If I hadn’t gone to bed at 8:30 p.m. the other night, I never would have discovered The King’s Head on Portland’s waterfront. I woke up obscenely early and, unlike most days when I walk, drove to work. As I got out of my car, I could see the sun rising over the water and decided, right then and there, to follow the light and go for a stroll.
What a stroll it was. I walked to the end of the Maine State Pier and in and around Portland’s working waterfront into spots I had never ventured before as I headed in the direction of the Casco Bay Bridge. About an hour into my adventure, accompanied by the cacophony of excited seagulls, a sight appeared before me that made me realize I need to get down to the waterfront way more often.
What was this? The King’s Head? A nifty looking pub was nestled in one of the off-shoots of Commercial Street by the water, and this was all news to me. Turns out, the place has been open for more than two years, and I’m the last person in Maine to know about it. (Or am I? Did you?) A few days later, I found myself back on the waterfront on another assignment just as my internal lunch bell started ringing. On the spur of the moment, I phoned a friend who works diagonally across the street from The King’s Head, and five minutes later, there we were, perusing the menu.
Let me first say that the beer list is impressive and long. Had it not been the middle of our work day, I’m sure we would have raised a pint or two of something.
The menu had four items under the category of “Express Lunch,” all $7 and served with a house-made pickle. Hand-cut fries are available for $3 and a gluten-free bun for $2.
There’s the Duck Fat BLT (on duck fat-toasted Big Sky Bread and a $3 duck egg add-on available), the Buffalo Blue Pulled Chicken (on a honey roll), the BBQ Pulled Chicken (with coleslaw on a honey roll) and the Grilled Bacon Cheddar (smoked cheddar, bacon and tomato on Big Sky bread.) That last one was what my lunch date ordered, but more on that in a moment.
The rest of the lunch menu includes things like a truffle Parmesan popcorn appetizer ($4), Scotch egg appetizer ($6), beet salad ($7), fish and chips ($10 or $16, depending on the size), the King’s Burger ($10), a Maine lobster roll (market price) and a few other offerings.
But it was the specials that caught my interest that day — first, the cream of chicken soup ($5 for a cup) and, second, the tacos. I had a chicken taco for $2 and a beef one for $3. Both were generous in size and entirely tasty. And the price sure was right. The soup also hit the spot, and for an even 10 bucks for all three of these things, it felt like more than enough food to satisfy even this bottomless pit.
As for my lunch date, she took a fairly neutral stance on her lunch experience — not the best or worst grilled cheese or french fries she’d ever had, she reported to me in an email an hour after we parted ways. But she isn’t giving up on The King’s Head. As we were sitting there, a cheeseburger across the room caught her eye, and she noted that it would probably go down even better at 5 p.m. with a beer.
That’s actually a darn good idea, because the almost empty space was a bit depressingat lunchtime, and despite floor to ceiling windows on the side we were sitting on, the place lacked a coziness that I like in a pub environment. I suspect that going back when the joint’s a but more hopping will remedy that just fine, as will partaking of something from the formidable beer list. The dinner menu also is worth investigating because I never met a shepherd’s pie ($16) I didn’t love, and the charcuterie board ($15) and I would get along just fine I’m sure.
WHERE: 245 Commercial St., Portland, 805-1252. thekingsheadportland.com and on Facebook
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to close Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to close Sunday.
WAIT: Less than 10 minutes
PARKING: Metered on street and nearby pay-to-park lots
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes