It has definitely been a summer for sweltering, which makes these summer 2018 hot spots even better! Check out these places if you’re looking to cool down and relax in Bon Appetit’s 2018 Restaurant City of the Year!
Cong Tu Bot
Cong Tu Bot has been open about 6 months, but I finally managed to give it a try on my 27th birthday a few weeks ago. You have to wonder about a spot that has a quirky aesthetic, both digitally and in the restaurant, right? Equally intriguing is their tiny menu. Said tiny menu packs a big punch for your tastebuds!
I ordered the A3 and it was the spiciest meal I’ve ever eaten. We’re talking sweat dripping down my face as I’m shoveling delicious noodles into my mouth. So if it was so spicy, why was it so good? This dish accomplished something that’s easier said than done, and that’s a dish that’s HOT and still has tons of flavor. Typically, you order something that’s labeled the spiciest thing on the menu, and all you taste is spice, leaving your dish bland and painful.
This is most certainly not the case at Cong Tu Bot. Paired with some poached chicken and crispy egg add-on’s, this dish is bursting with flavor. There’s nuanced spices underneath the heat, and a wide rice noodle that provides the perfect texture on top of it. Of course, after I got about halfway through my dish and submitted defeat did our waitress mention I could have ordered it mild. Even mild, this is going to be a dish to try!
Sagamore Hill Lounge
So you probably saw my early review of Sagamore Hill Lounge at the beginning of the summer, and mentally thought, I’ll have to check it out. But I’m here to tell you, this lounge is a must on a hot summer day.
I’m a sucker for a good cocktail, and the cocktail menu at Sagamore Hill Lounge is serving great things. Sweet, sour, bitter..they’ve got something for everyone. A Teddy Roosevelt inspired bar sounds like it could be cheesy, but with a solid cocktail program like theirs, it rises from novelty to hot spot status very quickly. My favorite drinks include the Blue Dress, Smokey Sunset, and the Pineapple Daiquiri off the secret menu!
Although there is no kitchen, Sagamore Hill has the perfect spot to catch a food truck like Mainely Meatballs, since food trucks can pull right up. Bottom line: whether you’re catching a show at The State Theatre and need a head start or you’re just looking for a craft cocktail, Sagamore Hill Lounge will be the perfect choice!
Poké is nothing new but it is a relatively new addition to Portland and Southern Maine’s food scene. The poké craze started at Big Fin Poké in Westbrook, and then they added a second location by the Maine Mall. Naturally, Portland has their own poké shop as well called Poké Pop, where a salon used to be on Congress Street. For those not familiar, poké is basically like a build your own sushi bowl, similar to the set up at Chipotle. You can choose from pre-created poké combos, or build your own.
At Poké Pop, there’s no such thing as a bad choice. We’re talking the hottest wasabi, straight from Japan, fresh sashimi-grade seafood and enough add-ons to make your head spin! If you’re feeling a little more than just poké, Poké Pop has you covered. Think extravagant shaved ice and on tap Kombucha, fresh from Vermont. I recommend the Chirashe Poké bowl and a fresh glass of blood orange kombucha if you need to cool off!
Bonus points if your sweet tooth is tingling, because the Korean shaved ice (also known as bing soo) is not messing around. The strawberry bing soo literally looks like something out of my dreams, and it’s piled high with fresh strawberry puree´, whole milk shaved ice, fresh strawberries, strawberry ice cream, white chocolate sauce, corn flakes, sugar gummies and a strawberry wafer stick. Did you get hungry just reading all those ingredients? It’s even better when you get to eat it, trust me! The timing for this shaved ice being debuted couldn’t be more perfect, because it’s literally been hotter than hell in Portland lately. Cool off with a bing soo!
Bob’s Clam Hut
Bob’s is technically not new, since their Kittery location has been open for over 60 years! That being said, the Bob’s Clam Hut location on Cumberland Ave in Portland IS new and a welcome addition to one of the tastiest stretches of road in the city. If you’re already a fan of Bob’s in Kittery, the Portland location is fantastic. And if you’re like me, it’s a really good excuse to go try out some fried whole belly clams. Pretty much everything on the menu is fried, including clams, scallops, lobster tails and all the seafood you could ever want. The menu is deceivingly large, since there are combo options if you’re feeling like you want to eat a little bit of everything.
I went with the Bob and Betty option, which allows you to choose 2 items from column A and column B. This way, you can build your meal exactly the way you want it. Being the seafood lover that I am, I chose the fried lobster tails and fried whole clams, served with cole slaw and fries. If you like fried clams and we’re talking the whole clam, not just a strip, you have to come here! The batter is light, leaving the full, slightly sweet flavor of the clam to shine through, instead of being masked by too much grease and batter.
The fried lobster tails are truly decadent, but hey, when in Maine, right? The lobster was sweet and succulent, with just a little crunch thanks to being fried. As if that wasn’t enough food, they serve you enough fries for 2 people to munch on comfortably. After eating at Bob’s, you’ll probably need a nap!
If you’re looking for a little taste of the South, check out New Orleans inspired Eaux. The menu is small but well curated, and the dish you MUST order are the chicken and waffles. Over the years, I’ve went out of my way to try every kind of chicken and waffles that Portland has to offer and I’m officially obsessed with the chicken and waffles served at Eaux. What makes these different? Besides being perfectly executed from waffle to fried chicken, there’s a nice spice to compliment the sweetness of the maple syrup. The chicken is ridiculous: crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. How do you even make chicken taste so damn good? The pickled fresno pepper on top and apples are just the right touch to help cool down your mouth. Already Eaux is knocking it out of the park beyond what Crooners and Cocktails was ever capable of, and I’m excited to see how they’ll add to their menu over time.
Of course there are tons of other restaurants I could have included, but these are the hottest hot spots of Portland, right now. Think I missed the best one? Let me know in the comments or on social media!