Meredith and I often get asked by visiting Map & Menu readers, family, and friends what to eat in Portland, so inspired by the recurring ’10 Plates’ feature in Food & Wine and a delightful dinner in Kittery with a fellow food-crazed friend, we found ourselves talking about a few of our favorite dishes from around town. Sort of an “if I could have a single item off of 10 different Portland menus, what would they be?” Not surprisingly, it was pretty difficult to limit ourselves to only ten of our top menu staples, but we were somewhat aided by the fact that a number of our favorite restaurants have ever-changing menus, and we wanted people to be able to order any of these items at any time while in Portland. So without further adieu, here are 10 of our favorite bites to eat in Portland:
Fore Street Mussels
Don’t get us wrong, just about everything we’ve ever tried at Fore Street has been perfect, but for the two of us, no meal there is complete without starting with the mussels. In typical Fore Street fashion, the dish is beautifully simple (essentially garlic, butter, and mussels), but give me a loaf of Standard Bakery’s bread, and I’ll return a completely clean dish – devoid of buttery broth and all.
Otto Pizza Masher
Mashed potato, bacon, and scallion on a pizza. There’s a reason this piece of heaven is one of the few standard slice offerings whenever you visit Otto. If you’ve never tried it and you manage to walk past Otto without grabbing a slice, I commend your will power.
Blue Spoon BLT
We needed a picture of this Blue Spoon lunch time favorite to round out the post, but knew that we wouldn’t have time for a lunch in town, so I did what any reasonable bacon lover would and ordered it for breakfast. Two thick slices of sourdough are home to a plentiful amount of applewood smoked bacon, tomato, lettuce, and rosemary mayo. Pair it with a Peeper and the whole grain mustard potato salad, and you’re in for a treat.
Eventide Brown Butter Lobster Roll
We just covered Eventide’s lobster roll on our Maine Lobster Roll roundup a couple of weeks ago, but once you take a bite of the warm, savory lobster meat, there will be little doubt as to why it’s deserving of the repeat mention.
Blue Rooster Fried Brussels Sprouts
Blue Rooster knows how to do it right. I’ve never heard Meredith get excited about hot dogs lunches, but when they’re dressed like the Colombiano and served with a side of the fantastic fried Brussels sprouts with sweet chili sauce, sesame, and queso fresco, who can blame her for her excitement?
Petite Jacqueline Cheese Plate
This one is a little more loosely defined than the rest, since it’s not a particular combination of cheeses that has repeatedly won us over, but rather the fact that every time we try a few cheeses off of Petite’s menu, we immediately make sure to write the name down for future reference.
Duckfat Fries with Thai Chili Mayo
If you’ve ever experienced the fries at Duckfat, you know why this item is on our menu; but it’s time to stop playing it safe with your truffle ketchup, and dip those bad boys in the thai chili mayo – you can thank me later.
Pai Men Miyake Pai Tan Ramen
To me, this is Portland comfort food at its finest. In a city where at least 3/4 of the year can be aptly described as “chilly to frigid,” a warm, flavorful bowl of Pai Men Miyake’s pai tan ramen can warm even the coldest of Southern transplants. Did I mention the pork belly part of this equation? Winning.
El Rayo Fish Taco
Some people prefer fried fish in their fish tacos, but once you’ve tried El Rayo’s version – grilled achiote seasoned fish fillet, sliced avocado, crunchy veggie slaw, and that house chipotle mayo – I think it would sway even the most loyal of fried fish followers.
Boda Beef Panaeng
It’s hard to describe just how spot-on this meal at Boda is. Right to a fault since being the first dish I ever ordered at Boda, I’ve never seen reason to try any other part of the menu. I’ll let the menu do the talking – “braised organic Wolfe’s Neck Farm beef in a flavorful panaeng curry (salty and sweet with aromas of Thai basil and lime leaves) with coconut cream, served with jasmine rice.” It doesn’t hurt that this is quite possibly the most delicious gluten-free meal I’ve ever had in my life.
Well, it’s impossible to say that this list covers all of Portland’s best dishes, but I think it’s a pretty fair sampling. We’d love to know, what dishes would you add to the list?
18 thoughts on “Portland, Maine in 10 Bites”
I’m sure these are all grand, but if it’s a list of favorites, I’ll have to suggest my top 3. Spicy Scallop roll at Fuji, Tuna Bolognese at Street and Co. and – the best for last – Corned Beef Hash at Bintliff’s.
Thanks for the awesome recommendations. We’re dying to try the Corned Beef Hash at Bintliff’s.
I’d add the bacon-dusted fries at Nosh, the salad at Local Sprouts with the added blackened fish on top, the fish and chips at Silly’s, the donuts at Holy Donut!
Although they didn’t make the list, we love the bacon dusted fries at Nosh, and are big fans of the Holy Donut. So many great choices in town!
Love your blog – another great post! El Rayo is one of my personal favorites, in Portland.
Curious, what camera/lens do you typically use for your food photography? Again, very well done. Cheers!
Thanks for your kind words – we’re big El Rayo fans too! We usually shoot with our Canon cameras (a 5DMKII or a 1V) with the 35mm 1.4 or the 50mm 1.2!
Good recos. I’ve had the same experience at Boda. Started with the Beef Panaeng, can’t bring myself to order anything else.
What a good problem to have, right? Spoken from personal experience, you can always offset the panaeng with the kanom-krok quail eggs, pork satay, or brussels sprouts to start :)
Pai Men’s hamaiyake is by far the best dish in Portland and the best I have ever had in my life!
Yum! We’ll have to try it the next time we’re there.
the truffled lobster mac and cheese at 555 could be the best thing I’ve ever eaten.
Yes, five fifty-five’s lobster mac and cheese is one of the first great meals we had after moving to Portland – definitely up there as one of Portland’s best.
The choices above (that I’ve had) are certainly delicious, but the venison at Cinque Terre might be the best entree I’ve ever eaten.
The venison at Cinque Terre sounds like a winner, but I don’t know if it’s a regular item on the menu, so I’ll have to time our next trip just right.
You’ve got to try the potato pancakes at Schulte & Herr.
We love the potato pancakes at Schulte & Herr! Sadly, they didn’t make our top 10, but they’re definitely one of the better bites in town not on this list.