3rd in a series of dining reviews in conjunction with Maine Restaurant Week March 1 – 14.
If you only have time to eat at one restaurant in Portland, Maine, let this be the one. Neither the decor or food is fancy, but the food is so good, it doesn’t need to be. This place is so insanely popular that there is almost always a wait to get in. Why? The absolutely World’s awesome Belgian Fries are served here – Maine potatoes cooked in duck fat. They don’t take reservations, but trust me on this – the wait is worth it!
Located at 43 Middle Street in a mostly residential neighborhood, parking is difficult to find. Be resourceful in selecting parking, as there is a 2-hour limit that is strictly enforced. Due to the wait and leisurely time we took enjoying our food, I moved my car twice to avoid a ticket.
We went on a Saturday afternoon in October shortly before noon. A 20 minute wait was only 10 to 15 minutes. Whiled away the time in interesting conversation with a couple who were also from out-of-town. The fun things you learn that you have in common with your fellow travelers when you open up and talk to strangers or eavesdrop on a cool bearded server’s conversation (that he moved to Maine to be near a gal he had fallen in love with while hiking the AP. Ahhhhh!)
Lucky us! We were seated on stools in view of the kitchen and got to watch the fries being cooked up Belgian style – fried twice in duck fat. This might sound unhealthy, but research has shown that duck fat is one of the more healthy fats to use for frying. This gives the fries an extra crispness outside and melt in your mouth soft texture on the inside. The fries are tossed in a seasoning salt, then served in a wire cone lined with paper. Order a large, especially if there are two of you. You won’t regret it. There are eight sauces, all made fresh daily, to choose from. The garlic mayo is a perfect complement.
Also try the Poutine. If you’re Canadian or have ever tried this treat of fries smothered in delicious duck gravy and cheese curds, you know what I’m talking about.
Duckfat serves more than fries. Choices include paninis, homemade soups, salads and charcuterie. Check the chalkboard for daily specials. Most ingredients are locally sourced from some of Maine’s best farms and vendors, so everything is super fresh.
Due to taste testing another eatery in the morning, I wasn’t real hungry, so I ordered a very good grilled cheese. My husband had the Overnight Local Duck Confit panini. One bite and I was wishing I had gotten it too. It was a great mix of flavors – tender duck, pickled Maine apples, herb mayo and local greens on bread from a local bakery.
Drinks include craft sodas and milkshakes, all made in-house, plus a killer selection of Maine beers, wine, iced tea and coffee. I had the Sea Salt Caramel milkshake, which was creamy but not overly sweet or heavy.
BTW, Duckfat strives to be a green business. Used duck fat is picked up by Maine Standard Biofuels.
So leave any preconceived notions about fried potatoes at the door and enjoy this wonderful restaurant. The great food will have you returning to eat here any time you’re in Portland. You can always walk off the calories exploring the Old Port.
Hours: 11am – 9pm Sunday – Thursday and 11am – 10pm Friday – Saturday.
Web site: http://duckfat.com/