Portland: Exotic to traditional for lunch



Portland's well deserved reputation for adventurous, quirky and fun cuisine translates well into lunch time offerings. Many of the city's best eateries choose lunch to try new recipes, twists to menu favorites, or bring back much beloved meals for noon-time diners. Here you'll also find those neighborhood gems – such as Colucci's Hilltop Superette or Micucci's Grocery Co. - that serve up the best in traditional Italian fare. For those seeking something truly out of the ordinary, Duckfat and Tu Casa Salvadorena Restaurant offer up creative meals that are not easily found on Portland's vibrant restaurant scene. Of course, old standbys like Silly's, Whole Foods, Local Sprouts Cafe always serve to satisfy the lunch crowd. No matter what your tastes or preferences for afternoon repasts, you'll enjoy discovering Portland during lunch.



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Susan's Fish and Chips
Photo courtesy of Susan's Fish and Chips


 

Susan's Fish & Chips is your classic neighborhood seafood place that is perfect for a quick lunch or a light dinner. You know, the kind of old fashioned, streetside eatery that is no frills but features tasty, expertly prepared favorites. The prices are especially reasonable and the restaurant itself has a type of friendly, fast service charm. Nothing fancy, just seafood that will leave you satisfied and planning to come back for more. Best offerings include their Haddock Burger as well as Clam Strips, Trout, Oysters and Smelts dinners. Their dinners include a choice of French fries, pasta salad, potato salad or cole slaw. A wide selection of take out, featuring reasonable prices, are a good buy, as well. Among take out features are Shrimps, Scallops and Calamari in pint and quart versions. Be sure to sample their chowder, which is made fresh daily, and desserts featuring frappes and ice cream cones.


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Whole Foods
Photo courtesy of Whole Foods


 

Natural foods retail giant Whole Foods also features a comfortable, casual cafe that features creative vegetarian and vegan cuisine for lunch or dinner. The cafe's Mexican grill menu frequently gets high marks for its fun and festive approach to non-meat fare with south of the border flare. Their version of the classic burrito, for instance, is stuffed with organic black beans, savory Mexican rice, sauteed peppers and onions, salsa, sour cream and cheddar jack cheese. Their Vegan Burrito is also a standout with steamed sweet potatoes and apples, spinach, roasted red peppers, sauteed onions, black beans and guacamole. More traditional sandwiches are also available, also with vegetarian options. Be sure to also check out the cafe's assortment of baked goods for that after-lunch, early dinner taste treat.


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Local Sprouts Cafe
Photo courtesy of Local Sprouts Cafe


 

Local Sprouts Cafe is part of a food cooperative that specializes in fresh, organic fare utilizing local Maine ingredients. The cafe is relaxed, intimate and funky. A nice place to relax and enjoy a variety of creatively prepared dishes for either lunch or dinner. A significant portion of their menu is vegetarian or vegan-focused and covers a wide range of cuisine. Their Sprouts Bowl is a customer favorite and features a nice mix of rice, veggies, beans and a choice of tofu or tempeh. Also a dining pleaser is their Sesame Tofu Stirfry with seasonal vegetables over rice. Rob's Vegan Moonburger is local legend and comes with lettuce, tomato and tofu mayo. Be sure to also check out their diverse array of organic-baked goods as well as teas and beer.


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J's Oyster
Photo courtesy of J's Oyster


 

For oyster lovers, as well as fans of local seafood specialties, J's Oyster is a little bit of heaven right in Portland. Owner Janice "J" Noyce has gone to great lengths to create an upscale eatery that is also comfortable, friendly and, most of all, specializes in great seafood. Just about every oyster specialty can be found at this restaurant, located right alongside the Portland Pier. Lunch and dinner menu favorites include Baked Stuffed Oysters with a moist, flavorful stuffing; Oysters Rockefeller with spinach, cheese and bacon; and Oysters Mornay with hearty Swiss cheese topping. J's Oyster also does a fine job with other seafood classics such as their exquisite Broiled Haddock Filet served with rice, Scallops with Lemon and Dill served over Angel Hair pasta, and their special Crabby Janice � a classic crab casserole with spinach and crumb topping. During warm weather, dining on J's Oyster's patio overlooking Portland Harbor is a real treat. The wait staff is efficient and polite.


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Silly's is an above average burger joint that has a surprising number of offerings for vegetarian diners. This favorite neighborhood eatery has two offerings, in particular, which are a consistent big hit with those who favor meat-free diets. Their Blue Mango Veggie Burger and Papou's Falafel Burger have won fans for many years. Both feature fresh ingredients and come in single, double and triple sizes. And, like traditional burgers, they come complete with lettuce, tomato and onion for a delicious meal. Several of their wraps, made with large 12 inch tortillas, are vegetarian focused, as well. They include the charmingly named Tempeh Thru The Tulips with spinach, tomato, fried tempeh, and saut�ed vegetables in a creamy basil sauce. For quick, tasty and memorable quick vegetarian items, be sure to keep Silly's in mind.


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Duckfat
Photo courtesy of Duckfat


 

Opened by the owners of Hugo's, one of Portland's choice upscale eateries, Duckfat has become a favorite with both the lunch and dinner crowd in Maine's largest city. Their much beloved specialty here are hand cut Belgian Fries cooked in, what else, duck fat. The result are some of the crispiest, chunky fries you will ever enjoy. Accompanying these specialty fries are choice gourmet dipping sauces including Thai Chili Mayo, Truffle Ketchup, and Smoked Mussel Mayo. Yum! Don't overlook the rest of the menu, however. Consider, for instance, their hot and crispy Panini sandwiches with varieties including Corned Beef Tongue Reuben, Oven Roasted Turkey, and Duck Confit. Dessert is also a treat with a fine selection of Gelato floats, Churros and milkshakes. For those seeking something a bit more adventurous for their lunch or light dinner menu, Duckfat is definitely worth a try.


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Paciarino Restaurant and Store
Photo courtesy of Paciarino Restaurant and Store


 

Authentic is what comes to mind when you approach the stately brickfront of Paciarino Restaurant and Store. Once you're inside, you know you've found the place for true Italian cuisine. The atmosphere is simple but intimate – bare wooden tables, picture windows looking over the busy Fore Street neighborhood. But what you notice most are the intoxicating scents of rich red sauce, cheeses and pasta. Lunch at Paciarino is a real treat – and surprise. The menu changes daily (so be sure to visit their website or call ahead). However, highlights often include standouts such as Ravioli Milano al Pomodoro with freshly made ravioli stuffed with imported Ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper in a family-recipe tomato sauce; Lasagne alla Bolognese, the regional classic done right with fresh pork, carrots, onion, garlic, lean ground beef and tomato; and rich Ravioli di Pesce al Pomodoro – this eatery's much beloved seafood ravioli featuring just off the boat shrimp and haddock in a seafood stuffing. All of the pastas are made right on the premises as is the savory sauces. For those seeking the best of Italy for their lunch fare, Paciarino Restaurant and Store should definitely be included on your list.


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At first, it doesn't appear as much. Just a quaint, neighborhood grocer – one of many scattered throughout Portland. However, travel around back and you soon find yourself in pizza heaven. For foodies living in Maine's largest city, Micucci's Grocery Company is the place to go for some of the best pizzas around for lunch or dinner. Actually, ask for pizza here and the likely response is an impish smile. It's known as the Slab at Micucci's and for good reason – it is unlike any pizza that you may have experienced previously. Each pizza slice features commanding, thick squares of gooey dough topped with slightly sweet tomato sauce and incredibly rich, tangy cheese. No wonder those who are true fans of pizza keep coming back to Micucci's. Once you have a taste, you're likely to return – more than once – for your own taste of pizza nirvana.


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Tu Casa Salvadorena Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Tu Casa


 

Forget the fact that true Latin American meals are still a rarity in Portland. Tu Casa Salvadorena Restaurant is as authentic as you can get – way north of the border or otherwise – for this type of spicy, ethnic cuisine. This modest eatery offers up some of the best of Salvadoran food for both lunch and dinner. Of special note here are Tu Casa's delicious version of the pupusa, a traditional dish of thick corn tortillas filled with cooked pork, refried beans and cheese and served with fermented cabbage slaw that contains red chilies and vinegar. Think burritos but with a delectable Salvadoran twist. Other highlights include Enchiladas Salvadorena featuring two crispy, fried tostadas covered with avocado, cheese, cabbage and meat; and The Mountaineer's Plate – a meat-eater's delight with flank steak, avocado, fried plantains, fried egg, rice and beans. Prices are very reasonable (the highest price item is about $12.00) and the service is fast and courteous. It truly makes for a lunch worth remembering.


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