Lobster will always be Maine's king crustacean, but this nonstop-crowded bar in Portland specializes in the state's other seafood star. The menu divides the oysters, displayed over ice on a counter cut from rugged granite, into categories using local parlance: "From Maine" and "From Away." Start by slurping local gems like citrusy Pemaquids from the Damariscotta River. Accoutrements go traditional (cocktail sauce, mignonette) and inventive (ices flavored with blasts of cucumber and ginger or kimchi).
THE BOSTON GLOBE
There was a line of people waiting to nab a precious seat and a basket of fries at Duckfat. At Eventide, a handsome, square-jawed photographer from Travel + Leisure magazine shot lobster rolls as the lunch crowd slurped oysters. Later that night, there wasn’t a seat to be found at Central Provisions as diners grazed on small plates of bluefin tuna crudo.
Oysters are the new lobster. They are what you must binge on during any trip here. Start at Portland’s Eventide Oyster Co., ground zero for Maine’s half-shell revolution. The two-year-old restaurant features a dozen of the state’s many varieties—from Glidden Points to Pemaquids—displayed in a massive granite trough. If raw is not your thing, try ’em roasted, Korean BBQ–style, even fried on a Chinese bao.
CONDÉ NAST TRAVELER
Although it’s relatively new on the scene, Eventide made a big splash with its extensive raw oyster bar carved out of a giant hunk of granite. You’ll find it packed with ice and at least ten Maine oyster varieties, making Eventide one of the best places to taste local seafood. If you prefer to skip the raw stuff, try the nutty, buttery oyster stew or the brown butter lobster roll.
WALL STREET JOURNAL
Indeed, it seems the most successful practitioners of the new New England cuisine are slavish neither to trends nor tradition, but blend the imaginative approach of the artist with the work-hard, work-smart attitude of the yeoman. For Mike Wiley, co-chef and co-owner of Hugo's and Eventide Oyster Co. in the Old Port of Portland, Maine, that means gathering black locust blossoms to serve with crudo in June, sea beans in late summer, and then "putting your nose to the grindstone, preserving the hell out of the bounty of summer and resigning yourself to falling in love with celery and parsnips for a while."
FOOD & WINE
Why They're Amazing: Because their restaurants combine the best of old-school Maine oyster bars with updates like cleverly flavored sauces (kimchi ice) and fried oysters served in steamed buns, Korean style.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
The streets were empty on a Monday night, but Hugo’s, a sleek, lounge-like restaurant at the edge of the Old Port district, was filled — not only with diners intent on their delicate assemblages of, say, braised daikons with summer kimchi, but also with the dozen or so servers and food preparers who take center stage in the bright open kitchen that faces the bar.
THE BOSTON GLOBE
If chefs like Wiley have their way, fine dining menus, with their unlimited year-round fresh produce and expensive cuts of meat, will soon be replaced by a cuisine that is a more specific expression of New England’s seasons, landscape, and culture.
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