Posted: October 19, 2016
Portland on a plate: The city’s distinctive dishes
Written by: Ray Routhier
Up Next: Foodie events are bountiful at Harvest on the Harbor
Most food lovers in Portland keep a mental list of the top "you've gotta try this" dishes, snacks and treats. Not to be outdone, MaineToday has come up with its own menu of must-haves. It's a mix of time-honored local favorites, critical darlings and things that people just go wild over.
The annual Harvest on the Harbor begins Thursday, shining a spotlight on Portland’s great restaurants and dishes. So it seemed like a good time for this kind of list.
It includes the things we all tell visitors to Portland they have to try when they’re in town – both foods you can’t get anywhere else and new twists on traditional dishes. Read on to see what made the cut, then take our quiz to see if you're a true Portland foodie.
BLESSED BE MAPLE
Lovers of the maple bacon donuts at Holy Donut don’t know how lucky they are. The sticky and
savory treats almost didn’t happen, says owner Leigh Kellis. When she started Holy Donut on Park Avenue
in 2012, she didn’t want to make a maple bacon donut, because she thought the whole maple bacon thing was
overdone, and becoming a cliche. But people kept asking for maple bacon donuts, so Kellis started making
them. The donuts start with a potato dough, then are topped with maple glaze and very crisp bacon. The
taste is reminiscent of the first time you accidentally let your maple syrup-drenched pancakes mingle
with your bacon on a breakfast plate.
The Holy Donut, 194 Park Ave. and 7 Exchange St., Portland; Theholydonut.com
Photo Courtesy of The Holy Donut
THEY DID THE MASH
When the folks at Otto explained they wanted to make a pizza with mashed potatoes, they were met
with some anger. People said “that doesn’t belong on pizza,” recalls Eric Shepherd, the Otto marketing
director. But Otto founders Mike Keon and Anthony Allen, who opened the place in 2009, believed in their
mashed potato, bacon and scallion pie. And they were right to. The comfort food combo has gained national
attention in magazines, newspapers and TV cooking shows. And Otto has even had orders to ship the pie
across the country.
Otto, 576 Congress St., Portland (original location), plus locations in South Portland, Yarmouth, and
Photo by Ken Richardson
ROLL WITH IT
The brown butter lobster roll at Eventide Oyster Co. that makes your mouth water a little just
describing it. The fresh picked lobster meat is warmed in a pan of brown butter vinaigrette, the butter
being heated until it browns and caramelizes, said Eventide co-owner Mike Wiley. Lemon juice is added for
acidity. Then the meat is scooped into Chinese-style steamed buns.
“We’d have been fools to open an oyster bar and not have some kind of lobster roll,” said Wiley. So
that’s what they’ve got, some kind of lobster roll.
Eventide Oyster Co., 86 Middle St., Portland; Eventideoysterco.com
Photo Courtesy of Eventide Oyster Co.
THE MAINE ITALIAN
Amato’s Maine Italian is classic that generations of Mainers have loved, even though it’s not
always embraced by the new foodie generation. It’s ham, veggies and American cheese sitting on top of,
not quite in, a very soft roll baked specially for the sandwich. Giovanni Amato began selling sandwiches
to dock workers in Portland in the early 1900s, and the Maine Italian sandwich today owes it’s name more
to the fact that it was invented by Italians than to any of the ingredients. They’ve become so popular
over they years that if you go into most Maine convenience stores and sandwich shops and ask for an
Italian, you get something very similar to Amato’s. Anywhere else in the country you’d get salami and
Amato’s, locations all over Maine; Amatos.com
Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
HAVE SOME CHEESE, MAC
Talk about taking comfort food to a whole new level. That’s what the truffled lobster mac and
cheese at Five Fifty-Five in Portland does, for sure. The dish was inspired by a meal co-owners Steve
and Michelle Corry had 15 years ago in California, when Michelle was working at The French Laundry in
Napa Valley. The dish featured orzo, mascarpone cheese and butter-poached lobster. The Corry’s own
lobster mac and cheese features a sauce that has a bechamel base, plus mascarpone, cheddar, gruyere,
fontina and Reggiano Parmesan cheeses. The pasta is from Italy and the lobster, of course, from Maine.
The truffles in the dish vary with the season, but Steve Corry says they generally use shaved black and
white truffle oil. Not exactly Kraft in a box, but it’ll do in a pinch. Five Fifty-Five, 555 Congress
St., Portland; Fivefifty-five.com
Photo Courtesy of Five Fifty-Five
IN THE THICK OF IT
The milkshakes at Po’ Boys & Pickles in Portland have a fanatic following. Some places will take
any ice cream you name and make a shake of it. At Po’Boys they seem to be able to put any desert you want
into a shake. Flavors have included praline, Bananas Foster, and peanut butter chocolate chip cookie. All
the sauces for each flavor are made in house, says owner Chris Bettera. For the vanilla custard, the
folks at Po’ Boys strip the vanilla beans themselves.
Po’Boys & Pickles, 1124 Forest Avenue, Portland; Poboysandpickles.com
Photo by Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer
RISING TO THE OCCAISION
“That’s not really a bagel, but it’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever had.” That sentence has
been uttered more than once after people try a bagel from Scratch Baking Co. in South Portland. New York
bagel aficionados usually say a Scratch bagel isn’t dense enough to be a true bagel. They’re more like
delicious round hunks of bread. So delicious that crowds form at the bagel table at Scratch most
mornings, and batches sell out quickly. The bagels are so popular that Scratch recently opened a separate
bagel and bread-baking facility around the corner, so they can make bigger bagel batches.
Scratch Baking Co., 416 Preble St., South Portland; Scratchbakingco.com
Photo Courtesy of Scratch Baking Co.
There was a time when poutine was not a cool, hip dish. Those of us of French-Canadian descent
remember when local diners would use frozen French fries, canned gravy and Velveeta cheese. Yum. But
Duckfat in Portland has upped the yum factor on poutine. They use Belgian fries, local cheese curd, duck
gravy and fresh chives. For a little extra, they’ll top it all with a fried egg.
Duckfat, 43 Middle St., Portland; Duckfat.com
Photo by Logan Werlinger/Staff Photographer
QUIZ: Are you a true Portland foodie?