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The Farmer's Table - Old Port Dining (Portland, ME)?

Coming up to Portland next month for the weekend. Was there last weekend as well with spouse and our little boy. We really enjoyed dinner at Local 188 and lunch at Duckfat, two of our old favorites. For our next trip it will be just the two of us for our anniversary. As we are staying in the Old Port this time, we'd like to have dinner there as well so we can walk to dinner instead of driving. I am looking at Bresca, The Farmer's Table, The Grill Room and Vignola. I need some help! I am leaning towards The Farmer's Table because I like the online menu and it seems to me to have the casual, low-key atmosphere that I enjoy so much at Local 188. But, I don't see many posts about it here and that worries me. I'm also leaning towards Bresca because the food looks spectacular, but many people seem to focus on the small portions and the cramped room. Where would you choose? Also, where would you suggest for cocktails before or after dinner in the Old Port? Thanks!

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  1. I had a very mediocre brunch at The Farmer's Table back in August -- it has not encouraged me to go back. Have you thought of Street and Company? The service can be spotty (often on the slower end), but the food is usually very good. And it's on Wharf Street in the Old Port. I have heard wonderful things about Bresca but have not been myself.

    1 Reply
    1. re: miradan

      I wouldn't advise going to the Farmer's Table; I've been to Bresca twice and it's wonderful, easily one of the best restaurants in Portland.

    2. I would second Bresca. That's the best of the ones listed in my opinion. However, it's quite small and not the most romantic if that's an important consideration.
      For cocktails, I've always been partial to the bar at the Armory Hotel on Milk Steet. Usually a subdued crowd and great martinis and bar snacks. Top of the East is nice too, with a great view.

      1 Reply
      1. re: domain

        I concur, definitely the armory lounge in the Regency hotel for drinks and even an app. The antipasto is great. Bresca is cramped but the desserts are top notch.

      2. Bresca it is. I thought they were on Opentable but they are not so I'll have to call tomorrow and leave a message. In case they are booked, Street and Co will be our next choice. It is booked untl 9pm on Opentable, but I'll call them and see what I can do. Thank you everyone for your advice! Will probably hit Top of the East too. It was on my list for a long time for cocktails because of the view, but hard to go there when you're traveling with a little kid, so this will be a good opportunity to try it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Kat

          Re: Street and Company -- definitely call -- they always seem to be booked between 5 and 9 on Opentable, but never are when you call, even for prime times.

          1. re: Kat

            Bresca is great, but very small. As I back up I would recommend the Salt Exchange that is also in the Old Port. My wife and I had a great meal there last week and would recommend it highly. They do small dishes; kind of like tapas but without being Spanish. The portions are big enough to share, but definitely not entree sized. We had seven portions and it was more than enough for a meal.

          2. OK, so spouse vetoed Bresca because he has the feeling that we will spend $250 on dinner and he will still be hungry when we leave (the tiny plate thing). I looked at Street and Co's menu and realized it is seafood-centric with limited choices for those us unfortunates with shellfish allergies. We have revised our plan and are now looking at Fore Street and the Salt Exchange (suggested by above poster). Someone here just posted a not so good review of Fore St, is that the general feeling these days or maybe just one experience? Also, I love Locall 188 for dinner so we are trying it for brunch this time. Good choice or not? Thanks!

            4 Replies
            1. re: Kat

              Fore Street gets mixed notices these days...some swear by it and others think it is resting on it's laurels.

              Consider Caiola's, casual, lowkey, neighborhood place for dinner or brunch.

              http://caiolas.com

              1. re: Kat

                I second HD - Caiola's would be fantastic for dinner, and it's definitely got a casual vibe a la Local 188. I've only had brunch at Local 188 once - about a year ago - but it was great. Really loved their bloody mary.

                1. re: Kat

                  I can't do shellfish either, and I've never had trouble at street & company. There are usually 5-6 entrees to choose from, usually in the grilled, blackened, or broiled categories, and usually at least one of the specials.

                  Have heard mixed reviews of the Salt Exchange.

                  1. re: Kat

                    I've lived in Portland 7 months now and been to Fore Street about 5 times. I have never been disappointed in their food. Street and Co is actually their sister restaurant and I've had a few fantastic meals there too (but at Fore street you're going to get more non-shellfish options). I live right near Caiola's and it's quickly becoming a neighborhood favorite for my husband and me (but I have not been for brunch, only dinner). I went to the Salt Exchange once and thought the food was really good, but the portions were quite small and ended up spending a bit of money for what we ate. Hear brunch at Local is great, but again, I've only been for dinner. Enjoy!

                    -----
                    Fore Street
                    288 Fore Street, Portland, ME 04101

                    Caiola's
                    58 Pine St, Portland, ME 04102

                  2. If Bresca is off the table, go to the Back Bay Grill--you can't go wrong. Brunch at 188 is excellent but you can wait forever (both for a table and for your food.)
                    Another good brunch option is the Good Egg, on Middle St (in the same location as Pepperclub.)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sciencediet

                      Back Bay Grill is great (and not mentioned often enough on this board when discussing top-end dining) but i don't thnk of it as having the "casual, low key" attribute the OP is looking for.

                    2. Thank you all for your advice - here is a new plan. Late brunch on Sat at Local 188 (hopefully at the end of the rush) - Dinner at Street and Co. (avoiding shellfish) - brunch on Sunday at Caiola's (their website says they now offer it, but do they take reservations for it?? hmm) . Would do dinner at Caiola's, but we really want to park the car Saturday afternoon and keep everything in walking distance. If anyone has had brunch at Caiola's, how was it?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Kat

                        Brunch at C's was pretty darn good, and they do take reservations for it, I think. Concur that it's no problem to avoid shellfish at Street. Last time I was there at this time of year, they had some awesome bluefish; and lots of people, including my SO, adore the "sole in a skillet".

                        1. re: Kat

                          Caiola's is about 3 blocks from Local 188, if that - you could totally walk there if you wanted to. You can't go wrong w/ dinner at Street and Co., though. And Caiola's brunch *is* good... if you come back w/ the little one, it's actually pretty kid-friendly (for brunch specifically).

                          1. re: Kat

                            I love brunch at Caiola's! I had huevos rancheros, or some derivation thereof, and it was fantastic. Oh, and we shared something sweet to start, but I can't remember what it wa!

                          2. Had a mediocre dinner at The Farmer's Table about two months ago. Service, atmosphere and the view (second floor) were wonderful, but the food itself left us with much to be desired.

                            1. Thanks for the word on the Farmer's Table. We are still undecided between Fore St and Street and Co. for dinner. Booked Caiola's brunch. One more question: if we try Top of the East for an early evening cocktail (hoping for nice sunset views), do they have good appetizers for sharing? Ot should we just have the drink and get a small appetizer elsewhere?

                              -----
                              Caiola's
                              58 Pine St, Portland, ME 04102

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Kat

                                Top of the East has a nice view but there are no better apps, prices, service and drinks than at the armory lounge in the Portland regency. I love the fruit plate and the antipasto. Have fun!

                                -----
                                Armory Lounge
                                20 Milk St, Portland, ME 04101

                                1. re: Kat

                                  Top of the East is very very seedy......and desperately needs a overhaul.

                                  1. re: irwin

                                    When were you last there? It just reopened after renovations. For drinks with a view on a clear day, it can't be beat.

                                2. So, I think we will hit the Armory lounge late for a nightcap and Top of the East for early evening drinks.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Kat

                                    Thanks to everyone for the tips!! We had a great time last weekend. Both the food and the weather (on Sunday) were lovely. Lunch on Saturday at Duckfat (two soups and shared poutine) followed by dinner at Fore St. (packed!) , which was quite good. I had the rabbit, very tender. Too full for dessert. Next day was brunch at Caiola's, also packed and very, very good. We went on Saturday to the Italian grocery on India St and snacked all afternoon on a couple luna breads from the bakery at the back, which was the best bread I have had in quite a long while. Hope to come back soon.

                                    -----
                                    Caiola's
                                    58 Pine St, Portland, ME 04102