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Portland ME Restaurants


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#1 skeeter

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Posted 02 April 2004 - 05:26 AM

I live on Vinalhaven Island and on occasion visit Portland. Perhaps I've spoiled myself with Primo but I found Fore St. Grill disappointing. Are there any promising new restaurants in the area?

#2 kechefs

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Posted 02 April 2004 - 08:48 AM

Have you tried Arrows or the White Barn Inn they are both south of Portland but worth the trip.Arrows is seasonal and I'm not sure when they open. Soon I would think. I also would give Fore st. another shot, We really enjoy it there.
"What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn't much better than tedious disease"
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#3 bigwino

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Posted 02 April 2004 - 08:50 AM

What was disappointing about Fore Street?

#4 CSASphinx

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Posted 02 April 2004 - 10:02 AM

My recommendations:

Hugo's if you haven't been since it changed owners a while back

http://www.hugos.net/

Five Fifty-Five (at 555 Congress St.)

Cafe Uffa might also be of interest

http://www.uffarestaurant.com/

And while it may have suffered toward the end of the last owner's tenure, the Back Bay Grill seems to have been rejuvenated somewhat, though I admit it has been a good nine months since my last visit.

http://www.backbaygrill.com

If you only have one night, go to Hugo's
"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

#5 skeeter

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Posted 02 April 2004 - 10:54 PM

Hugo's looks like a possibility. Thanks for the recommendation. Arrows I've read about and the same with the White Barn Inn... What was disappointing about Fore St.? After 3 attempts... the bar tender first off leaves a bad taste and a difficult entry into the place. Once after I'd announced to Nancy that I'd never go back... I did because I was stuck in Portland and nothing else looked very good, (around the exchange st. area)... I went to art school there in the early eighties... pretty much everything is different. So I went to the Fore St. and was rushed through my cocktail into my dinner of wood roasted mussels which for the last time I will eat there, I think, was very good...but the bar tender there is too much. Another time when I came for a dinner in the big room I felt the service was off and the cooking was left to kids and the actual chef was not present. Simply put, I have not yet had a good experience at Fore St. I may yet try it again because I like to check things like that out. Has anyone tried Bandol on Exchange St.?

#6 ella

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Posted 04 April 2004 - 11:02 AM

I just went to a brand new restaurant on Commercial St.- opened at the end of February, I believe- called Mim's Brasserie. They take a kind of French bistro approach- emphasizing braised meats and offering each main dish and side dish seperately so that, with a group of people, you can try a whole variety of dishes. (Our group took advantage of this and tried nearly every vegetable side dish they had on the menu- from jerusalem artichokes to roasted brussel sprouts; all were excellent.) Mim's, like Fore St. and Primo, puts an emphasis on locally-produced meats and cheeses, which is something I always appreciate. Oh, and the hazelnut brownie I had for dessert was absolutely luxurious- so fudgey it was almost gooey in the center and served with homemade hazelnut ice cream...

Primo still takes the cake, in my opinion. But, if in Portland, I'd give Mim's a try. Five-Fifty-Five is also good. If going there, I'd try to get an upstairs table.

#7 skeeter

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Posted 06 April 2004 - 04:27 AM

Thanks for all the great ideas!

#8 Toasted

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Posted 06 April 2004 - 04:49 AM

Have you checked out Mesa Verde -504 Congress St? They offer a nice selection of mexican specialties and the food is very fresh and reasonably priced. This is a great place to bring a vegetarian too- all of the dishes can be ordered with grilled tofu instead of steak or chicken.
Melissa

#9 johnnyd

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Posted 07 April 2004 - 11:32 AM

Skeeter et al,
I can't resist a gentle plug for Chef Tak's "YOSAKU", his new japanese eatery where "Giobbi's" used to be (the bottom of Danforth St.). He used to be BenKay's star and before that, a Tuna-buyer on yon waterfront. He knows his fish. He started out stellar and has stumbled here and there but whenever I have his Toro I feel positively stoned. May he and his crew live long and prosper.

A recent (mixed) review here: http://www.foodinportland.com
"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II
Portland Food Map.com

#10 agnolottigirl

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Posted 07 April 2004 - 01:08 PM

Another vote for Hugo's here--can't beat it. And I think they are still running the midweek special: 3 courses (app/entree/dessert) for $30, which is a screaming deal. The tasting menu is fantastic, but more a special-occasion thing, for me anyway; but the bar menu is also available for people without the time or $ or appetite for the full deal.

The last time I tried to go to the Saltwater Grille, in South Portland, it was closed--for the season, maybe? Good place.

I recently posted a note about the Dogfish Cafe--relatively new place just off Congress, very good food, but make sure you go on a night they are offering specials (menu is limited otherwise).

Also really like Pat's, on Forest, above the butcher shop. Sort of a Chez Panisse feel, both food & atmosphere.

Happy eating!
agnolottigirl
~~~~~~~~~~~
"They eat the dainty food of famous chefs with the same pleasure with which they devour gross peasant dishes, mostly composed of garlic and tomatoes, or fisherman's octopus and shrimps, fried in heavily scented olive oil on a little deserted beach."-- Luigi Barzini, The Italians

#11 johnnyd

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Posted 07 April 2004 - 01:52 PM

Hey I saw your Dogfish post and had no idea it was worth a visit. Many Thanks, I'll try it, in spite of the crappy location.

I can see Saltwater Grille out my window (and the fabulous Portland Harbor). They were open this winter but not at all times. I heard thru the vine that somebody quit in a huff around Xmas(?). Went there a month ago and it was way off the mark from opening month. I still miss the Moules Portugaise from a prior incarnation: Bay Harbor.

Pat's is on Stevens Ave, not Forest.

Let's Eat! :smile:
"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II
Portland Food Map.com

#12 agnolottigirl

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Posted 07 April 2004 - 03:00 PM

Ooh, thanks for the correction re Pat's address, johnnyd. . . like it's not hard enough to find already!! :wink: I'd say Dogfish is a little light in the ambiance department (the lovely view of the Greyhound station and all that), but the food was very good.
agnolottigirl
~~~~~~~~~~~
"They eat the dainty food of famous chefs with the same pleasure with which they devour gross peasant dishes, mostly composed of garlic and tomatoes, or fisherman's octopus and shrimps, fried in heavily scented olive oil on a little deserted beach."-- Luigi Barzini, The Italians

#13 ella

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Posted 07 April 2004 - 06:21 PM

Where in South Portland is the Saltwater Grille? And what's the price range?

Also can anybody recommend a really good Italian restaurant here in Portland? A place with something creative and (dare I say it) kind of authentic going on?

#14 johnnyd

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Posted 08 April 2004 - 04:22 AM

Ella,
Saltwater Grille is adjacent to the Sunset Marina directly opposite the Maine State Pier on the harbour. It's tricky to get to once you cross the bridge and get to Ferry Village. A water taxi from the Casco Bay Ferry Terminal is easier. See specifics including last year's menu/prices at http://www.saltwatergrille.com

I once ordered a scallop/risotto type dish there that was an unappetizing mess. And they had a "salmon burger" special the other day at lunch... sorry, I'm not a fan.

As for Italian, you should do very well at "Cinque Terre" tucked into Wharf Street whose old cobblestones are currently being used for a Miramax backdrop. Note this from a review at http://www.foodinportland.com :

I must admit, I enjoyed the food at Portland's Cinque Terre even more than anything we had in the real Cinque Terre. They have managed to grasp the feeling of true Italian dining, something which was quite a shock at first to all of us from two-course America.


...okay, I thought, but why did my waiter scoff when I asked for a little fruit and cheese plate to wash the rest of the very expensive wine down with? I got a handfull of berry garnish I had seen elsewhere that night with a shaving of parm for 7 bucks. C'mon!
"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II
Portland Food Map.com

#15 johnnyd

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Posted 08 April 2004 - 06:05 PM

Skeeter et al
I've made a res at Fore Street for this weekend. I'm curious about the bartender so I plan to have fun with him based on your post! Review to follow... :rolleyes:
"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II
Portland Food Map.com

#16 skeeter

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Posted 09 April 2004 - 03:41 PM

johnnyd: please feel free... I like this. I look forward to reading your critique. Thanks all for clues to more good eating in Portland.

#17 johnnyd

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 11:37 AM

OK! Let's Eat...
We were a four-top, sat on time by the window overlooking the Pier which was cool. The place was mobbed. As you know the open kitchen plan is an appealing feature, but I can still smell the smoke on my clothes a day later. Never got a chance to interact w/bartender but when I went out for a smoke between courses I peeked through the window and saw a fully occupied bar, mostly couples, looking happy and well attended by a tall, shiny-pated dude with a winning smile. Same guy? I don't see SamH tolerating anyone who alienates his customers so maybe that jerk you spoke of is done.

The ladies had House Salads, I had Grilled Sardines which only made me miss the real beach shack fare of the Algarve, but I had to try 'em. My chum from England, a big fan of anything edible (and drinkable) had seared Monkfish Liver which I thought spot-on. Eliot ordered a Vouvray which was perfect.

Entrees were all spectacular... except mine: Like an idiot, I ordered Hanger Steak M/Rare and it was like rubber. My Wife was laughing cuz I make a really good Hanger myself, so what-up-wit-choo 2nite, boyfriend? :wacko: She had an amazing Duck, Amy had - she boasted - the best scallops she's ever had, and E had the tuna. I'd elaborate on the method but we were well into a third bottle of wine by the time our food came (reasonable wait) and things got, um, more and more silly.

One thing is when A asked if the scallops were local our server said yes (they were huge hockey pucks too), "but not diver scallops... they don't do that anymore, it's too dangerous,"

(Okay, the servers out there know you've got a little wiggle room on the truth about the specials. The odds that a former scallop/urchin diver was at the receiving end of that line of crap are infintesimal, but it happened, and I know the guys who are still diving and yes, it is dangerous, and yes, I still wince at the bump on my shin where my wife kicked me when she saw me start to squirm when I heard that server LIIIIIE TTOOOOOO MMEEEEE !!!!! ) :angry:

Fore Street placed a plate of BRabe and Mashed in the middle for us to share, which made the main presentation more striking, and allows each to decide to what extent their sides are applied to the main course. A nice touch, I thought.

I stole the Dessert/Cheese/Port and DWine list which look delicious enough to go back tonight and finish our meal. In conclusion, we had a pretty good time and all was tasty and I'd eat there in a jiffy, especially if someone else was paying for it!

SKEETER: I think my critique is little lacking, but we were having too much fun to pay too close attention! I'd be happy to detail the dessert list for you in an email, just let me know (their cheese list is worth a visit alone). BTW: Has VHaven got broadband yet? My friends on Swan's Island are steaming about their connections, last I heard.
"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II
Portland Food Map.com

#18 skeeter

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 01:29 PM

No broadband on Vinalhaven yet. Still the slow as molasses phone line. Well, that sounds like a good time. I have yet to get a non rubbery hanger steak anywhere so I don't order that any more. The same bartender is there! That's him. Oh well, I just haven't experienced the Fore Street when it's really on I guess. I may try it again some time but with all these great recommendations here I may not need to. Thanks everybody.

#19 sara

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Posted 20 June 2004 - 03:35 PM

Hi

We'll be spending one night in Portland ME on July 30. We're planning to have dinner at Fore St, but would appreciate a hotel recommendation (reasonably priced and clean) and a breakfast/brunch recommendation for that Saturday morning. Thanks!
Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.
-- William Grimes

#20 Foodie-Girl

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Posted 20 June 2004 - 07:04 PM

Can't help with the hotel request (we stayed in Brunswick due to family obligations) but I have to put my two cents in about HUGOs!

We were there a few weeks ago and I've got to tell you...it was one of the BEST meals I've had in a long time. Fore Street is certainly good...but HUGO's is fantastic.

There...hope I haven't thrown a monkey wrench in to your plans...LOL

#21 sara

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Posted 20 June 2004 - 07:46 PM

Hi

We are planning to go to Hugo's, but a couple of days later, when we're staying in Boothbay and will do a day trip.
Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.
-- William Grimes

#22 rcaffelle

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 01:57 PM

I'll also be in Portland for the first time in a few weeks. Does anyone have any restaurant recommendations in the "non-Gourmet" category, although I hate that term I just thought of. Just basic, good, no ritz restaurants in the downtown area. Thanks.

rich

#23 fatdeko

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Posted 24 June 2004 - 08:33 AM

Thanks for the "oyster Bar" plug JohnnyD, we don't ever get mentioned on this board ( I understand why, of course)
As far as your visit goes, Sara, when your done walking from WIld Iris, please come have a drink at Old Port Sea Grill. As an old DC denizen, I'd love to hear what Slater and the boys have been up to in my absence, and all about the Cicadas too!

#24 sara

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Posted 02 August 2004 - 09:23 AM

Hi

Yes, it is pretty here in Boothbay at the moment, tho much warmer than I'd like. What happened to the nice cool summers here? It's in the 80s!

At the moment I'm at the new Moosehead Coffee House (near the library), which has wifi. The days of internet-less Boothbay are gone.

Restaurant update-- The Lobsterman's Coop has always been a favorite, but has taken a dive IMO. We went the other night, and at 7 pm they were out of steamers, and any lobstahs bigger than 1.25! Lots of pissed off people there. Next day, we did Robinson's instead, and not only did they have everything we wanted, but the lobsters tasted better. This is a switch from my experiences in years past.

Ok, off to Damariscotta for oysters!
Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.
-- William Grimes

#25 johnnyd

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Posted 02 August 2004 - 11:59 AM

I probably missed you but these are the guys who supplied my lobsterboat oyster bar:

Mook Sea Farm, Inc
Bill Mook
321 State Route 129
Walpole, ME 04573
Ph 207-586-1456
Fax 586-5244

Outstanding quality oysters. A couple of Guinness or a bottle of sancerre to go with 'em. I hear there are others in the river doing a bang-up job as well.

Enjoy! :biggrin:
"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II
Portland Food Map.com

#26 CSASphinx

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Posted 08 August 2004 - 07:48 AM

ghostrider,

Not too far from the Eastland is Uffa, funky little room and much, much easier to get into than Fore Street. Go out the front of the Eastland take a right, then a right on Congress St. and Uffa! is on the other side of Congress at Longfellow Square.

As I mentioned on another thread my wife and I really like to go to Five Fifty-Five (take a left on Congress instead) and it's a couple of blocks down at 555 Congress. You'll need to call for a reservation at both places.

Another place, I honestly haven't been to for a couple fo eyars, but always had solid food is Katahdin (this time go straight across Congress and it is on the corner of High and Spring Street one block down.

For a funkier place, try Pepper Club on Middle Street. Veggie selections included here. Get the mezze plate for an app. The style is Med./North African.

Also on Middle Street diagonally across from Pepper Club try Woody's for a more casual beer and good sandwich.

On Commercial St. again more casual is Flatbread Co. near the ferry terminal.

Looking for fried seafood? There are two good places (and you'll need to drive to these). First is Susan's Fish and Chips. It's in a non-descript building on outer Forest Avenue, probably a mile or so from the Eastland. If you see McDonald's on the way out of town, you've gone past it. Turn around and it'll be just after the light on the left.

Also consider heading out to Two Light in Cape Elizabeth for the Lobster Shack. Good food. GREAT view of bold ocean front. Head out Route 77 and follow the signs for Two Light Sate Park, then take a right when you get by the park entrance and follow the road to land's end.

I believe johnnyd also has good things to say about the saefood place at the end of Commercial St. but you'll have to get his words for that, since I've never been.
"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

#27 ghostrider

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Posted 08 August 2004 - 11:14 AM

Thanks CSA! I'm making a list.

Uffa sounds wonderful - tho why do they have only the winter 2004 menu up on their website in summertime - but the food certainly looks appetizing from the descriptions. Not sure if this is going to be our trip for "fine dining" experiences tho. Pepper Club & Flatbread Co. sound more like my kind of places for this round.

Lobster Shack sounds intriguing too, particularly for the setting.
Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

#28 johnnyd

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Posted 09 August 2004 - 06:36 AM

Uffa used to have a habit of closing whenever they wanted but I think there is a new owner now. If it is closed, I had a great "tapas" meal at Local 188 last year, which is next door to Uffa.

There is a website called food in portland that has some reviews of other places but it is a bit out of date FYI.
"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II
Portland Food Map.com

#29 johnnyd

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Posted 17 August 2004 - 06:29 AM

True, True!
The Portland Public Market is the source for specialty foods and fresh local produce. Scales has just opened, a seafood purveyor and small restaurant at the eastern end of the PPM. It's a joint effort of Sam Hayward (Fore Street) and Street & Company , a terrific, no nonsense seafood restaurant hidden down a cobblestone street in the Old Port, of which fchrisgrimm is a fan. Checked out Scales last week and there were some reasonable looking salmon, halibut, sword and tuna for sale, and a neat alabaster-type raw bar counter with three types of oysters for sale including winterpoints. The place was buzzing along a little bit. This is the third or fourth seafood enterprise at this particular spot in the Market but the pedigree is there this time.

The Market has had a rough ride but soldiers on. Good and Great food concerns arrive and depart among it's two or so dozen stalls and countertops. I particularly miss the venerable Wolfe's Neck Farm Natural Meat purveyor, tenderloins so perfect the mere weight of your knife cuts a medallion like buttah... :wub:

Edited by johnnyd, 17 August 2004 - 06:42 AM.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II
Portland Food Map.com

#30 CSASphinx

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Posted 17 August 2004 - 12:58 PM

Let's not forget the Portland Greengrocer. Not too shabby selection of produce there.

I do agree that you can't find the scope of what you can find at the Public Market in any other one place in the area, though I must admit I have been sorely disappointed by the service at Horton's in their cheese area lately not to mention what seems to be a very picked over -- and limited -- selection of smoked seafood.

This is not a knock on the Public Market at all, merely a yearning for what it could be.

Wasn't aware that Scales was a Fore Street/ Street & Company venture. But I'm confused since Sam Hayward is already partners with Dana Street at Fore Street and Dana is also the owner of Street & Company....
"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken