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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 On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: June 17, 2015

Dining Guide: 5 Portland-area newcomers to try

And the hits just keep coming: In Bayside, outer Brighton Avenue, and the former headquarters of this newspaper, new restaurants are making their mark.

Written by: Susan Axelrod

For full listings and more restaurants, see our searchable Restaurant & Bar Guide.


Isa on Portland Street. Claire Jeffers photo

Isa on Portland Street. Claire Jeffers photo

79 Portland St., Portland | 207-808-8533   | | $$$
A new neighborhood bistro with an urban vibe, Isa is owned by New York City restaurant veterans Suzie St. Paul and her husband, chef Isaul Perez. The interior retains vintage elements such as a black tin ceiling, stunning black and white tile flooring and 12-pane windows. The menu is small, but well thought-out and moderately priced; intriguing entrees include braised rabbit with garganelli, English peas and breadcrumbs; and seared monkfish with fiddleheads, shiitake mushrooms and apricot mostarda.

Union (at The Press Hotel)

A dish at Union. Courtesy photo

A dish at Union. Courtesy photo

119 Exchange St., Portland | 207-808-8700 | | $$$$
Where reporters’ typewriters once clacked and hallways hummed with the frenetic pace of a daily newspaper, is now a chic boutique hotel, with a luxuriously appointed, intimate restaurant. From a state-of-the-art kitchen open to the sleek dining room, chef Joshua Berry and his team turn out distinctive, locally sourced fare, including Casco Bay cod with littleneck clams, soy brown butter, bok choy and Chinese fermented sausage; and local lamb shoulder with heirloom carrots, local honey, watercress, Greek yogurt and za’atar.

The Honey Paw

The Honey Paw. John Golden photo

The Honey Paw. John Golden photo

78 Middle St., Portland | 207-774-7538 | | $$$$
The owners of Eventide Oyster Co. and Hugo’s have hit it out of the park again with their third restaurant, billed as a “non-denominational noodle bar.” The menu is deliberately all over the culinary map, with Asian and Mediterranean flavors well-represented and combined in novel ways. Go for wok-fried rice noodles with mussels, squid, Chinese sausage and scallion or fried quail with sticky rice and Brussels sprout salad, apricot and lime. Save room for a fun dessert treat: soft serve ice cream with “magic shell.”

The Sinful Kitchen

Dining room at The Sinful Kitchen Press Herald file photo

Dining room at The Sinful Kitchen Press Herald file photo

906 Brighton Ave., Portland | 207-536-0611 | | $$
This brunch restaurant worth seeking out off the Portland peninsula is owned by chef Dave Mallari, who has a pig roast catering business called The Pig Kahuna. That’s good reason to go for the Pulled Pork “Bennie,” one of four variations on eggs benedict on the menu. You can also build your own burger here with Niman Ranch grass-fed beef, or go all in for the cinnamon roll waffles with cream cheese icing. Most of the items are also available gluten-free (Mallari has celiac disease). No matter what you order, the cheerful dining room is a fine place to spend a morning.

MK Kitchen

MK Kitchen in Gorham. Courtesy photo

MK Kitchen in Gorham. Courtesy photo

2 School St., Gorham | 207-222-2588  | | $$$$
Gorham’s limited dining scene got a big boost when Mitchell Kaldrovich, formerly of Sea Glass at Inn by the Sea, and his wife Lisa a veteran of Portland’s venerable Fore Street, opened their own restaurant this spring. For locals, its no longer necessary to drive into the city for sophisticated dishes such as tuna tartare cones with jalapeno ponzu, mint, pickled onions and tobiko caviar or mushroom risotto with truffle-roasted mushrooms and arugula & Parmesan salad. The chef began his culinary career in pastry, so desserts are as noteworthy as the savory side of the menu.

Key to prices

The approximate cost of two dinner entrees (not including appetizers, drinks, tax and gratuity).
$ – $15 and under
$$ – $16 to $25
$$$ – $26 to $45
$$$$ – $46 and up

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