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Dec 14, 2011 05:20 AM

Weekend in Portland report

Fun weekend in Portland, as it always is. We saw a cute little dog house on the way on Rt. 1 in North Hampton so pulled in but it wasn't so exciting, I asked for a grilled dog but that meant putting it on one of those rollers which I didn't see (and don't care for). Nice man working there but it won't make America's Best Dogs show or anything. Got to Portland and regrouped at the Clarion where we left the car and walked into town all the time. Started with happy hour at Zapoteca on Fore St. where drinks and apps are $2 off until 7. Amazing habanero watermelon margarita and A. got a regular margarita. We also really liked the taquito de puerco (I think that's the spelling), good size app that held us as we checked out the art at the museum and wandered around. We then sat at the bar of Local 188 which was fine but not as good as I thought it would be. Didn't realize they'd moved to such a big space, guess it's 3-4 years since I'd been in town. The daiquiri was fine but not so exciting, the salad w/ pork belly and white beans had just a tiny bit of pork belly, and chicken livers were good but you needed to like the full on flavor of chicken livers, these weren't disguised as General Gau's chicken or anything the way some livers are these days. Good crowd and service, prices were fair, not my fave tho. The next morning we stopped at Bard's so I could try a Holy Donut and that was one fine donut. Glad we searched it out. We then went to Morning in Paris for another one but I saw some lemon pastry before seeing the donut (which was the same flavor anyway, do these guys not distribute different flavors besides sugar/cinnamon?) and we had a nice coffee and relaxing time there. After putzing around, it was time for the long walk out to Fisherrmen's Grill on Forest Ave. Super friendly guy working there who made us a super tasty and nicely fried clam and scallop platter with passable fries and very good cole slaw (gave us some extra cuz of our long walk). Glad we walked cuz we saw Ernie's on the way and that was a friendly spot where I kicked ass at ping pong. Then we walked back down Forest Ave. so A. could try an interesting beer at Great Lost Bear. Seemed like lots of locals there and I liked that you could get a 5 oz taste for $1.25.

Sat. nite started on the balcony of Grace on Chestnut St. (as most people know, it used to be a church). There was a bit of a fruit fly problem by the bar taps, thus our move to the upstairs lounge where we ordered fried Brussels sprouts side w/ venison sausage and slaw, both were good. I asked the bartender to make me an interesting mocktail but this just isn't as easy as it should be even after giving someone 6 flavors you like in a drink. I always seem to get a drink with none of the mentioned items. He was nice and offered to make me something else but I said it was fine, and he didn't charge us. We then walked to Sonny's on Exchange which looked like a cool room when we walked by in the daytime but it had kind of a frat boy feel at nite. We were stuck in the back room and just got a duck tamale and A had a beer. It was fine, server wasn't happy with our small order. Sorry, glad we moved on to Walter's and that comfy bar with nice guys working. We got an app of delicious Thai meatballs with a good kick. My first choice for dessert wasn't available so got the sampler and enjoyed the peanut butter pie esp., banana choc chip brownie was good, the choc. cake thing not so much. Ended the nite talking to Norm at the Downtown Lounge.

Our hotel was across from Tony's Donuts so I got a plain, A got honey glazed, and I brought home a pumpkin and a molasses glazed. Honey dipped was heavier than usual and my plain just okay, but I really enjoyed the pumpkin and molasses flavors. There were probably other good flavors but those two caught my eye right away. We got breakfast at the Miss Portland Diner and ordered the Irish benedict with hollandaise on the side. I guess the cook kept automatically saucing them so it took too long to get these stupid eggs without the sauce. My egg was a little over poached but it was tasty, good homemade hash and much better than usual home fries. Nice server, glad I got back there and up to Portland in general.

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  1. Nice "off the beaten path" report. Actually you seem to hit a lot of locals spots - places like Ernie's fall into the next subset of being local neighborhood sorts. I'm most impressed with the walk to Fisherman's Grill. That's one he'll of a walk. I actually like the upstairs be a Grace better than downstairs - it's more intimate and you still get to take it all in but I imagine the more creative bartenders would be assigned downstairs.

    1. You have got to be kidding me with the walking from your hotel to those spots? Somebody who lives here wouldn't do that walk probably in their entire life! lol, you're obviously earning your meals when you finally get there. Not exactly the most scenic of hikes you went on.

      Weird you mentioned about the flies. We went a couple weeks ago and they were really buzzing around the bar. One was even mashed into the menu so we had to get a new one. Look, I love Grace but some of the portion sizes are stupidly small. Got the ravioli on the bar menu for 9 bucks. It was 3 small ones on a plate. Three, the number three, not three dozens, not three times three, but three. I almost called down to paciarino to bring me up a plate so I wouldn't starve to death. Their bar menu burger is awesome though. Little and awesome.

      7 Replies
      1. re: grittys457

        "Little and awsome" too funny, sometimes I think these places just don't get it,we want to be fed, not teased!

        1. re: grittys457

          I had their bar menu burger twice now, and I can officially say that it beats out my prior best at the Dogfish cafe as the best in Portland so far. Next up, Nosh.

          I love Grace. I may be in the minority, but I like it not just for the quality of food and ambience, I also appreciate the serving sizes very much! They are perfect for me. It irritates me to no end, when I get this huge amount of food that I can't possibly eat. My husband and I almost exclusively order a couple of appetizers and then share a main course because we don't want to leave a restaurant full. We want to leave a restaurant having tried a few of the menu appetizers and pleasantly satiated.

          1. re: grittys457

            Yeah I figured we walked at least 10 miles that weekend. My friend was joking that I'm a drill sergeant and I guess I am in a way, but that's how I don't gain weight. Not that we ever ate a full meal anywhere and even the 4 places we stopped on Sat. nite wasn't that much. Fried fish plate is what would have done us in.

            In any case, I'm curious that nyawira mentioned the Dogfish burger cuz that place intrigues me (esp. passing it on all our walks) and I really wanted to stop in but it just didn't work out this time. I also need to add that bakery in Cape Elizabeth w/ good donuts for the next trip, and maybe One Fifty Ate in So Po (we saw a Chopped show w/ a chef from there). And one of these days I'll do Hugo's, 555 or Cinque Terre.

            1. re: Joanie

              I think the Dogfish cafe was the first burger I had when I moved up to Portland in June of this year. I'm talking about the Dogfish cafe on St. John and Congress Street. I was stunned at how delicious it was. Better than any hamburger I've had anywhere (outside my own house!). I since learned that Maine uses good meat, but in any event this burger was amazing. Others on this board offered other locations for good burgers, most of which I've tried. Only the burger at Grace equals what I had at Dogfish. But at Dogfish it's a full sized burger and it has more in it (like an onion ring...yummy!). I encourage you to try their burgers.

              1. re: nyawira

                Is this the Dogfish not far from the highway, like around 1000 Congress? I know there was another place called Dog something. I'll get to it some time.

                BTW, forgot to mention a nice lunch at the Maine Diner on the way up. Great seafood chowder with good chunks of lobster (altho a little thing) and a good lobster roll with next to no mayo. Potato salad was good but needed salt. The soup and roll were about $22 and I wonder if we should have gotten them separately for a better deal.

                1. re: Joanie

                  This is the Dogfish Cafe on Congress, across from the Greyhound bus terminal and in close proximity to Maine Medical Center. Two or three doors down from the Inn at St. John...Portland's best kept secret.

                  I'm originally from L.A./San Diego..home of the fish taco. As a consequence, I'm very particular about that food item. The Dogfish Cafe earns a solid A. Fresh white fish, perfectly spiced, in a soft taco. Accompanied by a mound of tasty sweet potato fries...and one kick a&^ pickle slice (if a place cares about the pickle...the rest goes w/o saying). Also ordered their special tomato soup appetizer and was pleasantly surprised.

                  Bar knows their stuff too....pouring a very generous Makers Mark on the rocks.

                  If you don't care about the unassuming location, you will not be disappointed.

                  1. re: ColeScottPhoto

                    I'm from San Diego, too! I'll be sure to taste the fish taco at dogfish next time I go. Thanks for sharing.

          2. I will third the kudos for the walk to Fishermen's Grill! And of course, that you went there in general. I found the place basically by accident on line last year, before almost anyone outside Portland had heard of the place. So I count that as one of my best chowhounding finds. Now it has 53 reviews on Yelp, and a 5-star rating (of course).

            For those who haven't been, this is a tiny, extremely houndy spot for lobster rolls (meat not picked until you order), and fried clams. It's not hard to find, but I recommend driving!

            1. wow, joanie, this has been the most packed w/ places Portld restnt rview I've ever read!! Boy am I thankful that

              a) you took the time to write it, and

              b) i was lucky enough to find and read it!

              thx so much. we're coming up from Boston in 2 days for a 30th anniv 10 day maine trip, can't wait! really want to research further re zapotca v.s. sonny's. And donuts. are you talking cake donuts or just risen/glazed?

              I've never read (in the threads i've found so far, anyway)anyone mention walter's. hasn't that been there forEVer? is it well regarded?

              I'm an empanada freak. I read they had them at Sonny's. Did you try them?

              thx again for great writing.

              1 Reply
              1. re: opinionatedchef

                Sorry just saw this. I wasn't feeling esp. fond of Sonny's but if you see an item that really catches your eye, and you go when it's not more of a bar scene, it might be better. Yes Walter's has been there forever altho I think they changed locations. It's a really nice room and they had interesting items, a good drink list and a personable bartender.

                Donuts were cake style. I think it's cake when it's just plain w/ sugar/cinnamon on top right? I also have a huge report on Bar Harbor and Camden if you're going up that way. Have a fun trip.