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Nov 12, 2006 01:50 AM

Bad experience at Fore Street (portland)

Tonight was my wife's birthday. We didn't have reservations, but decided we'd try and hit Fore Street w/ my parents, who are visiting this weekend. I dropped my wife off at Fore Street at about 4:50 and went to get my folks at their hotel. My wife asked the hostess if she needed to wait on line, or if she could instead get a seat in the bar - and then have one of us wait on line for the reservation when we arrived. The hostess told her sure, so she went and sat in the bar for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile more and more people entered the front area to queue up for a table (since Fore Street reserves one third of their tables for walk-ins). All of a sudden, the bartender told my wife she wasn't allowed to sit in the bar, since others were waiting for a perch there (the way it works: you give your name to the hostess at 5pm, and then go wait in the bar until 5:30pm, when seating begins). Surprised, my wife got up to head back to the line, which was more or less total chaos - no order, rhyme or reason, just everyone pushing up towards the front. On her way - and this clearly isn't Fore Street's fault - a patron waiting on line yelled at her for cutting (even though my wife was probably the third person there all night). The whole thing was demoralizing - I haven't seen her so shaken in a while. We gave up and managed to get a table a few blocks away at 555. Good food (transcendent dessert), and less overall hype - very pleasant and helpful staff. My wife said she felt that Fore Street had just gotten too big for its britches. There's no need to herd people in and mistreat them for the honor of dining in your over-hyped restaurant, and no-one should have her birthday wrecked by thoughtless bartenders or miscommunication among the staff.

Oh - the 555 dessert? Hot pepper ice cream with hot fudge, kahlua chantilly, fried bananas, and candied pignoli nuts. Just insane.

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  1. So sorry that you had to go through that debacle. Couldn't agree with you more. Attitude like you read about at Fore Street. Had an issue with a meal awhile ago and couldn't get anyone's attention so I suffered through it. Was told by the waitress (after waiting an eternity to flag her down) that it was too late to complain and that I should have made a better attempt to get her attention. Like what, flares? Roman Candles? I complained to the manager afterwards and got more BS. Never went back, never will. There are too many great restaurants in Portland

    1. My wife and I went to Fore Street last year. We walked in at five with no reservation (dead of winter) and were seated immediately. We sat sort of up looking down over the dining room and kitchen. The food was good, but nothing to rave about.

      The service, however, was coy and elusive. From our vantage point we could watch the service staff intermingling and talking. It was a bit too intimate. Please know that during service hours, restaurant staffs tend to chat and fool around, but it’s always behind the scenes. In Fore St, however, the service station is in the middle of the dining room (as is the a walk-in refridge and kitchen) so the whole staff is on show (except the dishwashers and prep cooks). And I hate to have to watch my waiter talking and clubbing it up with other waiters and bussers when I need a refill on my water.

      The staff attitude there is one that occurs in places that become very trendy and have poor management. They try to make it casual, but the service becomes spotty as a result.

      Overall, I love Fore Street's “open” concept, but loath the execution.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bewley

        "The service, however, was coy and elusive".

        That is a great line, and I can't stop giggling over it. I have to say, coy and elusive service does NOT make me want to try a restaurant!

      2. DAN: HOW WAS THE FOOD AT 555?

        2 Replies
        1. re: irwin

          555 was really, really good, if not particularly mind blowing. First off, though, I'll say that the service was really friendly and helpful, and the atmosphere - with the open second floor and high ceilings and copper tinged decor was also lovely. I had some pepper crusted scallops that had a real kick and were very tasty, while my wife found her salmon a bit boring. I had a mussels appetizer that was super fresh but not very inventive. The dessert, as I mention above, was the highlight. I'd certainly go back, although it's a touch out of my price range for regular visits.

          1. re: Dan S.

            The food @ 555 is great, but way too expensive for Portland Maine

        2. Dan...I couldn't agree with you more. The attitude at Fore St. can be ridiculous, which is sad because often they put out really good food. Here's a short list of silly things they have said or done to me or someone in my party over the years:

          1)Refusing to put a chair at the end of one of the booths to make a table of 6 become a 7. Told that it was a fire hazard. On our way out (we left immmediately because 7 of us needed to eat), they seated a seven on the table we left, using the same chair. When I spoke with the manager about it, she said "oh but this is a special circumstance." Apparently 7 businessmen with an expense account are not special enough.

          2)Refusing to pour a drink. This happened twice. The first time my friend ordered a kahula and cream, only to be told that they can't make it because the cream will interfere with the taste of the food. Second time was also at the bar after my friend ordered a lemondrop martini. She was told that they do not like to make specialty martini's like that. What!?

          Fore St. is long past its prime and the list of people they piss off is growing rapidly.

          1. I remember getting my first issue of Saveur magazine several years ago, as I was starting to develope a foodie vibe.

            It had an article on Fore Street that made it sound great. Portland is fairly close and my wife and I are palnning a trip. I had always intended on eating at Fore Street. Should I take a pass? Is the food still good?