SPOTLIGHT ON PORTLAND, MAINE

grittys

Relax Refresh Relish Replenish Revive
A Mecca for Craft Beers and Fresh Seafood

BY LENORE CULLEN BARNES

Of all the nicknames a state could have, “Vacationland” isn’t a bad one. With more coastline than California, plus thousands of rivers, lakes, and islands, the Appalachian Mountains and Acadia National Park, it’s no wonder the Rockefellers and Bushes have made Maine their vacation destination of choice.

Whether you’re a resident or just visiting, hopefully you’ll include Portland as part of your itinerary. After playing 18 holes at South Portland Golf Course, Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth or the city’s own Riverside Golf Course along the Presumpscot River, make sure to check out the abundance of inviting options for the 19th hole.

While famous for lobster and blueberries, Maine is also a Mecca for independent brewers. Portland is home to more than a dozen, with several plying their wares at their own brewpubs.

Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub has been producing handcrafted, award-winning ales since 1988. Fashioned after a traditional English pub, with long communal tables, benches and booths, Gritty’s is lively and relaxed. Behind the hammered copper bar hangs almost 400 mugs. If you’re a regular at one of the region’s golf courses, you might invest the $75 a year that buys you a mug and $2 beers on Sundays and Tuesdays. Enjoy one of the flavorful specialty burgers, like the decadent black fly stout burger with black fly stout barbeque sauce, bacon and cheddar, or the grilled Mediterranean lamb burger with mint, garlic, lemon and feta cheese.

Shepherd’s pie and fish-and-chips continue the British pub theme. A bit more American is the hearty Build-Your-Own Mac & Cheese, served with cornbread and fried jalapenos. Add lobster, kielbasa, fried shrimp or blackened chicken, and your choice of vegetables and sauce. It may not improve your swing, but it will satisfy the heartiest appetite.

At the far end of Fore Street is Sebago Brewing Company, on the first floor of the Hampton Inn. A long bar, five televisions, booths, a fireplace and two walls of windows make this corner locale bright, airy and appealing for small parties or large groups. Outdoor seating is popular in the mild weather. Most of the eight ales on draught are poured directly from on-premise vessels. Sebago Brewing Co.’s bottled beers are also available. Draughts are discounted every night during Happy Hour, as well as Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Pan-fried pork dumplings and Cajun-dusted haddock bites make tasty starters. Choose from a variety of burgers, salads and sandwiches, including shrimp tacos and a Red Ale Reuben, or entrees like seafood alfredo and roasted asparagus ravioli with scallops.

Lobster from the pub’s tank ensures the lobster quesadilla, lobster roll and Maine lobster dinner are deliciously fresh. Crab cakes, haddock and Hawaiian chicken are among the gluten-free options.

If you’re celebrating a particularly fine round and are in the mood for seafood, Street and Company on cobblestoned Wharf Street is not to be missed. The bar area offers a variety of casual seating with a cozy rustic ambience. Enjoy a beer, glass of wine or cocktail while surveying the raw bar. In the adjacent dining room, guests are entertained by the open kitchen.

The Mediterranean-influenced menu draws on local ingredients and changes daily. Oysters are a specialty. The marinated tuna with spicy pepper sauce and aioli was perfectly prepared and the Gorgonzola with orange gastrique and dates provided a sweet combination of flavors. Salads feature organic lettuces and local produce, with available appetizers like mussels Provencal and calamari with artichokes, peperoncini, garlic and herbs.

Another option for the oyster lover is Eventide Oyster Co. This bright one-room establishment offers oysters from 10 Maine sources and others from various regions. Lobster stew, New England clam chowder, and a New England clambake are among the shellfish-dominated offerings. Sit at the small bar or score an outdoor table on the sidewalk and savor these gifts from the nearby Atlantic with a Murphy’s Irish Stout, a cocktail, or wine from the thoughtfully composed wine list.

For a more down-home experience, $3 Dewey’s Restaurant/Alehouse is a casual mainstay of the Old Port area. With 19 available brews by the pint or pitcher and stouts, lagers, and ales by the bottle, this pub is a beer-lover’s haven. The Shipyard American Pale Ale is a favorite, along with Allagash White Ale and Bar Harbor Real Ale. The “Irish Black List,” beers made with Guinness, includes black-and-tan offerings with blueberry, Smithwicks and Harp.

The menu offers four types of Nachos, award-winning three-alarm chili, ribs by the pound, and the house specialty—a smoked seafood chowder that is distinctive and satisfying.

The beers are not $3 (there’s another story to the name), but they’re reasonably priced and locally brewed.

With its array of brewpubs and restaurants, Portland seems to have mastered the art of the 19th hole.

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