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Jul 28, 2009 10:18 AM

Portland-Fore St vs Vignola vs Caiola's?

Hi hounds.

I'm a Boston hound who will be heading up to Portland, Maine for a few days in August and I need help picking a restaurant for our "nice" meal. As we are still grad students, we are looking for something moderately priced--entrees up to low 20s. I searched around the other posts about Portland and have narrowed it down to Fore St, Vignola and Caciola's. Are any of these near the waterfront?

Also, for lunch spots I've pegged Paciarino, Grill Room, or Flatbread, thoughts?

Thanks for the help!


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  1. Well, I'd have to opine that on both your lists, you've chosen places that are quite different one from the other, so comparing will be a challenge. Fore St. is the long-standing, eminent place in town: large, professional, open kitchen, great food (and depending on what days you're coming in August, reservations may already be tough!). Caiola's is neighborhood, smaller (although in the summer, the outdoor area, which is rain-protected, is charming), friendly, and innovative on a limited menu. Vignola I personally like the least, although it's more than decent: i find a little over-priced for what you get.
    For lunch, as most Portland 'hounds would tell you, you really ought not to go through town without a trip to Duckfat, for unique and delicious pannini, the amazing Belgian-style fries, beignets, etc. But of the one's you've mentioned, Paciarino is wonderful: quite small, family-operated, wonderful home-made pasta...and not much else. Grill Room I like (although others differ): noisy, distinctive food (including some intriguing small pizzas like "duck confit w/ goat cheese". Flatbread is lower-end, family oriented, wood-fired pizza made right in the middle of the room, and at this time of the year does have outdoor, wharf-side seating (which none of the others have).
    Does this help?

    6 Replies
    1. re: mainemal

      Thanks for your thoughts! Impressive how I butchered Caiola's name, sorry about that haha. Duckfat is a great lunch-time suggestion, I will put that on the list. It turns out that the dates we are staying have changed and now our dinner will have to be on a Monday, and it seems that Caiola's is closed Sunday and Monday, so that's out. Is there anywhere else you would suggest that we could option in? (we want to have a few choices j.i.c.) We both like seafood, Italian, french, new american, pretty much everything. I heard that there is a great Greek place that begins with an E, but Mr. Blue is not into Greek food unfortunately. Finally, last question: is Gilbert's Chowder House good or kind of meh? Thanks again!

      1. re: BlueTrain84

        Haven't an opinion on Gilbert's, but others might. Instead of Caiola's, some possibilities for a Monday could include Evangeline, on Longfellow Square, which serves a prix fixe, one-menu meal that has a great reputation. Similar to Caiola's, but noisier and on the other end of the peninsula, is The Front Room, sister resto to Grill Room. I believe that that another "often mentioned for Portland" spot, 555 Congress, is open on either Sunday or Monday, but not both (can't remember). Most folks would say that the best seafood restaurant in town is Street & Co, on Wharf St., very near Fore St.

        1. re: BlueTrain84

          Ribollita {} has great moderate-priced Italian food, excellent service, and is open on Mondays. IMHO, It's one of the best food values in Portland.

          1. re: cfrolio

            I second the motion. Ribollita is one of my "fall back", always-reliable, tasty, and good value, places.

          2. re: BlueTrain84

            I like Gilbert's--their fried clams are excellent and I think people like their chowder (I don't eat dairy so I don't know.) But also on the same wharf is the Port Hole, a slightly more upscale version with great sandwiches, fish and chips, etc.

            I absolutely second Paciarino.

            1. re: BlueTrain84

              Great Greek place that begins with an "E" is likely Emilitsa which is fabulous....not your typical Greek food joint, very refined and an excellent wine list!

          3. Re: dinner: Fore Street is not cheap - probably more than your limit. Front Room meets your price/quality requirements but is noisy and not near the water. Check out the Farmers Table on Commercial. It's getting some attention on this board, although I have never been there. Finally, I second Street and Co.

            Re: Lunch: Duckfat or Paciarino seem to be the chowhound favorites - both are extremely reasonable.

            2 Replies
            1. re: StevensAve

              Third Street and Co-my dc refuses to order scallops anywhere else knowing that they wont be as good as Street and Co

              1. re: fmcoxe6188

                Gilbert's chowder (their claim to fame) is supersuperthick and awful. I refuse to eat there.

                I like the Farmer's Table; as long as you bring modest expectations to the place it will serve you well. Think of it as a downscale, downsized Fore Street.

                Don't miss Paciarino. Duckfat has never wowed me as much as other writers here.

                If you're into sushi, you owe it to yourself to check out Miyake.

            2. My wife and I celebrating 29 years of marriage opted for the Fore St. The menu changes every day and is whatever is fresh. I had the line caught swordfish for $24. and my wife had the line caught Halibut $24. Side orders ranged from $5 to $9 per. If you going to have wine I suggest you order a bottle or 1/2 carafe if available because the serviing of 6 oz or so was expensive. We shared a desert and with tip included spent $100. I'm cheap, but the food was delicious and well worth the money, the atmosphere pleasant. If your interested in Fore St. make sure you make your reservation long in advance. You won't be disappointed.