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Readers' Pick
Best Readers' picks 2007: Food and drink

J's Oyster Bar, Geary's Pale Ale, Caiola's, and more.

DIY LOBSTER ROLL: How do you like yours? Lotsa mayo? None at all? Either way, that's how J's Oyster Bar makes theirs.

Best Bagel
I heard about this guy, my friend’s friend, who ate a bagel for every meal of the day for, like, 36 days. He died. I hope he chose to binge on MISTER BAGEL bagels, because, I mean, if you’ve gotta go like that, those are some really sweet bagels.

The bagels are delicious, but a New York transplant would likely say something along the lines of, “Well, they don’t come close to Tony’s Bagels on 4th Street . . .” It’s your duty as a Mainer to slap that person.

Mister Bagel | 10 Moulton St, Portland | 207.774.8704 | 539 Congress St, Portland | 207.774.5115 | 601 Forest Ave, Portland | 207.761.2996

Best Brunch
is where you’d go for brunch with your grandma on Sunday, except everyone there is with their crew from Saturday night, nursing a collective hangover. Fortunately, they serve brunch seven days a week in case grandma’s a little weirded out. The Portland Street staple’s mimosas are likely a cure for what ails you, but so are their heaping portions of all things breakfast if you can’t quite stomach a little hair of the dog. This restaurant keeps on winning your votes, so we’re thinking pretty much all of Portland is getting their food on at Bintliff’s.

Bintliff’s American Café | 98 Portland St, Portland | 207.774.0005 |

SMALL PLACE, LITTLE PRICES: Silly's has big meals and huge variety.
Best Cheap Restaurant
Since being hungry and low on dough seem to go together, SILLY’S fits Portlanders’ needs perfectly. Their generous portions at reasonable prices are the stuff of legend on the East End and beyond. Abdullahs (an exotic name for a wrap sandwich) are stuffed to the gills with loads of fresh veggies, interesting condiments and accoutrements, and are large enough for two meals. Same goes for their Hobo Pie, a massive mish-mash of veggie chili, sour cream, tomatoes, scallions, and salsa. What this massive plate is doing in “Starters” is reason enough to go and investigate for yourselves.

Silly’s | 40 Washington Ave, Portland | 207.772.0360 |

Best Ethnic Restaurant
BANGKOK THAI’s exhaustive pan-Asian menu tweaks a generous helping of vegetables and rice or noodles into dozens of satisfying and blessedly inexpensive incarnations. Our favorites are the Garlic & Ginger Tofu (light and flavorful) and the Kee Mao Jay, a crunk helping of eggy, tomatoey, Drunken Noodle goodness. Bangkok Thai also has also single-handedly confirmed our suspicion that well-prepared tofu tastes way better in Asian food than meat. And that all good appetizers should be deep fried. And that there’s no better way to avert awkward conversation than to sit at their counter and watch the Congress Street crazies.

Bangkok Thai | 671 Congress St, Portland | 207.879.4089 |

Best Late-Night Restaurant
Most larger metropolitan areas have several choices for late-night eats, and we have but a few. Of these, SEBAGO BREWING CO. is the rightful victor. First of all, they offer something other than pizza. Their impressive selection of appetizers alone is enough to secure them this award, never mind the fact that these all have a perfect beer accompaniment. When you decide to skip out on the headlining act at the club, you have a place that will gladly serve you real food right, without having to drive across town for it.

Sebago Brewing Co. | 164 Middle St, Portland | 207.775.2337 |

Best Lobster Roll
For the foodier-than-thou who are uninitiated, J’S OYSTER BAR is a humble spot on the water that has been there forever. As food trends and restaurants with lesser fortitude have come and gone, J’s has remained. The powers that be at this Portland mainstay have broken down the venerable lobster roll to its most basic elements. Chunks of the freshest lobster meat imaginable, a crisp piece of lettuce, a roll, and a side of mayonnaise come loosely assembled on the plate. J’s is so confident about these ingredients, it asks you to put it together it yourself, IKEA-style. It’s perfection.

J’s Oyster Bar | 5 Portland Pier, Portland | 207.772.4828

Best Local Beer

One time, we were hanging out with some really hot German exchange students at a house party and they tried some of the GEARY’S PALE ALE from the keg in the backyard. They were all like, “This is terrible, we’re sticking with Budweiser.” Suddenly, they were a lot less attractive. Look, we live in Maine and we drink beer with a lobster on the label and that’s that. Plus, Geary’s hires local artists to design their seasonal labels. We saw Summer Ale in the cooler at Cumby’s yesterday, so as far as we’re concerned, it’s time to go to the beach.

DL Geary Brewing | 38 Evergreen Dr, Portland | 207.878.2337 |

Best New Restaurant
The West Enders spoke with a clear voice here, as they are likely the ones most overjoyed about this delightful restaurant. The West End, replete with several amenities, had lacked a real neighborhood restaurant until CAIOLA’S moved in. Phoenix reviewer Brian Duff has applauded it, commenting on the eatery’s “quirky menu” and the fact that Caiola’s food, “ranging from homey to elegant . . . rewards attention.” It’s establishments like these that help define neighborhoods as unique destinations within our small city. West Enders, and Portlanders at large, are waiting to see what’s next on the menu.

Caiola’s | 58 Pine St, Portland | 207.772.1110 |

WILD OATS: More like wild veggies and fruit. Get plenty - share with your friends.

Best Organic Produce
In a year where the most fascinating game of corporate chess played out on Marginal Way, it’s somewhat ironic that WILD OATS gets this one. While many celebrity award winners accept the award “on behalf of everyone that was nominated,” it’s really almost the truth here. If you are just now thawing out and catching up on news, Wild Oats’s neighbor, the Whole Grocer, was bought by the Whole Foods chain, now located a stone’s throw away. And, amazingly, days after its opening in Portland, Whole Foods announced that it was buying Wild Oats. So, are we all winners here?

Wild Oats | 87 Marginal Way, Portland | 207.699.2626 |

Best Pizza
PORTLAND PIE COMPANY has it together when it comes to their specialty pizzas with hot names like The Shipyard and The Vacationlander. You can stop by for a slice or get a pie delivered when you can’t rip yourself away from your Xbox or whatever it is you’re doing in your apartment alone all the time. We’re just worried about you, man. We’re your friends, you can tell us anything.

Not only is their pizza mind-blowing, but Portland Pie hires cool people who play good music in the kitchen. Top that off with cute counter girls and delivery boys and you got yourself a foolproof business plan!

Portland Pie Company | 505 Fore St, Portland | 207.772.1231 | 798 Main St, South Portland | 207.347.5736 | 869 Main St, Westbrook | 207.591.6248 |

GREAT DESSERTS: Or, the greatest desserts? Accompany your cake with a shot of liquid chocolate. Mmmmmmm... Chocolate.

Best Place for Dessert
For the second year in a row, THE BAR OF CHOCOLATE CAFÉ wins, accepting the laurels for its handmade chocolate desserts, whether truffles, cakes, cupcakes, or liqueurs to accompany them. It’s a place to go and linger, sharing a plate or consuming something just on your own. The mood is light, the chocolate is dark, and the price is just right.

The Bar of Chocolate Café | 38 Wharf St, Portland | 207.773.6667

Best Restaurant Wine List

It’s no surprise VIGNOLA, opened last year, has already won this honor. Not only is the restaurant constructed and decorated like Italy’s famed neighborhood enotecas, but the wine list itself surpasses anything else found in the greater Portland area — both for quality and affordability.

At most local eateries, it’s common to find a handful of rugged Californian reds and whites, a smattering of Italians, a peppering of French and if you’re lucky, a discount round of Spanish or Portuguese wines. But Vignola is different. Here, there are wines from Eastern Europe, a heavy list of French and some fascinating wines from South America on top of a sizeable Italian and Australian selection. Glasses range in price from $5 to $11.50 and come poured in gorgeous long-stemmed glasses that make a drinker feel like a sommelier. Bottles range from $21–$109 and almost any bottle can be tasted before you try it. If you can’t decide, go ahead and try one of their pre-designed red and white flights of wine for around $8.00. You get three 2 ounce servings—great for tasting alongside Vignola’s simple, delicious food offerings. Add to their charm a knowledgeable, patient staff and a jeans or dress atmosphere and Vignola is sure to remain atop Portland’s Best Of list.

Vignola | 10 Dana St, Portland | 207.772.1330 |

Best Sandwich/Wrap
It’s pretty easy to have a bad day working in food service. Especially during the lunch rush. At 11:30 am, as if by some cosmic shift, customers get stingier, pickier, and more impatient for the next hour and a half. The best thing at MARKET STREET EATS is that the staff never has an off day. They live for the hustle and bustle, they’re accommodating and unfailingly polite, and best of all, they love sandwiches. The wraps are uncomplicated but weirdly precise; they know which flavor combinations taste best, and they’ve got killer mayos and aiolis that never cease to make a pretty good lunch a pretty great lunch. Horseradish mayo: more like wasabi. Damn.

Market Street Eats | 30 Market St, Portland | 207.773.3135

Best Sushi

This is always a tight race. Portlanders get really possessive about their preferred destination for the raw stuff, kind of like people taking sides in the Cola Wars back in the ’80s. Say, that would be amazing if we could get a sushi battle going . . . Anyway, we’ve got a lot of fine Japanese establishments in our little city, so what did FUJI do to garner such praise from Phoenix readers? It has a no-brainer downtown location, a really chill decor, cheap beer, and stiff drinks. They offer both Korean and Japanese and you can cruise on downstairs to the Hibachi table and watch the chef dance around and play with fire while he cooks your meal. The sushi’s pretty good, too . . .

Fuji | 29 Exchange St, Portland | 207.773.2900 |

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Best Readers' picks 2007: Arts and Entertainment
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