Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dogfish Bar and Grille - Portland, ME

Restaurant Review – Dogfish Bar and Grille – 128 Free St., Portland, ME


We were recently at an event at the Cross Insurance Arena.  After the event, we thought we’d do a late lunch at a restaurant nearby.  The weather was miserable, snow blowing sideways, so we wanted somewhere close.  We decided on the Dogfish Bar and Grille on Free Street about a block away.  When we arrived, there were no other patrons at the restaurant; the weather clearly was keeping folks away.

We were met by an attractive hostess who brought us to a table well away from the door, which when opened blasted the inside with cold wind. Because our walk there was so miserable, we ordered a couple hot toddies to warm our spirits along with our usual “water with lemon.”

Photo of Bar Area at Dogfish Bar and Grille by Don Taylor | CC BY CA
Bar area - Dogfish Bar and Grill
Portland, ME
CC BY SA
The bar area looked very nice and well kept.  A dozen things on tap, a couple televisions, clean looking and inviting.

The drinks arrived just as we decided what to order.  My wife decided on a half rack of the St. Louis style pork ribs.  They come with coleslaw and chips.  When the server confirmed that the nachos were layered with cheese in between the layers, I decided to go with them.  I asked and our server, John, suggested the chili.  By the way, the hot toddies were just what we needed.

BBQ Ribs at Dogfish Bar and Grille by Don Taylor | CC BY CA
BBQ glazed pork ribs with coleslaw & chips
Dogfish Bar & Grill, Portland, ME
CC BY SA
The ribs were tender, not over sauced, and quite good.  The coleslaw was tasty, not overly sauced, savory, not sweet – Very good also.  The chips tasted like Cape Cod kettle chips.  They were as expected.  We both wished they had options other than chips.  Possibly oven browned potatoes or mashed potatoes would have been a better compliment to the BBQ glazed ribs. 

The nachos were rainbow tortilla chips with lot on top.  It looked very good.  I’m not sure I like the way the salsa bowl was placed on the top of the chips. It mashed the top down and detracted from the presentation. The salsa was quite bland and uninspiring. The jalapenos were the pickled canned variety and not fresh.  There was some cheese between the layers, but only a dusting and nothing else between the layers.  There wasn’t a lot of chili, but enough, I suppose.  The nachos were fine, but not inspiring.

Nachos with Chili at Dogfish Bar and Grille by Don Taylor | CC BY CA
Nachos with chili and salsa bowl on top.
Dogfish Bar & Grill, Portland, ME
CC BY SA

Ratings

  • Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
  • Food: 3 (Every item was okay, but nothing was outstanding.) 
  • Service: 4 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
  • Price: 4 (Lunch was under $12 each, not including drinks)
  • Value: 4 (For lunch I don’t know of many places nicer, more civilized, with better prices.)

Conclusion

The Dogfish Bar and Grille was fine.  However, there are probably 20 restaurants within a block and a half of the Cross Insurance Arena.  We’ll try some of the others before we return, but Dogfish Bar and Grille is still on our "okay to eat at" places in downtown Portland.  If you haven't eaten there, give it a try.
Dogfish Bar and Grille on Urbanspoon


Monday, January 19, 2015

Chia Sen, Scarborough, Maine


We were recently talking to a neighbor about Chinese restaurants in the area and she recommended Chia Sen on Payne Road.  It is next to the AT&T store, near Bull Moose, not too far from the Maine Mall.  We were in the area and thought we would give it a shot.

As we walked to the front door, the signs, “Fine Dining,” and “Chinese Cuisine,” promised a wonderful meal.  We were moderately disappointed when we didn’t see tablecloths, which are part of our definition of “fine dining.”  However, we were pleasantly greeted and brought to a nice table.

It took a long time for the waiter to stop by.  We ordered waters with lemon.  Because Chia Sen also has a full bar, we decided to order a couple “Bloody Mary’s.”  The waters were dropped off quickly and the waiter left without a word – Presumably to go to the bar to get our drinks.  The waters did not have the lemon, as we had asked for.  The “Bloody Mary’s” took quite a while longer to arrive.  When they did arrive, they were quite bland.  I’d have called them  “tomato juice with vodka,” and not much vodka.  It took quite a while for the waiter to finally return to take our orders.  He was busy but it seemed there were several other wait staff that weren’t doing much. 

Orange Beef at Chin Sen in Scarborough
Our favorite Chinese dish is Orange Beef so we ordered that.  I tried to explain to the waiter that on a scale of one to five we like a solid four.  He said they only do “spicy” and “not spicy.”  I indicated we’d take the spicy then.  My wife asked if the Orange Beef came with some broccoli as it often served that way at many restaurants.  The waiter indicted that it did.  So based upon his statement we ordered Pork Lo Mein as a second dish.

In a reasonable amount of time, the food arrived.  It looked really good.  However, no broccoli with the Orange Beef.  Had we known we’d have ordered the Broccoli in Garlic Sauce or some other veggie dish.  The Pork Lo Mein looked really good though.  We asked the waiter for some lemon to go with our waters.

Pork Lo Mein at Chin Sen in Scarborough 
The Orange Beef was cooked perfectly.  It had a nice crispy coating and the meat inside was cooked medium rare to medium.  Just an absolute treat.  It might have been one of the best Orange Beef orders ever except it had no heat.  The sauce was tasty, but with no heat to balance the sweetness of the sauce, it was not the perfect meal it could have been. As we ate the beef, we both realized there were no bad bits of meat – No gristle, no fatty edges.  Just really good meat.  Very nice.  The Pork Lo Mein was perfect.  It has an excellent proportion of meat and all of the meat bits were high quality – No gristle or fatty chunks there either.  The noodles were cooked as we like them and the sauce was savory.

During our meal a young man stopped by with a water pitcher and filled our waters from the pitcher. He was friendly and engaging.  It took a while after we were done eating for the waiter to bring us the check.  I had seen others take their checks up to the register and asked if we were to do so and he said, “Yes.”

When we went to the register, a lovely woman greeted us.  She seemed like she was probably an owner.  When we mentioned that Orange Beef could have used a bit more heat she we could have had it that way.  They are happy to accommodate any taste we prefer.

Ratings:

Ambiance: 4 (Nice, casual, good for conversations but not “fine dining.”)
Food: 4 (Every item was cooked perfectly.) 
Drinks: 3 (Bloody Mary’s were more like tomato juice.)
Service: 2 (Server mislead us about the Broccoli and the spice available. He was also abrupt and unfriendly.)
Price: 4 (Meal was under $12 each, not including drinks, for a sit-down meal.)
Value: 4 (I think our particular server was a problem, but the food was very good quality.)


We will definitely be back. 



Chia Sen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Weathervane, South Portland, ME

Weathervane Seafood Restaurant,
South Portland, Maine (Near the Maine Mall)
It is a rare day that my wife suggests we go out to eat at a seafood restaurant.  She said she had a “hankering for some scallops.”  She suggested Ken’s, which is just down the road from our home.  We headed down and found Ken’s closed for the season.  For some reason we were thinking they remained open – apparently not.  Anyway, knowing Bailey’s, The Clambake, and The Pine Point Grill were closed for sure, I had to think…. How about the Weathervane by the Maine Mall, I suggested.  She said “sure, why not” and away we went.



We were immediately met and seated by a friendly hostess.  Our waitress stopped by, we ordered some water with lemon and continued to review the menu.  The waters arrived with lemon and all was well.

Sea Scallops (Seafarer portion),
Onion Rings, & Coleslaw
Weathervane Seafood Restaurant,
We decided on sea scallops, for my wife, and Haddock for me.  They have what they call the “Seafarer Dinner” where they provide about half the protein for “those with lighter appetites.”  She also substituted French fries with onion rings for a $3 upcharge.

The waitress brought a plate with two plain dinner rolls, cold and uninspiring.  With it were two small packages of butter.  A pat of butter is 1-1/2 teaspoons, and these little "tubs" were probably the 1 teaspoon size.  Maybe smaller.  At least it was real butter.

Fried Haddock Dinner, with French Fries & Coleslaw
Weathervane Seafood Restaurant, South Portland, ME 
The food arrived quickly, in about eleven minutes.  Everything looked good.  I was a little disappointed in the coleslaw.  The serving was in a little cup and could have been a bigger cup.  I found the coleslaw to be delicious, not too sweet and not vinegary.  The fish was cooked very nicely and the portions were good.  The fries were uninspiring.  They do have “Uncle Hank’s French Fry Seasoning” which is quite tasty and a must to make the fries better.  My wife’s scallops were good, but a touch overcooked and a little sandy/gritty.  Certainly, we’ve had worse.  Her onion rings were really good, just the way she likes them.  Hand cut, hand battered, made to order.

During the meal, we were asked if we would like water refills, we said yes and the waitress brought fresh glasses with new lemon.  Very good.

We passed on dessert.

Ratings


  • Ambiance: 3 (Clean and open)
  • Food: 3 (haddock, 5; scallops, 3; onion rings, 5; fries, 2; Cole slaw 4. 
  • Service: 3 (Server was efficient.)
  • Price: 3 (Dinner was over $16 each, not including drinks)
  • Value: 3  


Overall, it was a good meal; not great, not bad.  I’m sure looking forward to spring and having the many seafood restaurants on Pine Point Road open once again.

Weathervane Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Uno Pizzeria & Grill - South Portland, Maine

Getting older is usually a pain, however, ever since I learned about Uno’s “double nickel” program, it definitely has its advantages.  The double nickel club give an awesome 30% discount to people over 55 on Wednesdays.  As such, Uno has become our Wednesday place to eat when we are out and about.

As we were out shopping last Wednesday, I suggested we eat at the Uno Pizzeria & Grill at 280 Maine Mall Road in South Portland, Maine.  We have eaten there several times before and have liked the food there in the past and at 30% off on Wednesday, I’m all about that.

We arrived for a late lunch, a bit before 2PM, and were greeted promptly by a hostess that took us to a table and gave us our menus.  A couple minutes later our server, Kayla, stopped by.  She wrote her name and a little happy face on a napkin and took our drink order—waters with lemon. The waters arrived and we still weren’t ready to order food. Kayla told us to take our time to consider our choices and she would be back in a little bit.

After a few minutes she returned and took our orders. Uncharacteristically for both us we ordered from the “Limited Time” offerings.  I decided on the Asiago and Roasted Garlic Gnocchi, “potato gnocchi stuffed with asiago and roasted garlic with sausage and roasted red peppers in a plum tomato sauce, baked in a deep dish pan.”   My wife decided on the Roasted Portobello Ravioli “served with wild mushrooms in a savory marsala sauce.“  Kayla then suggested a starter salad and we decided to go for it. I ordered the Goat Cheese with Glazed Walnuts “with blueberry Pomegranate vinaigrette” and my wife a Caesar. 

Spring Greens salad with goat
cheese and glazed walnuts
(Sorry, I ate on it a bit before
the picture was taken)
I have to say, the starter salads were larger than I expected.  My salad was awesome.  Really good—it was made with spring greens and had fresh blueberries, plenty of cheese and walnuts.  The dressing was a little sweeter than I prefer but still very good.  I’ll have to remember to order the dressing on the side next time, but that is a little thing.  I gave a taste to my wife who loved it too.  She asked that I remind her to order that salad the next time we come.  Her Caesar salad was as expected, made with romaine lettuce and had the right amount of cheese and dressing.  It was very good too. 

Asiago and Roasted Garlic Gnocchi
Our main courses arrived. Kayla asked if we desired parmesan cheese or peppers, we did and she quickly brought a couple shakers to the table. My Gnocchi looked really good, beautiful color, and the accompanying breadstick looked very good.  I guess my expectations were somewhat different from what arrived. I guess was expecting more of an Asiago d'allevo than an Asiago pressato. The d'allevo would have been a bit more solid and flavorful than what I received. What I got was something of a soft mushy gnocchi whose texture I really didn’t care for and the cheese inside was pretty bland. The sauce was really flavorful and had a great consistency—not too thick and not watery.  Sadly, the sausage bits were burned on one side.  Clearly the cook forgot them for a while.  The accompanying breadstick was very good, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Roasted Portobello Ravioli
My wife’s Ravioli was a disappointment.  She says it didn’t taste fresh, that the Marsala had sat around for a while and the mushrooms were severely overcooked.  There was even kind of a sauce ring around the plate what showed the dish had been in the oven too long.  She ate about half of it and took the rest home. It is still in the refrigerator several days later and will probably be tossed out. 

When we were about half-way through eating Kayla came by to check on our drinks. We both needed freshening on our waters.  Kayla brought new waters with lemon.  I often complain that many servers just add water to existing glasses and don't replenish the lemon. Kayla did both, something I really appreciated. 

There was a gap between the time we were done and when our server returned.  Part of that delay was, I am sure, because we both had a fill and wanted “person boxes” rather than were finishing our plates. We received a couple person boxes and the bill.  It was a nice touch that she brought both an original bill and a discounted bill with the double nickel discount applied.


Will we return? Absolutely.  The service was good; the food was okay—we’ll make different choices next time. The atmosphere is fun and lively, the location is perfect, being on the periphery of the Maine Mall, and the double nickel program is awesome.  If you are over 55, Uno Chicago Bar and Grill is definitely the place to go on Wednesdays. (By the way, if you don’t have a card, you can pick one up on your way into the restaurant.)

My ratings:


  • Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
  • Food:         3 (Past experiences were better than this visit .) 
  • Service:     5 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
  • Price:        4 (Lunch about $13 each (after double nickel discount)
  • Value:      5 (For lunch I don’t know of many places nicer, more civilized, with better prices.)


UNO Chicago Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ruby Tuesday - South Portland & Westbrook

It is always sad when one of your favorite restaurants falls from grace. Ruby Tuesday in Smyrna, GA, was one of our favorite places to eat. Service was always very good, the biscuits tasty, but, most of all the ribs were awesome. My wife always ordered the "Ruby Ribs," The Memphis Dry Rub was her favorite.  Since we moved to Maine we've tried a couple of the Ruby Tuesdays in the area.  First we went to the Ruby Tuesday in South Portland.  Service was mediocre at best; the salad bar seemed to have fewer things than it did in Smyrna. With so many restaurants in the Maine Mall area we figured we'd go elsewhere in the future.  Not a big deal.

The Ruby Tuesday Memphis Dry Rub Ribs
we liked at Ruby Tuesday, Smyrna, GA
Some weeks later we happened to be in Westbrook and thought why not give the Westbrook Ruby Tuesday a try.  What a mistake. The dry rub ribs were no longer on the menu and not available. Our server tried to tell us that the ribs were the same and she could bring them without the barbecue sauce.  It would be the same.  My wife did order them with some skepticism. Although still cooked well, there was no taste. It wasn't the same; we knew it wouldn't be and wondered why the server would say so.  We had to ask for biscuits which arrived seconds before the meal.

Ruby Tuesday Westbrook
Photo: Courtesy of Google Maps
I ordered a burger, medium well.  In my world, medium well means a bit of pink in the middle. Definitely not red. After the food arrived and I had a chance to examine the burger, I found it red/bloody in the middle.  It took several minutes to flag someone down to complain. Another couple minutes for the waitress came to the table who I showed the bloody center to. She quickly turned away without a word and left. I was aghast. Another couple minutes and the manager came to the table to see my problem.  He argued with me about the burger and iterated that the burger was cooked properly. I disagreed and said it wasn't. Finally, he asked what I wanted done, and I said I wanted the burger cooked.  He took it away.  A long time later another person delivered the burger, dropped it off and left without a word.  The burger was overcooked beyond belief - dry and extremely overdone -- a hockey puck.  Clearly all the life had been squeezed out if it. Actually, a hockey puck is a lot thicker that what was left of this mashed burger.  And of course, the fries were stone cold.  Nobody came anywhere near our table for quite a while. Finally, I decided it wasn't worth complaining about any more and I ate the burger. My wife had nearly finished her ribs. I had had the salad bar so I could forgo the cold fries, it was just the principle of the thing.

Anyway, we paid our bill and left. We'll never go to Ruby Tuesday in Wesbrook ever again.  We are unlikely to go to the Ruby Tuesday in South Portland either.  There is another Ruby Tuesday in Biddeford. I don't know if we'll give them a try or not.  Ruby Tuesdays removal of the Memphis Dry Rub ribs from the menu eliminates my wife's number one reason for going to Ruby Tuesdays.

I will say I am saddened that Ruby Tuesday has fallen from the top of our most favorite national chain restaurants list.

Ruby Tuesday on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 3, 2015

La Quinta Inn & Suites - St. Albans, VT

Staff was quite pleasant.


I reserved the room through Expedia's AARP site. Nice, easy, great site to use. After a long drive and great day visiting family we arrived at La Quinta Inn and Suites in St. Albans, VT in the evening, long after dark. Check in was simple and friendly. It was nice that the hotel didn't require an imprint of my credit card for "incidentals." (I had paid in advance through the Expedia website.) 

Small window in room and example of chair
Photo from La Quinta website
We arrived at night and didn't not the hotel windows, so I was surprised when we arrived and saw the room only had one small window. I'm sure the windows were intended for energy conservation but even after sunrise the room was fairly dim.

I sat down on the bed and found the the mattress was broken down. That concerned me but I found the center of the twin bed to be okay. There wasn't a desk and chair but there were two small sitting chairs with a small table between them. I think they were designed for hobbits. My 6'3" frame found them too uncomfortable to use.

The TV was nice, a flat screen, okay sound and a reasonable number of channels available. I watched it for a little bit, but It had been a tiring day, long drive and lots of Christmas Day excitement, so I quickly fell asleep.

Lobby Television & "business" workstation & printer
Photo from La Quinta website
I woke to the sounds of a very noisy refrigerator. Grumble, grumble. We didn't have anything in the fridge so I got up and unplugged it. I didn't get back to sleep. After tossing and turning for a while, I got up and went downstairs to the lobby to hang out. At least they had real coffee. They had a nice couch and a couple chairs but only the chairs faced the lobby television. There was also a small desk with a computer next to it. I connected to the internet via their wifi. It connected right away but didn't seem to want to download my email through my email app. I don't know what happened; but after about twenty minutes, it started working.

I went back upstairs, packed to leave, then my wife and I headed down for breakfast. Not very much. Cereal, instant oatmeal, a pancake making machine and a waffle iron. No donuts, rolls, or bananas. There were some hard boiled eggs but no other proteins that I could see. We decided to checkout instead of eating there. Checkout was quick and easy. Again the staff was quite pleasant. We drove the 30 minutes or so to South Burlington and had breakfast at Denny's.

Will I be back?  Probably.  It is the closest reasonably priced hotel to the family I visit in Vermont although I may try the Econolodge a mile further away next time.

Check In 5
Room 3
Facilities 3
Breakfast 2
Check Out  5

During this visit I didn't check out the pool or the workout room, so I won't comment about them.

All photos are from the La Quinta website.