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Portland ME-this weekend

We're traveling from NYC to Portland tomorrow.

So far we're planning on dinner at Fore St (fri night), dinner at Five Fifty-Five (sat night), probably a lunch at Duck Fat and some breakfast/baked goods from Standard Baking Co.

I'm still torn about Becky's Diner. Some hounds seem to think it's great while others think it's nothing more than a tourist trap. Is there anyplace else for a great breakfast? Not looking for a buffet or anything like that. Just good comfort food to get us going in the morning.

And of course, like every other tourist, we're looking for the best lobster roll. I'm thinking about stopping at The Lobster Shack at Two Lights because the view looks amazing. But is the food any good? Or is just a touristy stop?

New England's Favorite Seafood Shacks by Elizabeth Bougerol claims that Red's Eats is the most famous. But is it worth the extra drive from Portland?

BTW, my BF cooks professionally and we're especially interested in places that use a lot of local/seasonal ingredients. Or ones that could be considered artisinal. A local cheese company recommendation would be fantastic.


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  1. One of the best restaurants I have ever been to anywhere is 98 provence in Ogonquet ME, which I suppose would be on your way to or back from Portland. The chef has a seasonal menu, though I wouldn't say it is overwhelmingly local in ingredients. But everything is exquisitely thought out and expertly executed. I drove my parents 80 minutes just to go to this restaurant when they came to visit in Boston. I would say its a can't miss if you are in the area. Here's the website. http://www.98provence.com/menu.htm (looks like they just switched to a summer menu).

    1. I LOVE the Lobster Shack at Two Lights-- it seems to always be filled with a mix of tourists and locals. Great lobster rolls with giant hunks of lobster, etc. and, of course, the view!

      Had a great meal at Vignola (http://www.vignolamaine.com) the last time I was in Portland, which should meet your BF's requirements for seasonal/local ingredients. The online menu looks different than when I was there, but I remember having delicious oysters and a great cheese course. The pizza was also great.

      1. Sounds like you've done your research and will be eating well.

        Becky's is not a "tourist trap". It's just an ordinary diner serving decent food and does not deserve the "raves" of some(one) on this list. Suggesting an alternative is tough though. Marcy's is a fun greasy-spoon type place. Also The Porthole has good breakfast and a waterside deck.

        Two Lights is very touristy but the views are spectacular. Will likely be crowded. If you are searching for the "best" lobster roll you won't find it here.

        Red's is famous for being famous; very over-hyped but very good. If you are driving out *just* to go to Red's and back I wouldn't face the traffic and lines.

        Not a lobster shack but a great lobster roll can be found at Falmouth Sea Grill (Rte1a), Falmouth...just 10-15 minutes north of Portland. Farther, in So. Freeport, is Harasseeket Lunch, a true lobster shack (which can get very crowded at prime time).

        If you'd like to drive farther I suggest Five Island Lobster past Georgetown north of Bath. Stop at Reid State Park for great beachcombing.

        There is a new retail cheese shop that is getting raves. The Cheese Iron, in Scarborough might be worth checking out. www.thecheeseiron.com

        2 Replies
        1. re: HDinCentralME

          Remember to bring bug spray if you go to the Five Islands wharf. I'm a Georgetown native and the mosquitoes will carry you away on bad days. Can't beat the view, though. :)

          1. re: Firenza00

            At the risk of being indelicate, I suggest also that you stop on the main road and use the restrooms in a gas station or convenience store before making the turn off the road to Five Islands, The portapotties there are despicable.

        2. My favorite Portland restaurant, and arguably the best seafood in town, is Street and Co. We've had mixed luck at Becky's, okay at breakfast, poor for other meals. A somewhat funky but great local place for breakfast is the Brealu Cafe at 428 Forest Ave. And, the Lobster Shack at Two Lights is the best place (setting and view), and good but not the best food.

          1. I know Fore Street has not always recieved the greatest press here and at E-gullet (esp. since Gourmet ranked them as on the the top 20 spots in the US some years ago) but I have to say I have never been let down there at all. My first, and best, meal there was the day before I graduated college at Bates. Mom, my good friend and I went down and simply had our socks knocked off by the place. If you want to eat local I can't think of a better spot in Portland. Most everything comes from a 50 mile radius. It has been a while but I remember the shelfish stew (roasted in the wood hearth so it took on a great smokey complexity) and my firend's wood grilled bison, which she took down like a rabid beast, not that I blamed her at all, as standouts. While I love the diversity I get here in Chicago, I'm itching to get back to Portland for an eating trip as you just don't find cooking like Fore St.or Street and Co, for that matter in the mid west.

            1. Cheese Iron in Scarborough is a great place for cheeses. As said on this board before, Micucci's in town is also good for all things Italian.

              Fore Street epitomizes use of local ingredients so you will get your fill there.

              If you want a great lobster roll and want to stay in Portland, gilbert's chowder house can not be beat. Otherwsie go to Haraseeket Lunch and Lobster in Freeport and skip two lights.

              Front Room for breakfast...

              1. I love Silvery Moon Cheese made at Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook (just outside Portland). Their website - http://www.smilinghill.com/Dairy_Stor... - says it's award-winning; I just think it's great. I posted about their ice cream on another thread. You can tell I'm a dairy addict.

                The Lobster Shack is pretty good but expect a wait. It's supposed to be overcast tomorrow so you might luck out. The view is gorgeous no matter what the weather.

                I'd skip Becky's. It's okay but not worth the parking hassle or the long lines. I'd go to The Port Hole or just grab some things from Standard (they have coffee, too) and sit by the water.

                Enjoy lunch at Duck Fat! The fries will make you happy to be alive, IMHO... ;)

                1. If your boyfriend cooks professionally and is interested in local/seasonal ingredients, see if you can get a reservation at Primo in Rockland. It's about an hour and a half up the coast from Portland but well worth the drive. They have four acres out back where they grow as much of their own herbs/produce as they can and the food is spectacular without being precious or overly showy. They've recently updated their website and it's an interesting read (primorestaurant.com, I think). I've been several times but my last visit, about two weeks ago, really convinced me that this is the best restaurant in Maine, although I have to admit I've never been to Arrows or the White Barn--they always seemed too pretentious but are probably quite good.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: rufustfi

                    Rockland is an hour and a half from Portland.

                    Silvery Moon cheese is really good, and you can visit the farm on Rte 22 in Gorham (about 15 min drive from Portland) where there's an ice cream counter and a window into the cheesemaking room. And also cows.

                    1. re: the_MU

                      Yes, an hour and a half from Portland (see the second sentence of my post). But for someone really interested in restaurants (like a professional chef) who probably doesn't get to Maine very often, it seems a shame to miss out on an opportunity to dine at Primo.

                  2. Two Lights has a great view and very ordinary food. Red's is wonderful, short on atmosphere, long on wait and amazing lobsta rolls, clams et al.

                    1. I would definitely not waste my time at Two Lights. It is a gorgeous spot, certainly worth driving over to walk around and take in the view, but we went last year and stood in a ridiculous line for over an hour for completely mediocre food. Nothing we ate was the least bit memorable. The portions were small, the fried food was soggy. I can't recommend a good lobster roll, as I'm not much of a fan. I'd much prefer just getting twin boiled lobsters...not only is the taste more "pure" to me, but it always ends up being more economical than a lobster roll.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: CookingGirl

                        I fully agree with your opinion on Two Lights. Its not worth the wait for mediocre food, but the view is to die for.

                        1. re: irwin

                          Agree w/Dinnerbell - 98 Provence in Ogunquit is a great, romantic place of dinner. We've been there several times and always loved it. I think Fore St in Portland is overrated and overpriced. Noise level is extremely high, and our meals were just OK, but not memorable. Also recommend 555 -- they have a fabulous brunch too.

                      2. Fore Street is one of the best restaurants we have ever eaten at. Sam Haywood is truly the Alice Waters of New England. Try Beal's for Ice Cream too! Delicious,

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Hondo3777

                          But don't skip dessert at Fore Street. Most creative in the city...

                        2. We went to Maine for over 30 years and have had some of the best food. In Portland,
                          Becky's was excellent, good service and food, just good home cooking. The Portland Harbor Hotel recommend Becky's. Portland Harbor Hotel is excellent, great location, nice room and excellent restaurant. They also recommend Cinque Terre, 36 Wharf St, just across the street and down the alley, wonderful Italian food. For lobster make a point of going to Freeport (LL Beans) however, Harasseket is in South Freeport, about
                          5 minute drive, they are located on the water and is where the Harasseket boat dock is located. The restaurant is indoor and out, eat outside to hot inside. The lobster roll is the best, however if you like fried clams,,order a pint of Crumb fried clams, the onion rolls not good, bread pubbing is excellent. If you go to Wiscasset bsure you go
                          to Reds Eats, highway 1, just before the bridge on left side..out door eating only, they
                          have a great lobster roll. Try to get to Rockland...stay at Berry Manor Inn, and make a reservation for Primo (well in advance) Sheryl at Berry Manor can do this for you. Primo is owned by Melissa Kelly, a CIA graduate, her 1st job was with the Old Chapham Sheep Herding Company Inn, up state NY. We followed her. Enjoy your trip you are in a wonderful part of the country. Barb

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bah499

                            GLAD TO HEAR YOU ENJOYED BECKY'S.
                            THANK YOU FOR WRITING YOUR ARTICLE