This is the third post about our weekend trip to Portland. Other posts in this series include A Summer Weekend in Portland Maine and Duck Fat.
I liked Eventide Oyster Company the moment I walked in the door. It was everything about it: the variety of fresh oysters sitting in ice right at the counter; the colorful chalkboard full of the day's mouthwatering specials; the bright and cheerful space; and the friendly people working there.
We were definitely not alone.
This is one of the most popular places in Portland, and the waits can be excruciatingly long. Thankfully, they have become pros at estimating time, and they do a good job of trying to move things along. Our wait time was 45 minutes. We killed time by stopping by a local bakery (Two Fat Cats) and eating a slice of delicious Maine blueberry pie (dessert before lunch? I don't see why not!), and then coming back to enjoy a drink at the bar.
I tried the Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA on tap and I loved it. I now think it is one of my favorite beers all around. Bryan tried several local ones, including the Oxbow Loretta and Allagash Triple (both excellent).
It was close to 2:30PM by the time we got seated.
Our meal was fantastic, and totally worth the wait. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
The menus is simple and comes freshly printed on a sheet of paper to reflect the day's offerings. They have a huge selection of local Maine oysters and also a very respectable selection of oysters from elsewhere. The chalkboard has additional oysters that may not show up on the menu.
You can get other shellfish, such as clams or even a lobster tail. The rest of the menu consists of various small plates. It's fun to order several and try them "tapas style", which is exactly what we did.
You have to try the oysters. We stuck with Maine oysters (which we don't see as much in Boston) and tried six different ones. These were fresh, delicious, and it was fun to sample different flavors. They come with fun accoutrements (you get to choose two), such as pineapple-jalapeno ice, "Kim Chee" ice, and Tabasco ice, among others. Though it was fun to try them, I typically enjoy my oysters raw and straight up with nothing on top.
Our first small plate, Beet Cured Arctic Char, came with beet slivers, horseradish, and citrus salt. It was refreshing, a lovely explosion of flavors and textures. I think we were starving at this point too, so it probably tasted even better.
There are several buns on the menu. It was hard to choose just a few, but we eventually settled on two. Pictured above is the Fried Winter Point Oyster Bun ($7), which simply came with pickled vegetables and tartar sauce. All elements were executed perfectly and the overall bite was delicious. The tartness of the pickles definitely helped cut the richness of the crunchy and perfectly fried oyster.
One of their signature dishes is the Eventide Lobster Roll, which is actually more like a steamed bun sandwich filled with lobster cooked one of three ways: brown butter, mayo, or ginger scallion. We went with brown butter, which was fantastic.
Please note these lobster "rolls" (or buns?) are smaller than you might expect. We ordered them thinking they would be the size of a normal lobster roll made with a hot dog bun, but they are closer in size to a Chinese steamed bun.
The last dish we tried was one of their specials: Shaved Whelk Salad ($9) tossed with honey and Tabasco. I had never heard of whelk before and had to ask what it was. It turns out it's a sea snail that is locally harvested and in season during that time.
It was pretty good. It sort of reminded me of abalone or even sliced beef tendon (prepared Chinese style where it's still a bit "crunchy").
All in all, we both loved our experience at Eventide. I especially liked how the menu items were all small, so you could eat as little or as much as you wanted. Since we had a big dinner planned later on that night, we ended up getting a little less food, which worked out perfectly.
Everything was executed really well, made using fresh, high quality ingredients. It's hard to go wrong - we enjoyed everything we ordered. And of course, I love the seafood focus.
Even though the lines are crazy long, I say it's worth it. There's a legitimate reason why people are willing to wait for this place. It's not just a tourist gimmick or trap. Everything is seriously good here.
If I came back to Portland, this place would most certainly be on the top of my list of places to revisit. Both Bryan and I agreed wholeheartedly that Eventide Oyster Company was our favorite meal of the entire trip.
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