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Portland ME Date Restaurant ?

I'm going on a date tonight! :) I just moved here a little over a week ago and I am THRILLED about the restaurant scene here. So far I have been to Street and Co. and the Front room. I've been wanting to check out Barlola, Fore Street, Local 188, Vignola, Bresca.... any recommendations??? I don't want it to be be overly fancy (first date :) ) But I really like a nice relaxing atmosphere... although I was thinking the Front Room might be a nice first date spot??

Thanks guys!


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  1. I'm not from Portland, but I've been there a few times in the past year.

    Vignola is a great place to dine. Not eat. The food is amazing, good portions, is based upon taste and focuses on how preparation should be. It's a bit pricey, but worth it. Check with the wine list to get a good bottle. When I went, I had an excellent lamb crepinette, olive tasting and strawberry basil sorbet. Topping it all off was a bottle of Barolo. It's a relaxing place, not too haughty, but it'll give you a chance to know each other without too much interference from other diners.

    That's my vote. i'm not too sure of the other places on the list. I menu shopped before deciding on Vignola. I based my opinon on the creativity and relative price of menus around. To do afterward, is a great stroll a couple streets up running parallel to water st.

    good luck!
    Jumbo Lump.

    P.S. If all goes well, come for a second or third date to Persimmon in Bristol, RI!


    1. What's open on a Monday night? I would highly recommend Local 188, but I doubt they're open on Mondays. The Front Room is a good bet, and if you like sushi, my favorite is Yosaku.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sciencediet

        A few months ago Local 188 was a great disappointment. Not sure the family wants to go there again.

      2. Congrats on your move here. I was born here and have been here for 31 years. Wait until summer, it's a whole new city.

        I like Vignola a lot. Only really urban "upscale" restaurant we have. The prices aren't that bad and you can make reservations at www.opentable.com
        Their cioccolato dessert is basically the best thing ever.

        What's Bresca all about anyway? Such a small space but I see it is open now. Does it have any connections to any other restaurants or chefs around here?

        Oh, and in the summer, you'll def want to take out the ferry to Peaks Island and go to the Inn on Peaks restaurant. Get a seat outside on a nice night, best place to be in the whole city. Food is okay, but you go for the other reasons.


        2 Replies
          1. re: grittys457

            I love Peaks Island as well, there is another great restaurant - Cockeyed Gull. Gets great reviews, has awesome sights of the Portland skyline and just a block up from the ferry. I ate there 4 times (breakfast, lunch and 2 dinners) because I loved their food so much. Some dishes have a korean flare - just very fresh and creative dishes. http://www.cockeyedgull.com/

          2. It's off Middle Street I believe... tiny and brand new but I've heard raving reviews :)... I've heard they have a good wine list, and a nice relaxing atmosphere. Would Vignola be too fancy for a first date?

            1. Consider David's in Monument Sq. It's a good date place because you can get just apps/small plates or full meals and is especially good for late dining after a movie, etc. or "just dessert".

              1. I'm not too keen on Vignola. Definitely no good if someone's a non-meat eater, and in general I find it pricey and underwhelming. Nice urban atmo. though.

                The best restaurant in Portland is Caiola's, which is on Pine Street. I would eat there a hundred times before going to Fore Street or 555. It's smaller, more romantic, and the food - every course - is just better. I've been twice, each time with parties of 5 (but it would work very well as a romantic date restaurant), and each time every single peson's every dish was exceptional. The service is also really great - not stuffy/cocky/rude, as Fore Street can be.

                Street and co. is maybe the only other place in town that could compete with Caiola's in my book, but all in all, in terms of creativity, depth of flavor, consistency, service, atmosphere, and fairness of pricing (which is not to say Caiola's is cheap), I don't really think another restaurant in Portland comes close to Caiola's. I hope they manage to maintain their quality, and not succumb to their own hype, as Fore Street seems to have.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Dan S.

                  I've been wanting to go to Caiola's but I always feel like I'm gonna go and not get in. Do you have any trouble walking in and getting a seat on a regular basis?

                  1. re: grittys457

                    To some extent I'd make my decision based on whether or not this was a blind/online date, or a first date with someone you already know - atleast to a certain extent. The problem with Vignola, Street & Co, or the Front Room is that you are going to be seated together, in close quarters, from the moment that you arrive. If I were going on a first date with someone I didn't know, or didn't know if there would be an attraction I'd head to the Sea Grill, where you have the option of starting at the bar, in a "looser" environment before being seated or maybe moving on to another venue - or not. I have always found that a first date/blind date always works out best when there is an element of flexibility and you don't find yourself thrust immediately into a white table cloth environment. So in that regard, I take atmosphere over absolute quality. The Sea Grill would fit that bill nicely, as would 555, and David's to a slightly lesser extent. My advice would be to consider your POSSIBLE second stop when choosing a location. With the Sea Grill you have Ri-Ra and Portland's for after dinner cocktails, with 555 you have the Top of the East for a nightcap, with David's your choice of Old Port bars or Brian Boru/Una.

                    1. re: Keefer Lucas

                      Great insight! I was just thinking of where I'd like to eat (which would be 555 or Hugo's I think), not the dynamic of the date.

                      I agree with Dan on Vignola. I went with the gf for drinks and apps and we were underwhelmed. The wine list is good, the pour was disappointing. The cocktail my gf had was horribly sweet. Oysters were good. Tartar was okay. Meat mousse was yuck! (came with the tartar, unfortunately). The atmosphere is nice, but we both felt they were trying too hard to be cool. All in all, not worth the $45.

                      555 for dinner (after Vignola) was very good. It strikes me as what Fore St THINKS they are, but aren't. The menu and wine list are well thought out (IMO). I also think it would fit the bill, as Keefer mentioned, as they have a nice bar/lounge area in addition to the dining room.

                      I have yet to try Caiola's. Perhaps on our next trip. Man, I miss living in P-town!