Foodie couple first timers to Portland ME.. Help!
Hubby and I are going to Portland ME for the first time this coming Sunday for a week. Renting a condo in West End -Old Port section of Portland (so we can really take advantage of the food and walk it off... he he!!). I am really in need of suggestions, out of the way places, holes in the walls, is there anything to steer clear of ie.tourist traps?? or places with generally bad food?
We really love great seafood especially sushi. Also love Thai, Korean and any New Englandy type restaurants with great chefs, creative flair and trying to stay away from the "ho hum". Nothing too too pricey... we don't mind driving a bit either since we are staying for 7 nights, so if there is something outside of Portland and within a 30 minute drive that shouldn't be missed let us know.
I am a sponge so bring it on!!!! THANKS ALL!!!!
For my money the two best values in fine food would be:
Bar Lola, a wonderful wonderful restaurant which is seriously underdiscussed here in Chow. 100 Congress St. www.barlola.net
Evangeline's Monday night prix-fixe low-cost menu. Absolutely incredible. Catch it while you can. On Longfellow Square, look for the golden pig.
Miyake and Yosaku for sushi. Don't go for cheap when dining on sushi.
Thai: the Pom's chain. www.thaitastemaine.com
New Englandy with creative flair, nothing too too pricey: Fore St. has the best regional attachment in its cooking, but it's not cheap. It's odd: Portland has not developed a regional cuisine and has little to offer for seafood. Fore St.'s about it for regional, and Street and Co. is about it for seafood.
Caiola's is within walking distance from anything in the West End. Great food.
Next door is Aurora's Provisions, selling good gourmet deli food, prepared dinners and wine/beer. http://www.auroraprovisions.com/
Walk a bit further you'll find Bonobo's Pizza at 46 Pine St.
All good stuff and you're not even out of the neighborhood.
I second Caiola's. Very creative and reasonable pricewise. Street and Co. has excellent seafood done with flair - also reasonably priced. Less expensive but also excellent is the Front room with a lot of seafood entrees. However they do not take reservations - the first two do which I highly recommend. Finally, Ribollita is my new fave for excellent inexpensive Italian - they have some seafood.
Definitely Duck Fat for lunch.
On a beautiful day, preferably a week day which is quieter, head down to Cape Elisabeth to the Two Lights Lobster Shack. Great lobster roll with a dab of mayo on top so you can add as much or as little as your heart desires. Beautiful spot right on open ocean - but maybe you're coming from ocean.
You might want to make reservations now for Fore Street and Street & Co so you won't be disappointed. Both are soooooo good.
First sign of trouble is thinking that there's any mayo resident at the Lobster Shack.
Try: " sandwich dressing" or whatever they call the substitute for real mayonnaise. Trust me: I grew up in Harpswell in the 50's and I've spent time at L.S.
Search the Lobster Shack here: you won't find many positives.
In the greater Portland area, the idea of quality in lobster rolls is just gone, and the idea of quality in chowders has been supplanted by "If it's thick as glue it's good."
Wow guys thanks, I am writing these all down. Thanks for the heads up on reservations too, I read about Fore Street and others in this months Yankee Magazine. The estaurants they feature all look great. Bar Lola Duckfat, Evangelines,Ciaolas, Lobster Shack, and Ribolittas.....are all on the official "to do" list....I am SO looking forward to our visit, and not JUST to eat, I hear that Portland is great place to visit...so excited... Any other info would be greatly appreciated, I will give a full report when we return if anyone is interested...
just spent last friday in portland - still dreaming of our mid-afternoon salad and killer fries at duckfat. ribollita and bresca are both within spitting distance (sadly, too packed for a walkin on a friday night.) also footsteps away - marcuccis ital grocery, 2 fat cats bakery, and rabelais (awesome cookbook shop - turned us on to blue spoon, on congress street opp bar lola - tiny arty spot, local fresh veg.) look forward to hearing about the trip!
You MUST go to Duck Fat. They have better Belgian frites than I had when I was in Belgium this spring! If you've never had Belgian frites double fried with duck fat in the oil for flavoring, you must try. With homemade flavored mayonnaise to dip in. Amazing panini, and I don't normally like panini, but when it's filled with duck confit? Yum.
We love Cinque Terre. It's great Italian (NOT Italian-American) food. Consistent, never had a bad meal there. Nice atmosphere. The chef's tasting menu is always amazing. Great vegatables done the Italian way.
Oh, it might be too far away, but this would make a good day trip. If you make it as far as Rockland (about 75mi 1hr45min drive north of Portland), go to Conte's. It's not a tourist place, only locals and those in the know eat there. It's the real deal seafood Italian style. It's a little hard to find, but it's behind the police station at the docks area. Ask in the police station if you can't find it. If you google "Portland ME Conte's" you'll see some articles about this lesser known place. The chef is a character as you'll see in the articles, but that seafood is the freshest and best I've EVER eaten, cooked perfectly. And you gotta love the atmosphere. The articles make him out to be a little cranky or crazy, but we hear him in the kitchen asking the waitress how everyone was enjoying each the dish she had brought them, he really cares. It's a seafood market during the day and restaurant for dinner only, so very fresh. Best scallops I've ever eaten. Haddock was huge and perfectly flaky. You gotta love garlic though or tell him to hold it! His homemade bread is great. Great marinara sauce, like you've never had.
Rockland is a great little town to visit, and you can see the Farnsworth museum there with the Wyeth center that has lots of paintings from NC Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth. Walk around the cute main st with art craft shops, bookstore cafe. You can also go to nearby Olsen House from the painting Christina's World. If you go at a time when this old guy (relative who knew Christina as well as Andrew Wyeth) gives a talk, you will love it.
Dont' get suckered in by other restaurants, go to Conte's for dinner. If you get there early you won't have to wait.
And if you do go to Rockland, eat at Wasses Hot Dogs. Awesome dogs. I love the one with bacon, onions and baked beans on top! Read more at
King of the roll has wonderful sushi and next door is Bankok thai for great thai food. For dinner I would try Bresca or Rachel's wood grill both equally delicious and just for fun check out portlandfoodmap.com which can tell you a lot. Have a wonderful time!
my wife and i will be there this weekend. we have reservations @hugo's (which i loved last year) and bresca. hugo's might be out of your price range, however. was @555 last year.
harraseeket lobster is thought by some to be a real good lobster roll; don't know if we will be going there (if so, we're going to check out the potato vodka place nearby) or to two lights @cape elizabeth.
if you go to evangeline, check out chef eric's (erik?) blog, bandol blog, from his former restaurant. we aren't going b/c of wife's decision, but he's more than willing to do lots of stuff to suit his customers; evangeline is french...
most of the on-the-water places focus more on views than quality. and from what i've read or seen elsewhere, the suggestions below are quite good. make advance reservations for your friday and saturday dinners.
don't forget the bakery places like standard baking and two fat cats. ice cream, there's maple's organic...and i'll heartily recommend buying old soaker blueberry soda if you get the chance!
oh, whoopie pies are a local thing as well.
THANK YOU EVERYONE with your amazing suggestions. I have written them all down. I think a day trip to Rockland is in order, and Duckfat is def. on the list. I WONT miss the fries now!!! They sound AMAZING!!! I will MOST CERTAINLY be eating Whoopie pies and drinking blueberry soda. My only other question is will my pants still fit when we leave???????
Between meals--Portland has a nice museum with, BTW, a little cafe where I once had an amazing chilled pea soup. Also, you might consider a ferry ride - a sunset ride is always lovely. Since you have an apartment, you might want to check out Standard Baking on Commercial next to the Hilton Garden - no, make that,you WILL want to. Also Harbor Seafood if you want to cook a meal. Further down Commercial, take a peek in Browne Trading Co. It's where some really big deal chefs from all around the country get their caviar, etc. Great takeout soups, etc, as well. AND, since you're foodies, theres a terrific kitchen st
I will check out the museum and search for the pea soup, and the ferry ride looks great too, hope I can hop on one right near the apartment. Standard Baking and the kitchen shop is on the top of my list, especially if they have great olive oils and caviar!! THANKS I thought this might be a very quiet vacation, how am I going to cram it all in???? LOL!
You have gotten a lot of good suggestions so far (and I apologize if I repeat any here) -
For sushi in Portland, Yosaku is the way to go. (Everyone still oohs and ahhs over Benkay, not realizing that the really good chef from Benkay split and opened Yosaku. Benkay, however, does have Rock & Roll Sushi Night, which is pretty awesome.)
My personal favorite is Vietnamese food, and you can't do better than Thanh Thanh 2 on Forest Ave. It is off the peninsula so you'll have to take a short drive, but the food is FANTASTIC.
Silly's is an absolute native Portland must-go. As much as I love the fine dining in this town, if I had to pick one place to recommend to someone new to town it would be either Silly's or...
158 Pickett St Cafe (formerly One Fifty Ate Bakeshop) in South Portland. Go to 158 for the awesome bagels, and Silly's for the giant pitchers of sangria.
There is just too much good food in this town to even start to mention. You should check out www.portlandfoodmap.com, it's a ridiculously well-curated list of restaurants about town, which I visit nearly every day. Have fun!