On our second night in Portland, ME my mother and I met up with a friend at Outliers Eatery for dinner. The restaurant gets its name from the Malcolm Gladwell book "Outliers." Owner Peter Verill considers himself a bit of an outlier (read more about his philosophies here), plus the restaurant is located off the beaten path, away from the crowded, tourist areas of Portland.
The restaurant has a huge outdoor patio. Though it was too chilly to dine al fresco the night we visited, this would be a fantastic spot for a cocktail in the summer.
Inside the restaurant has a beautiful bar. The artwork mimics the waves of the ocean, which is just perfect for this seaside town.
We were seated at a table to the right of the bar area. A very friendly waitress delivered us menus. Right away I noticed the quote from John F. Kennedy at the top of the menu about embracing change. I had read on the restaurant's website that the menu changes constantly based on what is fresh and currently in season.
At the bottom of the menu the team thanks "its fisherman, farmers, foragers and brewers." I love a restaurant that supports its local food / grower community.
To begin, we ordered a round of drinks. An ice tea for my mom and a glass of Tohu sauvignon blanc for me (not pictured, our friend's vodka drink). I was very excited about this wine because it's from Marlborough, New Zealand, which is where all my favorite wines are from.
While we were looking over the menu, we enjoyed warm rolls with a side of herbed butter. The rolls came in a terra cot flower pot (too cute!) and we were each given a bread plate. We all marveled at the gorgeous ceramic plates. The were blue and speckled like robin's eggs.
We were in a celebratory mood that evening so decided to really indulge. We each ordered a starter and an entree. My mom began with three Maine oysters. After slurping the first two she said, "These truly taste fresh from the sea. They were are delicious that they don't even need any sauce. I really feel like I'm in Maine when eating these!"
Our friend went with the octopus served with tomatoes, olives and basil. After a few bites she commented, "This dish is a wonderful combination of opposites. You have the sweetness from the tomatoes paired with the tang of the olives."
I chose the fried green tomatoes with halloumi cheese and green olive pesto. Let's be honest, I will order anything that comes with halloumi cheese.
I am used to eating fried green tomatoes with buttermilk ranch for dipping. I was excited to try them with pesto, but found myself missing the creaminess of the ranch. Though I loved the halloumi cheese, it felt like a completely separate component of the dish.
In the entree round my mom ordered the house made farfalle with chicken of the woods mushrooms, gulf shrimp, oregano and garlic.
When I asked how she was enjoying it she replied, "The pasta is al dente, which I really like. The shrimp are very delicious, the mushrooms and tomatoes are super fresh and the whole dish is seasoned with tons of garlic."
Our friend ordered the pappardelle (also house made) with beef cheek ragu, mushrooms, greens, parmesan and a red wine tomato sauce.
As her plate was being cleared she commented, "The dish had a very interesting sweet and sour interplay. Everything was very fresh and my pasta was also a little al dente. Though the portion looked small at first, it was actually quite filling."
For my entree I selected the herbed mushroom risotto with eggplant caponata and Italian frying peppers. I was hesitant to order risotto because I had just had it the night before at Local 188, but I am so glad I did because this was one of the best risotto dishes I have ever had.
I love mushrooms and this risotto had such a pure, rich mushroom flavor. The risotto was clearly made fresh and scooped right out of the pan onto my plate. The eggplant caponata was super yummy and I couldn't get enough of the peppers! I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I nearly licked this plate in order to get every last bite.
Our waitress asked if we were interested in dessert (we always are) but unfortunately their options didn't appeal to us. The list included a lemon bar, olive oil ricotta cake, vanilla bean panna cotta with peach coulis and a few others. Instead we decided to head back to the old port and stand in line at Gelato Fiasco.
I went with a gelato flavor called chocolate double stuff. It was so rich and creamy. If I lived in Portland I would be there every night! (I would also be 1,000 pounds). If I get a really serious craving, Gelato Fiasco is sold at bfresh in Brighton and Allston.
If you are planning a trip to Portland, definitely share a meal at Outliers Eatery. If you are in town in the summer, the outdoor patio is lovely and it's probably much easier to get a seat there than anywhere in the old port or on Congress Street.