Miller Brothers Seafood, now open for its second season, is one of Portland’s hidden gems. It’s one of those places I hesitate to write about because I want to tell everyone I see how good it is, but I also worry it will be overrun with people once word gets out. (Good for the owners, not so good for me.)
This tiny seafood shack is on Forest Avenue – blink and you’ll miss it – tucked a little behind Fisherman’s Net and another new Portland favorite, Thai Essan. The building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the inside is a pleasant surprise – small, but very clean and comfortable, with three nice tables providing seating for eight. (Outside, there are two picnic tables, but given that they overlook busy Forest Avenue, I recommend sitting inside or getting take-out, especially on hot days.) Orders are taken at the counter, overseen by a cartoon lobster painted on the wall, but you might want to take a peek at the website menu before you arrive because there’s a lot to tempt you here. Wait until the last minute, and you’ll likely order too much, as I did.
After I placed my embarrassingly large order, I waited at one of the tables. A large flat-screen on the wall keeps customers entertained, but I was more interested in the giant wall map of the United States, with one simple question posted above it: “So, where are you from?” The map is filled with pins from all over – mostly New England and the rest of the East Coast, but also lots from Florida and California. Even the vast flyover country is represented, with one pin each from Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Now to the food. I ordered a cup of lobster stew on a day so hot it made me feel a bit like a lobster myself. The stew costs $7.95, and almost twice that for a bowl, a great deal if you’re craving lobster but your bank account can’t handle the price of a lobster roll. The stew looks like a lobster bisque, but is more flavorful and full of lobster than a lot of bisques at local restaurants. It’s rich and creamy without being too heavy, or overwhelmed by too many splashes of sherry. My favorite part, though, was that every. single. bite. had chunks of lobster meat in it. If you’re not in the mood for lobster, Miller Brothers also serves clam and seafood chowders.
After the lobster stew, I went a little crazy with the fried seafood, ordering a side of fried scallops because I love them (they also come seared) and a side of fried haddock nuggets because one of the owners recommended them. In this case, the haddock was the star. It was spectacular. They were not actually “nuggets” but larger pieces of fish that fell somewhere in between nuggets and the whole pieces that come with a dinner order of fish and chips. The fish tasted incredibly fresh and was not at all soggy or greasy. I think next time I’ll probably just order the haddock nuggets and another small order of the house-made onion rings – a nice dinner for around $12. (You can also get a haddock nugget basket, which comes with fries and cole slaw, for about $13.)
Oh, those onion rings. I can’t stand it when people are overly effusive about stuff like this, but I have to admit, I’m pretty sure these are the best onion rings I’ve ever had. Made with whole slices of onions – no lame chopped onion bits – they are covered in a thick, crunchy batter that does not cover up the flavor of the onion. A small, generous order is $3.49 and plenty for one person – or even two, depending on how much you like onion rings and if you feel like sharing.
I’ve also heard the Miller Brothers lobster rolls are good; a 4-ounce roll will set you back $16.95 and an 8-ounce roll (that’s a big lobster roll – most contain about 3.5 ounces of lobster meat) costs $26.95. Fried whole belly clams, fried shrimp, fried calamari, clam cakes and crab rolls are also on the menu. All of the sides are under $10, and the sandwiches range from $5.99 to $11.99.
Miller Brothers has a specials board that recently advertised a 6-ounce lobster roll and pint of seared scallops for $29.95. Another recent special was a crab melt with Swiss, lettuce and tomato, and a cup of clam chowder for $15.99.
These guys obviously know how to cook seafood. The biggest drawback? It’s a seasonal place. I mean, how great would it be to dig into a steaming bowl of that lobster stew in the wintertime?
WHERE: 849 Forest Ave., Portland. (207) 536-4483, millerbrotherseafood.com
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
WAIT: 15-20 minutes, but it’s all cooked to order and well worth the wait. If you’re in a hurry, just call ahead.
PARKING: Street or parking area in back
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No