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Good restaurants in Portland

What about Portland, Maine? Any secret treasures? Long-standing landmarks? Pho?

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  1. There are lots of threads on this board. Do a cursory search. But I'll reiterate a few of my personal picks:

    Inexpensive:
    Pho: Thanh Thanh 2, Forest Ave
    Salvadoran: Mi Casa (somebody fill in the correct name, I forget) on Washington Ave, Munjoy Hill
    Thai: Sengchai Thai, Forest Ave
    Ice Cream: Maples, that same intersection on Forest Ave!
    Sushi: King of the Roll, Congress at State (other people will have other opinions, natch)
    Pizza: Jim Leff apparently really liked Bill's on Commercial St. An institution but not terribly hallowed. I prefer Flatbread.
    Any beer from Alan Pugsley, the local (and international) beer auteur, including Gritty's, Geary's, Shipyard, Long Trail, various others. Great Lost Bear or $3 Dewey's are decent places to try the beer, but don't expect much from the food.
    Theme lunch: Duckfat, Middle St.
    Baked goods (see earlier thread): Standard/Two Fat Cats, Rosemont, One Fifty Ate
    I'll add Mexican, since nobody's responded to my previous post: Mexico Lindo, Rte 1 in South Portland.
    Breakfast: Hot Suppa, Congress St. Ignore the name -- they don't actually do supper.
    Take the family for lobster, etc: Newick's, S. Portland, or (slightly fancier) DeMillo's, Commercial St.
    Fried food: Susan's Fish & Chips, Forest Ave.
    Chinese: don't bother -- go to Boston. Best Chinese I've had here has been, shockingly, at the Great Wall Buffet in S. Portland. Nuff said.

    Moderate:
    Laid back Spanish: Local 188
    Brunch: ye olde Bintliff's, Park at Forest
    Italian: Ribollita, Middle St.

    We generally stick to the cheap categories, so any expensive recs from me would be warhorses like Cinque Terra, Hugo's, 555, Street & Co, Fore St.

    Caiola's & Front Room get lots of raves.

    Feel free to ask any questions. Others besides me can probably answer them better.

    1. I have to agree with most everything above. Tu Casa is the name of the Saldavoran place. I would add Fuller's Ice Cream on Wharf Street, Any beer made by Rob Todd of Allagash brewing as he is brewing some of the best Belgian style ale in America, Lotus in Falmouth for Chinese is hands down the best in Maine and outside of East Coast Chinatowns the most authentic, and I would scratch Front Room for dinner but go for breakfast/lunch instead. As for top end, I would throw the bone to 555, undoubtedly the best food in the city right now

      1 Reply
      1. re: Noreaster

        I agree that Lotus sucks the least, but that's not saying much. We're often fond of their eggplant in garlic sauce, but it's always a spin of the wheel whether it's prepared well or not, and their sauteed string beans are the only ones in town that actually contain pickle (though in strips that I consider way too big -- it should be minced, if you ask me).

        I handed it to Great Wall simply because they have sticky sesame rice balls with sweet red bean paste on their "appetizer/dim sum" table -- I love those -- plus, along with the gloppy jello salad, crab legs, and maki with microscopic fish slices, you can count on there being salt & pepper shrimp and/or squid, sauteed baby bok choi, egg tarts, steamed fish, and some kind of nice clam or mussel dish with black beans. But I'm a seafood fan. Maybe Lotus has some of that stuff, too -- they do have a nice seafood soup with egg foam on top, but I don't recall any dim sum type things, and all their fish (besides the sushi) is fried.

        And I love Allagash White. Love it.

      2. Well, well, well, I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but to say that Lotus is the best in Maine !!! Wow-- I totally disagree! Its ok and one of the best in Portland but not the best in Maine. Sorry. Fuller's is good ice cream, but you can't park. I heard Hot Suppa is closed. For breakfast and fried food BECKY's cannot be beat. 555 is extremely expensive for Portland Maine. I never see David's mentioned, which in my book is one of the best deals in Portland. Uffa is not my type of atmosphere or food!!!

        1. I hope I didnt imply that Lotus was the best restaurant but simply the best Chinese restaurant. China Rose is good too but Lotus is hands down better. Where do you go for Chinese in Maine?

          1. I don't think Portland area has any real good chinese restaurants. I now live in Portland but lived in Bangor for 62 years and just love PANDA GARDEN. I can't seem to find anything like Panda in Portland or Sarasota where I winter. Valley Chinese on Forest Ave is not bad but far from real good. Oriental Table is not bad either on Exchange st.

            1 Reply
            1. re: irwin

              Oriental Table has the biggest, fastest $7 lunch in the Old Port. Usually quite edible.

            2. Nice list. Mexico Lindo is the place by the Howard Johnson's, right? I think its pretty good. The portions are crazy, but I've had some really nice food there. Thanks for reminding me.

              I would like to add Asmara for Eritrean on Oak Street as a good value, tasty option.

              Also, Nara Sushi in South Portland for Korean. They make a very decent Kimchi Chi Ge (sp?) and offer Korean specials from the kitchen. I'm looking forwarding to trying more of the dishes.

              Speaking of Chinese food (or lack there of) has anyone ordered the roasted duck or pork from Hong Kong Market on Congress? When they opened, they were making a weekly run to Boston for the pork and duck. I assume they still do. That could make a great contribution to homecooking efforts.

              I enjoy Vientianne for Thai. Limited menu, but good food. Best Tom Yum in town!

              La Bodega Latina (Dominican) has some very tasty stews - I really like the goat and the oxtail. For the adventurous, the tripe soup is very good (really!). The fried pork with a squirt of lime can be really good as is the fried chicken. I have not tried the carne asada, but would like to. Looks like they have a cuban sandwich on Saturdays...

              Haggerty's on Forest Ave. is very good and a great value. It's Brit-Indi and I prefer it to any Indian food I've tried in Portland. The lamb malaidar is a personal favorite and on Friday they have fish pakora which is really good. Its run by a Scot with a real passion for the food. My friend used to work with a bunch of H1B Indians who really liked that place.

              By the way, www.mainetakeout.com is a great source for online menus. I hope more restaurants will throw in and to make it more comprehensive.

              1 Reply
              1. re: foodquest

                I went to the hong kong market today for the first time. I think I bought pork. Maybe its beef. Whatever it is is delicious, and Im a little embarrassed I cant tell what it is. Hopefully not something that people throw frisbees too at willard. They also had buns with minced pork for a buck, ducks, tripe, and...feet. I got there around 1pm and there was a limited selection left. I heard the whacking of a cleaver, so maybe more meat was being brought out, cant be sure.

                La bodega latina is excellent.

              2. Foodquest, are you in my brain? Yes, Mexico Lindo is right next to the HoJo.

                Since Fuji's abdication from Korean food (they had a great, great bibimbap, though not much else) Nara is now the ONLY place in Portland to satisfy a kimchi jones. A few years back they were really great (for Korean; can't vouch for sushi), but my last chigae there was a little disappointing -- really stingy with pork and tofu. I wonder if an onslaught of Korean food orders would perk them up.

                I'm fond of Haggerty's but find some of the sauces a little too sweet. I like Vientiene's peanut sauce very much, though their pad thai has been going downhill, IMHO. Herb's Gully, the hippie burrito joint down the block from Asmara (which I haven't been to since it turned over for the third(?) time), is a very good lunch stop.

                6 Replies
                1. re: the_MU

                  I agree, my husband is Korean and we live in Camden, we were really sad that Fuji stopped Korean food, but we found Nara and love it/ So on the word of a "real" Korean, it's good!

                  1. re: aynne35

                    Being Korean, have you been to Cockeyed Gull on Peaks Island. We loved it. It's owned by a Korean couple and many items have a korean influence. It's a short boat ride from Portland, very nice view of Portland from their restaurant (short walk from ferry drop off). We spent a weekend out there and enjoyed 4 different meals.

                    http://www.cockeyedgull.com/

                    1. re: lexpatti

                      lexpatti,
                      Thanks for the tip! We will definitely try it, we live in Camden and it's time for a trip to the Old Port and a night away. I am sure Jim would love it. I think I remember reading a really great story about in Down East? Can you stay out there as well? Like a b&b or something?

                      Thanks again!

                      1. re: aynne35

                        Yes, in the winter is The Peaks Inn, summer has more to offer but we stayed one night at another place then two nights at the Inn and loved it at the Inn. Good pub too. We loved Cockeyed Gull for breakfast, lunch and two dinners - THAT GOOD!!!!
                        http://innonpeaks.com/

                        1. re: lexpatti

                          The Gull was tatsy, great view in the Summer from the deck and friendly service. Don't look for Korean influence for breakfast or lunch though as it is only on the dinner menu.

                          1. re: Noreaster

                            True! I had the best breakfast, was more like Nova Scotia influence - smoked salmon, awesome sour dough bread rounds, lemon wedges, cream cheese, huge capers, nice red onion - platter!!! I was in heaven. Lunch - best calamari - fried ever so lightly with a light batter - perfect. Hubby had a perfect haddock sandwich (huge piece, fried perfect, again nicely fried, not overpowering batter, just enough to compliment). Dinners were more adventurous/creative and fabulous.

                2. If you are looking for great Chinese food and haven't yet tried Fortune Garden on Forest Ave I would highly recommend giving it a try. Yes, it's in an odd location in a mainly residential area, and yes, it seems scary at first (and second) glance. But you must try it! My brother lives in Manhattan and every time he comes to visit we have get takeout. I have other friends, former Manhattanites, who scoffed at the suggestion that my brother must eat at Fortune Garden each he visits. Then they ate the food from Fortune Garden and couldn't stop talking about how it was the best Chinese they'd had since "moving off the island".

                  It has a couple of small tables, so I'd mainly recommend it for takeout. Also, it is closed on Sundays. Some favorites include sesame chicken, ginger chicken with string beans, hot and sour soup. Honestly, I've never had anything from there that I didn't like.

                  Fortune Garden
                  1435 Forest Ave
                  Portland, ME 04103
                  (207) 878-8989

                  1. I think China Rose in Freeport has the best Chinese. My relatives from NYC love to go there when they visit, although I've had better Chinese in NY. But it is the best I've had in Maine.

                    1. Whoever recommended Rachel's L'Osteria, THANKS SO MUCH! We had a great meal there last night, with a lovely bottle of wine, all at a reasonable price. One of the tastier meals we've had in a long time, and we liked it even better than CInque Terre for Italian food, and much more reasonable, certainly unpretentious (unlike Cinque Terre). It may have been the best Italian meal in Portland yet. We like Ribollita, too. Thanks to Chowhound once again! As I look at the posts above, the Rachel's rec may have been in a different post. . .

                      1. If its the place I'm thinking of, I gotta agree with that whole Thanh Thanh 2 deal, dirty little hole in the wall over there where the Portland Public Market used to be, right next door to the youth center... Dirt cheap and absolutely incredible, gigantic bowls of pho served up with heaping plates of fresh herbs... Their egg rolls and spring rolls are amazing, best I've had anywhere...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: j_gastaldo

                          Unless there's been yet another change of ownership, that's not Thanh Thanh 2, which is on Outer Forest Ave next to a Domino's Pizza. I haven't been over there in awhile, but the last time I was, that location, on Cumberland Ave, was Huong's. Which had really good chicken pho, (although the owner pointed out that pho, by definition, has beef in it, so the chicken soup with rice noodles isn't really pho). But it is good.