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Eating through Portland in 2.5 days...

  • ebone Jun 13, 2011 11:08 AM
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Hi, I will be in Portland for a couple days (sun-tue) two weeks from now and would like to get a good smattering ofd Portland Eats. We will be staying Downtown without a car if that is of any consideration and the only planned activity is a Portland Sea Dogs game. I really want to try Otto for pizza, but other than that did not have any particular biases on where we go. I like beer, so a brewery tour or two may be in order. Is there a particular brewery that is a can't miss? We live in Boston, so New Englandy seafood is not necessarily a must, but if there is a favorite lobster roll spot I would like to hear about it. We may do one fine dining meal, but the focus is on what Portland does well, so if that is a hotdog eaten in a back alley, so be it. Any and all suggestions are welcome, but I am wondering where you folks would recommend a first time visitor to Portland to go...

So, a quick rundown of this garbled request:

-staying downtown

-no car

-hitting Seadogs

-want to try Otto
-doesn't need to be seafood, but we like it

-limit to one fine dining spot

-favorite lobster roll

-enjoy beer

Thanks!

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  1. My husband and I just returned from a trip to Maine that included 24 hours in Portland. We had a great time and were really blown away by the quality and plentitude of the food establishments in the small downtown area. As a first time visitor and non-resident, I am certainly no expert on the city but I will heartily recommend the two spots that we ate at, each of which we learned about after spending time surfing this board.

    For lunch we ate at Duckfat, a Chowhound favorite. Very tasty fries fried in duckfat, accompanied by several choices of tasty dipping sauces. Other than their fries (which, along with poutine, is what the place is known for), Duckfat serves an interesting variety of panini sandwiches. Of the two we tried, we epecially liked the meatloaf paini with pickled red onion, cheddar and. horseradish mayo. Duckfat is heavily discussed on this board so you'll find lots of info here if you search.

    For dinner we tried Bresca. WOW. What a meal. I'm still thinking about it 4 days later. We live in the NYC area and dine out often so we are sometimes a bit spoiled and jaded when it comes to food but Bresca really impressed. It's a small, intimate restaurant with delicate touches abound - from the decor to the beautiful presentation of each plate. The chef's technical skills are clear and I was most impressed with her ability to create food that is simulatenously simple (and very fresh/local) and innovative. The entire meal was flawless but I would particularly recommend braised Tuscan black kale (I would kill for that dish right now!) and shaved brussel sprout salad appetizers, the lamb with farro, roasted butternut squash, mache and hazelnut salade entree and the chocolate soup for dessert. I believe the chef's background is in pastry so definitely save room for dessert. Divine! There are seemingly a lot of "fine dining" establishments in Portland from which to choose where I imagine you would have a great meal, but we landed on Bresca b/c a truly intimate yet relaxed dining experience like that is pretty much impossible to come by in NYC.

    Enjoy your trip! I'm jealous!

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    Bresca
    111 Middle Street, Portland, ME 04101

    1. You can fit a lot of good eating in 2.5 days. Having Otto on your list mean's you're off to a great start. If you can get here earlier enough on Sunday then Sunday Brunch is a must--I'd recommend you pay a visit to Caiola's. For breakfast on Monday and Tuesday consider Hot Suppa and 158 Pickett Street Cafe. At some point in your trip be sure to visit Standard Baking.

      Selecting just one fine dining restaurant from the wealth of options will be tough. As mla19 mentioned you can't go wrong with Bresca (and if you go have the buttermilk pana cotta for dessert) but Bar Lola, Emilitsa, Petite Jacqueline and Fore Street should also get some consideration.

      For a more casual meal Boda is a good option for Thai and Paciarino for pasta, Po'Boys or Aurora Provisions for sandwiches, or Kamasouptra for soup.

      Gorgeous Gelato is an excellent choice for a cold mid afternoon treat and Bard is the best choice for coffee.

      Since you enjoy beer you can't leave town without a trip to Novare Res and/or The Great Lost Bear. Several of the brewers are located in the same section of town on Industrial Way and I think Allagash does do tours.

      Have a great visit!

      -----
      The Great Lost Bear
      540 Forest Ave, Portland, ME 04101

      Fore Street
      288 Fore Street, Portland, ME 04101

      Caiola's
      58 Pine St, Portland, ME 04102

      Bar Lola
      100 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04000

      Hot Suppa
      703 Congress St, Portland, ME 04102

      Bresca
      111 Middle Street, Portland, ME 04101

      Paciarino
      468 Fore St, Portland, ME 04101

      3 Replies
      1. re: anestes

        For Sunday brunch...Is that something I should be making a reservation for? Or just show up, but expect to wait a bit?

        1. re: ebone

          Depends on where you end up. Caiola's would need a reservation; Front Room doesn't take them; Artemisia (which is my favorite) probably doesn't need one.

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

          Front Room Restaurant & Bar
          73 Congress St Ste A, Portland, ME 04101

          1. re: mainemal

            Thanks! I am now leaning on just going straight to Otto for pizza (they do have one with egg), but it'll likely be a gametime decision. Appreciate the info.

      2. Staying Downtown? Are you talking Eastland Park Hotel area or Old Port? Doesn't make that much of a difference as Portland is a pretty walkable town. As Mla19 says, Bresca is a "can't miss". Otto is right in the heart of the "Arts District" near the Eastland. On just a few block stretch of Congress St. you have Otto, Nosh, and Hot Suppa for cheap to reasonable prices. Next step up - still reasonable would be Local 188 (also a great brunch spot), Petite Jacqueline (great onion soup), Pai Mei Miyake noodle bar, Boda (different Thai), The Green Elephant (great vege) and a spattering of other ethnic offerings. High end includes Emilitsa (great Greek food) and 555. These are all within 3 blocks of each other.
        Hit the bar at Grace if only to be wow'd by what they did with a 150 year old church. In the Old Port area you have Bresca, Hugo's, and Fore St. for the most often mentioned upscale dining experience. If you're into high end sushi, Miyake (his other restaurant - not the noodle place) is amazing. There are many, many others at more reasonable price points. Within waling distance, only the Shipyard offers tours. Gritty's is one of the original brew pubs... anywhere. Nuvare Res is a very cool bier garden (it's hard to find - that actually makes it that much cooler). Duckfat for lunch - can't go wrong. Eat light and grab a "slab" of pizza at nearby Micucci's on India St. J's on comercial St. for the local vibe and good oysters or steamers. Bar Lola and Great Lost Bear are great but a tough walk. You almost can't go wrong. Enjoy!

        -----
        The Great Lost Bear
        540 Forest Ave, Portland, ME 04101

        Eastland Park Hotel
        157 High St, Portland, ME

        Bar Lola
        100 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04000

        Hot Suppa
        703 Congress St, Portland, ME 04102

        Bresca
        111 Middle Street, Portland, ME 04101

        Local 188
        685 Congress St, Portland, ME 04102

        Old Port Cafe
        111 Main St, Winterport, ME 04496

        5 Replies
        1. re: bobbert

          Duckfat for lunch and Nuvare Res for beer at some point seem like no-brainers. The list is coming together here...

          As for the higher-end places, are any of their bars more approachable than others? We prefer to eat at the bar if it seems like it makes sense.

          1. re: ebone

            I'd say the bar at Fore St. is particularly approachable, and particularly if you go early or late, a fine place for their excellent food.

            1. re: mainemal

              Agreed. When it's been just two of us, the bar at Fore St. is where it's at. Try to sit in the far corner or on the curve. You won't get bumped in to and it's better for people watching. Also agree that early or late is the way to go. By early, I mean when the doors open, otherwise, it's late.

              1. re: bobbert

                How late can you get food in Portland on Sun-Mon nights? Restaurant kitchens close at 9-10? Anything open late night for food?

                1. re: ebone

                  Boda is open until 1am (I think I read somewhere that that's where restaurant staff go when they get off work), and Nosh is probably open late too.

        2. And by the way... Otto in Harvard Square is exactly the same as the original Otto. Last time in Boston, convinced my wife that I need an Otto fix (usually about 3 per week) so we drove to Harvard Sq. I dropped her off and circled the block. Perfect timing and the same perfect pizza.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bobbert

            Good to know. I am more likely to get to the original in Portland before I get to the Harvard Sq. location, but nice to know that option is just as good and in my backyard.

          2. So, we made it back from Portland, had a great time and truly enjoyed the food. I will list the restaurants we went to and dishes we had (not all necessarily in one sitting mind you):

            -Otto: In a couple different stops we had plain cheese, mashed potato, ricotta mushroom and sausage/scallion/tomato. Their pizza is amazing, just the right amount of crunch in the crust, although all were great, I think we especially liked the plain cheese.

            -Duckfat: also more than one stop here, but had the fries w/ 3 dipping sauces, thai chili mayo, truffle ketchup and garlic aioli (thai mayo was my fav, but all were good). Also had the poutine and a meatloaf panini. I loved everything there, the panini had just the right amount of filling, great bread and the flavors melded well together (I believe cheddar, horseradish mayo and peppers maybe), and the fries were some of the best I have had (although no expert on belgian fries).

            -555: sat at the bar and had a couple drinks and a mussels appetizer. The Mussels were quite good, with some sort of chive lemon butter sauce that we loved. Would love to return for more sampling.

            -Fore Street: had dinner at the bar there, grilled romaine salad and a scallop entree and a wood fired hake entree. Scallops were the highlight, seared perfectly with I believe it was a pea puree (or fresh garbanzo beans...).

            -Novare Res: belgian beer bar. Just had one beer at the bar, but it was a very cool space and would love to return for a longer sitting another time.

            -Nosh: Great late night option post-Sea Dogs game, really like the vibe at the bar and the beer selection. Had a buffalo pork belly sandwich and some chili dusted fries with hot pepper cheese sauce and jalapenos. Great drunk/stoner type menu here, enjoyed the playfullness of the buffalo pig belly, but the pork maybe gets lost a bit by all the buffalo/blue cheese flavor. I enjoyed it though and would probably order it again. Same for the fries, the cheese sauce was great (think ballpark nacho cheese, but handmade), but a little heavy handed on the salt and ancho powder, which made some bites overly salty.

            -Flatbread Co.: Great patio out back over looking the ocean. Had a plain cheese pizza that was solid, but nowhere near Otto IMO.

            -Hot Suppa: Breakfast here on the way out. Comfortable, funky little place with a cool southern-inspired menu. We had eggs benedict, biscuits and sausage gravy and one pancake to share. Loved the pancake and the biscuits and gravy, it was a perfect last meal for me on the way out of town. I don't see biscuits and gravy often so I like to sample when I do. Filled me right up for the train ride. Very solid, if unspectacular food and would like to return another time to try more.

            -Standard Baking: loved their bread on the panini at Duckfat. Also had a couple other items for snacking on the ferry to Peak's Island (croissant and some cheesy/crusty not quite a bagel thing that I liked).

            Overall it was a great trip, one that we will most certainly repeat sometime in the near future. So many more things and places to try, as well as places to return to.

            Thank you guys for your suggestions and I will report back on Portland Part Deux.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ebone

              Great job for 2 1/2 days! Real nice taste of what the city has to offer. I don't think any Portland hound could argue with any of the choices. The best part is that you can return 4 or 5 more times and have the same results without hitting the same spot twiice (except Otto of course).

              1. re: ebone

                Had to glom onto this thread to tout for Hot Suppa. I recently visited Portland for the first time and was blown away by your town. Among other things the eats are great. Duckfat, Otto etc get lots of ink in Chowhound but Hot Suppa not so much. This may be because I belive they only recently began to serve in the PM. I grew up on the coast in the south and have had many many many fried oysters but none as good as those at Hot Suppa: crispy on the outside and chewy and oceany on the inside. Oddly my daughter who usually makes gagging sounds when I speak of oysters was persuaded to try one and ended up arm wrestling me for the last bivalve. The shrimp grits (served on our visit with pan fried catfish) also warrent special mention. I've never had a risotto that could top them for creamy succulence and intense seafood flavor. Couple this with a friendly but noy intrusive staff, great tunes (courtesy of Pandora according to the bartender but what the hey) and comfy setting.

                -----
                Hot Suppa
                703 Congress St, Portland, ME 04102