorative aluminum tasting mug. Festival-goers are encouraged to bring their well-behaved and restrained youngsters. All money raised from the event goes to support the more than 4,000 pets the league cares for each year.


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