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A few questions for Portland / Scarborough

Hello! We will be heading down from Montreal, staying in Scarborough, next week. We are so excited to come back after visiting last year!

We will have a full kitchen where we are staying so we will be eating in a few nights and then are planning to go for dinner at Hugo's and Blue Spoon as well. I had a few shopping/dining questions and your feedback is greatly appreciated!

1) We still have at least one dinner open and were thinking about Bar Lola or Emilitsa. Can anyone comment on these and how they compare food and price wise? I saw that the Emilitsa website didn't have prices but the food sounds amazing.

2) We will definitely be going to the Cheese Iron after all the mentions here on CH, is there any specific item recommended to buy there?

3) We are big coffee fans and wanted to see if there are any local roasters / cafes recommended to buy from?

4) We will be doing some grocery shopping at TJ's and Whole Foods (don't get those up here!) but are there any specialty shops or markets that we should hit?

5) Last, but not least! We want to buy some live lobster (shocking, I know) for one of our dinners in and are wondering where the best place to buy from is.

Thanks so much for your time and help!


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  1. The 2 for 1 tasting menu (6 or 8 course) at HUgo's should still be on next week, don't miss that while there. In the Old Port, near Hugo's is leRoux Kitchen supply store. Great stuff, and they have an extensive selection of olive oils and vinegars that you can taste prior to purchase. Haven't been to Bar Lola or Emilitsa so can't comment on those. I also like Fore Street in Portland, though.

    1. The Cheese Iron is a pretty store. Unfortunately, we've been underwhelmed each visit, and on one occasion were sold spoiled cheese (at $10/pound). The selection of cheeses isn't spectacular; any large, decent supermarket (such as Whole Foods) can rival and surpass it, at lesser prices. Last time we were there, a class trip was touring the place. Lots of bored-looking tweens/teens following the person acting as the guide. We were disappointed overall.

      For coffee, try Coffee By Design in Portland. You can check their Web site (www.coffeebydesign.com) and call ahead to order and they will roast your selection for you, or you can just go and buy what they have or are roasting on site They have a few coffee bars. Their micro roastery is on Washington Ave in Portland and has a coffee bar.

      2 Replies
      1. re: IWantFood

        I beg to differ on the subject of the Cheese Iron, and am only sorry you haven't had good experiences. Vince (the owner) is the most knowledgeable fromagier I've ever met, and the selection IS spectacular; WF doesn't even come close and doesn't keep their cheese as well. I'd advise stopping in and asking to taste, which Vince is always happy to do.

        1. re: mainemal

          Never saw Vince. Every time I've been, there have only been women working there. They're polite enough, but when I inquired about sampling before buying, they looked at me as if I had six heads.

      2. I love both Emilitsa and Bar Lola, and would definitely pick Emilitsa if I was only going to one. Bar Lola is probably less expensive overall, but the service can be spotty. I've never ever had a bad meal at Emilitsa. Get the saganaki!

        1. Thanks for the quick replies!! We will definitely check out the Coffee by Design and leRoux for sure. For now, I'm leaning towards Emilitsa, but will also consider Fore Street as well!

          I should also mention we'll be doing Duckfat for a lunch and the Allagash tour one day. I've also looked at some of the brunch spots on the other recent thread, all of them sound good!

          Thanks again!

          2 Replies
          1. re: megmtl

            Nearby Duckfat and Hugo's is Rabelais Bookstore which focuses exclusively on Cookbooks and related food books. Might be worth a peek in.

          2. There are a number of places on Commercial St where you should be able to purchase live lobster, and prices should't differ too much. I'd start at Free Range, which is at the end of the street closest to the bridge to S. Portland.

            1. 1) I don't think you could go wrong with either.

              2) Talk with Vince about what he's liking right now; be sure to sample.

              3) Coffee by Design, community minded coffee company/shop that has a huge following for many reasons, beginning with the product.

              4) Browne Trading, on Commercial Street, Portland--supplies some of the nation's top restaurants; Pat's Meat Market, Stevens Ave.; Rosemont Market, Congress St. & Rosemont Produce, Commercial at India; Micucci's, India Street--check out the bakery in the back, go mid/late morning for best selection; Harbor Fish, Custom House Wharf, for everything seafood related. Someone mentioned Rabelais Books--no longer in Portland.

              5) See above, Harbor Fish, Custom House Wharf.

              Bonus: You're in Scarborough, but you don't say where. If out on 77--Black Point/Prout's Neck/Higgins beach, consider adding breakfast/lunch/dinner at the Inn by the Sea, Cape Elizabeth--excellent food, great views, and you can eat on the deck if the weather cooperates.

              1. Can't go wrong with just about all the replies so far.
                1. I'm an Emilitsa fan. Probably more $$$$ than Bar Lola. Get the whole fish. They do need to finally finish the web site.
                2. I'm also a Cheese Iron fan though I usually have lunch there more often than buying cheese.
                3. All/any of the above.
                4. I don't really get the TJ' s hype. I do like Whole Foods but usually have to rob a bank on the drive over. LeRoux is very good but the bookstore by Hugos has closed and moved to Biddeford. Mainegal has the definitive list.
                5. Another all-out-the-above but, since you're staying in Scarborough, I'll add Bayley's lobster pound at Pine Point.

                1. Wow, thanks so much to all who replied!! I am adding these places to the ever-growing list! Will be sure to report back on where we end up!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: megmtl

                    Arabica for coffee. I think i heard that they recently opened a roasting facility. If you are at Duckfat, stop in at Micucci's right nearby for Italian groceries/cheeses, but mostly for the bakery in the back. The luna bread is outstanding and the thick crust pizza is yummy.

                    1. re: Kat

                      These are some knowledgable Portland chowhounds, that is for certain. I second or third Coffee by Design, Brown Trading, Rosemont, Emilitsa, Micucci. And I love Blue Spoon. also Petit Jacqueline for breakfast/brunch. and Hot Suppa! I was shocked at how good it was and how interesting the menu.

                  2. Is Bar Lola only open Wed-Sat during the summer too?

                    2 Replies