HOME > Chowhound > All New England Archive >


dinner in Portland

hi I am interested in suggestions for good food restaurants for dinner in Portland downtown. Thanks in advance. cuisine type does not matter just want to enjoy food from a good chef.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. lots of great rest. in portland but if you want a great experience AND a great restaurant & chef, take a short (15 min ferry ride) over to Peaks Island and have a fabulous dinner (or lunch) at Cockeyed Gull. Fabulous - you won't be dissappointed.


    2 Replies
    1. re: lexpatti

      I will be honest, I was on Peaks about a month ago and stopped in to The Cockeyed Gull ( where I have had a few decent meals) and I found it to be really mediocre.

      1. re: ejohnson

        That's really too bad to hear. We spent a long weekend on Peaks Island and ate at the Cockeyed Gull for 5 meals (a breakfast, 2 lunches & 2 dinners) and I've sent several people there and all have loved it. Maybe an off day. I just loved everything. And sooo fresh. They've gotten a lot of write ups too. I hope it's not going down hill.

      1. You really can't go wrong at 555.

        For a hipper vibe and pretty good food and setting right in the old port, you can try Vignola.


        1. We like Fore Street Restaurant. Anything wood grilled is wonderful. The mussel app is to die for and enough to serve as a main course. I always look for a table where you can see the action. Enjoy.

          Becky's Diner for breakfast.

          1. Street and Co. on Wharf St. fresh seafood, great atmosphere and the Scallops in pernod and cream is a must.

            1. Hi there--Well, there is Fore Street but make sure you order the spit roasted meats, which are most reliably very well prepared. I am always disappointed there with the seafood I've ordered and the cocktails from the bar are mediocre and very expensive (flat tonic in mixed drinks, unremarkable martinis). Actually, our family LOVES going to Sapporo Restaurant on Commercial St--consistenly well prepared sushi and other dishes. The Nabayaki Udon is my favorite--delicious broth--though I love the eel rolls, too. Great service there!

              1. Best restaurant hands down is Fore Street. Ignore all the bitching from hyper-sensitive Hounds--go with an open mind, a reservation, and you will have an extraordinary meal. Don't sit at the bar or try to walk in at 5:30--that seems to be why people have a bad experience. Eat the wood-grilled mussels. Ask to be seated at a table where Lance is serving.

                5 Replies
                1. re: whs

                  Yeah - we hyper sensitive hounds have a thing about compete and total rudeness from the service staff. To be fair, this was in conjunction with doing what whs wisely advises against - going for a walk in (they should discontinue the practice if they can't treat their customers with human decency in this context - we had an AWFUL experience).

                  As for the food, I think it's really good, and just violently overrated. The mussels are excellent, but not the best you'll ever have anywhere. You want a really great meal, not overhyped, perfect from start to finish (I liked it much better than my several trips to Fore Street) go to Caiola's on Pine Street. Less expensive, slightly less grand and more intimate atmo, and just amazing food. But reserve - it's tough to get in. And whatever you do, do not skip dessert.

                  1. re: whs

                    I tend to take suggestions that use the term "hands down" with a grain of salt. Fore St. has decent food and a pleasant atmosphere but as others have mentioned it almost laughably overrated. Caiola's is great but is not downtown. My best recommendation would be 555 Congress st. for the best food or if you are into foams and infusions - Hugo's cannot be beat. As James mentioned above, you will always do better in Portland if you eat out of the Old Port.

                    1. re: ejohnson

                      I enjoyed our dinner at 555, but it lacked the self-assurance and clear identity of Fore Street. 555 felt like so many very good restaurants in second-tier cities. You could probably have the same dining experience in Minneapolis or Austin. Never been to Hugos or Caiola's.

                      1. re: whs

                        Fore Street's food is nothing I couldn't make at home WITHOUT the attitude. Hugo's can be extraordinary on the right night and blows just about every restaurant in Portland away but there are hits and misses there too, just like in any establishment.
                        There is nothing wrong with Fore Street's offerings, just too pedestrian for me. In addition, I like to be treated as if there is SOME importance of spending money there and not like it is a burden for the hostess/waitstaff to deal with me....and I am not high maintenance, believe me!

                        1. re: Cheffrank

                          Fore Street is average, Hugo's far better, really innovative and creative. But do not go there if you want a huge plate of food, it is a tasting menu, not a gorging menu! Yes, it's not cheap, but worth every $$

                  2. Have had several dinners at Fore street and was not impressed. Had a quail that was raw- sent back and still came back raw and a pork chop that was tough. Hugo's is an exquisite ripoff. Wonderful food in portions so small you are lucky if you can taste them. Has great snob appeal but really, really ridiculous.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: emilief

                      Complaining about the portion size at Hugo's is like complaining about the tacos at an Irish pub, or the steak at a seafood restaurant. Hugos offers a TASTING menu. If you are looking for meat and potatoes and a doggie bag to take home, Hugo's is not for you. It doesn't even PRETEND to be for you.

                      1. re: Keefer Lucas

                        We are not big eaters, are not looking for doggie bags and have had many a tasting- but usually there is enough to taste. Sorry, this place is a huge ripoff. How about one 1" roll for bread- give me a break. Lets agree to disagree.

                    2. I see that Hugo's has an interesting looking ala carte "Gasto Pub" menu. How are the the portions on that menu and do they have an actual pub/bar? The website isn't very big on pics, nor do I see any wine, whisk(ey), cognacs, etc. listings.

                      1. Yes, they have a bar - the items on that menu are similarly portioned - simply put, if you are looking for a big plate 'o food, Hugo's is NOT the place to go. But to insinuate that it is a ripoff is unnecessary and wildly inaccurate...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Keefer Lucas

                          Hey Keefer, your amps up to about 12. If you want to continue responding to "emilief", do so. But not through me when I'm asking a civil and most logical question. Since the "Gastro Pub" menu isn't a prix fixe, multi-course meal it is not illogical to ask if the portioning is any different. Capiche?

                        2. I have eaten at the bar, off the bar menu, at Hugo's on a couple of occasions. My wife and I usually split 3 apps/snacks and then get dessert. Its just enough food. You leave not totally stuffed but definitely not hungry.
                          The bar itself has 7 seats I think and there are 3 or 4 tall bar tables as well. They have a full bar, but not a huge selection of liquor. Their wine list is the main focus. Lots of good wine by the glass. Great dessert wines too.
                          In terms of the debate over the portion sizes, yes, Hugo's portions are small. That being said, I have never left Hugo's hungry. The portions supposed to be small when you are sampling at least 5 dishes on the tasting menu (plus at least one amuse). The 1" biscuits are also insanley delicious and yes, they are small. However, if you want another one, just ask. They will bring more out. I have done tasting menus are many other restaurants across the country and I have never found Hugo's portions to be ridiculous compared to other similar establishments. The big difference is that in NYC or Chicago (the two cities I most familar with in terms of restaurants) the 5 course tasting menu would be $75-$125.
                          I just feel that some people expect to get a huge plate of food when they go out to dinner (thank you Vinny T's, Olive Garden, Cheesecake Factory, etc...) They want to leave a restaurant stuffed and possibly have left overs. Hugo's is just not that type of place. People rarely complain about the quality of food at Hugo's, just the quantity. Hey, different folks, different strokes.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: goat

                            Thank you "goat" for the very thoughtful and cinematic over-view of Hugo's.
                            I really need to do a lot more exploration of the Portland scene during the off seasons. I will definitely put Hugo's on my itinerary.

                            Being a Bostonian with "summer roots" further North, I tend to swoop in and out of there. Hitting only the Three Dollar Dewey's and Brian Boru (great Irish pub, BTW) type places on my way North. I've been to 555, & Vignola and liked them both very much.

                            Fore St. is a different kettle of fish entirely. The couple of times we dined there the food was unassailably wonderful but the waitrons do seem to have a major 'tude. There seems to be some Big Fish, smaller pond going on there and that the show revolves around them.

                            Thanks again, Harp00n

                          2. What do folks think about Cinque Terre these days? I've been there three times over the years and have had excellent food and particularly liked their risottos. Pretty expensive, though. Also, good martinis--you pay a lot but they do deliver a good drink (unlike Fore St. where drinks are just as expensive but nothing special). I have not tried Vignola yet--walked in twice and decided I didn't want to wait around. It was also kind of a "hopping" place and very noisy, and being a 40 something myself, the crowd on Sat. nights (when I was there) seemd pretty young. Anyway, I've heard good things about the food and will try to go back on a night when perhaps there isn't such a crowd.

                            Also, Natahsa's, obviously of the nights when we opted out of Vignola and didn't want to wait somewhere else, we wandered up to Natahsa's for some dinner. Had a nice drink at the bar and then we were seated promptly. It was actually quite good overall. Excellent job with the rib eye and sides in particular.

                            I also feel Back Bay Grill needs to be mentioned in this discussion on Portland restaurants. I think it is still very fine quality and, for us, a nice place to bring people from out of town.

                            I was at 555 over the summer. Also very good, though some of the people in my party found most of the food to be over salted. I very much enjoyed my meal, though. The wait staff seemed a bit overzealous with attentiveness--seems the place is trying way too hard to provide good service, which they do, but I found it a little intrusive at times. Felt a little too watched.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: liveforfood

                              I've had consistently great meals at Cinque Terre. The white truffle gnocchi? Completely insane. You can eat very well for not much money - portions aren't huge, but they're reasonable. Delicious Italian wines, too. Do the whole thing and have four or five small courses.

                              I haven't had dinner at Duckfat, but lunch is a blast. Duckfat fries! Whoo!!!

                            2. My choices are:
                              Street & Company

                              1. There's a wonderful and thoughtful review of Hugo's at the website "Beyond Salmon":


                                1. Enjoyed reading all these posts about Portland restaurants. I've been to Fore St. several times (I love the atmosphere and the simply prepared local food. Have noticed the "tude" sometimes but I expect it now and then. It's usually not pervasive, and some restaurant folks just let popularity go to their heads. Hugo's food was wonderful and I did leave feeling full but I, too, was surprised at the tiny portions). What's the general consensus about The Portland Lobster Co.? It recently changed owners and I wondered if anything new is planned for the space.