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Apr 2, 2013 11:20 AM

Portland in April with kids--critique/advise away!

Taking the train from Boston to Portland for a few days in April with my 4- and 6-year-old (and husband) and will be staying at the Portland Harbor Hotel. My problem is that everything looks incredible, and I'm having a hard time narrowing down options! A few questions:

Is the Sat. winter farmers' market worth a trip? Specifically, are there vendors that sell pastries and ready-to-eat items since we won't have a kitchen?

Emilitsa is an intriguing lunch or early dinner option--can someone give price ranges?

Does Two Fat Cats sell breakfast pastries? The website lists lots of sweets and desserts, but it would be great if we could get something in the morning. I'll call them, too, as we get closer to our trip.

We'd love to hit Pai Men Miyake in the off-peak hours (I'm thinking between 2 and 4:30), but would it be a total disaster to bring our kids? They like gyoza and edamame and are generally well-behaved (like everyone's kids on CH, right??), but if it's really a special-occasion place, we'll skip it.

I'd love to go to Fore Street when it opens for the evening and would make a reservation to make sure they're okay with kids, but for those who are familiar with it, would you say it's a yay or nay in terms of kid-friendly ambiance (not too quiet so we don't get the stink-eye from other diners)? Same question for Schulte & Herr (although I'm thinking that might be a better brunch option).

Is anyone familiar with the hotel's restaurant, Eve's at the Garden, or the pasta place below it, Paciarino?

We're also considering Eventide for lunch or early dinner (we've taken the kids to Island Creek Oyster Bar here in Boston many times with much success, and I'm hoping Eventide is similar), Caiola's for Sun. brunch, Duckfat for lunch/early dinner, Browne Trading Co. for take-away lunch, and Sebago.

Any and all advice or other suggestions are welcome (food or otherwise--we're definitely hitting the children's museum and taking in a Sea Dogs game). Thanks so much in advance--we're really looking forward to it!

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  1. I'm about to leave town, so I will weigh in quickly. All your choices are great, although some are more kid-friendly than others. Pai Men Miyake is definitely ok for kids, especially during a slow time (like 2-4:30); they have fine noodles and excellent gyoza, and you must have the pork buns.

    I brought my kids (then 7 and 9) to Paciarino for my birthday last year. It was totally fine and the restaurant was lovely to them (they made a very plain pasta pomodoro and split it for the two of them), but the kids definitely knew this was a little fancier than they were used to.

    For morning pastries, I'd go to Standard Baking. I'm not sure Two Fat Cats even has any; they are more cupcakes and pies.

    Caiola's and Duckfat, definitely. I haven't been to Schulte and Herr yet but I hear it's fantastic.

    I don't know about Fore Street and Emilitsa with kids. They are wonderful places (Emilitsa especially), but pretty high-end and I wouldn't bring my kids there. Then again, I live here, and when you're on vacation everyone has to eat. You might want to have one pizza night, on the deck at Flatbread, or Otto.

    1. I think Flatbread would be a good choice.

      We always try to have a meal there when traveling in the Portland area, and have never been disappointed.

      Silly's is another of our favorites which I'd suggest for your consideration .....

      I would say both are definitely "family-friendly".

      Given that you're arriving by train, and most likely would not have a car when in town (sorry if that is an incorrect assumption), both eateries would be within fairly comfortable walking distance of your hotel although Flatbread would be somewhat closer and down near other waterfront Old Port attractions while Silly's is a bit further inland and more off the 'beaten path' tourist-wise.

      Have a great time in Portland !

      1. If you're kids are acclimated to dining out at decent, not marketed-strictly-to-parents-and-kids places in Boston and they enjoy it, you'll be fine at Fore St, Pai Men, Eventide, etc.

        I've eaten with friends and their urban-ish young children at all these places with no problems--and the kids really enjoyed it--but I have other friends with kids who wouldn't feel safe anywhere than 5 guys, Flatbread, or Bucks Naked BBQ. So it really depends on you and your kids comfort threshhold.

        The winter farmer's market isn't big at the moment, if you come back in the summer it'll be huge and in Deering Oaks Park, but the Public Market House on Congress Street is fun and would fill the same need. Big Sky Bakery makes tasty morning pastries.

        Emilitsa is quite good (I'm half Greek and my grandmother is an amazing cook--so I'm usually let down by Greek restaurants). Lunch prices are on their Web site--I seem to remember dinner entree prices are in the $20 ish to $40 ish range.

        Flatbread a fine choice for kids--the beehive shaped pizza oven is popular and they can watch the ferries come and go; as is Otto Pizza, the one on Munjoy Hill in particular. The booths are made from reclaimed grand piano parts and kids seem to love them--there are always lots of families in there.

        Two Fat Cats doesn't have breakfast treats (unless vacation means splurging on whoopie pies for breakfast! they make the best whoopie pies in town, in my opinion!) I'd second Standard Baking. All their breakfast pastries are so good--particularly the croissants and blueberry scones!!

        Pai Men is not really special occasion-ish and kids would be fine! I see lots of kids in there--noodle soup! Schrute and Herr is definitely not fancy--but I think it's best for brunch.

        Eve's is never very well reviewed--I'd skip it. You have so many great dining options nearby. I love Paciarino, particularly for lunch--the owners are Italian and the pasta is pretty spectacular. You also have lots of sweet treat-type places very near your hotel: Gorgeous Gelato (also italian owned), The Gelato Fiasco, East End Cupcakes, GoBerry (a Western MA-based chain with Pinkberry like tart frozen yogurt, but made with local milk--). Fore Street is ice cream central at the moment!

        You'd be fine at Eventide, but try to go during the off hours if you're not comfortable waiting--its pretty small (I'd say the same thing to people without children--). Caiola is a good brunch choice, but again, it's pretty small. The last couple times I've tried to go there on the fly with guests there's been an hour plus wait-- Local 188 is a good choice that's not far from Caiola and is much larger and also family friendly. Vignola-Cinque Terre is nearer to your hotel and also serves a great brunch. Duckfat is always good (again, small). I'd skip Sebago--it's kind of bland and generic. If you want something with beer and food the kids would still be comfortable with, try LFK (really good mac and cheese) or Novare Res (I always see people with kids here, and it's a decent sized place).

        Enjoy your trip!!

        2 Replies
        1. re: sultanaboudreau

          Pretty much everything sultan wrote (as usual)! Just for logistics, I'd hit up the original Otto as it's near the Children's Museum - also getting close to Pai Men Miyake which is fine for the kids. I haven't gone to Emilitsa for lunch but for dinner I wouldn't try with the kids - too upscale. Fore Street is much more lively and I agree that if they're good kids, there should be no problem. Two Fat Cats, yes for the best whoopie pies (small enough for kids without getting gross - the cream is light and delicious - maybe dessert after Duckfat) but Standard Bakery for breakfast instead. I've been to ICOB and if your kids are OK there, no problem at Eventide which is much more casual. Some advice: Duckfat, get there no later than 11:40 for lunch. Was there last week (thankfully early) and when we left at 12:30 there was quite the line down the sidewalk. An awesome spot for kids is Local Sprouts on Congress St. They often have free music and the food is all organic and quite good. It's a co-op owned by the workers so wear your finest tie-dyed Grateful Dead outfits and enjoy.
          I've eaten at Eve's a couple of times, last about a year ago and there was a new chef. About as many misses as hits - I'd probably pass and also do Paciarino. My favorite is they're lasagna. Staying at your hotel, I'd say it's a must. If it's an afternoon game for the Sea Dogs, check out the Holy Donut across the street from the stadium. Made with potatoes and all natural ingredients, they're delicious, been getting lots of attention outside of Maine and the closest you'll ever get to a healthy donut.

        2. People can say what they want about Buck Naked's food, but it has become the one place I can go out intown with my two kids. They have a whole seating section for families with little playhouses for kids. They can go crazy and it's okay, everybody in that area has kids. Flatbread is a good place for kids as well.

          2 Replies
          1. re: grittys457

            And for Gritty, Buck's is close enough to Nuvare that you won't get shocked by your monitor bracelet :-)

            1. re: bobbert

              And now that In'Finiti is open on Commercial Street I have like an extra 200 feet on my monitor without being shocked!

              Buck's has Oxbow on tap so they earn bonus points for me besides having a place for my crazy go nuts kids to go crazy go nuts.

              East End Cupcakes, Gelato Fiasco, and Gorgeous Gelato are all within a few feet of each other on Fore St. I say you guys eat at all of them in a row and report back.

              As far as sandwiches, the newly opened Blue Rooster is awesome. Damian isn't messing around


          2. Paciarino is great for kids -- they're very family friendly, and will happily make up some plainer pasta if the kids require it. And the stop at Gorgeous Gelato down the street is a must.

            Bonobo is another great pizza place, aso very family friendly. Caiola's is excellent. Yosaku makes excellent (if not distinctive) sushi, and there are always kids there. I have never seen kids at Emilitsa (which is an excellent choice overall). I find the staff at Green Elephant to be a little kid-unfriendly, at least at dinner.

            I love the children's museum!