Headed to Portland, Maine? Here's where to eat lobster rolls, fried clams, and more, according to James Beard award-winning Chef Rob Evans.
'Maine' on Serious Eats
I thought pie for breakfast might be only a midwest treat until I noticed a small sign at Two Fat Cats in Portland, Maine. Minutes later, I was parked at the teeny tiny bistro table they have crammed between the staircase and a speed rack, digging into a slice of sour cherry.
Though "chirashi" literally translates to "scattered," I always think of classic chirashi as the composed salad of sushi preparations: a bed of vinegared rice overlaid with fanned out fish fillets and tidy bunches of vegetables set just so. The chirashi at Pai Men Miyake is particularly nice and well portioned for the price.
Portland's original and newly revamped Chinese kitchen serves familiar Cantonese and dim sum dishes done up Maine-style.
The second in our series exploring the the Maine lobstering industry, from the firsthand account of an author who spent her summer aboard a lobster boat in Port Clyde. What she learned about the lobstering and lobstermen may change the way you look at the crustacean forever. Today: learning about the physical realities of life on the boat, and five essentials tips for using Maine lobsters.
Part one of our two-part series exploring the the Maine lobstering industry, from the firsthand account of an author who spent her summer aboard a lobster boat in Port Clyde. What she learned about the lobstering and lobstermen may change the way you look at the crustacean forever.
A few weeks ago, the Small Axe Truck debuted its burger, the Smokestack Lightning, and proclaimed it the best burger around. Ordinarily, I'd say that's a bold statement to make, but in this case it might well be true.
When I went to Black Birch for the first time last week, I didn't know how I'd missed it for so long. It's what every neighborhood restaurant should be: low-key, cheery, and reasonably priced with food that's well-executed and imaginative but not flashy; a great beer list; and fun cocktails.
Duckfat in Portland is a small sandwich shop with some incredible panini options, making it tough for someone flying solo for lunch. Given the restaurant's name, duck confit with napa cabbage slaw, cilantro, and spicy mayo tempted me, but ultimately I went for the Corned Beef Tongue Reuben Panino with marinated cabbage, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing. And no stop at Duckfat is complete without an order of the duckfat-fried fries.
Duck fat-fried fries and doughnut holes. Duck confit. Poutine with duck gravy and, if you want, a fried duck egg. Suffice it to say, Duckfat in Portland, Maine, has become a destination for all things anti-diet. That's not to say fried food is all the Old Port cafe offers, but it's what they take most seriously and what they've always done best. Lately, however, the menu's grown, attracting patrons looking for both guilty and (relatively) guiltless pleasures alike. I went in for the latter.
I wasn't expecting much for $32, even if these were mid-coast Maine prices, and even though I'd heard rave reviews about Suzuki. But I could get a spicy salmon roll anywhere, so I figured I'd give the omakase at this cute Rockland sushi joint the benefit of the doubt.
Finding a Thai restaurant that serves rice noodles is about as hard as finding a Thai restaurant—period. But finding a Thai restaurant that makes its own fresh rice noodles is another matter. And finding that restaurant on the mid-coast of Maine? Let's just say I planned my entire weekend around eating there.
Frankly, the idea of making bagels from scratch just to tear up and fry sounded as ironic as making brioche specifically to make bread pudding. (Isn't that what leftovers are for?) But once I started eating the bagel's crisp, seed-covered crust and soft-yet-chewy interior, I was ready for an I-told-ya-so.
Pad Thai Too fed me more than any other Waterville kitchen during college—maybe even more than the dining hall. Everybody had their go-to dish, be it the drunken noodles, the excellent curries, or the namesake (and really well-executed) pad Thai, but the order that appeared on almost every table was the fried dumplings.
A few weeks ago, I overheard a colleague raving about the lobster rolls at Portland's gleaming new raw bar, Eventide Oyster Co. "They're so good," she said, "my husband usually gets two."
The other Portland has some pretty good coffee roasters coming up, too. On a recent trip to Maine, we enjoyed a sonnet-worthy cup at Bard Coffee, a small indie that's caffeinating the city's Old Port one handcrafted cup at a time.
Don't be discouraged by the restaurant sign at Exit 127: There's more to Waterville, Maine than Applebee's, McDonald's, and Pizza Hut. Like raspberry pie and hot mulled cider, lobster rolls as big as Philly cheesesteaks, the best apricot jam in New England, tire-sized pumpkin pancakes, and Thai curry to rival any at big-city restaurants.
This is it: tomato prime time, and I can't help but indulge. Every year I splurge on Sun Golds, snack on open-faced tomato sandwiches slathered with mayonnaise, confit pounds of plum tomatoes—and drip the sweet, ruby-tinted oil over just about everything. And I always make a reservation at Fore Street, because their tomato tart, a long-running seasonal special, is one of my all-time favorite tomato dishes.
Blaze, the newest wood-fired pizza restaurant in Bar Harbor, brings high quality toppings to a somewhat lackluster crust. Here's hoping they fire things up for next season.