Two days with two vegetarians in Portland - one of them 11 years old.
[A Big Thank You to everyone who left earlier reviews of the Portland food – we used your information thoroughly to choose where to eat and really appreciate all of the help!!! Below is our take on the area – currently my son eats mainly bland food so we did not venture into any of the more exotic places.]
We stayed in the Old Port where there is an amazing abundance of interesting places to eat - you are tempted on many levels. We only had time for a few meals and look forward to returning and trying more. The Old Port is incredibly walking-friendly: everything is within an easy reach, the Maine drivers are courteous and used to stopping for peds. No need for a car, you can spend the day walking from historic sites to good food quite easily.
The Standard Bakery was spectacular– the bread was as good as any we have ever had (our U.S. favorite is Acme in Berkeley). The baguettes, crossiant, and pain au chocolat were comparable to any you would find in a boulangerie in France, with a crunchy crust and tender inside – just delicious! The raspberry galette was rich and filling; the gingerbread was wonderful. You could spend weeks here trying the different breads (the olive looked great) and pastries. The employees were friendly and helpful and the wait in line only took 1-2 mins.
By walking a few minutes up and down Commercial St., we could create a wonderful picnic lunch. Starting from the top of the street, there are fruits and vegies at Rosemont Produce, then a demi-baguette from Standard Bakery and great cheddar at Cabot Creamery (they sell single servings of the Seriously Sharp cheddar). Locally brewed sodas and beers were everywhere.
Another favorite was the Two Fat Cats bakery – my son loved the fresh Whoopie Pie (somewhat like an inside-out piece of chocolate cake with the frosting in the middle) and next time I will try the temptingly flaky blueberry pie.
Two very different pizza restaurants: Amato’s and Otto’s (225 Congress location). Amato’s is a funny experience – you wait in one line to order and then move into a parallel line to pay; food pick-up is at the end of the counter. The staff was brisk but not rude. We ate out on the patio and enjoyed the mild June weather. My spinach and cheese calzone was good but much less hearty than expected – the cheese was good but there was only a scant ~2 tablespoons of spinach. Only ate the top crusty (yumm) since the bottom was slightly soggy. My son’s generous slice of cheese pizza was a little greasy but he enjoyed it. Would we eat here again? Yes, but without high expectations. Keep in mind this is definitely not a ‘dining’ environment, more of a deli/grocery store feeling.
Loved Otto’s comfortable dining area – very relaxed, quiet, and unpretentious. The server was kind but forgot various items (and did not seem too concerned about it). The fennel, apple, and romaine salad was delicious and the buttermilk dressing was a perfect compliment. Too much butternut squash (big dollops) on my ricotta, cranberry pizza but worth trying. The single cheese slice my son had was overcooked: oil separating on top, a dark brown and teeth-breaking crust. Uneven meal but we would return – but next time first viewing the pizzas in the take-out area before ordering.
Starving the first night we ate a RiRa’s – an Irish pub across from the Standard Bakery. The seafood-eating diners looked happy but our meal was so-so. The positive: great Guinness (!) on draught, yummy complimentary soda bread, and the fries were crunchy and good. Everything else was too salty (to offset the beer?). Nice and attentive server subtracted the untouched mashed potatoes (overly salty) from the bill without being asked. We were upstairs with a view of the harbor; downstairs is the bar with a band, etc…
Lastly, for a light breakfast, we enjoyed the Port Bean on Commercial – nothing fancy but good scrambled eggs, bagels, etc… Service was friendly and quick.
Nice report! Next time work your way up towards the Arts District where you can eat at the Green Elephant for superb vegetarian.
You made some really good choices (Standard Bakery, Otto) but all I could think of when I read Amato's was how close you were to Micucci's for a slab of their phenomenal Sicilian pizza. Not that Amato's is particularly bad, that location just happens to be wedged in between so many better pizza options.
THanks, Bobbert - I will remember those two for our next visit! My son attends camp in Maine so I am looking forward to returning every summer to Portland and trying some more delicious food - hopefully my son will become more adventuresome and we will expand our options (beyond pizza and grilled cheese).
re: Bob W
The camp is in Freedom, about 20 miles east of Waterville, not much food there as far as I know - Freedom is a tiny town. We have eaten breakfast in Belfast where my son enjoyed chocolate chip pancakes (I do not remember much of note). Maine is a beautiful setting for summer camp and we are lucky Portland has so much good food.
If this is his first summer just be aware that everyone visits their kids halfway through their camp which translates to it being difficult to get a reservation at most good restaurants so book early if you're planning a meal at one of the more popular places. That is you Maine travel tip for today.