As soon as my mom and I decided we were going to Portland, ME, I started researching. I created a Google Doc (her first time using one) and started dropping in recommendations from friends, places featured in The New York Times' 36 Hours in Portland and other gems I found on my own.
Portland is known for its incredible food scene, with a heavy emphasis on seafood and beer. As a vegetarian, I don't eat seafood and I'm also partial to wine or cocktails over beer. My mom has a lot of her own food restrictions, so I knew we wouldn't be going to the places people often think of when they think of Portland, like Duckfat, Eventide Oyster Co., Central Provisions or Portland Lobster Co. Several of my friends suggested Nosh, but I knew that would be too trendy for my mom.
After much internet searching, we found a few places we were really excited about. On our first night in town we had dinner at a tapas place called Local 188. The restaurant was a short, 10 minute walk from our B&B, so we felt like locals as we weaved through the brick paved sidewalks to dinner.
As you can see in the photo above, Local 188 has outdoor seating. The patio has cafe tables extending in both directions, dotting their entire storefront. The rows of two-top tables look like a European cafe.
Inside, the restaurant has an industrial feel with the original support poles sticking up through out the space and the exposed pipes on the ceiling. There is a small bar on the far left, a sea of tables in the center and a petite lounge area with couches, all with views of the open kitchen.
We were seated on the right side of the dining room, at a table that had a bench on one side. I sat on the cushion with plush pillows behind me while my mother took the wooden chair (her choice, I promise!). Our table was decorated with a vibrant bouquet of fresh wildflowers that looked as if it had just been picked that morning.
To begin, my mom ordered an ice tea and I went for the white wine sangria. For me, the sangria was sickeningly sweet. I was hoping for a white wine with a citrus or grapefruit taste, garnished with diced fruit inside the glass. This rendition was a bit disappointing. So much so that I left half in the glass.
Just after we placed our order, our waitress brought us some bread drizzled with olive oil.
Whenever I do tapas, I always get the tortilla española (potato omelette) and the patatas bravas (spicy potatoes). I studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain, so I judge every tapas place on their ability to execute these two dishes. Local 188 makes a tasty tortilla española which broccoli added to the omelette. It was topped with micro greens and served with an aioli on the side.
The patatas bravas were nice and crispy, but they tasted like breakfast potatoes. There wasn't a ton of seasoning and the aioli tasted just like mayo. I was missing the fiery, spicy kick.
For my entree I went with the spring pea risotto with saffron and grana padano (a cheese, similar to parmesan).
It arrived steaming! It was clear it had just been spooned out of the pot (exactly as risotto should be). The saffron and pea flavors were both very subtle. This was a huge portion, so I wound up taking half of it back to the B&B.
My mom got the undisputed best dish of the night, the seafood paella. It came topped with scallops, clams, mussels and locally sourced fish.
She described the dish as, "A bountiful skillet with the tastiest scallops, the freshest fish, very flavorful mussels (from the sauce) and perfectly cooked rice." She added, "This is way too much for one person, you should definitely share it." Since my dad wasn't with us to help my mom make a dent, we wound up passing the skillet over to the table next to us (an uncle taking out his nephew and the nephew's girlfriend). They happily polished it off!
We definitely had room for dessert (we always do) but the choices at Local 188 were too fussy and elaborate. We decided to walk home and make hot cocoa at the B&B. We also enjoyed their freshly baked oatmeal cookies.
If you're visiting Portland, the seafood paella at Local 188 got a major thumbs up from my mom and the neighboring table we shared it with. That is definitely the must-have dish!