Freeport is very small, for all its picturesqueness, so after we’d done L.L. Bean and circled the town, we headed for the somewhat-larger Portland. Recently it’s been getting a reputation as one of those über-Williamsburgs, with quirky shops, art galleries, and locavore restaurants, particularly around the waterfront, but the whole Williamsburg shtick is also rooted in artists and free spirit-types taking over yet another rundown urban area and remaking it. And by “rundown urban,” I mean not just abandoned, but disgustingly trashed and dilapidated and ghetto. I can see Portland has industrial roots, but most of its old, now repurposed buildings always had pretty colonial/Federal/Victorian bones:
It just isn’t the same kind of flavor, although I am still amused by the gradual hipster creep. Speaking of, the food was fairly uneven. We had dinner at the upscale Salt Exchange, which had the neat idea of using homemade potato chips instead of a bread basket. But the chips were sliced way too thick and some ended up raw in the middle, while all were soggy with truffle oil (a bad thing, trust me), not crispy at all, cold, and in need of salt. An Asian-style pork belly biscuit had juicy pork, but a horrible flat grainy biscuit (and having eaten fantastic ones in the South this past summer, I can dream of what an awesome combo this would be if executed right), and I thought putting coleslaw and pickled apples was a bit redundant. You need one crunchy thing to offset the soft biscuit and tender pork, and I would’ve gone with the apples. I had the sugar-brined pork chop, which was small and sliced a little on the thin side, given the $20 price. The brine left it juicy but super-sweet, and the sauce/sides just added more sugar. More of a dessert than an entrée.
Pork belly bun and truffled potato chips, The Salt Exchange
Grilled sugar-brined pork chop, The Salt Exchange
When you go back to the basics, it’s way better. Portland Lobster Company lobster roll kept it traditional with lobster meat and a lettuce leaf, with lemon and (mediocre) slaw and fries on the side. Awesome fries, crispy and light, moist in the center. And the lobster meat? The lobster meat was nothing but claw meat. Not only that, whole claws. Somebody carefully cracked at least six claws per roll and removed the meat inside in a single, unflawed, perfect piece. Naturally, it tasted like the best lobster ever.
Lobster rolls, Portland Lobster Company
The little lobster buzzer they give you while you wait your turn is cute, too.
Lobster buzzer, Portland Lobster Company