Snapshots: Fore Street (Portland, ME)

Fore Street is a beautiful restaurant located a block off the docks in Portland. Along with sister establishment Standard Baking Co., it’s housed in a building that sits on a sharp incline, such that while the restaurant is technically on street level, the dining room feels elevated as a result of the way the building is situated. The bakery occupies the bottom half of the building that feeds directly out to the parking lot out back, which the rear windows of Fore Street’s dining room overlook (facing the water). The sense of elevation and the openness of the view that this unique setup provides I found really stimulating. The design of the place channels in equal parts that venerated New England trifecta: chic farmhouse (unfussy wood tables and chairs), sophisticated industrial space (gussied up warehouse), and warm, cozy home (well-placed adornments, like baskets with crusty loaves of bread poking out). Most of the seating forms a crescent around the open kitchen, which centers on a brick and soapstone hearth that features a wood-fire oven, grill, and turnspit. There is also a bar and lounge area out front and a smaller dining section off to the side.

The food: Fore Street was named one of the top 50 restaurants in America by Gourmet–twice–most recently in 2007. The menu changes daily, and unsurprisingly, the focus is on local and seasonal ingredients:

We believe that good food travels the shortest possible distance between the farm and the table. Our menu is founded upon the very best raw materials from a community of Maine farmers, fishermen, foragers, and cheesemakers, who are also our friends and neighbors.

We started off with a seafood sampler: lobster with fava bean puree, fish roe, raw sea scallop, a cured fish, and a ceviche.

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The cured fish and raw scallops were my favorite bites of the batch; while I’m (still) not a fan of raw fish, scallops have a smoother mouthfeel and less fishiness of the sort that seems to permeate one’s entire mouth.

In my excitement, I forgot to photograph the rest of our food. But our order otherwise mirrored this one: sweet, meaty mussels in a white wine and garlic-almond compound butter sauce (the almond lost on me, unfortunately), and the spit-roasted chicken with duck fat-fried sourdough bread and some wilted greens. Mussels are hit or miss for me, and these were a hit with an extra oomph from being roasted. But the chicken is what I would come back for. It’s just roast chicken, right? WRONG. They infuse their chickens with some succulent steroid juice (a salty, sweet, boozy brine) that, combined with the spit-roasting process, saturates the bird’s every pore with full-on flavor. One day I’ll conjure up an excuse to give Tony Maws’ roast chicken a try at Craigie on Main, as I’ve heard it’s also quite extraordinary. Better yet, I can make it! Dinner party, anyone?

Fore Street
288 Fore St
Portland, ME 04101