Flood's opened last weekend on Congress Street in Portland's West End, filling the space of Bolster, Snow & Co. in The Francis hotel. The new restaurant is the latest project from Palace Diner co-owner Greg Mitchell and has a sort of simple, Old World-meets-New York charm.
If you made it into Bolster in the short time it was open, you'll notice some changes to the interior. The restaurant is no longer associated with the hotel, so there's a new entrance, a bar where the open kitchen was, and a dedicated bathroom (previously was shared with the hotel). Flood's is decorated simply, with dark wood, maroon booths, brass lamps, and frosted glass.
The drink list is extensive, with several specialty cocktails, wines, draft and canned beers, and a wide selection of spirits. I ordered the New York Sour ($13), with bourbon, lemon, simple syrup, and a red wine float, while my friends had a diminutive martini ($10) served in the sweetest little Nick and Nora glass and a Paloma ($14).
The short menu contains 4 snacks, 5 small plates, 3 entrees, and 4 sides. We ordered half of them to share.
The first few dishes arrived in rapid fire, the sardines ($10) served with mayonnaise, mustard, and seasoned thin crackers. I wish there'd been a little pickled red onion on the side to cut through the richness.
The Welsh rarebit (aka cheese toast, $9) came on a thick slab of a dark, hearty bread, while the oysters "escargot" ($13) were pleasantly warmed with butter, garlic, and a jalapeno powder.
The Caesar salad ($12) was amazing—crunchy Romaine lettuce leaves showed with grated Parmesan, rustic, garlicky croutons, and an anchovy-heavy dressing.
Our mains were the chicken schnitzel ($22) and the cheeseburger ($18), plus sides of creamed spinach ($8) and charred broccolini ($7). The schnitzel was crispy and moist inside, livened up with some hot sauce, salt, and lemon. The creamed spinach was my personal favorite, as it has been since childhood.
And the burger was amazing. Palace Diner makes one of the best in the state, so my hopes were high. It was juicy, beefy, creamy with cheese, and on a light, bready dinner roll. So good. The fries could be crispier, a kink I'm sure the kitchen will work out in coming days.
Very full by this point, we pressed on to try one of two dessert, chocolate pudding ($5), the other being a rhubarb ice cream. The pudding was amazing, classic and slightly salty from the accompanying chocolate cookies.
Dinner at Flood's was fun—the place didn't seem to take itself too seriously, but the food was simple and solid. The old and hipster alike will love Flood's.
Flood's | 747 Congress St, Portland | (207) 613-9031 | open Wed. to Sun. 4-10PM
Grilling season has finally arrived in Maine, and as you reach for your animal protein of choice this summer, I ask you to consider its origins. I know, I know, as a culture, we've gone out of our way to divorce the tasty final product from its squeamish, heartrending origins. But uncomfortable as it may be, I'd argue meat eaters are morally bound to make the best choices they can for themselves, the animals we raise for meat, and the environment.
It's always been important to me to eat ethically and locally-raised meat, but often in an abstract way, one that waned in the face of the steep price tag on local meats. But the issue was driven home for me last year when I researched grass-fed beef for a food policy grad school class. I learned about the growing demand for grass-fed beef as people become more aware of the negative environmental and health impacts of large-scale animal agriculture and the popularity of meat-forward diets like keto and Whole30 (read my experience on the Whole30 diet).
From growing antibiotic resistance to increasing greenhouse gas, not to mention the ethical pitfalls of raising animals on such a large scale, the issues concerning industrial livestock production are numerous. Hence the growing interest in beef that has been raised in a way that is good to the animals, the environment, and for the people that will eventually eat it.
As I wrote my paper, I learned how important it is to support these small farmers that raise cows in small herds and feed them only grass or hay. This type of animal husbandry is the antidote to large industrial agriculture, but the downside is that it's more expensive. In supporting these farmers, you can ensure they stay in business and have a market for their products. The larger the market, the more producers, and the more producers, the lower the price for customers (that's the theory at least).
After researching the issue, I thought I should make good on my new knowledge by buying some grass-fed directly from a Maine farmer. And many of them make it easy to do so, with products available through mail-order and delivery to Portland.
I began by getting on Cold Spring Ranch's mailing list. Farmer Gabe Clark of Cold Spring Ranch in New Portland (about 2 hours north of Portland in Somerset County) sells boxes of his frozen grass-fed beef and delivers orders to Portland about once a month. A box contains 25 pounds of steaks, roasts, and ground beef and costs $175. This averages out to $7 a pound for grass-fed filet mignons, porterhouse steaks, and ground beef, which is an incredible deal.
After I'd gone through almost two boxes of Cold Spring Ranch beef, farmer Dan Kaplan of Heartstone Farm in Charleston, Maine (just over two hours north east of Portland in Penobscot County) emailed to ask if I wanted to try his grass-fed beef. So many thanks for Farmer Dan for sending a generously packed box of ground beef, rib eye, porterhouse, and filet mignon steaks.
Now that it's finally warmer weather, we've been enjoying these tender, flavorful steaks and burgers on the grill. Before it warmed up, I made bolognese and a short rib ragu that was amazing over some store-bought gnocchi. Farmer Dan's online store makes it easy to buy, with discounts for ordering in bulk, free shipping for larger orders, and even a cow share (a quarter, half or whole side of beef) if you're really looking to fill the freezer.
I absolutely love eating beef, and knowing that it's raised humanely and supports Maine farmers makes it taste all the better. Whether you prefer to buy in bulk from a farm like Cold Spring Ranch or customize your order with Heartstone Farm's online store, buying grass-fed beef direct from farmers has never been easier.
It's been a few years since my last survey of the food truck fleet in and around Portland, Maine, and as you'd expect from these mobile eateries, a lot has changed since then. Here's an update of who's slinging food from a truck/cart this summer and where you can expect to find them.
Businesses are listed in alphabetical order, and bonus details about special food truck events this summer are featured at the bottom of the post.
Bite Into Maine - The OG food cart returns for its 8th season in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, serving several styles of lobster rolls. Since the cart's start, BIM's locations have expanded to a year-round commissary in Scarborough and an Airstream trailer at Allagash Brewing that opened in April. The Fort Williams cart opens May 4th. Come high season, the cart and trailer will be open daily, but check the website to confirm.
Cannoli Joe's - This dessert truck is out serving several different flavors of cannolis like White Chocolate Raspberry, Sicilian, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel, and even Piña Colada. Find them parked on the Eastern Prom and Commercial Street at the bottom of India Street from 11am-4pm.
Eighty 8 Donuts - Winters takes this mini donut business (formerly Urban Sugar Donuts) to its Sugarloaf brick and mortar shop. Come summer, Rosie the donut truck is back in action in Portland. The truck's season kicks off at Street Eats and Beats June 1st. Find these tiny delights this summer at Thompson's Point, the Eastern Prom, and special events.
Falafel Mafia - This vegan Mediterranean food truck serves up pitas and bowls of their falafel topped with tahini and pickled and fresh vegetables. Find them on the Western Prom, at Spring and Temple Street, at various breweries, and in the Back Cove Hannaford parking lot, as well as Thompson's Point concerts and other special events.
Fishin' Ships - This nautical, pun-riddled fried seafood truck kicks off its season at Street Eats & Beats June 1st, launching into a busy season. They be at Rising Tide and the Industrial Way breweries and special events throughout the summer.
Photo courtesy of Farm to Coast Mobile Kitchen
Farm to Coast Mobile Kitchen - Known for its steamed buns and banh mis, this truck spawned a café in Biddeford after its owner needed prep space for the truck. Now the truck and a cart dubbed Steam Machine can be found at breweries and special events throughout the summer. The Steam Machine, serving steamed buns, can be found at Austin Street's Fox Street location every Sunday.
Grillin' Brazilian - This Brazilian themed Airstream trailer managed to serve food through the winter by posting up at Definitive Brewing regularly. Now it's traveling to other breweries (Industrial Way and East Bayside) and has a regular spot on Thursdays at Austin Street's Fox Street location with a new food cart.
Kuno - Serving Peranakan cuisine, a mix of Chinese and Malaysian, food, owner Nick Lee runs the former Thainy Boda truck. Lee is a former cook at Thainy Boda and bought the truck from Boda's owners when they decided to sell. Launching in February (brave), Kuno has been serving at breweries (Goodfire, Bunker) and on the Western Prom near Maine Med.
Mainely Burgers - This truck has "graduated" (heh, get it, because it was started by college students) into two brick and mortar restaurants in Boston and Cambridge. But the food truck carries on at its regular spot at Scarborough Beach State Park as well as special events throughout the summer. Look for its sister truck Mainely Treats too.
Mami - This truck grew into a successful brick and mortar restaurant on Fore Street, so the truck is out less these days. But it's still available for catering and special events, so you may still catch it. It will be at the May 5th Gastro-Go-Go at Rising Tide (see bottom of post for more information on special food truck events).
Photo courtesy of Momma Baldacci's
Momma Baldacci's - The CN Shawarma/Baharat truck has been resurrected, this time as a mobile version of a longtime Bangor Italian eatery that closed in 2006. The son of the original restaurateurs launched the food truck in late 2018. You'll find Momma Baldacci's serving pastas, strombolis, subs, and cannolis at Definitive Brewing every Wednesday this summer.
Muthah Truckah - Find grilled sandwiches from the Muthah Truckahs at various breweries in East Bayside and on Industrial Way. The truck also posts up at businesses during the weekday for lunch, so check social media for the latest schedule.
Noble Barbecue - Noble Barbecue is known for its over-the-top barbecue meats and sandwiches (particularly their "Scrappy Fries"). With a successful brick and mortar on Forest Ave., the "Mobile Noble" can be found at... you guessed it, breweries and special events! I've run into the truck at Lone Pine Gorham's already this season.
Nom Bai Street Kitchen - Serving Vietnamese and Cambodian street food, this truck has been at Thompson's Point concerts and Congdon's After Dark in past seasons. Scant details are available for this year's kickoff, but they are scheduled to be at Rising Tide Brewing a few times this summer.
Tacos del Seoul - This taco trailer serves a fusion of Korean and Mexican food with tacos, burritos, and bowls. Its season will kick off May 5th at the Gastro-Go-Go Cinco de Mayo party at Rising Tide. Find them at breweries (Allagash, Rising Tide, Lone Pine), Thompson's Point, and special events throughout the summer.
The Greeks of Peaks - Serving Greek food "just like Yiayia used to make," this food truck can be found at the East Bayside and Industrial Street breweries and special events. You'll find all the Greek hits: gyros, souvlaki, spanakopita, Greek salad, and fried halloumi cheese served here.
The SaltBox Cafe - This food truck is actually a small shingled shed on a trailer that serves breakfast and lunch on the Eastern Prom. Find them beginning May 4th at 8:30am on the Prom, and occasionally at Rising Tide and the Industrial Way breweries.
Totally Awesome Vegan Food Truck - Serving up "gourmet vegan junk food from his synthwave themed mobile kitchen" (which is just a hilarious description), Chef Tony and his rad truck can be found on Spring Street and in the parking lot of Tony's Donuts on outer Congress St.
Other mobile food eateries you may encounter at Portland breweries:
To sample several food trucks at once, consider these events:
Street Eats & Beats This annual food truck festival will have over 25 mobile eateries from Portland and beyond at Thompson's Point on June 1st. Tickets are $12 and drinks from Tito's Vodka and beer from Gritty's will be available. There will be live music and outdoor games. Must be 21+.
Fork Food Lab First Friday Pop-Up Markets Fork Food Lab, the Bayside communal kitchen/business incubator, is holding monthly pop-up markets for its members at Rising Tide Brewing. Several food trucks rent space at Fork for prep, so you'll potentially find The Greeks of Peaks, Totally Awesome Vegan Food Truck, and Falafel Mafia, as well as a number of food carts and caterers.
Gastro-Go-Go This gathering of food trucks happens regularly throughout the summer. The first event kicks off on Cinco de Mayo from 12-5pm at Rising Tide Brewing with at least 7 food trucks and carts, live music, games, and of course, beer from the brewery.
Congdon's After Dark Congdon's is a breakfast and lunch spot in Wells (with delicious donuts), and last year its owners had the genius idea to host these "after dark" nights with food trucks and beer. Billing itself as "New England's only food truck park," Congdon's After Dark has over 10 trucks nightly on summer weekends (Thurs-Sun). Check the schedule—there's a great variety of trucks and even brings the return of Hoss & Mary's, a longtime OOB fave.
I vacationed in Nashville two weeks ago—over St. Paddy's Day and (unbeknownst to us) the start of the SEC tournament. The timing sounded like a good idea at the time, but in retrospect may have been a few thousand people too many. Although, in "Nashvegas," there may never be a time where you can avoid the mobs of people wandering on Broadway, whether they're draped in "Bride Squad" t-shirts or University of Kentucky jerseys.
During our trip, we learned that for the past several years, over 100 people a day moved to Music City, making it the seventh fastest growing city in the U.S. After a weekend there, we may not be ready to move just yet, but with the early spring, great restaurants and bars, and the music scene, it was a pleasant place to spend a mid-March weekend.
We arrived early Friday to get in a full day and headed right for Pinewood Social, the sweetest bowling alley/coffee shop/bar/restaurant that provided the right amount of hospitality to be a relief after traveling so early in the morning. (Do enough people come right from the airport to the bowling alley that they have a process for holding your luggage? Perhaps yes?)
We had reserved a lane, and after we checked in, we were escorted through the restaurant to a 6-lane alley, flooded with natural light. An hour and a half of bowling with lattes, brunch cocktails, avocado toast, and chicken and biscuits and we had officially transitioned into vacation mode.
We stayed in an Airbnb in East Nashville, about a 10 minute ride from downtown, in a sweet bungalow that made us want to cancel all our plans and sit on the porch drinking wine in the delicious spring weather.
After a nap, we ventured back out for night one in Nashville. On the agenda, a show at the historic Ryman Auditorium, best known for hosting the Grand Ole Opry from 1942 to 1974. Little Feat was playing that night, a stop on their 50th anniversary tour.
We didn't have dinner plans for that night, which was not a great plan in a crowded city on a Friday night when you're on a time crunch. But fortunately, the second restaurant we went into could seat us—Adele's, the southern outpost of New York chef Jonathan Waxman. We enjoyed a great dinner of cauliflower and kale salads, local fish, and the chef's signature roast chicken before heading to the theater to dance the night away.
The next day, after a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry, we turned to the next item on our to-do list: Nashville hot chicken. Admittedly, my only experience with the regional food was seeing it served at Big J's Chicken Shack with a pair of gloves to protect your hands, so I was a little afraid of the stuff.
Fortunately, the place in our neighborhood, Pepperfire Hot Chicken, offered different levels of spice. I boldly chose medium, which was a slow-building spice but nothing unmanageable. Some fried okra and mac and cheese rounded out the meal of Southern staples.
Saturday afternoon, we headed back to our favorite intersection in East Nashville. With a brewery, a hipster restaurant that looked like a mash-up of Tandem Coffee and Drifters Wife, and a record shop/craft beer bar, we felt like we could spend the whole weekend between here and the aforementioned porch and be very happy indeed.
The brewery, Southern Grist Brewing Co. just happened to be releasing two collaboration brews with Mast Landing Brewing Company the day we visited (of course, since Maine is everywhere!). The 14 or so styles on tap that day ranged from New England IPAs to an imperial raspberry sour with marshmallows. We had such a good time, relaxing in the sunny tasting room, enjoying the first delicious local beer we'd found on the trip.
Side note: did we fly a quarter of the way across the country to do the same thing we'd do at home? Why yes, yes, we did. I offer no excuse.
For dinner on Saturday night, we went to The Green Pheasant, a new Japanese restaurant downtown. While we waited for our table, we sipped on our cocktails and admired the gilded interior. Our meal was a flurry of delightful courses, from a ginger-carrot dressed wedge salad and a sashimi bowl to the rich, handmade noodles tossed with a spicy crab butter. A "fair food" dessert of a tempura-fried chocolate cake capped off the most decadent meal.
But of course we weren't done... I had to try the Pearl Diver. This tiki bar back in East Nashville has the most incredible 60s California motel/grandma's living room vibe going on. It was truly like I'd died and gone to hipster heaven. There were adorable men in romp-hims (that's rompers for men), too-cool-for-school bartenders, and delicious, slushy rum drinks.
We got our nightcaps and headed away from the crowded, dark bar to the lobby-like entrance, where we could watch the night's dramas unfold from a safe distance.
The next day was St. Patrick's Day! We started with a hearty brunch at Marche Artisan Foods (and one of the many fabulous biscuits of the trip) and decided to spend the day away from the craziness of the downtown.
We checked out the Nashville Zoo, enjoyed a pubby lunch (and whiskey!) at Whiskey Kitchen and then headed home to regroup for our final Nashville activity: a night at The Bluebird Cafe.
Are you so impressed that I've made it this far without mentioning "Nashville," the TV show?? I must confess I do not have a lifelong love of country music, but rather a healthy obsession with Connie Britton and the ABC drama/soap opera "Nashville."
As so many scenes take place in the Bluebird Cafe, I was excited to see a show at this iconic club (and definitely had the thought in the only women's bathroom in the club—Connie Britton definitely sat on this toilet too!!).
Turns out... the popularity of that TV show has transformed The Bluebird from local jam spot into a tourist attraction. When the lead singer asked how many of us were from out of town, every single person in the club raised their hand. So it's hardly a locals' spot anymore, but remains a great place to chance upon a national act or songwriter behind the hits in an intimate space.
After our busy weekend, we made the executive decision to cancel our dinner reservations, order a pizza, and go back to the rental to start the new season of Queer Eye. A little R&R was needed after being on the go all weekend!
So how'd we do?? For three full days in Nashville, we sure saw and ate a lot. The spring weather was hard to leave, but we're always happy to come back to Maine!
This article was originally published in Lark Hotels' magazine in May 2018.
Today’s diners looking for a restaurant recommendation in a new city often want—and even expect—a novel experience, a quirky environment, or something that makes them feel clued in to the next big thing—and sometimes all three at once. Many of Lark’s destinations deliver just that.
Things that pop-up in the night
Salem, Massachusetts, is known for its pop-ups and their offshoots. On the savory side, for example, we just can’t resist the open secret that is Back Alley Bacon with its pork-centric street food (look on Facebook for its Wednesday night menu).
Feel the need for sweets instead? On weekend nights, get directions to Goodnight Fatty and snack on what some consider the best type of cookies around—ones with crispy edges and gooey centers fresh from the oven—aka “fatties.” Owners Erik and Jennifer Sayce say the idea for their business was born out of their own craving for warm cookies on their walk home from dinner one night. Flavors change each week and range from fruity to decadent, with the signature flavor Midnight Fatty, a chocolate cookie with chocolate chips, pecans, and toffee bits, always a bestseller. And naturally, a bottomless glass of milk is available. Goodnight Fatty began popping up in coffee shops and breweries in 2016, while Erik and Jennifer got a feel for consumer demand and searched for retail space. In 2017, they found their own space. The unexpected and somewhat hard-to-find location—an unassuming conference room rented from a media company in a building down an alley behind Rockafellas and Ledge restaurants— maintains the in-the-know pop-up vibe.
Customers love pop-ups partly because of that feeling of being in on a secret, according to Jennifer. “They also know that they are supporting a fledgling business and getting a unique experience,” she adds.
Another popular pop-up, Rover Bagel outgrew borrowed spaces in Salem as well and found a permanent home in Biddeford, Maine. The bakery is known for its crackly Montreal-style bagels, which are baked in wood-fired ovens. Before moving, the owners had used Bambolina’s ovens in the mornings when the restaurant wasn’t open.
What will the next pop-up sensation be? Check in at Notch Brewery, the Far From The Tree Cider tasting room, and Deacon Giles Distillery, which often host new pop-ups, and you might be one of the first to discover it.
You might think it’s hard to execute food from all over the world well, but Street does just that. This casual eatery’s menu of global street fare reflects influences ranging from Thai and Korean, to Italian and Mexican, served up as what Chef Joshua Lanahan describes as “simple food of the people.” To find this hidden gem, don’t worry when your GPS guides you to the back of a nondescript strip mall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Inside, owners Joshua and his wife, Michelle Lozuaway, who handles the front of the house, have transformed the space into a cozy bar and restaurant with spray-painted graffiti and colorful murals.
With crispy, sticky sweet Korean fried chicken, lacquered Thai ribs, spicy pork dumplings, and a cast-iron skillet of crispy rice bibimbap, Street nails these popular Asian street food dishes. Empanadas, tacos, and yucca fries represent the Southern hemisphere, with the cemita—an overstuffed Mexican sandwich with a slab of fried cheese and your choice of a fried chicken thigh or a veggie burger—frequently stealing the show.
On the inventive cocktails menu, the Unbeetable is a customer favorite: beet infused vodka with muddled cucumber and mint, chili simple syrup, and lemon, topped with ginger beer. In short, the perfect combination of earthy and spicy.
And don’t skip dessert—the Italian zeppole are expertly fried, dusted with powdered sugar, and served in a brown paper bag.
Metzy’s Taqueria—the first food truck in Newburyport, Massachusetts—was an instant hit when the truck parked near the beach on Plum Island in 2014. (The route is expanding to include the nearby beaches of Salisbury and Amesbury.) Owner Erik Metzdorf quickly realized he needed to expand his commissary kitchen space to handle the demand for Chef Brad DeLibero’s take on Mexican street food.
Metzdorf found space at the town’s train station and launched Metzy’s Cantina, which allowed for year-round dining. This is not some quaint historical train station turned hipster hangout—this is an active, commuter rail station. Metzdorf has worked hard to transform the industrial space into a bright and warm cantina. “We took a blighted piece of public property and turned it into something the community can be proud of,” says Metzdorf. “We created an engaging gateway to the city.”
The cantina’s ample kitchen space allows the restaurant to augment tacos and burritos with soups, salads, and daily specials. Start with sweet potato and black bean hush puppies served with chipotle sour cream or the slow-cooked pork belly ribs finished with maple bourbon sauce and served with sweet potato fries. Wash down a pork belly taco, lined with shredded cabbage and piled high with crispy cubes of fried meat and a mango habanero salsa, with Melt Away Session IPA from Newburyport Brewing Co.
• Metzy’s Cantina: 4067, 5 Boston Way, Newburyport, MA; metzys.com
This will float your boat
Everyone who visits Kennebunk, Maine, expects two things: lobster and a good view of the ocean. While many restaurants serve up both, one in particular takes waterfront dining to the next level—The Spirit of Massachusetts Restaurant, a historical schooner turned floating restaurant. Once an educational nonprofit’s training vessel, The Spirit of Massachusetts languished in Portland, Maine for a few years until it was discovered by Dwight Raymond, the owner of The Pilot House, a local favorite in Kennebunk’s Lower Village. Dwight acquired the dilapidated schooner and worked with his son, Nick, to retro t it into a restaurant, which took about a year and a half. Docked behind The Pilot House and next to First Chance Whale Watch, The Spirit opened in the summer of 2016. Its tall masts rise above all others, a beacon for thirsty sailors and hungry travelers alike.
You enter the restaurant via the metal gangway, sometimes a steep descent when the tide is low. The boat’s masts, booms, and rigging are all still in place but now support a tent that provides shade. Sloped to follow the curve of the boat’s deck, a polished wood bar runs the length of the deck. Descend a wooden staircase to the main cabin, which serves as the dining room. Choose from cushioned banquette or wooden bench seating around tables that are bolted to the floor. The aft cabin is a fully functional kitchen, with steamed lobsters passed up through the hatch when an order’s up.
The Spirit’s menu is primarily seafood, with a raw bar selection of local oysters and clams on the half shell, shrimp cocktail, and chilled lobster tails. Some diners go casual with a pound of peel and eat shrimp, liberally dusted with Old Bay, and slices of Andouille sausage. Others channel Kennebunk chic with ahi tuna poke and seaweed salad.
Maine craft beers, like Sebago Simmer Down Session Ale, are on tap, and the cocktail menu sports beachy options like Painkillers and Dark and Stormys. Owner Kylie Raymond says, “There’s really nothing like sitting on the deck of a boat in the summer—the sea breeze, having a cocktail. It’s the number-one reason people visit us.” • The Spirit of Massachusetts Restaurant: 4 Western Avenue, Kennebunk, ME
When was the last time you were in the Maine Beer Company tasting room? Was it crowded and loud, filled with people standing shoulder to shoulder at the bar or taking up every available seat? I love their beer, but at times it was evident this popular Freeport brewery had long outgrown its space.
Fortunately, the tasting room expansion is complete, with a 6,000 sq. ft. light-filled space with a wood-fired pizza oven and a water fountain. The new space is open to the public now, but the official grand opening is Saturday, March 9th.
The new tasting room was built where the old production space was, and the beer is now brewed in a newly-constructed warehouse out back that has room for a huge brewing system, bottling line, and a quality control lab. The old tasting room will be used for private parties and overflow seating.
The pizza oven is tucked in a corner between the tasting room and the patio, churning out pizza from Parker Auger, who most recently operated the Kind Stack Sandwich Co. food cart.
I didn't have any pizza on this visit (regret!) but will certainly be back to enjoy some crisp beers and some scrumptious pizza in the very near future.
Pro tip: the entrance to the tasting room is now in through this black barn-like structure—for which the series of taproom-only experimental brews is named. Head on over to Route One in Freeport and check out this new beauty of a taproom at Maine Beer Company that is worthy of all the attention that this brewery has achieved.
Austin Street Brewing has a new facility down in East Bayside—further adding to the neighborhood's moniker, "Yeast" Bayside. The neighborhood now boasts four breweries, one cidery/kombuchary/brewery, and two wineries. If you go up the hill to Washington Ave. you can add two distilleries, a meadery, and another brewery. Brewery clusters like this one and the Industrial Way neighborhood make for a fun afternoon for tourists, friends, or out-of-town guests.
We had the latter when we headed to check out the new Austin Street—G's boyfriend was visiting from the other Portland (oh, how we're trying to win him over with our cloudy New England IPAs!). And although Austin Street certainly has those, it also offers other styles that are less popular like the smoked brown ale and a Belgian strong ale.
The new space is large, on par with Rising Tide Brewing right next door. The windowed garage doors were a little chilly to sit close to on this January afternoon, but will be worth it come summer.
The windows also allow tons of sunlight in, warming up the space significantly (you can see the bartender was wearing a short sleeved shirt).
The brewery is open seven days a week and, the best part—has food every day too. A different food cart posts up at the brewery every day.
As always, we enjoyed our delicious sushi handrolls from Mr. Tuna (spicy tuna, crab, and albacore rolls pictured below) and some great beer from Austin Street to go along with them. An afternoon in East Bayside's brewery cluster is an enjoyable one, whether you're just stopping to check out the new Austin Street location or brewery hopping.
Gross Confection Bar opened last Friday night, and I hustled over Saturday first thing (after they opened at 5pm) to check it out. I was pretty excited about pastry chef Brant Dadaleares' latest project, a dessert bar—in both senses of the word "bar," with cocktails, beer, and wine available.
Dadaleares is a longtime Portland chef and sponsored a Kickstarter for his project back in the fall of 2016. So this project has been in the works for a long time and with its planning, my excitement has grown. I'm not even a huge dessert person—I don't frequent Bar of Chocolate or even usually order dessert when eating out. But I know a good dessert can be next level, and I trusted that Dadaleares would deliver.
The space is subterranean—located at the corner of Exchange and Middle Street in Portland's Old Port, it used to be a retail Christmas shop. Dadaleares spent months converting the space himself and seems very proud of the finished product, eagerly showing off little accents like small fireplace uncovered during demolition.
There's several tables with banquette seating and a bar with maybe 10-12 spots. There's more bar in another section closer to the kitchen, so plenty of seating options for your mood. My friend A. and I sat at the bar with the friendly bartenders and ordered a round of drinks and four desserts.
The 6 speciality cocktails are inventive, many made with unfamiliar ingredients. I tried the Coup D'Etat, made with Barbancourt rum, Dell'etna (an amaro), bergamot, and grapefruit. It was actually pretty savory and a little unexpected. Alysia had the Mr. Allen, with Cachaça, Suze (a French aperitif), guanábana (fruit juice), and lemon. Other bar options include wines by the glass or bottle, 3 draft beers, and a few ciders.
The dessert menu is divided into four sections: "the taste," "for one" (regular sized desserts), "companion," and "entourage." The latter two are priced per person ($15-28) and can be ordered for as many as are in your party.
A. and I stuck to the tastes and single servings of dessert, with banana ice cream ($3), an apple tarte tatin ($6), a coconut, pear, date eclair ($9), and "crumb" brulee ($10). I was also intrigued by the hazelnut financier, citrus verrine, coconut macaroon, and jasmine rice. The sharing section of desserts has even more tempting options with carrot cake french toast, brown butter yogurt panna cotta, and a "3 chocolate mess" of brownies, marshmallow fluff, and salted caramel.
The menu describes the dishes as a list of ingredients, which creates an element of surprise around what will actually land in front of you. I'm into that—I think part of the fun of Gross is wondering what the kitchen has come up with and encountering flavor combinations you haven't before.
Before tip, our bill was $54 for two cocktails and four desserts. I wonder if the prices will be a little bit eyebrow-raising for some. I was happy to enjoy the novel experience and could see a nightcap at Gross fitting into an evening out on the town. After how hard Brant and his crew worked to get this project open, I hope Portland supports them for years to come.
If you check it out, let me know what you think on Instagram or Twitter. Gross is open 7 days a week from 5pm to 1am (dessert available until 12am).
2018 was a big year for my food blog—it marks the 10th year of blogging here at The Blueberry Files. Ten years ago, I moved here on a whim and found an incredible selection of restaurants. I was a broke AmeriCorps volunteer, so I wrote a lot more about cooking at home than eating out, but I quickly fell in love with writing about the city's food scene. This hobby launched my freelance writing career, resulting in two books and numerous columns in local publications.
A lot has changed in the ten years I've lived in Portland, of course. So many restaurants have opened and closed since then, it seems quaint to remember my days of frequenting Three Dollar Dewey's and Buffalo Wings-N-Things.
This year in particular saw a slowing of Portland restaurant openings. I still brought you first looks at new restaurants and bars like Crown Jewel, Drifters Wife, and Root Wild Kombucha, the pace at which these new restaurants opened paled in comparison to years past.
My most popular posts of 2018 were indeed first looks at new businesses. You all clearly like to be in the know about what's new in Portland's restaurant scene!
My most read post of 2018 was First Look at Eaux. I still think this is one of the best restaurants to have opened in Portland this year. It seems under-the-radar, but I think Chef Evan and his crew are killing it.
The second most-read post this year was a First Look at Black Cow Burgers. This casual burger and fry joint opened up in place of Sonny's on Exchange Street. I was relieved to see the bar menu at Black Cow was on par, since Sonny's had such great cocktails.
My review of Korean Food at Yobo was also popular. Another restaurant that I think goes unnoticed, Yobo is a great, accessible option for Korean food in Portland.
I ended 2017 with an update to the coming businesses of Washington Ave. which was a popular post. I reflect back on 2018 with a twinge of sadness, because I bought a house and moved to South Portland. So this happening stretch of Washington Ave. is no longer my neighborhood (sob).
Since I published that piece, Drifters Wife, Bob's Clam Hut, Forage Market, and Root Wild Kombucha have all opened. A row of shipping containers, dubbed The Black Box, was added, currently home to a cheese shop and some artisans. A knife sharpening shop is opening there soon too.
Continuing the trend of the past few years, the number of posts dropped in 2018, averaging one a month. But I still love blogging—I'm not planning on going anywhere any time soon!
Unfortunately, Eater Maine continues its decline—I was updating maps for a while there, but I've been cut back even further, only updating the Heatmap and Essential 18 maps every 6 months. It's sad, but I guess it was fun while it lasted.
I hope you all enjoy some good food in 2019. I'll still be here, on Instagram, and Twitter ranting and raving about Portland food. Thanks for reading!
My sister once described kombucha to her husband as "vinegar soda," which, you're either here for or hard pass (my brother-in-law being in that second category). I came to my current (high) levels of consumption after my attempt at the Whole30 last year. I found kombucha to be a good substitute for alcohol, with its carbonation and tart flavor. Put it in a wine glass at the end of the day, apply some suspension of disbelief, and you're all set.
During that time, I started my habit of filling growlers from Urban Farm Fermentory, where they make different flavors of kombucha, infused with seasonal fruit, herbs, and foraged products. I love going and seeing the different flavors available and trying new flavors and blends. I still make sure to have a growler (OK, two) of the stuff in the fridge, even if none of the other Whole30 habits stuck.
Enter Root Wild Kombucha, a new kombucha brewery on Washington Ave. in Portland. The brewery's tasting room and production facility opened in the former home of the Sahara Club, ironically where AA used to meet. Root Wild is run by Reid Emmerich, who helped to start the Urban Farm Fermentory with Eli Cayer. So there are definitely similarities between the two facilities, and comparison is unavoidable. The other owners, Tom Madden and John Paul, run Lone Pine Brewing, so you know the beers are going to be good too.
Root Wild has three flagship kombucha flavors: lemon cayenne ginger, blueberry lemon thyme echinacea, and vanilla rooibos white oak. The seasonal flavors on the day I was in were purple shiso, hopped, strawberry, rhubarb, and beach rose. There were also three beers: a maté IPA, orange juniper DIPA, and a stout with chaga and toasted oak.
My friend G. and I tried several 2 oz. samples of the different flavors, and I was really pleased by them all. The hopped tasted a bit more beer-like than UFF's version does, and the fruit flavors are bright and pleasantly balanced. I was impressed by how thoroughly the added flavors came through.
Just like at UFF, you can fill growlers, so I happily took home a strawberry fill. Root Wild has just started canning its lemon, blueberry, and vanilla rooibos flavors in 12 oz. cans.
The tasting room is a pleasant space, sure to become homier with time. It has a beachy, surfer vibe, so perhaps that is more your style than the foraging hippie vibe down at UFF. Personally, I'm happy to have two local options to satisfy my kombucha habit. The more the merrier!