Friday, April 30, 2010

Maine Line: The (other) Portland

There might as well be a wormhole connecting the two Portlands they have so much in common. The name, of course, means that each is a working port city, the Eastern one on the edge of a large bay, its Western namesake on a river.

Dimillo's Floating Restaurant.

Though the older city, founded in 1786, has just one-tenth the population of our much younger one, 62,875 to 582,130, each seems to attract people interested in quality of life over quantity of consumption. Mostly socially liberal with a whiff of a provincial air in their attitudes about outsiders, both are hotbeds for microroasted coffee and microbrewed beer, with a thriving local food culture.

Dave is a proud (former) Mainer, though Portland is considered a little too influenced by southern ways for people from The County, his ancestral homeland. We stayed in a brand new (and very comfortable) Marriott Residence Inn on the edge of the historic Old Port district, home to the aforementioned brewpubs and roasteries, as well as many terrific restaurants and locally owned shops.

Our first night was dedicated to the consumption of martinis and as much lobster as we could get our hands on, and I'd heard great things about the view from the dining room of DiMillo's. Situated in a converted car ferry and floating at the end of a pier below the Old Port (above left), it's a bit of a tourist attraction but one that was perfect for our needs that evening.

One lobster down, one to go.

We arrived to find that not only did they make a mighty fine martini in their main level wood-and-brass bar, they were offering a dinner special of two whole lobsters (steamed, stuffed or baked) for $19, including sides which, surprise surprise, was snapped up by almost everyone at the table. Their wine list tended, as you might expect, toward cabernet and merlot, but they also had bottles of Perrin Reserve, a perfectly decent Cotes du Rhone, that I snapped up for a very reasonable price.

Truth be told, the other offerings on the menu are decent to really good, but well worth going to for the view and the lobster, especially if you've got a pretty accommodating crew (the best kind, imho). The crab cakes were a tad flabby, the aioli less than fiery, but the steamers were perfect as were the lobsters. My best advice would be "stick to the classics, no frou-frou," good counsel in any situation.

Details: DiMillo's Floating Restaurant, 25 Long Wharf, Portland, ME. Phone 207-772-2216.

Read the other installments in the series: Dinner and a Show, Breakfast and Lunch, Loosening Up, Puttering Around the Old Port, Shackin' It and Fore Star.


Carol at Serendipity said...

I lived in the Portland area for many years. Portland is the most wonderful city and has some of the finest restaurants on the east coast. The martinis at DeMillo's are famous. They are also quite good at the bar at the Regency.

Hope your stay is outstanding!


Karen @ Mignardise said...

You must still be in town - hope you're enjoying the beautiful weather. I am a food blogger who live just north of Portland.

Glad you enjoyed DiMillo's but there are loads of places with better food. Let me know if you want some suggestions.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Actually, I'm posting after the fact, but we did go to several other places. I'll get to them soon, so let me know what you think!

And yes, Carol, it is a great town and totally gorgeous.

Bill Lascher said...

Hi. As someone who has lived in both Portland's (currently in the Western one) I can concur that there is a certain similarity between the two. I love them both, and often miss the original.

Despite enjoying this post I have to take issue with one claim in this post. Portland, Maine, was definitely not founded in 1786. The town was actually first settled in the 1630s. As anyone who has ever strolled down Congress St. to Downtown likely knows, right at the base of Munjoy Hill is a cemetery itself dating back to the 17th century. Perhaps the later date is when the city incorporated as an independent entity, but let's not rob it of the 100+ years of history it had as a settlement before then.

Kathleen Bauer said...

As you rightly point out, the area was settled for quite some time before incorporating as Portland. According to Wikipedia, it was called Machigonne by the Native Americans, and the first European settlement there (in the 1630s) was named Casco. When the Massachusetts Bay Colony took it over in 1658 it was called Falmouth, and in 1786 the citizens of Falmouth formed a separate town in Falmouth Neck and named it Portland. That was the date I referred to.