The 250-gallon saltwater fish tank accurately sets the tone for the Old Port Sea Grill on Commercial Street. It’s clear this place is about its seafood. And, like the fish tank, the ambiance is reminiscent of an upscale corporate hotel restaurant.
But if you can look beyond the somewhat characterless decor, past the blue hue of the tank’s chemical-treated water, and crack open a menu, you’ll likely discover a proper eatery, in line with Portland’s creative and culinary flair.
Laura Argitis, the former owner of the Falmouth Sea Grill, opened the Old Port Sea Grill & Raw Bar in 2002 with the intention of offering fresh, simple seafood and a reliable place to grab a drink. There’s a lot to be said for a restaurant in a prime location on Commercial Street that is still around (and busy) nearly 13 years later.
The crowd in the bar/lounge area, which seats about 50, is a mix of buttoned-up business professionals, tourists and islanders waiting for the next ferry and lone diners watching the game over a quick bite.
Servers dressed in all black dash from the kitchen carrying steaming plates of salmon, swordfish, scallops and bowls of lobster bisque. While service here is skilled and genuine, it took nearly 10 minutes for someone to deliver a drink menu. One reason could be the large beam that interrupts the middle of the bar and makes for an awkward view and perhaps a blind spot for bartenders.
The draft list includes Allagash, Shipyard and Moat Mountain from New Hampshire, but it’s always surprising to see a place like the Sea Grill – a restaurant that offers authentic, quality local food – with Sam Adams on tap. It would be nice if more Maine beers were featured.
On Sundays, Sea Grill offers six oysters for $10 (normally $3 a piece) all day, and in about two weeks the cocktail list will shift to reflect the change in season. Expect to see a bigger focus on bourbon.
WHERE: 93 Commercial St., Portland
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday
b: Happy hour offered seven days a week from 3 to 6 p.m., includes $5 wines by the glass, $3 draft beers, $5 cosmos and Manhattans and $2 oysters; Sundays this fall will feature six oysters for $10 all day.
AMENITIES: 32 seats at high-top tables in bar/lounge area, 20 seats at the bar, 250-gallon saltwater fish tank.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: No
BOTTOM LINE: Fresh seafood focused, Old Port Sea Grill & Raw Bar has been a local standby since 2002. While the decor and ambiance are oddly corporate, the cocktail list and wine offerings reflect Portland’s creative flair and knack for good taste. Happy hour is a mixed crowd, but expect to see mostly business professionals and people waiting for the ferry.