Portland (Maine) Eats: Lobster Rolls, Farm to Table and Duckfat

Alli and I spent last week driving around New England and eating as much food as we possibly could. Our first stop was Portland (Maine), a city and state that neither of us have ever visited. Before we left, we reached out to local bloggers The Blueberry Files, Portland Food Map and Chubby Werewolf for some guidance and got a nice long list of recommendations. For a city that only has a population of ~60K (200K in the greater area), they have an an incredible selection of restaurants. Most of which pride themselves on sourcing from local vendors, something that we absolutely love. We spent three days in Portland and this is where we ate…

Central Provisions. After being named in Eater’s 50 Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings of 2014, we were sold. Then we looked up their menu online and put the restaurant at the top of our list. We arrived to the restaurant at 11:15 am to ensure we got a seat for lunch. Their kitchen is completely open and we decided to sit at the bar to get a close view. After reading an article about Chef Gould’s infamous carrots, we ordered them and were not let down. The creamy burrata, greasy but delicious lobster toast and amazing bread and butter dish (pictured above) were all perfect. We actually contemplated going back for dinner.

Lobster Shack. When you travel to Maine, you need to eat some form of lobster. It’s basically an unwritten law. The Lobster Shack is probably Maine’s most well known lobster roll destination; they’ve had all the standard Food Network shows stop by over the years. We visited the restaurant and decided to split a lobster roll, while skipping over the rest of their seafood based menu. The roll was just OK, smaller then we were expecting and had a dollop of mayo on top that was hard to mix in with the lobster meat. Plus, it was PACKED with tourists. The location is fabulous and it’s pretty much a must visit for any out-of-towner but luckily, we found a much better roll at a food truck later…

Tomato Tart from Fore Street Fore Street. When we told our fellow foodie friends that we were going to Portland, every one of them told us to go to Fore Street. It’s pretty obvious that everyone else got the same advice. We arrived to this award winning, farm to table dinner about 15 minutes before they opened and there was a line out the door, on a Tuesday. They were all hoping to get a first crack at the ‘walk-in’ tables (when we looked at reservations on Opentable the next opening was August 10th, but they do take a few walk-ins each day). Their dining room is unique and gorgeous; a large open kitchen allows diners to see plating stations, their wood fire oven and grilling stations. The restaurant is one of the pricier destinations in Portland and we couldn’t splurge as much as we wanted, but the dishes we tried were fantastic. Particularly the two appetizers we ordered, the famous tomato tart (pictured above) and the corn soup, were some of the best single dishes we’ve ever had.

Standard Baking Company. Located right below and operated by Fore Street, this bakery was recommended by none other then the very talented Luci Levere. We walked into the bakery on a Wednesday morning to a pile of pastries and an intoxicating smell coming from the ovens. We took our baked goods to a park down the coast and enjoyed an intensely chocolatey brownie and one of the best morning buns that I’ve ever had. This is a great spot for a quick and cheap breakfast.

Fries from DuckfatDuckfat. If there was one reason why we decided to visit Portland, it was probably to eat at Duckfat. Their James Beard award winning chef/owner Rob Evans specializes in Belgian fries that are fried in, you guessed it, duck fat. They have an awesome milkshake, some nice panini’s and soup, but everyone is there for one reason…their insanely delicious french fries. We visited the restaurant twice because it was so good. They were the best french fries we’ve ever had and that’s saying a lot. They were perfectly cooked and seasoned, cut to just the right size and the duck fat added a very rich flavor to the Maine potatoes. They also offer a poutine option with duck gravy and a farm egg on top if you want to really live it up (you do).

The Holy Donut. We only stopped into their downtown location briefly but they offer a wide variety of potato donuts that are coated with creative toppings. I bit into a pomegranate dipped donut and was shocked by the texture and flavor, it was fluffy like a yeast donut but somehow tasted like a pretzel. In retrospect I wish I had ordered more before we left but this is another must for breakfast, dessert or mid day snack.

The Hand Slab from SlabSlab Sicilian Street Food. We basically stumbled across Slab by accident. We found a building titled The Portland Public Market and assumed it was a large open air market with food vendors. Unfortunately that’s not the case, but what we found was just as good. A couple friends of ours recommended Slab as a dining destination and while we initially didn’t have any plans to try their pizza, I’m so glad we grabbed a slice. For $12 we ordered a 1 pound slice of cheese pizza and ‘shoes and gravy’ which included large slices of house-made garlic bread with some slices of Parmesan and red sauce. The crust was unreal; light, fluffy and slightly crispy around the edges. The sauce was sweet but the cheese had enough of a kick to offset the sauce. The location is large with awesome outdoor seating and they have a pretty good beer selection. Great cheap eats.

Hella Good Tacos. This taco stand at the farmers market was recommended by a couple local bloggers, so we had to check it out. They serve authentic tacos on double layered corn tortillas topped with onions and cilantro. The tortillas could have been crisped a little bit more but their carne asada and carnitas tacos were really tasty. I still prefer Lloyd’s, though.

Lobster Roll from Bite Into MaineBite Into Maine. This was the best lobster roll that we had on the trip, hands down. It was so good that not only did we not bother trying to find a better roll anywhere else, but we went back twice. Alli discovered her love of lobster rolls solely due to this food truck that’s parked at Fort Williams Park. On both occasions we ordered their ‘Maine Classic’ that was lightly tossed in mayo, topped with chives, served in a perfectly buttered and toasted New England roll. If you visit Portland, go take a look at the Lobster Shack but then head to the park and grab a lobster roll from Bite Into Maine in a gorgeous setting.

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Fore Street on UrbanspoonDuck Fat on UrbanspoonStandard Baking Co on UrbanspoonCentral Provisions on UrbanspoonThe Holy Donut on UrbanspoonLobster Shack on UrbanspoonBite Into Maine Food Truck on UrbanspoonHella Good Tacos on UrbanspoonSlab Sicilian Street Food on Urbanspoon

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