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The 18 Essential Maine Restaurants, July, 2013

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Presenting Maine's updated Eater 18, your answer to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant ?" This highly elite group (note: elite doesn't necessarily mean expensive or high-end) covers the entire state, spans myriad cuisines, and collectively satisfies all of your restaurant needs. Every few months, we'll be adding pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months), or have stepped up their game.

New to this update: Five Fifty-Five, Hugo's and Street and Co..

Maine is a big state, and with this list limited to 18, there are absolutely a number of worthy restaurants not included here. For those of you readying the pitchforks because your favorite isn't on the list, wouldn't it just be more productive to leave your thoughts in the comments? Or hit us up via the tipline.


10/10/12 Added: Duckfat, Eventide, Mache Bistro, Natalie's, Street and Co., Zapoteca.
1/8/2013 Added: Local 188, Chase's Daily, The Lost Kitchen, Long Grain, The White Barn Inn.
7/9/2013 Added: Five Fifty-Five, Hugo's, Street and Co.
by Tom Minervino and Susan Axelrod

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Robert's Maine Grill

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Its location in the heart of Kittery’s outlet district aside, Robert’s is a fine option for traditional and not-so traditional Maine seafood served in an open, airy, riverfront setting.
The flagship of James Beard Award-winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier’s restaurant empire is a much-heralded destination. The duo is credited with pioneering farm-to-table in the Northeast when they opened Arrows in a gracious 18th century farmhouse nearly 25 years ago. Their innovative new menu is centered on “collections” of dishes – some inspired by the couple’s annual visits to Southeast Asia.

The White Barn Inn

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A former barn with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows is the setting for Maine food that is 180 degrees from the lobster shack. Chef Jonathan Cartwright presides over a first-class dining experience for which jackets for gentlemen - with deep pockets - are required.

Fore Street

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Sam Hayward’s spacious restaurant, with its wide-open kitchen and wood-fired hearth, helped put Portland’s dining scene on the national map. The James Beard Award-winning chef was the first in Portland to incorporate ingredients from local farmers, fishermen and foragers. His rustic, seasonal menu changes daily.

Eventide Oyster Co.

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The cool blue raw bar was an instant success from the get go last summer, making its mark with a great granite trough of pristine oysters, inventive cocktails and a menu that ranges from crudo and charcuterie to baked beans and biscuits - as well as what may be the state's most innovative lobster roll.

Duckfat

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Chef/owner Rob Evans won a James Beard Award and "Chopped" but left high-end Hugo's to concentrate on his palace of poutine and duck confit panini. The wait, almost guaranteed, will be well worth it.
The newly remodeled old standby made famous by former owner Rob Evans and made modern by current co-owners Andrew Taylor, Mike Wiley and Arlin Smith provides a fine dining experience unlike any other in the city.
A hushed temple of superb sushi from a master of the craft, Miyake serves only fish from Maine waters or flown in from Japan. Chef Masa Miyake’s tasting menus paired with sake offer a world-class experience.

Walter's

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One of Portland's most comfortable, contemporary dining rooms is the setting for Jeff Buerhaus' distinctive blend of Asian, Mediterranean and island (tropical, not Maine) cuisine. Jeff's wife, Cheryl, greets regular and newcomers with equal warmth and keeps the busy dining room humming efficiently.

Street and Co.

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In a rustic brick space off the cobblestones of Wharf Street you will find fresh seafood prepared simply and near perfectly.

Local 188

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A wide-open kitchen, Spanish-inspired menu and quirky, shabby-chic decor define chef/owner Jay Villani's West End institution.

Five Fifty-Five

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Now ten years in, the award-winning restaurant from Steve and Michelle Corry is still going strong, providing a complete dining experience that isn't hip or trendy, just excellent.

Tao Restaurant

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In this tiny, mid-coast bistro, Eater Award-winner Cara Stadler and her mother Cecile create some of the state's most exciting Asian-inspired food using seasonal and largely local ingredients.
James Beard Award-winner (and current finalist) Melissa Kelly put mid-coast Maine in the culinary spotlight when she and partner Price Kushner opened their farmhouse restaurant in 2000. Today they grow or raise the ingredients for nearly everything on the Italian-inspired menu. Upstairs, dining is more casual and affordable than in the main floor dining room.

Natalie's at The Camden Harbour Inn

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In the luxurious Camden Harbor Inn, Natalie's glamorous red and white dining room is a striking backdrop for chef Geoffroy Deconinck's sophisticated seasonal food.

Francine Bistro

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Chef Brian Hill's romantic, yet energy-charged, 25-seat bistro has a menu that changes daily, featuring four appetizers, a salad and four entrees. On a side street above busy Camden Harbor, it offers a respite from the madding crowds.

Chase's Daily

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A vegetarian restaurant with a devoted, maybe even cult-like, following, Chase's serves breakfast and lunch; dinner is available just one night a week. Much of the produce in season is from the Chase family's farm.

Long Lake Sporting Club

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Waaay off the beaten coastal path, this northern Maine icon has been serving boaters and ice fishermen since 1922. Huge portions of well-prepared American food - fried chicken, steaks, barbecue - are accompanied by the Acadian buckwheat pancakes called ployes.

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Robert's Maine Grill

Its location in the heart of Kittery’s outlet district aside, Robert’s is a fine option for traditional and not-so traditional Maine seafood served in an open, airy, riverfront setting.

Arrows

The flagship of James Beard Award-winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier’s restaurant empire is a much-heralded destination. The duo is credited with pioneering farm-to-table in the Northeast when they opened Arrows in a gracious 18th century farmhouse nearly 25 years ago. Their innovative new menu is centered on “collections” of dishes – some inspired by the couple’s annual visits to Southeast Asia.

The White Barn Inn

A former barn with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows is the setting for Maine food that is 180 degrees from the lobster shack. Chef Jonathan Cartwright presides over a first-class dining experience for which jackets for gentlemen - with deep pockets - are required.

Fore Street

Sam Hayward’s spacious restaurant, with its wide-open kitchen and wood-fired hearth, helped put Portland’s dining scene on the national map. The James Beard Award-winning chef was the first in Portland to incorporate ingredients from local farmers, fishermen and foragers. His rustic, seasonal menu changes daily.

Eventide Oyster Co.

The cool blue raw bar was an instant success from the get go last summer, making its mark with a great granite trough of pristine oysters, inventive cocktails and a menu that ranges from crudo and charcuterie to baked beans and biscuits - as well as what may be the state's most innovative lobster roll.

Duckfat

Chef/owner Rob Evans won a James Beard Award and "Chopped" but left high-end Hugo's to concentrate on his palace of poutine and duck confit panini. The wait, almost guaranteed, will be well worth it.

Hugo's

The newly remodeled old standby made famous by former owner Rob Evans and made modern by current co-owners Andrew Taylor, Mike Wiley and Arlin Smith provides a fine dining experience unlike any other in the city.

Miyake

A hushed temple of superb sushi from a master of the craft, Miyake serves only fish from Maine waters or flown in from Japan. Chef Masa Miyake’s tasting menus paired with sake offer a world-class experience.

Walter's

One of Portland's most comfortable, contemporary dining rooms is the setting for Jeff Buerhaus' distinctive blend of Asian, Mediterranean and island (tropical, not Maine) cuisine. Jeff's wife, Cheryl, greets regular and newcomers with equal warmth and keeps the busy dining room humming efficiently.

Street and Co.

In a rustic brick space off the cobblestones of Wharf Street you will find fresh seafood prepared simply and near perfectly.

Local 188

A wide-open kitchen, Spanish-inspired menu and quirky, shabby-chic decor define chef/owner Jay Villani's West End institution.

Five Fifty-Five

Now ten years in, the award-winning restaurant from Steve and Michelle Corry is still going strong, providing a complete dining experience that isn't hip or trendy, just excellent.

Tao Restaurant

In this tiny, mid-coast bistro, Eater Award-winner Cara Stadler and her mother Cecile create some of the state's most exciting Asian-inspired food using seasonal and largely local ingredients.

Primo

James Beard Award-winner (and current finalist) Melissa Kelly put mid-coast Maine in the culinary spotlight when she and partner Price Kushner opened their farmhouse restaurant in 2000. Today they grow or raise the ingredients for nearly everything on the Italian-inspired menu. Upstairs, dining is more casual and affordable than in the main floor dining room.

Natalie's at The Camden Harbour Inn

In the luxurious Camden Harbor Inn, Natalie's glamorous red and white dining room is a striking backdrop for chef Geoffroy Deconinck's sophisticated seasonal food.