Monday December 31, 2012 | 01:00 AM

In this last part of Spotlight on Lunch I offer my picks and pans for noontime dining in Portland. 

In need of comfort fare on these cold winter days? It doesn't get better than  Schulte and Herr.  Pop in for beef goulash and dumpings, schnitzel or their divine vanilla custard with fruit compote.

Vanilla custard with fruit compote at Schulte and Herr

No matter how often I’ve tried I just can’t cotton to the vegan tomfoolery of the Green Elephant.  Their efforts at devising tofu and soy into haute fare are commendable.  But not for this carnivore.
The Dry Dock (84 Commercial St.)  has the best Lobster Stew but nearby Andy’s Pub makes a mockery of our revered soup staple!

I miss  the Porthole on Custom House Wharf, rats and all.  But Harding Smith’s new eatery in the works next door might very well be a surefire winner. 

Three Dollar Dewey’s is the place to go in the Old Port for hamburger rollups and other old-fashioned pub fare.  But don’t miss the soups like terrific split pea or the curried chicken stew.

Petite Jacqueline is elegant yet homespun at lunch and offers a different daytime visual with daylight shining through its expansive picture window fronting on Longfellow Square.   The marvelous Croque monsieur or  bouef bourguignon are must haves.

Petite Jacqueline dining room overlooking Longfellow Square

Croque Monsieur with mornay sauce at Petite Jacqueline

For the last-gasp convergence of headband-coiffed gray-haired Western Prom matrons Aurora Provisions is their Mecca at lunch.  That and fabulous food make this neighborhood haunt a scene-stealer at noon.

Eventide, Portland’s oft-mentioned wunderkind eatery, is the “it” place for lunch even if you leave a bit hungry and $25 poorer because the portions are so preciously itsy-bitsy.

Eventide's diminutive lobster roll

Eventide's carrots glazed with goat cheese cream

The East Ender is like the wallflower in a wallowing Garden of Eden compared to its neighbor next door, Duckfat.  The food is excellent but remains empty at lunch. Hint: they need to make the downstairs dining space more inviting.

The Oriental Table on Exchange Street should call it quits.

Right nearby is Little Seoul (90 Exchange St.), practically the only killer Korean eatery worth its kimchee in Portland.  The space is attractive and the food is very good for a lunchtime repast.

Or head over to Zen Bistro.  Their $10 lunch special is Cantonese bliss.

Hipsters and the downtown business crowd co-mingle seamlessly at the uber-cool Corner Room at the lunch hour.  My favorite dish is the savory tart (the best buttery shortcrust) served with local spinach salad mingling with frizzled onions,goat cheese and grilled grapes

Corner Room's savory squash tart with spinach salad  brushed with balsamic vinegar

For Japanese fare, try the new Congress Street pub-style eatery,Kushiya Benkay. Order one of their lunch box specials or peruse the yakitori menu.  The food is terrific—much better than its sister outpost, the moribund Benkay on India Street.

Kushiya Benkay's lunch box with beef yakitori, tuna rolls, vegetable tempura and pickled vegetables

If you can’t get a table at Zapoteca for dinner, try lunchtime,which is often fairly crowded, too, but worth it for excellent Mexican fare.  Favorite dish: Lobster Taco--lazy lobster in the shell swathed with chipotle butter, cilantro, lime, black beans and Mexican grilled street corn for a roll your own taco.

Zapoteca's lobster taco

The food at the Old Port Sea Grill is excellent. But I would go more often if they occasionally changed their menu. Still, try the delectable Coconut Shrimp Salad.  It’s still on the list.

Falmouth Sea Grill's soup and sandwich (tomato soup and grilled cheese)

Just outside Portland, the related Falmouth Sea Grill offers an incredible seaside setting and very good food.  In their new digs at Handy Boatyard, the place is a winner if only you can find the front door.  Go.  You’ll see what I mean.

Upstairs dining room at Falmouth Sea Grill overlooking Casco Bay



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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.

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