2 dinners and 3 lunches in Portland in September
Hi! We'll be in Portland from NYC for 3 days / 2 nights in early September. Haven't been there in about 12 years. Looking to have one fancier dinner (birthday celebration) and one good but casual / moderately priced. Would also love to have fried clams and/or lobster in some form at least once.
Here are places I've been thinking. Would love thoughts to help narrow down or if I'm missing something un-missable.
Dinners-- Vignola, Grace or Outliers (but have seen some bad reviews on the boards), The Front Room. I feel like there's some fantastic place that I'm missing...
Lunches-- Susan's Fish n Chips, Gilbert's Chowder House, Fisherman's Grill, Days Lobster Pound, 3 sons lobster company (or worth making the trip to Gurnet Trading Co. in Brunswick?), and/or Standard Baking Co for sandwiches?
Thanks for any advice!
I second (or third, or fourth) Bite Into Maine. If you want to supplement with some sandwiches/sweets/cold drinks/coffee, stop at Cookie Jar Bakery down the road (Shore Rd.) on the way to Fort Williams Park.
Would skip Gilbert's Chowder House. Awful when I was there; sent the food back.
None of your possible "one fancier" places rise to that level. For the birthday, I'd think Back Bay Grill, or Bar Lola, if you don't want to try Fore St or 555 or Hugo's. For the
"good but moderately priced" I'd go for Petite Jacqueline, Boda, or Pai Men Miyake, all on Longfellow Square. Lunch at Duckfat should be a must.
If you plan to go out to Cape Elizabeth, go to the Bite Into Maine Food Truck that is stationed at Fort William Park for a picnic lunch. This is the park where the Portland Head Lighthouse is located -- i.e., it's right on the Atlantic Ocean so a very scenic locale for a picnic, at least if the weather cooperates. (Think Bite Into Maine is better than the Lobster Shack at 2 Lights, which is also located on Cape Elizabeth.)
I agree with LeRique that, if you are confining yourself to downtown Portland, go to the Portland Lobster Co. -- dependable, if not outstanding, lobster roll, and the setting on the water is great, especially when they have live music.
For a fancy celebration dinner, I'd go to Fore St. We've been there 3 times in the last 5 years and always had a great meal. Were just in Portland again earlier this month and did not go there (and regret it). I also like the Front Room, but don't think it's as good as Fore St.
SB doesn't--they usually have a few savory pastry options, tho, but not many. If it were me, I'd end up having an almond croissant for lunch tho because they're amazing.
If you're looking for sandwiches and you want to stick to the Old Port tourist district, I'd try the Blue Rooster or Duckfat. There's also Micucci for sicilian slab, or Eventide for oysters and the brown butter lobster roll.
If you're going to the Forest Ave area for fish shack-y food, go with Fisherman's Grill over Susan's. Other equally casual options outside of the old port would be food truck/beverage place combinations. Small Axe is often set up between Bunker Brewing/tandem coffee--their twitter will tell you their schedule, and Rising Tide hosts a food truck every saturday--
I'd agree with masha on the Bite into Maine food truck lobster roll--it's worth venturing over the bridge for and it's a pretty spot. Another scenic oceanside picnic lunch option on that side of the bridge is sandwiches/cookies at Scratch bakery and a visit to Fort Preble/Spring Point lighthouse and/or Willard Beach.
As for your celebration dinner: my favorite of the places you've suggested are Outliers & Grace (although inconsistency seems to be pointed out with both places frequently--). Other choices in that range would be Boda Thai, Pai Men Miyake or Eventide. In the neighborhood the Front Room is in, I'd rather eat at Bar Lola or the Blue Spoon. Have a good trip!
Aside from my "recommend" of sultana's suggestions, I'll add that 3 Son's is no longer selling retail cooked on the pier. I like Grace a lot for a drink and maybe an app (or dessert if you go at the end of night), not as much for dinner. Also a fan of Outliers. Actually tried some food at Portland Lobster Co. last Sunday after a several month hiatus. Lobster roll just OK - nowhere close to Bite Into Maine truck or Eventide and more expensive. I still highly recommend for music and beer on the deck but the food (I tasted some others) still doesn't do it for me.
The OP mentioned Day's in Freeport. IF you are going to Freeport AND you want fried clams, pass up Fisherman's Grill and go to Jameson Tavern next to LL Bean. The original owner of Fisherman's Grill bought it - I stopped by for some clams last week (to go) and they were as great as ever with no wait at all. The price is a bit steeper than FG and the niceness of the place actually takes away from the ambiance of the original FG so I recommend this ONLY if you're going to Freeport anyway, otherwise, Forest Ave. works well too.