Monthly Archives: August 2014

J’ s Oyster Bar – Delightfully Divey

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“I came to J’ s to get pissed and get laid” said a typical J’s patron sharing his intentions in a not-so-quiet voice approximately three minutes after stating “You can’t get laid at J’s.” In between, he tried to pick up the woman sitting next to him, happily giving out his number to her. He was among the more well behaved of the typical crowd on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when the only seats available were at the bar.

J’s has the distinction of being one of the finest dives in Portland – a place where moderately low class and culinary arts class intersect to make a burping, bubbling cauldron of absolute awesome that is as entertaining as it is delicious. Everything about the restaurant says “party like is 1983 and feel free to drink like it’s the prohibition.” From the not-all-that-refined wait staff to the outdated decor, J’s doesn’t give much of a shit and it’s obvious. But that doesn’t mean they don’t care at all – they do – just enough to make you happy but not enough to get rid of the slight hint of debauchery that permeates the air.

Lest anyone think my description of this fine establishment is an insult, it’s not. J’s is an astronomically astounding assortment of atmosphere, assholes, and alcohol in the perfect setting. It’s a place where smiles are a dime a dozen and it’s a thirsty seafood lover’s dream. They always deliver and I expected nothing different on that fine day. From the moment we arrived, J’s exhibited its true, beautiful colors.

We were greeted by the host immediately upon entering and saw the seats at the bar. We offered to sit there and grabbed two right in the middle. The place was lively and the wait staff busy. We were delivered a couple menus and offered a drink. We weren’t ready yet and we weren’t ready the next time we were asked either, though there wasn’t much time in between the queries. I eventually went with a vodka cranberry and my wife had an Angry Orchard. If you’re looking for a sexy beer and wine list at J’s, you’ll be utterly disappointed. If you want a Bud and a bourbon, then you’ve hit the jackpot.

My vodka cranberry was given to me in a snifter – not a typical vodka delivery system in my experience, but one I accepted with great pleasure as consuming the vodka still only required lifting the glass and tipping it toward my beak. J’s doesn’t always follow the rules and that’s why they’re so bad – bad meaning good, not bad meaning bad. I sipped the concoction. It was potent and led me to search the menu for food. Wanting to try something new, I scoured the menu for an interesting item. I figured a starter of Baked Stuffed Oysters would be good for a change. My wife started with the Lobster Stew. She then decided on a Lobster Roll and I ordered the Crabmeat Roll. Our orders would surely be a succulent seafood serenade.

We drank our drinks and listened to the craziness that is the oyster bar.  Pure hilarity was abound with patrons drinking  shots before going to work, sipping whiskey while giving out seemingly legitimate legal advice, and a host of regulars discussing their favorite aspects of the restaurant. My wife and I hardly said a word because we were focusing intently on the unintended entertainment, occasionally giving each other “that” look.

It didn’t take long for our apps to come out. I lemoned my oysters which were filled with lobster stuffing and we both dug into our food. I tried my first bite, carefully removing the oyster and some stuffing from one of three large half-shells on my plate and dipping it into my mouth. It was excellent – salty, flavorful, and fresh. The oyster itself was great and the stuffing was perfect. Mrs. Portlandeater’s stew was chock full of lobster. She loved it and let me try a bite. It was superb. We gobbled our apps like they were the last apps on earth and waited patiently for our sandwiches.

Once again, our food came out quickly. As the craziness of the restaurant merrily swirled about, we got the crustaceans we’d been craving. They both came overflowing in a roll with lettuce; pickle and chips were on the side. There was no mayo mixed into the roll, but there was a packet of mayo on the plate. I quickly added the mayo to the roll so I could devour it. With the mayo applied, I bit down. Narrowly avoiding my fingers, I got a good chunk chewed. It was very fresh, super delicious, and everything I expected. I loved it. My wife’s was essentially the same but with lobster – a first class offering.

We chomped away until our chomping was done, finished our drinks, and were ready to go. Our meal at J’s came rife with free entertainment, the food was outstanding, and the general atmosphere was fun as hell. Our meal came to around 70 bucks and we had a great time. If you’re looking for entrees, they have a good selection including items like Shrimp Scampi and Broiled Haddock Filet in addition to lots of other sandwiches, salads, and the like. No matter what you feel like, J’s will surely have something for you unless you’re looking for a quiet seaside experience. They don’t offer that. However, excellent food, outdated decor, and unique clientele are sure to give you an experience you’ll love. I love it enough that from now on, I’m spelling J’$ with a dollar sign because the place is so money.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

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The King’s Head – Let’s Get Manly

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On a random Saturday afternoon in a not so random town, my wife and I decided to go out for some drinks and food. Our wanderings took us to The King’s Head – a new bar in the Pierce Atwood building on Commercial Street which I had been hearing about lately. With an A-frame sign on the street and a sign hanging above the door, the entrance to the place is otherwise nondescript, just consisting of a door in a large brick building. Without hesitation though, we went in to see what the buzz was about.

We walked in and I quickly looked around. The room we entered into had a great three-sided bar and a few tables. To the left was a room with all table seating. The place was a little dark and there was a small mid-day crowd there. We sat at the bar. As I swiveled my head back and forth to catch all the details around me, I saw 25 beer taps and a great selection of booze including a number of whiskeys.  The bar had a feeling which reminded me of the days of yore. The bartender/owner approached us with drink menus and offered us food menus which we accepted.

I looked at the menus intently as I had done no presearch regarding the offerings there. The beer and wine menu had a full food menu on the back, but the mid-day food menu was separate and had a couple happy hour specials on it too. I was focused on the drink menu at first. I asked what was selling well and was told the Bissell Brothers Baby Genius was a top seller. I said I’d have one of those but didn’t see it on the menu. Along with a beer, I got the newest version of the menu which I was told changed regularly. That one had the Baby Genius on it. My wife started with a chardonnay.

With the beer propped in front of me, a sip proved that it was excellent. I usually prefer darker beers with a higher alcohol content, but at only 4% ABV, this one was great – light and summery with superb flavor. With our drinks going down smoothly, we focused on getting some food. We decided to order the Cheese Platter with a pastry wrapped camembert, gouda, apple cranberry sage compote, local honey, and peppered olive oil crostini. I generally feel that anything with cheese is delicious, so I was ready for some delectable dairy delicacies.

While we waited for our food, we sipped our drinks – a lot – because the cheese plate took a long time. It took so long that we arrived at happy hour about a half hour later and ordered a Scotch Egg which came with paprika aioli and was two bucks instead of the regular five. I have a love of Scotch eggs and was excited to try it, though I hoped it would come out quicker than the cheese plate for which we were still waiting.

The cheese and egg came out within a reasonable time after I ordered the egg. I tried the cheese. The warm pastry wrapped cheesy concoction was super-flavorful with great texture. It went well with the compote which added a little sweetness. I also smeared a bit of honey on a bite, but truthfully, there was so little honey that it was difficult to get any on my cheese pastry. Next I set my paws upon the gouda. I’m actually not sure it was gouda as the cheese was hard with a deep yellow color. If there are variations of gouda, it may have been, but my experience with gouda over the years is that it’s soft and more white than yellow. It didn’t matter though. I was still going to eat it. I eyed the mystery cheese like a single man at a gentleman’s club, threw it on a crispy crostini, and dropped it in my cheese hole. It was magnificent. The cheese didn’t taste like gouda. It was on the sharper side and had flavor for miles. The crostini was lightly seasoned and the perfect accompaniment. Overall, the cheese plate was a winner.

My Scotch egg was up next. For those unfamiliar with Scotch eggs, they are a very manly food consisting of an egg with sausage wrapped around it and then breaded and deep fried. The outside is crispy and the egg is usually somewhere between medium and hard boiled. This particular one was cut in half. I cut a piece of the egg and dipped it in the aioli and proceeded to dunk it into my mouth. It was good. How could it not be with egg, sausage, and a deep fried panko crust? The aioli was good too, but as I continued to eat, I ran out of it quickly; there wasn’t enough. There was only a small dallop and I could have eaten at least double the amount with my fried chicken butt nugget. In an ideal scenario, there might even be a selection of sauces offered. Nonetheless, the egg was well prepared and well worth the two bucks.

As we neared the end of our food, I was ready for another drink. When the bartender asked in an important-sounding Polish accent if I wanted another beer, I outmanned him and said I wanted whiskey. He asked if I wanted to see the whiskey menu. I did. It was titled “Whiskey and Whiskey”. Things were already good, but now they were getting stupid good. The options for whiskey drinks were one and two ounces.  That created a minor issue as I hadn’t planned on exhibiting quite that amount of machismo. I was looking for a Rob Roy – alternately known as a Scotch Manhattan in more feminine circles. The bartender said they didn’t have everything needed for the Rob Roy and then recanted saying that he had vermouth, so he could do Scotch and vermouth. I said that was fine and chose Laphroaig 10 Year which I had never tried. My wife ordered the beer I had just finished.

While making my drink, the bartender looked at me and said “I don’t have cherries though or anything like that”. Oh man, this place was awesome. My large drink arrived quickly in front of me and I sipped it. Holy super smokey smattering of sensuous soot! The whisky was smokier than a dozen Cuban cigars in the middle of a house fire on top of an active volcano. I loved it and could feel my balls growing to the size of fuzzy dice. Beer, Scotch egg, smokey whiskey, and NO FUCKING CHERRY! I was feeling so masculine that my moustache was growing a beard.

As I continued to sip my whiskey, I though about all the people who don’t drink whiskey and how they would have to do something challenging to feel like they’re men. They might have to wield an ax and chop down a tree or get under a car and dirty themselves with oil. Myself, I like to drink whiskey. It gives me that “not so fresh and I love it” feeling. The path to greatness might be knowledge or something ridiculous like that, but I prefer whiskey like any good man.

After drinking my Rob Roy, I smeared some after shave on my face, donned my vintage fedora, built a massive bonfire, and started a fight. Then I asked for the bill. It came to just under 70 bucks after tip. What a great place The King’s Head is.  I actually really loved it. The food was very good, the drinks were great, and the atmosphere had me fired up. As masculine as I felt The King’s Head was, there were plenty of women there who seemed to be enjoying themselves. This is a place for everyone. Get down there now and down some whiskey and a beer so you too can experience The King’s Head.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @Portlandeater.

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Taste of Maine – The Ads Finally Got Me There

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My travels this week took me up Route 1 to the Wiscasset area where I happened to drive by the Taste of Maine restaurant. After seeing the ads for “Taste of Maine, Route 1, Woolwich” repeatedly as a kid, I finally got there 25 years or so later. Yes, it took a while, but Taste of Maine can officially say that their ads worked on me. We actually drove by and decided to turn around and try it instead of enduring the tourist traffic until we got to the next restaurant which could have taken forever.

Upon coming back to the seafood eatery, we promptly parked, and with hunger setting in, shuffled our way right to someone who could seat us. We quickly got assigned to a table after requesting outdoor seating and gawked at the menu left with us in addition to the drink and dessert “flipper” that stays on the tables. I was particularly joyful at the presence of Atlantic Brewing Company’s Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale which is difficult to find around Portland and was available for a mere four bucks. Some people don’t like it, but I feel it has genuine blueberry flavor and because of that, it’s my favorite Maine-made blueberry beer.

When the waitress came, we asked the market price of the lobster and crab rolls – $20 each – and then both ordered the blueberry ale. The waitress left to get our drinks and we debated what to order for food. I considered some fried seafood, a crab roll, or even some baked haddock before finally deciding on the Lobster Roll. My wife decided on the same. The menu stated that the rolls came with fries and a pickle. Not being a particularly big fan of fries, I asked if I could substitute onion rings even if there was an up-charge. Unfortunately, the waitress indicated that my only option to try the onion rings would have been to get a full order which would have been too much. I settled for the fries.

Viewing the scenery from the back deck and drinking our beers was a great way to pass the time while waiting for our food. The water and trees created a beautiful panoramic facade and made the calm, sunny day even more relaxing. The  beer burned a bloody blade of blueberry bliss into my brain. We watched as other customers’ orders came out. Visitors were sucking down beer, chowder, lobsters, appetizers, and whatever made them happy. The food smelled good and we drooled all over ourselves while waiting for it.

Our meals arrived just in the nick of time like any good superhero would. Lobster on a hot dog roll, a small pile of fries, and a pickle spear graced the plate. The lobster was mixed with mayo and that seemed to be all that was in there besides the bread. The fries looked to have just a bit of batter on them. The roll was pretty full with lobster – probably the typical four ounces you find in most rolls around here. It all looked good and I was ready to try.

As I picked up my roll, a few pieces of precious lobster fell out. Without a desire to wait any longer before eating, I took my two-handed approach to roll eating and, like a laser-guided missile, I fired the lobster roll into my lobster hole with pinpoint accuracy. It was good. The lobster seemed very fresh, the mayo was perfectly proportioned, and the white bread tied it all in together. Next, I tried a fry. Despite my excessive French fry pickiness, they were not bad – crunchy, salty, and ketchup-worthy.

We finished our food and talked about ordering some dessert. We finally decided on the Homemade Maine Blueberry Cobbler. It wasn’t an easy decision because the apple crisp was calling my name too, but HMBC to share with my wife it was – vanilla Ice cream on the side and no whipped cream – I didn’t want that stuff ruining my cobbler. We anxiously awaited our sweet treat and discussed obscure musical recordings of the 12th century in order to pass the time.

The blueberry cobbler came out and I dug in. It was hot. Once I got through the fire, I actually tasted it. It was very good – sweet, full of blues, and with some cinnamon which I found to be an unusual, but tasty, twist. While not the best I ever had, it was worth trying and I enjoyed it overall. We spooned that into our faces until it was done. With dessert finished, I was ready to go home. We asked for the bill just as the table next to us ordered two of the famous $60 “World’s Largest Lobster Rolls” which were each equivalent to four of the standard offerings.

The total cost of the meal with tax and tip came to about $70. I thought it was a bit pricey, but the lobster rolls definitely have a bit of a “tourist tax” attached to them. It hardly mattered though because they were quite good. I had a good time and the service was good. I definitely don’t get to Woolwich often, but I’d consider going back to Taste of Maine if I did. After all of that advertising, I had finally gotten there, and they did not disappoint.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @Portlandeater.

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Slab – Pizza or Something Like That

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When one of my favorite restaurants was closed on an early Saturday afternoon, I had no choice but to find another place to satisfy my hunger. At the suggestion of my wife, we decided to take a trip to Slab – the relatively new eatery that became of the separation between Micucci Grocery and the longtime creator of their famous pizza. I had seen the “Sicilian Slab” and heard lots about it, but I had never actually had one. On the occasions I was at Micicci’s and there was actually a slice available, there was only one, so it was clearly popular. In truth though, I wasn’t that pumped about it. I really don’t like cheese pizza; I find it plain and boring, but as a man of the people, I still had to see what it was about.

As we walked in, the hostess approached us and we decided to request outdoor seating. On the way to the open air, I looked around the restaurant like a melancholy cow with a certain curiosity. It had a great bar and felt very comfortable. It wasn’t overly busy, presumably due to the time of day, but there was a small crowd. The outdoor seating area was huge and filled with lots of orange tables and benches. A band was getting ready to play and a heavy breeze was flying by. The hostess left us with menus.

The menu had a sufficient number of options, but was relatively simple and concise. The rear of the menu listed the libations and specials. The drink menu was extensive with many draft options, several cocktails, and a bunch of wines. When the waitress came to our table, she welcomed us to the restaurant and we ordered drinks. I chose a Hidden Cove Pecan Barrel Aged Porter – a bourbon barrel aged imperial porter. My wife forgot who she was and ordered a beer – Uinta Sum’r organic summer ale.

We waited for our drinks and the band started playing some bluesy tunes.  While bobbing our heads, we looked seriously at the menu. Even though it wasn’t that large, there were a number of items that looked good to me, so I had trouble deciding what I wanted. After much contemplation and with my distaste for cheese pizza in mind, I decided on The Hand Slab – a 1 lb. beast with homestyle tomato, mozzarella, and provolone. Then I went with a Spicy Meat Wedge – pepperoni, peperoncini, red pepper sauce, and cheeses. I figured the wedge was a sure thing which would go well with my long shot wager on the slab. Mrs. Portlandeater went with The Slaw – crisp shaved Sicilian salad with a sweet-tangy lime anise vinaigrette – and also threw in a hand slab for good measure.

Shortly after deciding on our food, our beers came out and we placed the orders. I sipped mine. It was very strong at 10% ABV and had a distinct bourbon flavor with a full-figured body. I liked it quite a bit. I tried my wife’s beer too. It was very light and tasty. The sun was out, the band was playing, and I was sipping a killer beer. We were off to a good start. Now the wait for our chow was on. While we were waiting, the waitress wandered over with a tray of silverware, napkins, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, and grated cheese. The forks and knives were wooden which definitely verified the menu’s assertion that Slab was a “biodegradable and recyclable restaurant”. It was pretty cool, though I was a little concerned about eating with wooden tools.

Our slaw was delivered. She dug into it first and loved it. I tried a bite. It was very colorful and pretty damn good except that I don’t really enjoy fennel which was present in moderate quantities. Other than that though, it was great. Light and refreshing with a very delicious dousing of delicate dressing, it was really a perfect summer starter. I must say that the wooden fork was a little strange to eat with, but it worked. We ate the slaw and got ready for the “Pizze” as the menu called it.

After a reasonable wait, our pizza came out. The slabs were indeed monstrous. The wedge was somewhat smaller, but nothing to shake a stick at. I eyed the slab to eat first. The “crust” was not typical; it might have been a Calabrese bread based on my research. It was thick and very bread-y. The sauce and cheese appeared pretty sparse. I could see and smell some spices sprinkled on top. The pizza seemed to be well-cooked which was good. It was time to taste it, but it really didn’t seem like something I would enjoy.

I took a bite of the pizza and immediately requested forgiveness for my insolence. I was totally wrong about it. The delicious bread with sweet red sauce, cheese, and a strong helping of spices was magical. For extra “oomph” I added some red pepper and grated cheese, but it didn’t need it; the flavor combination was already awesome. This was definitely the best cheese pizza I ever had – so good that it allowed me to identify animals by their scientific names. I plowed the whole thing into my face and I was primed to eat my wedge. That was also excellent and came with a side of homemade blue cheese dressing for extra heart attack probability. The meat wedge was slightly spicy, very tasty, and came with an entire peperoncini on top. I dipped the crust into the blue cheese and then into my mouth. It was more dope than a RUN DMC concert in the 80’s.

With our food finished, we talked about how great it was. I was shocked. I thought Slab would be a run-of-the-mill pizza place with nothing to offer me. It turns out that the original Sicilian slab is insanely popular for a very good reason – it’s made by the Italian God of pizza. The band was fun, the outdoor area was nice, and the indoor area is great too. Without a doubt, this place will be a go-to year round for a lot of people.

Food came to $20 and drinks were $13. Considering the strength of the beers and the size of the food, I thought it was a pretty good deal. I would go back anytime and probably try something different just because I’m really interested in what else they have to offer. Everything we had was extraordinary. I’m not sure Slab is competing with any pizza places because they’re product is totally different than anything else around Portland. We went that day even though we planned to eat pizza at night and it certainly wasn’t a mistake. Slab is going to be around for a long time but you should probably go soon. Very soon.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @Portlandeater.

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