Monday December 17, 2012 | 01:00 AM

In such a barmy, restaurant-crazed metropolis like Portland, lunch is given short shrift—as though it were a forbidden meal from the impecunious fringe.   But we’re hardly a city of mere brown baggers--plenty of lunchtime portals offer interestingly good midday meals.  Tabs are also much less expensive than dinner with prix fixe menus in the $10 to $12 range. 

Eve’s at the Portland Harbor Hotel is a serious lunch spot.  The dining room is typically urbane, with large tables and comfortable, cushy chairs.  The kitchen is headed by Timothy Labonte, a Maine native who is their new chef.  Recently I had a light lunch of a tomato caprese salad with grain mustard  creamy vinaigrette, mozzarella and a touch of anchovy along with a cup of  squash soup. Tomatoes are an odd item to see on winter menus, but Maine is blessed by such year-round growers like Backyard Farms who supply many restaurants here and throughout the northeast with the ruby-red fruit.     My friend had a Panini curiously stuffed with sautéed spaghetti squash.  Who knew that squash could figure in a sandwich?  But it was delicious.  Sandwiches are accompanied by a mini-fryolator basket filled with potato chips.  Were these deep fried in that basket?  Sadly, no.  They’re right out of a bag, and that basket has never seen bubbling oil.  Still, Eve’s works for a business meeting, romantic lunch or a discreet rendezvous since you’re not apt to bump into anyone you know. 

That’ is not the case at the Salt Exchange.  This is a popular spot at lunchtime.  The dining room is flooded in noontime sun,  and the large tables and ample bar offer comfortable dining.  Their fixed lunch price of $12 is a good deal and includes a main course with one side, such as soup, salad, mac & cheese and house-made truffled potato chips. On several occasions I’ve had the fish taco, which is topped with chipotle mayo that imparts a formidable zing. Another favorite is their grilled cheese (local aged cheddar) sandwich, which is the best in Portland.  It’s christened with a thick slab of apple wood smoked bacon.  Order a side of a cup of soup and you have the perfect lunch.

20 Milk Street at the Portland Regency is another option for hotel dining.  Here again the tables are large and the chairs are comfortable.  At a recent lunch I ordered the seared sesame tuna salad with grilled pineapple.  As soon as it arrived I realized I had this dish in the summer on their very pretty outdoor dining terrace. Hark to seasonality! It’s time to change the menu.  My friend, who’s a vegetarian, had a Mediterranean wrap, which he liked well enough, but those accompanying fries were the largest I’ve ever seen. 

This series on lunch in Greater Portland will appear on successive Mondays for the next several weeks.

About this Blog

Subscribe to
The Golden Dish RSS

About the Author

John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

Subscribe to
The Golden Dish RSS

Previous entries

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013


October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)
Prefer to respond privately? Email us here.