Until recently, there weren’t many dining options on the western end of Commercial Street except for Becky’s Diner. The closest more upscale restaurant, the Salt Exchange, closed late last year, and while the King’s Head and Liquid Riot Bottling Co. both serve exceptional food and beer, their more relaxed, pub-style dining scenes may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Now in its fourth month, Tiqa, the 300-seat pan Mediterranean restaurant on the ground floor of Portland’s new Marriott Courtyard, has very quickly extended locals’ and tourists’ perception of Commercial Street by a full block. There isn’t just another place to eat on the Old Port’s main drag – with Tiqa in town, there’s truly a new sight to see.
Opulent, tasteful, warm and attention-grabbing could all describe Tiqa’s six-section space, including an open kitchen with a chef’s bar, a lounge room with great natural light, a bar that seats 15 plus additional high top tables and booths, a glass-divided dining room and, last but not least, a 90-seat private dining room. What easily could have been an overwhelmingly mammoth restaurant, Tiqa actually feels intimate and even cozy, especially in the cubby of counter seats beyond the bar.
Owners Deen Haleem and Carol Mitchell have recruited veterans of some of Maine’s most successful restaurants.
Patrick Morang, for example, runs Tiqa’s bar program but got his start at David’s. He has created an impressive wine menu of nearly 100 wines by the bottle. Dubbed its “wine program,” the list includes many wines from France, Spain and California, but it also offers some uncommon bottles from South Africa, Istanbul, Lebanon and Greece.
On its Facebook page, Tiqa recently posted a picture of a freshly delivered case of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon wines. Tiqa is one of only a few places in the state to carry his wine.
There are also 14 wines by the glass, ranging in price from $6 to $10.
Tiqa’s cocktail list has a couple of hidden gems, namely the cheapest drink on the list, the Dawa ($5.95), which is a traditional Kenyan cocktail made with vodka (in this case, Absolut), muddled lime, brown sugar and served with a curious whipped honey stick for a tad of sweetness. Even if you’re not usually a vodka drinker, this cocktail is well worth the price.
Another traditional drink on the list is the Turkish Delight, which is made with raki, a Turkish liqueur made from grapes or plums and flavored with anise ($7.95). From there, the cocktails get more expensive because of the quality of liquor, some of which are from local distilleries.
The Pantry is Tiqa’s twist on the dark ‘n stormy and is made with New England Distilling’s 8 Bells Rum, apple butter and, unfortunately, non-local ginger beer ($10.95). Garnished with a pretty sprig of rosemary, this drink sounded promising but was less flavorful than expected and heavy on the rum.
However, to soak up the booze, Tiqa’s small plate menu is perfect (and affordable) for bar snacking. All small plates are priced at $3 to $16 and include options like homemade pita bread, authentic hummus, roasted Brussels sprouts with tahini and chorizo-cured pork belly. The menu changes regularly, especially seasonally.
Tiqa has helped to quickly transform a big section of Commercial Street, and we’re sure to see many tourists mosey down that way this summer.
327 Commercial St., Portland | 207-808-8840 | tiqapm.com
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday
AMENITIES: Diverse seating options, European-style and exceptionally clean bathrooms, free valet parking, great natural light, outstanding service.
PARKING: Free valet service; street parking also available.
BOTTOM LINE: Tiqa is the 300-seat pan Mediterranean restaurant on the ground floor of the Courtyard Marriott in Portland, and it’s truly a sight to see. While mammoth, Tiqa doesn’t seem too spacious or corporate. The décor is exquisite and upscale and features several seating sections that provide a comfortable and intimate dining experience. The wine program at Tiqa features wines from around the world, including some uncommon wines from Africa, Turkey, Lebanon and Greece.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes