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J's Gets It Right; Caiola's Big Fan; New At The 'Loaf

J's Oyster Bar
J's Oyster Bar
Photo: Flickr

J's Oyster Bar in Portland is a no-nonsense sort of place and Shonna Milliken Humphrey clearly likes that, as evidenced by her four-star review for The Portland Press Herald. The martinis are served "super-cold with generous pours and cheap olives," the lobster rolls are served "straight up," and the simpler seafood dishes shine. As for the oysters, yes, they are from Maryland. Why? "They have done business with the supplier for decades, the oysters are not farmed and, bottom line, J's can sell them cheaper to customers."

Remember that J's is a joint. Entrees are ample and tasty, and diners won't leave hungry, but it's not fine dining. It's a sleeves rolled up, slurp some oysters with basic horseradish and shoot the (expletive deleted) over a few beers locale. Placemats are paper, and house rules are clearly stated on cards at each table. And that's part of J's charm.

John Golden is right at home at Caiola's, the neighborhood bistro in Portland's West End that he admits is one of his favorites in the city. His write-up for The Golden Dish blog is less a critical review than a fawning tribute, but in his defense it would be hard to find a review of Caiola's that wasn't overwhelmingly positive. Chef Abby Harmon does her own thing, turning out such diverse dishes as finnan haddie potato cakes, reuben dip and maple mustard pork.

Her kitchen is like a laboratory of invention—the whole kit and caboodle of culinary cause and effect that isn't so easily classified. But attempting to I'd have to resort to words like Mediterranean-influenced with a dash of Downeast home cooking and a serious dose of comfort food savoir faire.
At 45 North in the Sugarloaf Mountain Resort, "Chef Gary Hubert provides an upscale take on comfort food that will satisfy any cold and hungry skier looking for a good meal," according to Holly Irwin of Dispatch. Not that the newbie is perfect, however. Despite the fact that it's "the 'loaf where things are a bit more relaxed," there is such a thing as too chill.
"What do you have for whiskey?" we ask our friendly server. "Oh ya know? the normal stuff like Jack Daniels, Jim Beam." Hmmm. "Do you have Bulleit?" I inquire. He thinks so, we order two. He returns shortly, empty handed. He thinks that maybe they used to have Bulleit but not anymore. I order a gin and tonic and we move on.

· J's Oyster Upholds Its Authentic Seafood Street Cred [PPH]
· Always Consider Caiola's [TGD]
· 45 North: Sugarloafer Since 2012 [Dispatch]