This is the second post about our weekend trip to Portland. Other posts in this series include A Summer Weekend in Portland Maine.
Portland's the type of city that's perfect for a weekend trip from Boston. It's a little over a hundred miles away, which if there's no traffic (and hrs could be a BIG if), takes less than two hours by car.
As the largest city in Maine, it boasts many of the state's best restaurants. Yet because we're in Maine, It's not an overwhelmingly huge city either. Unlike huge metropolises that would require a week or more to explore, you can easily conquer Portland in a weekend. There's great craft beer, excellent restaurants, and a really good vibe over all. The city is surrounded by ocean on three sides, which means lots of gorgeous views and a plethora of ocean-related activities.
Do any search for best restaurants in Maine or Portland"and there's no doubt that Duck Fat will show up on the list. Duck Fat is the second restaurant for chef-owner Rob Evans, who previously owned (but has now sold) the more upscale and very well regarded Hugo's just down the street.
Opened since 2006, Duck Fat is one of the most popular destinations in the city. In the summer, there is virtually always a line out the door.
It seems like all the restaurants in Portland have good beer selections, typically involving several (if not all) local craft beers. There are so many excellent breweries nearby, it's really fun to sample different beers at each restaurant.
Duck Fat is most famous for its Belgian Fries ($5 for a small; $7.75 for a large), which have received accolades and recognition from all over, including a coveted spot on CNN's top 10 fries in the U.S. list. The fries are twice fried in duck fat and come with your choice of dipping sauces like garlic mayo, lemon-herb mayo, truffle ketchup, horseradish mayo, Thai chili mayo, and toasted curry mayo.
There were definitely some diners (tourists like me, I'm guessing?) who came just for the fries. I saw some folks order a large to go (which I guess is smart if you don't want to wait in line).
Another alternative is to try their Poutine (large $12; small $8), which is essentially a pile of their Belgian fries mixed with cheese curds, gravy, and (optionally for $2) topped with a fried duck egg.
Of course, Duck Fat is more than just about the fries. They have soups, salads, charcuterie, sandwiches, and a nice selection of craft sodas, milkshakes, and duck fat fried doughnut holes (yes, I'm serious).
We started with a simple Leafy Salad, which came with Dandelion Farm greens, hakurei turnips, watermelon, and feta. It was simple, refreshing, and pretty good.
The server convinced us to try one of their signature sandwiches, yet another duck item. We ordered the Overnight Local Duck Confit panini ($13), which came with super soft and tender duck that had been confit overnight in duck fat, pickled tomatillo, local cheese curd, and a spiced orange mayo. The sandwich was well executed and also quite enjoyable.
Duck Fat is a fun place to go. The food is reasonably casual but definitely has a gourmet slant to it. Overall, every menu item we tried was solid. The whole place has that great vibe of your local, neighborhood restaurant. The fries are good, but I'm not sure if they are necessarily worth the extra hype. There are lots of places that make really good fries (though to be fair, very few places make poutine).
All in all, despite the hype and slightly touristy obsession surrounding this place, I still think it's a great place and worth a visit if you're in the area. The food is good, the local craft beer is fun to try, and the desserts actually look pretty awesome (though I unfortunately had no room for it after all those fries!). If I came back, I might not order two dishes that involve fries just so I could have room to try some of their other fun looking sandwiches (plus at least one dessert!)
43 Middle St.
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