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May 19, 2009 04:13 PM

Portland's best dishes right now!

We're spending a few days in Portland and would love to hear your opinions on the best dishes right now at your favorite spots.

We plan to dine at Fore Street, Hugos, Duck Fat and Bar Lola. But, we could change that or sit at the bar and try more than one place in an evening if there are outstanding items on someone's favorite menu.

We heard there is an Italian place near Duck Fat that we should try-- can anyone give more details-- like a name?

How about favorite bakery items at area shops?

If we were your favorite foodie friends from Boston and you were guiding our tasting for four days, what would you have us eat.

Naturally, we have searched the boards to consider restaurants, but when you don't eat in a city that often, it nice to have some specific menu guidance. I hope it will also help the locals discover the new dishes.

We do have a car so we could go out of the city for something wonderful-- especially for lunch.

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  1. I would guess the name of the Italian place near Duck Fat is Ribollita. We have eaten there on a couple of occasions and enjoyed it, but we haven't been there recently. Here's the link:

    1. Most of the restaurants you mention change their menus every day. No way to recommend a specific dish.

      That said, you can't go to Duckfat without having the fries.

      1. When my foodie friends from Boston come, we graze our way through a number of places in order to experience them all: apps at one, entrees or more apps at the next, dessert at another (usually Bresca if we can get in without rez, her desserts are amazing).

        Must-adds to your list: 555 (Chef Steve Corry--Food & Wine award winner, Beard nominee), Bresca (Mediterranean influenced, tiny, must-have reservations), Evangeline (French).

        Drive to the Lobster Shack at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth for lunch one day--but only if the weather is perfect. The setting is spectacular, on the ledges with crashing surf. Lobster, lobster rolls, etc. Nothing that really rocks, just seafood staples with a to-die-for view.

        Bakeries: Standard (breakfast pastries--grab and go to the waterfront or take on ferry to Peaks) and Two Cats (cookies and pies), both related to Fore Street, also pop into the back of Miccuci's to see what baker Stephen Lanzalotta is preparing. Lavendar shortbread from Home Grown Teas, an Ayurvedic tea shop on Congress, near the Observatory on Munjoy Hill--also the area's best teas. And don't skip Dean's Sweets for truffles--it's on Middle Street, across from Duckfat and adjacent to Rabelais, the cookbook/food book store.

        Ribolitta is the place near Duck Fat--country Italian, and one of my faves; doesn't get the hype of other places.

        Also lots of new places, either just opened or about to--check

        1 Reply
        1. re: Mainegal

          Thank you all for the great info. This is exactly what I was hoping to learn. It's the little details that let you map out a great dining course thought a wonderful food town like Portland.

          We try to make it to Portland at least once a year for a private dining festival.

          Ribolitta is the place a friend mentioned a few weeks ago. I failed to write it down but remembered that it was near Duck Fat. ( where we adore the fries.)

          We also love Twin Lights - we sometimes stay at the Inn by The Sea and make regular runs over for more lobster! Plus we can bring our pup with us and still enjoy a good lunch.

          We've missed trying 555 but will add it by grazing as suggested. I love to eat that way anyway.

          The bakery exploration is more for a friend who is our pastry maven. She also makes regular Portland trips. I'm more a bread person than pastry but your suggestions have me interested.

          And, I almost forgot to put Rabelais on my check list. I hope I would have remembered but it is there now.

          We will keep reading and report back.

        2. One final dish rec: the cold appetizer plate at Caiola's. The single best dish I have had in years.

          3 Replies
          1. re: StevensAve

            StevensAve - Is the cold appie plate at Cailoa's the "Nightly Antipasto Plate with Vegetables and Cured Meats"? Also, do they have a nice patio? Thanks!

            1. re: hungryinaz

              They don't have a patio exactly, but there is an outdoor eating area, very pleasant, that's covered against rain. Of course, it's been in the high 30's and 40's the last few nights here in Portland, so you may want to wait a few weeks for things to warm up!

              1. re: mainemal

                Wow, that's chilly! Thanks for the weather heads up - hopefully it's a bit warmer when I'm in Maine later this month!

          2. Given your willingness to get out of the city a little, consider The Frog and Turtle gastro-pub in Westbrook, 15 minutes from downtown. At this time of the year, their commitment to foraged food is particularly evident, so you're likely to find superb things made with ramps, wild mushrooms, etc. And while I know this is a particularly debateable dish for "best," I think their fried calamari with lime aioli is one of the best things one can eat in greater Portland