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With local fresh seafood on its doorstep, a popular farm-to-table movement and a smattering of creative restaurants spicing up traditional recipes with contemporary flair, Portland, Maine, is quickly become a foodie’s paradise. Whether you choose from freshly dug Maine clams in a floating restaurant, New American cuisine in a former church or French fare in a cosy bistro, Portland’s eclectic dining scene – and these ten great restaurants – will leave a lasting impression.
Mexican restaurant Zapoteca is owned by husband and wife Tom and Shannon Bard, alongside Guadalajara-born friend Sergio Ramos. All of them are firm believers in the farm-to-table philosophy, sourcing the best of New England produce including sustainable seafood and grass-fed meat. Shannon, who is also Zapoteca’s executive chef, has crafted a menu of vibrant, traditional Mexican dishes with bold, contemporary flair based on local ingredients. Pineland Farms rib-eye steak is given a twist of zesty lime, oregano and cilantro salsa and served with a garlic chipotle potato mash, while tender pork ribs are roasted in Mezcal and finished in the kitchen’s wood oven with a spicy agave morito sauce. A visit to Zapoteca wouldn’t be complete without sampling one of its many quality tequilas – splash out on the luxury patron burdeos aneja.
Zapoteca, 505 Fore Street, Portland, ME, USA, +1 207 772 8242
From the same team that brought Portland Five Fifty-Five, Petite Jacqueline is a laid-back French bistro established in 2011 and located in the city’s West End, close to the Arts District. The restaurant, which was a semi-finalist in the Best New Restaurant category at the prestigious James Beard Awards, serves traditional French comfort food inspired by co-owner Michelle Corry’s French heritage in a vibrant, chic space. Expect classic dishes such as onion soup with Gruyere cheese, steak tartare and escargot with fennel butter, mushrooms and squash. Petite Jacqueline also offers a Sunday brunch menu perfect for lazy Sundays with omelettes, crepes, assorted pastries and, of course, the brunch classic smoked salmon and poached eggs.
Simply put, Grace is stunning. The elegant restaurant resides in the reinvented Chestnut Street Church, built around 1857, which is a magnificent example of gothic revival architecture. With an interior designed by Tivi Design, the building, which is on America’s National Register of Historic Places, features a huge central circular bar overlooked by a two-level dining area with grand high ceilings and original grain-painted wooden pillars – a design true to both the building’s history and Grace’s modern menu. Executive chef Peter Sueltenfuss introduces eclectic and innovative fare; whet your palate with an appetiser of stuffed Maine littleneck clams. Or try the local farm pork sausage with a potato-fennel puree and pistachio-lemon gremolata before indulging in a rich entrée of creamy Maine lobster with tabasco tagliatelle and yellow foot mushrooms or a juicy Black Angus steak with local root vegetable gratin and mustard beer sauce.
David’s Restaurant, located on the edge of Portland’s Arts District, is the namesake of owner and chef David Turin who uses simple ingredients to create innovative, modern American dishes. The restaurant itself is a bohemian melting pot of new and old styles; outside a jazzy neon light bears the restaurant name and high windows give gorgeous views of Portland’s Monument Square, while inside is a contrast of exposed brick walls, retro floor tiles and warm, bistro-inspired lighting. David’s Restaurant dishes include the blackened Atlantic swordfish served with a corn and pineapple salsa and grilled polenta wholesome meatloaf with a modern twist, like the crispy cumin onions, mushroom gravy and roasted garlic potato mash. The popular dessert menu features such temptations as pecan and white chocolate torte with bourbon sauce and whipped cream and the berry and apple crisp, topped with granola and lemon zest and a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
David’s Restaurant, 22 Monument Square, Portland, ME, USA, +1 207 773 4340