Place: The Dogfish Bar & Grill
Time: 6:30pm, Saturday night, 10/18/08
Where: 128 Free Street, Portland, Maine
I have been to the Dogfish Bar and Grill twice now, and after dining there for a third time on Saturday night I resolved to write up my thoughts. Which I am doing. Now. You are reading it.
We arrived at about 6:30 on a Saturday night – the evening was just starting to turn purple at the edges. It has surprised me every time I have been to the Dogfish B&G how few people are there. This is perfect for me, since I like a little space to eat, but I have always wondered how they could stay open with so little business. I did a little research online and apparently this venue hosts music frequently, and has a good reputation as a neighborhood bar. I have just missed the crowds each time I have been. Note to self: Go hear some music here. It seems like a perfect place for it.
The building is two stories, all brick inside and out. It is spacious yet manages to be intimate at the same time. The last time I was here the outside upstairs front balcony was crowded (though the inside was still “no wait” for seating). It looks out onto Free street, which has very little traffic for downtown Portland. It has a warm feeling that lends itself to sitting and enjoying your dinner. At least at 7:45, there was no one waiting in line for our table, so we didn’t feel the need for speed.
Our waitress was perky and happy yet mellow, the perfect combination. She answered our questions about the food with surprising knowledge of ingredients. But I’ll get to that in a moment. She didn’t linger and didn’t make us wait for anything. Plus, she was a little psychic. I’ll also get to that…
We sat upstairs in the table closest to the front. Unfortunately it was situated directly over a speaker that was a tish too loud, but not really enough for us to ask for it to be turned down. As I stated before, there is ample space to spread out: either your bags from shopping downtown or your rear end, whichever applies.
Sabrina and I ordered the Lobster Bisque to start. It was incredible. I asked our waitress about the ingredients: lobster (of course), apple and sweet potato bits, and onion. It had a sweet but not sugary taste that perfectly complemented the earthiness of the lobster. I highly recommend.
For dinner Sabrina ordered the three little hamburgers (which I couldn’t find on the online menu) with caramelized onions, bacon and bleu cheese. Sabs is a fiend for bleu cheese. It came with kettle chips. She eats like a bird, so I was able to partake of one of the burgers. It was great. Rich and full of flavor. The bleu cheese lent a silkiness that the bacon perfectly complemented.
I ordered the Open Face Steak Sandwich, which I have had more than once (they also offer this at Dogfish Cafe). It was perfect, as usual. It consists of a generous slice of french bread, slathered with bleu cheese butter, covered with 6oz of steak, smothered in onions, mushrooms and peppers. The bleu cheese butter is amazing, and leaves the usual “left over” pieces of bread too enticing to pass up.
I also ordered the corn chips with my sandwich. It comes with chips (corn or kettle) or potato salad. In my head I was picturing Fritos; I’m not sure why. When my sandwich came with actual corn chips, I quickly asked for regular chips instead. The waitress was very happy to oblige, saying that she just had a feeling that I wouldn’t like the regular corn chips, that I didn’t look like a corn chip guy. And she was right. See? Psychic.
The one misstep is that this restaurant does not have a fryer. No french fries. No home made chips (like at DF Cafe). No greasy bar food. I wonder if this is a zoning thing, or what.
In the long run, however, it is not that big of a deal. The food is great, the atmosphere is perfect, the staff is obliging, and the experience is worth it.
4 out of 5 stars.