231 York St. | 747-4166 | outlierseatery.com | $$$
Outliers Eatery is as good as Portland’s dining scene gets. The atmosphere balances modern austerity with welcoming charm; the location is neighborhood-y with a harbor view. Parking is easy, the staff is professional and charming, and the food is thoughtfully prepared with a balance of freestyle and control. The menu winks at diners with literary sensibilities, but never dips into obnoxiousness.
2 Portland Square, Union St. | 871-9258 | waltersportland.com | $$$$
The sophisticated modern design of Walter’s bar, lounge and dining room make it a popular choice for locals and vistors from away. Chef-owner Jeff Buerhaus is inspired by the flavors of Asia, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. His menus are seasonal, accented by daily specials that add unique twists to traditional Maine ingredients. His wife, Cheryl, oversees the polished service staff.
190 State St. | 553-7044 | bistropj.com | $$$
From the torchon of foie gras to sweetbreads, braised tongue and pork belly to bone marrow and parsley salad, inventive first courses abound from this thoroughly French kitchen. Masterfully prepared entrees include a special preparation of braised lamb shoulder, fricassee of game hen served in a cast-iron skillet, coq au vin, cassoulet and magret de canard are some of the special dishes served regularly or as plat du jour. A compelling dessert menu includes chocolate mousse, crème brulee, crepes, butterscotch éclair, pears poached in red wine and house-made ice cream. The wine list has many rare or lesser-known bottlings from France and California that are well priced.
505 Fore St. | 772-8242 | zapotecarestaurant.com | $$$
At Zapoteca, you’ll find fabulous cocktails, varied appetizers from chipotle pork tacos to mussels with a Mexican twist, and substantial and delicious entrees that bring gourmet flair to south-of-the-border cuisine. The restaurant boasts excellent service in a chic and thematic atmosphere that’s uncluttered and comfortable. The bar boasts more than 80 tequilas and tasting flights are a specialty.
84 Exchange St. | 774-2333 | thegrillroomandbar.com | $$$$
One of chef Harding Lee Smith’s four Portland restaurants, The Grill Room is all about beef, with rib-eye and sirloin topping the menu. There’s also wood-fired pizza and a great variety of wood-grilled fish and meat. The clubby space has Old World character and a welcoming feel, with an exposed kitchen and comfortable, friendly bar. Reservations are recommended, but a light bar menu also is available.
The approximate cost of two dinner entrees (not including appetizers, drinks, tax and gratuity).
$ – $15 and under
$$ – $16 to $25
$$$ – $26 to $45
$$$$ – $46 and up