In the past couple of weeks, Meredith and I have been undertaking the extremely enjoyable challenge of trying as many of Portland’s food trucks as possible. While we missed a few (that we’ll be sure to add as time goes on), the ones we visited spelled out a bright future for the Portland food truck scene. The general gist from all of them was that a tasty breakfast, lunch, late night, or dessert doesn’t necessarily need to come from a brick and mortar establishment – if you concentrate on doing a few things very well, your next great Portland meal might come from the curb.
It was also awesome to see other local food service businesses getting behind Portland’s mobile eateries. Tandem Coffee and Bunker Brewing have opened their parking lot to Small Axe for breakfast (making that amazing cup of coffee all that much more delicious), and Rising Tide brewery is doing a weekly Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon food truck rotation that adds a filling pairing to their tasty selection of brews.
Bite Into Maine
Parked at Fort Williams, just over the hill from the Portland Head Light, Bite Into Maine serves up one of the best lobster rolls in the area. I realize that this is no small statement, as seemingly every restaurant and roadside stop between Kittery and Lubec claims to have “Maine’s Best Lobster Roll”, but it’ll take only a few bites of this amazing roll to know that it’s the real deal. On our trip, Meredith and I grabbed a couple of lobster rolls, and a side of the must-try corn, cucumber, and blueberry salad, and settled on our blanket with Orvis for a gorgeous picnic overlooking Casco Bay, followed by a stroll along the cliff walk – the makings of a the perfect summer afternoon in Maine.
Small Axe Truck
We were particularly excited to hear about the highly-anticipated opening of the Small Axe Truck, and since they spent their first morning parked outside of Tandem Coffee Roasters, we worked breakfast and coffee into our Saturday morning farmer’s market routine. Meredith ordered the seasonal vegetable and goat ricotta bowl, and I opted for the sausage and green chili gravy bowl. We both enjoyed our breakfasts so much, that when we heard that the Small Axe Truck would be taking their show to Rising Tide’s Saturday food truck lunch later that same day, we went back home, grabbed our friends Cory and Robyn, and made the return trip for some afternoon beers, the cheeseburger-stuffed handpies, and a few pork sandwiches.
Meredith and I grabbed lunch from Mainely Burgers outside of City Hall (also where Small Axe will be taking up a more permanent spot), and were absolutely blown away by the handcut fries and The Mainah burger – a delightful burger with applewood smoked bacon, green apples, cheddar, and maple mayo (seriously, try one). After we were finished with lunch and the crowd had died down, owners Ben Berman and Jack Barber took a few minutes to introduce themselves. During our conversation about lunch in Portland, their approach to cooking a great meal from a mobile kitchen, and the number of trucks popping up around town. One thing that was said has really stuck with me: the two opened Mainely Burgers with the goal that a person could visit Portland and have lunch with them, then dinner at a place like Fore Street, and leave town completely blown away by the food scene. When the duo opens their new truck, Mainely Treats next week, you can bet that we’ll be waiting in line.
We found El Corazon last week parked at the intersection of India and Commercial, right across from Benkay. A delicious carne asada burrito, a couple of tacos, and two refreshing pineapple ginger agua frescas later, and we were stuffed and smiling in the shade of a stoop across the street, watching the constant stream of patrons lining up at the truck.
After our lunch from El Corazon, Meredith saw on facebook that Love Cupcakes‘s Falmouth trailer would be open that afternoon, so we promptly headed up 295 for a little lunchtime dessert (we’re fans of dessert after all three meals… and sometimes in between). Although not technically their Portland truck, the cupcakes served up from this picturesque stand, parked beneath an apple tree beside Foreside Antiques on Route 1 was easily Meredith’s favorite truck to shoot. The chocolate-iced, vanilla cupcakes were obviously a required staple, but the lime and coconut-iced, chocolate cupcake stole the show and make me want to return in the near future for their next special.
Sometimes a spontaneous date night can be just the thing to make your week right. They don’t always need a ton of planning and can just be low-key and casual, but there’s something about spending an evening out of the house that helps to put even the hardest of days in the rearview mirror.
A couple of weeks ago, Meredith and I were meeting our friends Brook and Daniel for happy hour at Zapoteca, and before we knew it, the evening had become a date night away from the couch, with drinks, pizza, and even a beach walk with Orvis.
Happy hour at Zapoteca, with habanero watermelon margaritas and appetizers, was a tasty, fantastic deal, and afterwards we were no longer in the mood to cook dinner, so Otto Pizza was a natural choice. When we finally made it back home, we belayed Orvis’s guilting stare with a walk to Fisherman’s Point at Willard Beach. As the sun set over the beach, I couldn’t help but smile at the happiness our evening had afforded us.
We were driving around Portland’s Longfellow Square the other day when we spotted the new umbrellas outside one of our favorite restaurants in town, Petite Jacqueline, and it made us so excited for the many al fresco meals we hope to enjoy there this summer. Soon after I stopped daydreaming about all of the cheese and rosé I plan on consuming at Petite, I received these scans from a forgotten roll of film I’d shot back in February. A trio of tasty cheeses, a seasonal salad, and an order of Michael’s favorite, the beef bourguignon – I’m sure you’ll find a similar spread on our table this summer!
Portland, Maine 04101
Taking a cooking class or attending one of the feasts at Salt Water Farm in Lincolnville was high on my list of things for Michael and I to do last summer, but unfortunately life got in the way and we just couldn’t make it work. Over the winter I was delighted to hear that owner, Annemarie Ahearn, was opening up a cafe and market in nearby Rockport. Finding a chance to take one of the farm’s classes during a busy wedding season might not be doable, but who doesn’t have time for lunch (or brunch, or dinner, or drinks!) with a view of Penobscot Bay?
When planning my day around the wedding I was shooting in Camden over the weekend, I made sure that I’d have plenty of time to stop in for a leisurely lunch at the newly opened cafe & market at Union Hall before I needed to make my way over to Camden. The bright, open space inside the restored 19th century Union Hall building is the perfect home for the local-inspired restaurant that believes in preparing ”simple, nourishing food using ingredients that honor their time and place.”
After browsing the selection of the goods in the market, picking up a lovely table linen, and the latest issue of Kinfolk, I placed my lunch order: a Spanish Tortilla with Maine Grown Potatoes and Chorizo, accompanied by the Salt Water Farm salad. (It should be noted that I would have happily ordered literally anything on the lunch menu – it all sounded, smelled, and looked fantastic, which is why I plan to return with Michael as soon we have the chance!) My meal was delicious, of course, but the experience of enjoying a meal at the new Salt Water Cafe & Market goes well beyond the food. Eating in such a delightfully open space adorned by fresh flowers, with a view of both the kitchen and the water is an experience that shouldn’t be missed, and plenty of reason for many, many return trips.
Rockport, Maine 04856
At last month’s Hush Hush #4, our friend Anestes couldn’t stop raving about the soft opening he’d just come from for a new sandwich place on Dana Street, and since he knows a thing or two about Portland’s food scene, it wasn’t long before a whole contingent of us were prepping to make a late night run to the Blue Rooster Food Company.
With a menu pleasantly stuffed with the likes of tater tots, housemade potato chips, ricotta and chile brussels sprouts (quite possibly the best in town), savory sandwiches, and a variety of delicious hotdogs (we’d recommend the Colombian and Junkyard), it’s almost impossible to find something that won’t blow you away for lunch, dinner, or late night. I could rave about each bite we’ve enjoyed here, but I’d be far from the first person to do so, and even further from the last.
We’ve spoken to co-owner Damian Sansonetti on each of our trips to the Blue Rooster, and love the level of excitement and high-brow culinary talent that he brings to the coolest of casual walk-in eateries. The Blue Rooster fills the perfect need in Portland when you don’t want to sit down for long but still want to be wowed with every bite. If you work in the Old Port and don’t make the Blue Rooster a priority for your next lunch day, you’re missing out.
Portland, Maine 04101
Just like the section of Middle Street that houses some of the town’s tastiest restaurants – Eventide, Duckfat, Hugo’s, Ribollita, and nearby Bresca – the block of upper Exchange Street, between Middle & Congress, is home to some of Portland’s most darling shops. Every time we’re out and about in the Old Port we make sure to swing by our Exchange Street favorites – Folly 101, 2 Note Botanical Perfumery, Wyler’s, and nearby Blanche & Mimi.
Long before our very dear friends, Darcy & Carolyn, moved their shop, 2 Note, to this block, I had developed somewhat of a Folly-addicion, having to stop in nearly every time I was downtown. An ever-changing selection of home-goods, arranged in whimsical fashion according to color, and a thoughtfully selected baby section (for our nephew & niece in North Carolina) kept me coming back time after time. Upon finding out that 2 Note’s new home would be located just two doors down from Folly 101, Michael had to make peace with the fact that visiting the girls at 2 Note also meant popping into Folly (he didn’t put up much of a fight since I think he loves the open-light, natural feeling of the space, the minimal cottage aesthetic of the goods, and speaking with the ever-friendly ladies who work there).
As two people who are always on the hunt for unique items for our home, we’ve picked up quite a few things from Folly in the last year or two, notably a carafe for the guest room, linen place settings, pitchers, swingtop bottles, metal drinking straws, and even a couple of side and accent tables that we purchased up for a steal at the end of the season. After almost every visit we seem to return with an adorable new kitchen accessory, a new item for entertaining guests outside, or just that perfect something to fill a random nook or cranny in our house. We also never leave without a plethora of new ideas from the carefully styled layout of the shop and its goods.
One day while walking around the Old Port with friends from Boston, I happened to bump into Folly’s owner, Astrid, and manager, Emily, and after a quick conversation on the street corner, my friends thought the encounter was “just so Portland.” It’s local business people like these two and so many others, who take the time to say hello and remember your name, that lend such a small town, friendly feel to a city like Portland.
Portland, Maine 04101
In an attempt to improve upon my writing for Map & Menu, I picked up a copy of Elements of Style and quickly found out that for every blog post I write, I use approximately twenty or so exclamation points more than I should be using. In my defense, it simply shows how excited I am to write about the places we visit and the things we eat, and I have to tell you, a post about brunch at Gather, written by yours truly, really deserves no less than 30 exclamation points! Thirty overly excited sentences would almost perfectly indicate just how enthralled I was with our Sunday morning brunch experience there, but I’ll try for the sake of proper writing style, to contain myself. (For those that don’t care about said proper writing style, just replace the period at the end of each of the following sentences with the exclamation mark I originally intended to use.)
Gather, in nearby Yarmouth, has been on our local must-try list since it opened in September. Located inside a historic Masonic Hall in the darling village of Yarmouth, Gather concentrates on locally sourcing as many of their ingredients as possible – their motto is even “farm fresh eatery” and the list of local farm suppliers prominently displayed on the wall only reinforces their mission.
The moment I walked through the door, I was completely enamored with the space. How could I not be? The focal point of the great hall is a 16-foot farm table with potted green centerpieces, flanked by black Marais bistro chairs, and set underneath rustic lights. From there, the eyes are instantly drawn to the open kitchen located on a stage. A stage! The space is unlike anything we have in Portland right now, and the communal atmosphere of the open kitchen and long farm table reminded me of a few of the Pacific Northwest restaurants for which I felt the same immediate attraction – Clyde Common, Oddfellows, and Sitka & Spruce.
When I finally moved on from obsessing over the space (poor Michael), our food arrived, bringing something new on which to fixate my excitement. The food was incredible! Instead of scarfing down my root vegetable hash like I really wanted to, I made an effort to take it slowly so I could taste each vegetable used in the hash, mixing in a bite of creamy scrambled eggs here and there. Michael made his veggie benedict not-so-veggie by ordering a side of pork sausage, but judging by the way he sopped up his eggs, hollandaise, and spinach (the first of the year, none the less) with the piece of thick sourdough toast, I’d say that the sausage (which he polished off with a similar vigor) was just icing on the cake.
Throughout our meal, we couldn’t help talking about how amazing a place like Gather would be in our own neighborhood and how clearly envious we were that Yarmouth gets to play home to this tasty gem. I’m already looking forward to our next meal at Gather, and all of the exclamation marks I’ll be able to use on the subsequent review!
Yarmouth, Maine 04096