broke & hungry.

28 04 2011

there is absolutely no question that portland has incredible food. on munjoy hill alone live three of the best restaurants in town (bar lola, blue spoon, & front room), and the most perfect neighborhood market that ever lived.  possibly secondary only to family and friends, it is the thing that holds me here and reminds me that portland is home.

yesterday, i took a jaunt to the new five guys with a very bummed out boyfriend who was just informed that he needed to purchase a new transmission. place was PACKED! i really love how they only have like 5 things on their menu. simplicity to me is one of the earmarks of a restaurant that knows what they’re doing. you don’t have to have 200+ menu items if the 5 things that you make are super delicious.

that said, i wasn’t expecting much from my grilled cheese. and i was right to set the standards low. the cheese to bread ratio was way off (like an inch of american cheese- TOO MUCH!), and it was super small and dense. edible, but not amazing. french fries were undercooked and mouth searingly hot. although, my friend @torreyham said that he saw the face of god in his hamburger, and the boyfriend seemed overall quite pleased- even if they forgot the BBQ sauce.

but that’s not entirely my point today.  the point is that there are all these new restaurants opening up in portland all the time, but there is one large gap being left in the market that i would like to see filled: affordable food with sit-down atmosphere (mall restaurants need not apply).

on the cheap is easy when you’ve got diners and pizza and burger places up the yaz. upscale is easy if you can afford it. there also appear to be an inexplicable amount of asian restaurants cropping up on every corner… but when my mom refuses to eat indian food, and i only have $20, where do we go?

i don’t know exactly how to make it work. and i certainly have no idea how to run a restaurant… but i would love to see people opening restaurants with a greater awareness of A) how many similar restaurants already exist in the area, and B) the fact that we’re pretty much all fucking broke.

yeah, i’m sure that grass fed beef with walnut fennel chutney is great and all, but we don’t need to be so fancy. but we also need to be able to afford things that aren’t just pizza and french fries. oh, and we want the food to taste good.

ok, so maybe i’m asking a lot. but if anyone out there wants to open a restaurant, this town could use some unpretentious budget fare that doesn’t have to get cooked in a fryolator.

who’s with me?

(or we could scrap this idea entirely and just open an automat)

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27 responses

29 04 2011
Cat Eldridge

There are affordable, sit down restaurants in downtown Portland my favorite being Local Sprouts near Longfellow Square which is open eight to ten MF and eight to for on Sundays.

It has everything from vegan choices to full-on meat lovers choices such as an absolute superb bacon cheeseburger. Made with local beef, bacon, and cheese with the roll baked mere steps from where you eat your burger. And their curries are to die for — Stone of Stone’s Living Tree Cafe is partially reponsible for them.

29 04 2011
bessmarvin

i love local sprouts too, but it’s still too casual to make the grade. i’m talking a restaurant with waiters & menus.

29 04 2011
Mister Meatball

A Red Sauce Italian might do the trick.

29 04 2011
bessmarvin

seriously! some days a girl just wants a bubbling crock of cheesy lasagna and a whole lot of garlic bread. hey, congrats on your phoenix win!

29 04 2011
James Tranchemontagne

You should come check us out in Westbrook at Tranchemontagne.
Every thing is $8 to $10. Made fresh and in-house. Plus there is pinball, Tvs, free Wi-fi and great milkshakes.

29 04 2011
bessmarvin

i’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about it! and i do love a milkshake. sadly, i don’t drive, so it’s a little trickier for me to get to westbrook. however, i most definitely need to catch the #5 out there someday very soon.

29 04 2011
Patrick

The #4 stops basically right in front of Tranchemontagne, and Fajita Grill, and Frog & Turtle, and Portland Pie, and 2 beer stores that have prices that can’t be beat, plus Acorn theater as well as the rest of Dana Warp Mill is either on the way, or a block away, depending on which version of the #4 you ride. It’s a 20ish minute ride. Lots of us do it every day!

29 04 2011
Blackgirlinmaine

I totally agree with you, I love the diversity of eateries in Portland but as someone from away, I have noticed there is a dearth of genuine places to eat that are affordable. I must say that even as much as I like Sprouts which is casual it starts getting pricey when you go there as a family. I recently had lunch there with my hubby and little one and our tab was $45 for lunch. I love eating local but feel there should be some balance that reflects the fact plenty of folks who live here are struggling.

29 04 2011
sweetersalt

I feel like I work for them because I’m always talking about how wonderful they are but… SILLY’S! My go-to for quick, quirky, yummy food with loads of vegan / vegetarian options.

Laura

29 04 2011
megan

the dogfish down by the bus station isn’t too bad, both food and pricewise. and as a westbrookite, I, too, stand behind Tranchemontagne’s. Bourbon in a milkshake? hell to the yes.

29 04 2011
Stone Williams

I have to say, by no means am I wealthy. In fact, I’m pretty broke. However, I don’t really think Portland restaurants are expensive. If you want cheap and good in the same sentence, eat at home. Across the country, like restaurants are priced 10% to 20% over the Portland market, and I’ve seen it firsthand. The Portland market is fairly cheap compared to other cities/towns. If you put 555, Fore Street and (fill in the blank) in to any other food town, you would notice main courses would be $10 higher than here. $35-$40 entrees are not uncommon elsewhere.
And with regard to Tranchemontagne and the F&T, you get what you pay for. Cheap is cheap.

30 04 2011
Courtney

This is going to sound a little nasty and I am sorry but…old port and congress street price per square footage divided by 6 dollar grilled cheese equals reason why you won’t be sitting down with a waiter waiting on you for ten bucks any time soon.

14 05 2011
bessmarvin

i work in the commercial real estate industry (office manager- in the hiz-ouse!), and i completely agree that the rents in this town are ridiculous. the rents of good times past need to be gone, but landlords are still clinging on to those pre-recession rates like crazy people. also, restaurateurs with a lot of love and ideas and no business sense don’t realize this (or want to acknowledge this) and assume that just the act of placing their restaurant on congress or exchange will make it a success.

2 05 2011
megan

re. Stone:

pretty sure that this post isn’t wishing for cheap…she’s wondering about affordability. and in downtown Portland, this isn’t an easy thing to come by. as for your assessment/comparison of Ptown’s eateries via others, I’ve seen better food made more affordable in comparable towns/mini-cities with a higher desirability quotient: santa fe, asheville, boulder, etc.

as I type, portland, while lovely in many ways, is growing even more enamored of itself in regards to its foodie rep. and this is madness…especially when considering the state of our state.

2 05 2011
Blackgirlinmaine

I agree, cheap is one thing and affordability is another. I moved here from Chicago which as the 3rd largest city in the US is not a fair comparison but I have heard from others that in cities comparable to Portland high quality food is more accessible.

Yeah, Portland has a growing rep as a foodie town but considering how little most jobs pay in this area, prices are not proportionate to what folks can afford unless they are tourists, etc.

Just thinking back to my hometown, we had a number of places that not while high end, served high quality food without breaking the bank. I am talking pasta bars with servers where entrees were no more than $12 a person.

14 05 2011
bessmarvin

man, there used to be a pasta bar on market street that i lived at in college! i could love one of those to come back around… but you’re right, cheap and affordable are too different things. also, i was exaggerating when i said that i wanted to feed myself AND my mom for $20. me and my stupid comic effect pissed a lot of people off. but feeding myself + tip for under $20 would be hot at a place that served something other than hamburgers.

14 05 2011
bessmarvin

thanks for defending me megan! it’s true. i’m not wishing for cheap, and i don’t actually think it’s reasonable to want to feed 2 people for under $20 at a restaurant with waiters. i just feel like there’s a lot of high a lot of low, and not much in the middle except asain. now i love asian food, but i just want more choices (and i just don’t feel like another super high end restaurant is the right choice- HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING FROM EVANGLINE?).

2 05 2011
Fred

Lots more I can think of:

Norm’s on Congress
Hot Suppa
Samuel’s on Forest ( a little far out, you might need to ride a bus)
Espo’s
Ono Cafe
Ruski’s
Boda (Sunday night, Tapas half price)
El Rayo

Most of these may be short on atmosphere but have more than passable food and will serve you at your table, etc.

I am sure there are more but that ought to keep you busy.

14 05 2011
bessmarvin

can i just say that i’m so fucking excited that hot suppa has dinner now! that might actually qualify for what i’m talking about. norm’s is also pretty good (if you’re into the BBQ-y kind of thing). ono cafe is awesome, but not table service, boda is great but too pricey, and i actually really hate el rayo because while their sangria is great, their vegetarian options suck balls. that said, this is a pretty good list. thank you for reminding me of some great restaurants!

2 05 2011
forefrontfash

my favorite thing to eat in portland is the hippi on an everything bagel at One Fifty Ate
and that shizz is cheap, healthy, delicioso.
also, tu casa

2 05 2011
jjdactyl

dude.
i second, third, and fourth the hippie. seriously. i’m addicted. definitely doesn’t count as waiters-and-tablecloths food, but it’s worth every penny, and the adorable atmosphere of 158 makes up it.

11 05 2011
bessmarvin

158 is amazing. give me a salt bagel with herb cream cheese any day. too bad it’s so far away. i really aught to wander out there some day soon.

14 05 2011
bessmarvin

oooh… pupusas! i gotta get myself back down to tu casa.

4 05 2011
HD

I am so with you. After having lived in places like NYC, Austin, and Santa Fe, where restaurants that fit your description abound, I am continually baffled at all the hype about the Portland food scene. I always think about this place called Kerbey Lane in Austin: http://www.kerbeylanecafe.com/menu/our-24-hour-menu

Fresh, local, amazing, unpretentious food at reasonable prices in an atmosphere where you can do a hungover brunch with friends or take your parents when they’re visiting from out of town.

As noted above, Hot Suppa probably comes closest to this description, but I do wish Portland had many more restaurants like it.

11 05 2011
bessmarvin

i think you might be the only one! i thought there was going to be a lynch mob forming on portland food map! the kerbey lane place looks cool… and i do love hot suppa. they make my favorite breakfast in portland (fried green tomato eggs benedict). i was actually about to complain that they didn’t serve dinner… but now i’m excited to see that they do! glad i checked. i don’t think i can eat much of what is on the menu (being veg and all…), but i’ll go just for the cheddar spoonbread!

4 05 2011
mike fink

Try Mike’s at 437 Congress St. You can see the menu at http://www.mikesrockdeli.com We have had good reviews in both the Portland Press Herald Go section 8/26/10 and the Portland Phoenix Dinner and a Movie section 11//26/10. Look for a discount offer on the front page of the Portland Daily Sun this Thursday and Friday 5/5/11 and 5/6/11. Most of the sandwiches are named after local bands and music personalities. If you read this post and mention our comment you can get one dollar off any Rock ‘N Roll sandwich that costs $5 or more. Rock ‘N Roll sandwiches are like a sandwich only LOUDER!

11 05 2011
bessmarvin

i’ve actually heard really good things about your rock & roll sandwiches sir. i don’t get out much for lunch, but i should probably make an effort. i know it’s guaranteed to be better than that awful raw food place that came before it… also nice to see some vegetarian options up in there.

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