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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod@mainetoday.com On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: July 1, 2014

A Portland, Maine seafood restaurant for every occasion

Whether you’re entertaining out-of-towners or trying to woo someone special, there’s a seafood restaurant in Portland just for you.

Written by: Susan Axelrod

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J’s on the Portland waterfront. Press Herald file photo

Kicking back with friends: J’s Oyster

5 Portland Pier | 207-772-4828
In a city of increasingly sophisticated dining choices, J’s keeps it refreshingly old-school. Sure, it has its regular clientele, but newcomers are warmly welcomed too. The oysters are from the Chesapeake — local oyster farmers can’t meet J’s high demand — but don’t let that deter you from ordering them here: they are briny and fresh. It just doesn’t get much better than a seat at the bar, a dozen oysters, a bucket of steamers and a cold Maine beer.


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Oysters on display at Eventide Oyster Co. Press Herald file photo

Date night — Eventide Oyster Co.

86 Middle St. | 207-774-8538 | www.eventideoysterco.com
Painted a brilliant blue and boasting a huge granite trough that holds an impressive variety of of the bivalves, super-hot Eventide is a thoroughly modern oyster bar — named one of America’s best by Food & Wine magazine. The kitchen sends out its offerings on iridescent and oyster shell-inspired dishes from Yarmouth ceramic artist Alison Evans. Don’t miss the fried oyster bun and the clever oyster accoutrements, such as the Tabasco or kimchee ice. No reservations except for parties of six or more.


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The first floor dining room at Boone’s. Press Herald file photo

On the town with out-of-towners: Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room

86 Commercial St. | 207-774-5725 | www.boonesfishhouse.com
The fourth “room” from Portland chef Harding Lee Smith, Boone’s is the updated version of a restaurant by the same name that once existed in the waterfront space. On the first floor, an open kitchen and large stone fireplace form the backdrop for a seafood menu that includes both Maine standards and more inventive dishes. Upstairs is the oyster bar and a chef turning out stir-fries from a wok station. With two outside decks and a cavernous interior that manages to feel intimate despite its size, Boone’s will impress your summertime visitors. Reservations not always needed but a good idea.


Chefs Francesca Bowman and David Connolly at Old Port Sea Grill. Press Herald file photo

Chefs Francesca Bowman and David Connolly at Old Port Sea Grill. Press Herald file photo

Business lunch/dinner: Old Port Sea Grill and Raw Bar

93 Commercial St. | 207-879-6100 | www.oldportseagrill.com
Old Port Sea Grill has been a Portland staple since 2002, but the recent addition of husband and wife chefs David Connolly and Francesca Bowman has considerably ramped up the food. The dining room is sleek and modern,with well-spaced tables allowing for conversation and a huge, salt water fish tank as a focal point. Service is professional without being at all stuffy and the large, concrete-topped bar is generally a less-crowded spot than most in the Old Port for meeting over a drink and local oysters. Reservations are not generally necessary.


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The main dining room at DiMillo’s. Press Herald file photo

Big group with different tastes: DiMillo’s on the Water

25 Long Wharf | 207-772-2216 | www.dimillos.com
A Portland icon, family-owned DiMillo’s is not just next to the water, it’s on the water — located in a renovated car ferry that has been permanently docked since 1982. The space is vast, yet comfortable and welcoming; many staff members have worked there for years. The large menu offers something for everyone: lobster in various guises, as well as seafood, steaks, and Italian dishes. Happy Hour, offered in the clubby lounge, is one of the best deals in town. If you are with a big group, reservations are a good idea.


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The entrance to Street and Co. Press Herald file photo

Marriage proposal: Street and Co.

33 Wharf St. | 207-775-0887 | www.streetandcompany.net
This Mediterranean seafood bistro helped put Portland on the national food map. Tucked away on rustic Wharf Street, the dining room is a cocoon of fine, yet not formal, dining, with service to match. The menu changes regularly and part of the experience here is watching the chefs in the open kitchen. Preparations are simple: the fish and seafood are cooked in copper pans brought to your table, grilled, blackened, broiled or with linguini. You can be assured that the food will be wonderful, allowing you to focus on your beloved. Reservations a must.


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A cheerful server at Portland Lobster Co. Press Herald file photo

Fido in tow: Portland Lobster Co.

180 Commercial St. | 207-775-2112 | www.portlandlobstercompany.com
A lively, seasonal spot right on the waterfront, Portland Lobster Co. boasts a sizable outdoor deck, where canine customers can find water bowls and the occasional treat. No dogs are allowed inside, but unless it’s raining and you’re determined to have lobster, you’ll want to sit at one of the outdoor picnic tables under an awning or at one of the high-top tables up front, near the bar and the band. Everyone else wants to be there too, so expect a wait on busy weekends. The menu includes all the seafood standards, including lobster rolls and full-on lobster dinners. No reservations except for large parties.

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