The Eating Portland, ME awards for 2014 presented by Peter Peter Portland Eater

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So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.
-Franz Kafka

These are my awards for 2014. If you’re like me and enjoy things that are awesome, you’ll like these because they recognize the restaurants I visited and wrote about that stand out from the rest. As always, I never get to write about as many as I would like since I have other commitments, but there are still plenty of eateries that deserve a pat on the back because of the quality of their food, service, and atmosphere. I decided to use pretty much the same categories I did last year as a matter of simplicity.

It is of particular note that I have gotten some criticism from people indicating that I say I like every restaurant. That is mostly true as I don’t go to many restaurants I think will be disappointing. In the end, I give criticism where it is due, but I don’t go out of my way to put down good food for not being great. However, if you’re looking to find out what was truly best, you’re in the right place, because this is where I let that be known. Read and enjoy…or don’t. That’s up to you.

Restaurant of the Year – Nosh

As always, this is a tough decision because there are so many great restaurants I’ve visited. My trip to Nosh was very recent, but I just can’t get it out of my head and must go again really soon. They won an honorable mention from me last year, but the menu they instituted after that is a spectacular display of decadent, unadulterated food heaven. They were really good before, but they have stepped up their game in a very serious way and entered into greatness with food that is simply genius in an over-the-top way.

Nosh has a variety of food for meat eaters and vegetarians alike, but for my money, their burgers are the best I’ve had. From their famous Apocalypse Now burger to the Mac n’ Stack I had on my last visit, if you’re looking for a burger with severe health repercussions and wicked flavor combinations, Nosh offers a bunch of them. But even before you get to that, you can choose from one of the best beer selections in town and a host of great appetizers. In short, Nosh has it all. So go there and get ready to die happy for a totally reasonable price.

Honorable Mention  – Petite Jacqueline – See below

Best Ethnic Food – Petite Jacqueline

For the second year in a row, the runner up for restaurant of the year is a winner in this category. Petite Jacqueline’s French cuisine has the unique quality of impressing me more every time I visit. Whether it’s because I know better what to order or simply because they constantly step up their game, I don’t know. What I do know is that I always leave there feeling like I made a really good decision going in the first place.

When I reviewed Petite Jacqueline earlier this year, the French onion soup and burger left me thinking that I just don’t go to the popular eatery often enough. I’ve never had a bad meal there and they definitely work to impress all their customers. And if you’re not a huge fan of French food, it doesn’t really matter, because most of their culinary creations are tastefully done with just a French twist, so there’s no need to go hardcore into a French food revolution.

Honorable Mention – Paciarino

With so many good options, even the honorable mention here was a difficult choice, but the lasagna at Paciarino was absolutely fantastic and a bit different than any lasagna I ever had previously.

Best New Restaurant – Bramhall

While I didn’t have a full meal at Bramhall, there’s no doubt this place had a little something special to it. Built to give a speakeasy vibe, it does so without question and doesn’t even have a sign to alert patrons as to it’s location. The combination of delicious food, excellent drinks, and really cool atmosphere make this place truly a must before going to your favorite dinner location nearby. Just the fact that they turned what are essentially BBQ chips into a delicious plate of slightly spicy, somewhat hearty nachos is a masterpiece of simple food made great.

Bramhall is a definite win for anybody who goes and while you can certainly eat sandwiches and such there, the specialty is drinks and their selection and preparation are outstanding. So order your favorite whiskey or other spirit and get ready to have some fun. The excellent staff will accommodate your needs and you’ll likely be filled with the joy of feeling like you’re in ahidden drinking room. Note that it’s a really great place to bring your friends who like to keep their drinking a secret.

Honorable Mention – The King’s Head

I truly enjoyed The King’s Head. Again, I didn’t have a full meal there, but the food we did have was very good and they really know how to make a drink. Additionally, the atmosphere is perfect for imbibing.

Best Upscale Restaurant – Walter’s

Walter’s has long been a favorite of mine and was probably the first high end restaurant I ever went to in Portland. No visit ever makes me reconsider my time there. Both their drinks and food are incredibly delicious and always make me wish I was still hungry and thirsty so that I could eat more from their very appetizing menu. This is a place you can take a date that will impress. You can count on it!

Honorable Mention – Vinland

Vinland’s very unique take on food leads to delicious cuisine that is often healthy and quite interesting. This is another place that wouldn’t fail to impress your Match.com hookup of the day.

Best Eats on the Cheap – Ruski’s Restaurant and Pub

It’s hard to find fault with Ruski’s if you go in knowing it’s the epitome of a dive bar. They’ve got dive down to a science with very inexpensive food, ornery bartenders, a lackluster interior, dartboard, and the like. They’re the total package and would be well suited to serve your dive bar needs year round. Go and order a beer and nachos and just sit there in a hellacious heaven of deliciousness without a concern in the world.

Honorable Mention – J’s Oyster Bar

J’s is another dive bar that does it right. When we were there, the crowd was so entertaining I was almost willing to pay for the show. Add that to the fact that their food and beverages never disappoint and you’ve got yourself a legendary Portland locale serving reasonably priced delights.

Best Appetizer – Timber

If you read my blog – and you do if you’re reading this – you know that I wasn’t overly impressed with my main course at Timber, but I need to give credit where it’s due – their jalapeno mac and cheese is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. If I didn’t care about my health, I’d eat buckets of that stuff every day. It’s that damn good. If you haven’t tried it yet, you are honestly missing out on something that has few equals in the wide world of appetizers.

Honorable Mention – Grace

The first time I ever ate at Grace I only had a cheese plate. While I can’t ever remember eating any bad cheese plates anywhere else, Grace had one of the best ever. Because of that, I have made a commitment to have a full meal there. If it’s half as good as the cheese plate, I’ll be happy.

Best Place to Grab a Drink/Bet/Wine and Chill Out – Lolita

Lolita had a significant service issue when I was there in that everything was exceptionally slow, but they had just opened a few weeks earlier. Fortunately though, they served one of the very best drinks I had all year. If you’re not in a rush and just want to have outstanding cocktails, Lolita will make you happy. They seem to have a knack for making strong drinks that don’t make you feel like you’re getting kicked in the throat as you drink them.

Honorable Mention – Slab

Both the inside and the outside of slab are really cool places to sit and have a beverage. I strongly recommend you don’t try the outdoor seating this time of year though. It’s cold out there.

Those are my picks for 2014. I’ll definitely get back to all of them eventually, but first I’ve got to go review a bunch of different places I haven’t written about yet. Stay tuned in 2015 and subscribe to stay up to date on what I’m reviewing, what I think about the food I’m eating, and where you should go next. You probably won’t regret it.

Stay hungry.

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

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