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Jan 31, 2012 10:59 AM

Portland eats - how do these places sound?

Our three days in Portland will be about halfway through our three week trip to New England (from Old England :-0 ). So, we may be getting a bit jaded with restaurant eating. But not entirely, of course! Eating in a foreign country is part of the fun of visiting. I think what we'll need are a couple of "good" places.

A search of the board seems to throw up Fore Street and Five Fifty-Five. Do both of those still tick the box for "good"?

For the third night (or possibly lunch), Duckfat and the Portland Lobster Co. both seem to offer good contrasts for a casual meal. Any thoughts?



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  1. Quick note - Portland Lobster Co. is a seasonal, outdoor restaurant so it may not be an option.

    2 Replies
    1. re: foodquest

      Besides, Portland Lobster is a tourist trap..... Eating there last summer for lunch, I was embarrassed over the lobster roll they served... Very little lobster, cold roll, and high price because of their prime location. I really they only catch tourists who need and want a quick fix.....The food next door at Dimillios is so much better.

      1. re: irwin

        I disagree. PL may not serve the best lobster roll in Maine, but on a bright sunshine-y day in the summer, I think PL is a great place to grab a bite & a beer, and drink in the atmosphere, especially if when there is good live music playing, as it was when I was there last summer. And it's not tourists; especially in the late afternoon or early summer, there are locals who work downtown who drop by (at least my son & his buddies).

    2. I always think of Duckfat more as a lunch place than a dinner joint (though they are open until 9pm or so). The food there is excellent. I like Fore Street very much, (simply prepared grilled meats and fish), but was VERY underwhelmed by 555 (I didn't have a single item that I found chow-worthy). Others like it and recommend it, so maybe it was a bad night/poor ordering, but I won't be back to find out. My favorite place in Portland is Hugo's, and currently through the end of April (if you'll be there then), they are offering their 6 course blind chef's tasting for $45 per person instead of the usual $90 per person. Offer is not valid on Valentine's Day. It's well worth the $90 IMHO, so paying half price is a veritable bargain.

      3 Replies
      1. re: kimfair1

        I was just returning to this thread to write everything kimfair says re. Duckfat, Fore St and Hugo's. I'm quite sure I'll be hitting up Hugo's tomorrow myself. Chef Evans (OK, Rob - couldn't resist connecting this thread to another that Harters has been active on) is fantastic. Although I haven't been in a couple years, 555 hasn't been getting as much love on this board as it once did.

        1. re: bobbert

          Well, after my meal last evening I'll reiterate, go to Hugo's for one of your meals. The place is really special.
          If you're looking for a basic Maine lobster dinner, as Irwin advises, dimillo's is fine. It's also very much a tourist trap and it's also pretty popular with a certain age group (older than my many years) but it does a few things well. Good New England chowder and they know how to cook a lobster all set on an old ferry so views are exceptional. Don't stray with their menu and you can have a very nice Maine meal.
          The other "local" place most often mentioned here is J's Oyster Bar but it is a love it or hate it place with not much in between. I love it for its gritty local "flare".

        2. re: kimfair1

          I love Hugos. I've been twice now and it's been a fantastic experience both times! But, the other restaurant that's closing in as our favorite in Portland is the Salt Exchange. I don't see much written up about this, but we've been a few times now, and sat at the chef's bar area where we can watch him work. Their dishes are so creative, and so yummy yummy. I think this is our go to restaurant for fine dining in a casual atmosphere with a really great chef and sous chef, both of whom take great pride, but quiet pride in the work that they do.

        3. Fore Street is great but you usually need to reserve well in advance so don't wait too long. A few other places to consider are Caiola in the West End, Vignola in Old Port as well as Grill Room or Corner Room. Caiola is a smaller venue but really very good and casual.

          1. I'd like to stick up for Portland Lobster company. Great place to go in the summer, listen to some music, and for tourist trap food, it's actually decent. Also have Allagash Black on tap so bonus points.

            I had a great meal on my first visit to Petite Jacqueline this weekend. Same owners as 555 and a price notch down. Quality was right there though.

            If you've never been to Grace, go there just to see it. Sit at the bar or lounge seats upstairs or have a full meal.

            3 Replies
            1. re: grittys457

              Gritty - Your praise of PLC echoes what I was trying to say upthread.

              For Harters, if you'd like more details on my views as to PLC, here is a link to a thread on the general subject of Maine Lobster Rolls, which includes my reviews as to the 3 places where I partook of them when I was in Maine last summer. Also, if you will be traveling outside of Portland during your trip in Maine, this link may give you some additional ideas of where to stop for this iconic Maine dish.

              I will also add that, in terms of Portland-area purveyors of lobster rolls, I much prefer those available from PLC to the Lobster Shack on Cape Elizabeth, which tends to be the locale most often recommended for lobster rolls in the Portland area. From a purely food standpoint, I am not a fan of the big dollop of mayonnaise that the Lobster Shack adds to its sandwiches; much prefer a lobster roll where the lobster is the star. Also, while one can legitimately debate the relative merits of the "atmosphere" of the PLC and Lobster Shack, I prefer sitting in the harbor with live music, over the picnic tables by the ocean at the LS.

              1. re: masha

                I think you can't go wrong with the location/view at PLC or the Lobster Shack (assuming decent weather). But I think the Lobster Shack's lobster roll is a pretty sad specimen, and am consistently surprised that people recommend it when there are so much better available. The roll at Rudy's, right across the street, is much better, for example.

            2. By the way, when are you going to be here? February and say, July, are two completely different worlds up here.

              4 Replies
              1. re: bobbert

                I like planning ahead - we'll be there mid May.

                1. re: Harters

                  Mid May, I would scratch the Dimillos rec and go back with your Portland Lobster Company although good weather is a prerequisite. As mentioned above, when there's music on the deck, it's a very cool vibe and for some reason, surprisingly local during that 5-7PM ish time frame. Yes, it's an expensive lobster but done well in a great laid back and inviting atmosphere.

                  Oh yeah, my M.O. is to take the ferry out to Peaks Island for a lunch. The food options on the island are somewhat limited for lunch but perfectly fine. Can't beat the ride over.

                  1. re: bobbert

                    Wait, DeMillo's? Seriously?


                    1. re: GyroBall

                      I’m not a big fan but I've learned that there's a place for DiMillo's. As I occasionally HAVE to eat there at the insistence of my 80+ y.o. IL's, I've found some things that they do well. Wintertime when other options are limited, you can get a decent lobster (most places in Maine, including this one, are pretty adept at steaming a lobster) and a pretty good cup of chowder. When I've strayed from the very basics on the menu, I've always regretted it so I don't necessarily disagree with your assessment - hence my removing the place from a recommendation to a non-recommendation once the OP said they are coming in May vs. February – there are many better choices in nice weather. Middle of winter and you want a lobster, a cup of chowder and a view? Then I would have no problem especially if they're running a special. Personally, I tend to almost only eat lobsters at home or at lobster bakes. I’ve never gone to DiMillo’s on my own or with MY guests for dinner although a drink on the deck on a nice sunny day? Yeah, I'm ok with that.