Weekend in Portland ME-Lower Cost Options
My wife and I are going for a weekend in Portland ME in mid-October. I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the great information on here about Portland.
We are staying at the Howard Johnson's (my wife has some convention there) and are looking for a couple of interesting meals. Since I've never been to Portland, I have no idea if it is difficult to get around the city, but that will be our "base of operations" for the weekend.
My wife is allergic to shellfish (I know, how awful), so a straight up seafood place is not what we're looking for. Also, we just dropped our son off at college, so we are essentially broke for the next three years and we are looking for casual dining, not the more upscale places.
I am a big fan of funky, low key places, and ethnic fare, because in Rutland, Vermont we have some decent places but not diverse. But I also love a good pub burger.
I think I'm pencilling in Duck Fat, based on reviews here and would appreciate any comments.
My wife and I were in Portland over the weekend. We ended up having very little free time as my wife was at a convention. We did get to the Frog and Turtle in Westbrook. The food ranged from very good to WOW.
Appetizers: The onion rings with cajun aioli were great. The wings were good, but they gave me the wrong sauce (more about service later) so they were barbeque and the garlic aioli was way too mild to make a difference on the wings. The charcuterie plate was a pate, sopressata and cured pork loin with pickled veggies, crouton, hot mustard and chutney. The pate was the star, and the soppresata was excellent. I didn't care for the pork, it was very mild and a sticky soft "mouth feel". The mustard was very hot, and I found the chutney to be overly sweet.
Entrees: I had duck leg with risotto. The duck was fine, I prefer duck breast to leg, so the fact I didn't think it was outstanding may be my prejudice. The risotto was creamy and great wtih bits of crunchy veggies. My wife had a crepe with chicken, gravy, carmelized onions, mushroom and brie. It was fantastic. All those flavors were distinct but nothing overpowered anything else. We did not have room for desert, and in fact I brought home much of the appetizers for supper last night.
The service was only fair. The Server was very pleasant, and checked with the kitchen on a few questions we had. But she forgot my beer, didn't get us our bread until the appetizers were served and was generally inattentive. She also brought us our bill without asking before offering a desert menu. In her defense, it was quite busy, maybe they were short handed.
I will definately go again when I'm in the Portland area.
Cheap ethnic eats: Tranh Tranh II - excellent Vietnamese; Passage to India (Old Port) - very reasonable for tasty Indian; Happy Teriyaki - excellent Korean; Bayou Kitchen - creole cooking for breakfast and lunch; El Rayo - comidas Latino. Re: a good pub burger - if you like beer - check out the Great Lost Bear.
Here's a plug for the Blue Spoon on Congress (up on Munjoy Hill). They have a variety of interesting entrees, half-plates, and small plates, veggies and local food at the front. My husband and I split a soup, 2 salads, maybe 2 small plates, and two half entrees, plus a couple glasses of wine, for $60. We haven't been back, but we would happily go again.
Also, Silly's is an absolute must-go if you want affordable, funky, non-seafood dining.
Well, staying at HoJo's is nowhere near most of the restaurants you've seen referenced here: it's out on the Turnpike, about 5 m. from the downtown area. A place to consider would be not too far west of HJ, in the neighboring city of Westbrook (probably 10 minutes at most by car): Frog and Turtle "gastropub:" outstanding and interesting food, local sourcing, etc. If you come in toward the city on Brighton Ave (close to HJ), on Woodfords St near Brighton is Rachel's Osteria, a neighborhood favorite for very tasty and not quite so expensive food. Both of these places have websites, and have been mentioned on this list at various times. When you do go into the city, consider Ribollita for excellent Italian food, again at the middle price range. Most people would say that ethnic is not our strong suit, but I'll let others weigh in on possibilities for you.