Maine’s most exclusive restaurant just got more expensive.
Dinner at Freedom’s famed The Lost Kitchen now costs $250 per person, a 28 percent increase over last year and a 163 percent increase over 2016, before the restaurant became the phenomenon it is now. When the upscale eatery opened in 2014, prices ranged from $60 to $68 for the tasting menu. That’s a 316 percent increase in nine years.
The $250 cost for the 5-hour, 12-course dinner doesn’t include tax, tips or drinks.
It’s also not easy to locate the price for the meal on The Lost Kitchen’s website. (It’s on the frequently asked questions page, near the end.)
The cost increase is substantially more than the nationwide average over the past year. Restaurant prices rose 8.4 percent between February 2022 and February 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The dining experience at The Lost Kitchen has changed in the nine years it’s been open. In 2014, a five-course dinner was served one day a week for about $68 per person. Other nights, an a la carte menu was available for diners. Now, there are more than twice as many courses — 12 — and there is only one seating each night.
Elsewhere in Maine, other exclusive dining experiences clock in at lower price points.
For instance, Barn Suppers at Turner Farm on the island of North Haven cost $135 per person over age 21. You will have to get there by boat, but that’s only an additional $35 per person fee, bringing the total to $170 for the Maine island dinner experience, 32 percent cheaper than The Lost Kitchen
At Earth at Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport, you can rent the Painting Shed for the evening — a private dining space that seats up to 12 — as long as you agree to spend $1,200 on food and drinks. The four-course tasting menu is $92 each, so that plus drinks will easily add up to $100 each per person for the private experience (assuming you can find 11 friends to join you). But you can also just enjoy a three- or four-course tasting menu in the dining room there for $83 or $92 each, respectively.
But private dining in one of two greenhouses at Aragosta in Deer Isle, which seat between 2 and 14, costs $250 per person plus tax, tip and drinks.
Erin French re-opened The Lost Kitchen in the tiny rural town with a population of 711 in 2014 in the Mill at Freedom Falls. The former gristmill and wood turning mill is a historic structure that fell into disrepair after being abandoned in 1967. It was renovated in 2012. The restaurant is the second iteration of The Lost Kitchen, which originally was located on Belfast’s Main Street and served a full menu. The new incarnation has developed a nationwide fanbase and spawned books and a television show.
The restaurant received 10,000 calls in 24 hours to its reservation line in 2017, shutting down phone lines to the town’s fire department and setting off alarms due to the overloaded emergency call system. Beginning in 2018, reservations moved to a postcard system, and 20,000 people vied for tables that year.
Postcards will be pulled randomly beginning on April 1 and would-be diners will be called to make a reservation, according to The Lost Kitchen website. The process continues until the restaurant is booked for the season. Although in past years people had to mail their cards at a specific time, this year doesn’t list a cut-off date. However, it does say that calls for reservations will be made between April 1 and May 15, with the possibility of last-minute calls later if there are cancellations.
So what do you get for that $250? An experience, according to the restaurant.
“Dinner is so much more than a meal at TLK,” the frequently asked questions page says. “It’s an evening, an adventure, a moment, and a memory. … The mill is yours for the entire night, with an intimate group and the utmost personal attention from Erin and our tightly knit team.”
The meal, the restaurant says, will be a five-hour experience with “many, many, many” courses.