Portland, Maine, Restaurants: Top 5
Portland’s culinary reputation continues to grow nationwide. Several of the following restaurants have received prestigious awards for their excellent and delicious meals. Travel to Portland, even if only to dine at their incredible restaurants and you will not be disappointed.
Sam Hayward, Fore Street
The plates that come from Sam’s kitchen carry strong Mediterranean influences, but the ingredients and simplicity are undeniably coastal Maine. Fore Street’s signature dish, for example — mussels with garlic and almonds — gives a nod to French and Spanish cuisine, but the orange nuggets of cold-water mussels coaxed from their blue-black shells are all about the briny seas around Coombs Island in Gurnet Strait, where they’re harvested by hand.
Fore Street’s many-windowed dining room is rustic and minimally decorated, but like the food, it’s a well-thought-out operation: comfortable and natural with exposed brick, rich wooden tables, and an open kitchen centered around a wood-burning oven that reaches 800 degrees and a grill that glows from the live flames beneath its grates.
Among the cooks here there’s a precisely choreographed hustle — one that comes from experience, yet, centered around that fiery gleam, somehow evokes a primal dance. It’s all part and parcel of dining at Fore Street.
288 Fore St.
Rob Evans, Hugo’s
Rob Evans is having a good time. After years of cooking gigs that had him bouncing back and forth between Maine and Hawaii, Rob has developed a style and a philosophy that he calls “new American.” He uses his French, Italian, and Japanese cooking skills on “foods within the region that work together, while being creative and fun about it. I think about the ingredients, then build from there.”
Rob loves New England’s changing seasons, but at this time of year he’s more than happy to be cooking with fresh, wild greens, which he gets from forager Rick Tibbetts. “The stuff he finds in the wild is more organic than organic,” Rob says. “He constantly surprises me with beautiful local ingredients.”
Beyond what Rob calls his “responsibility to support the local guys,” using indigenous foods is important to him “because it’s all part of being in the place you are. If people travel to Portland, I want them to have a Portland experience — not to try to re-create something from the Napa Valley or Paris or Miami. This is Maine.”
88 Middle St.