Ed note: Portland, Maine, is a real food lover’s delight. Here, RFT’s newest contributor, Noella Schink, gives you a rundown on some of her favorite spots to eat in this East Coast gem.
The Farmer’s Table—Commercial Street
This waterfront spot has the best summer patio in the city, hands down. Overlooking the bustle of Commercial Street, both upstairs and downstairs decks give you a postcard-worthy view.
In colder months, you will enjoy their polished wooden tables and cozy ambiance. The food is locally-sourced whenever possible and the passionate dedication to detail and full flavor comes through in all of the rustic, Mediterranean-style dishes. With an ever-changing menu utilizing freshly hand-butchered meats, pungent cheeses, homemade pasta and scratch-made sauces, you’ll feel right at home.Some of my favorites are the summer squash gnocchi (with house smoked pancetta, apples and local parmesan cheese) and thick, grilled pork chop (with apple ginger chutney and polenta fries). farmerstablemaine.com/
Hot Suppa!—Congress Street
This west end hole-in-the-wall first gained notoriety in Portland for its off beat name and mouthwatering Cubano sandwich. Now open for breakfast lunch and (finally) “suppa”, this kitchen’s comfort food will charm you. The funky local art and young staff will make you feel artsy and cool, but once the food arrives, you won’t care what’s on the walls.
The menu is small, allowing the kitchen to focus on quality and I think this is also the reason they almost never get overwhelmed, even when the line is out the door. The creamy mac and cheese (with grilled kielbasa), Double Double burger (with two patties, cheese, caramelized onions and homemade garlic pickles) and fois gras poutine (now I’m drooling), are always on point. I could go on and on about every item on this menu, from the breakfast burrito to the falafel salad, but really you should try for yourself. www.hotsuppa.com/
Artemisia Café—Pleasant Street
This brunch joint is tucked away up on Pleasant Street where few Portlanders would roam if it was not for Artemisia’s fresh fare. A laid back, cozy vibe makes dishes like the turkey sandwich (served perfectly with cranberry mayo and stuffing, on homemade bread) even more enticing. It’s like having a mom make you lunch and you’re dining in her houseplant strewn living room.
Their coffee bar serves up such refreshing concoctions like chai, Maracuja orange tea, and fine espresso. With both vegetarian and carnivorous dishes offered with equal passion, this café scores just as big with the flavor-packed Portobello sandwich as it does with the juicy steak-topped salad.
Remember to bring your cash; their system is old school and they do not accept cards. artemisiacafe.com/
Portland’s East End finally gets some recognition! This Salvatoran haunt packs enough flavor for all of Munjoy Hill. Their specialty is traditional pupusas (thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and grilled), but their authentic menu ranges from fried plantains, tamales, tacos, and enchiladas. As if huge portions and strikingly low prices weren’t enough to lure you back, the flavors in their simmered meats, fresh veggies and homemade sauces are exceptional. You will not find casual Latin food in Portland that’s better! Even their simple rice and beans are cooked to perfection, flavorful and legendary. I suppose it helps that the owners really are from El Salvador, but even so, they have a very special restaurant. You can expect outstanding food, but no frills here; it operates like a takeaway counter. tucasaportland.com/
If you are in the mood for modern, upscale atmosphere, classically made cocktails and serious Spanis- influenced flavor, Figa is the new spot for you! The presentation of every course is both thoughtful and artful, from the dainty duck rilettes to their creative beet carpaccio (served with a melt in your mouth dollop of goat cheese).
The black bean quinoa cake with tomatillo salsa verde will have vegetarians on their knees and the hangar steak mohlo rita (with yucca, sweet potato, poblano and brussels sprout hash—trust me!) will send your taste buds into fits of rapture. As with most quality establishments in Portland, the ingredients are carefully sourced from nearby and practically everything except the linen napkins is prepared from scratch. An extra small dining room means you have to get here early, they are way too busy to accommodate reservations! figarestaurant.com/
by Noella Schink, RFT Contributor