Wednesday, March 12, 2014
LFK has been a bellwether to Portland’s ever ascendant restaurant universe. Yet it’s only been two years since they took over the musty bookshop space on Longfellow Square and fit in so cleverly and uniquely with its male version look of Boho chic.
The scene at LFK with artwork only the artist's mother could love
Within its vaguely bohemian, bookish decor (you half expect Kerouac or Leary to emerge from the men’s loo), its diverse clientele is a mollycoddling of serious drinkers and serial eaters relishing good beer and cocktails to go along with delicious small-plate concoctions.
The bar is a real bar bar
LFK’s proprietor, Johnny Welliver, is a true keeper of the flame when it comes to setting a certain mood. I lost track of its easy charms after LFK’s initial opening, a scene in itself as we all gawked at the ancient Remington Rands looking like relics from the Stone Age and learning to navigate the seating plan of communal tables.
The bar-restaurant is pure Maine melting pot
My first re-acquaintance of the place, at least from a food perspective, was when I stopped in for brunch on a Sunday and reported doing so in a post here about a month ago. There I had the best version of corned beef hash to date of any other restaurant in town.
Then about a week ago I joined a friend who wanted to go out someplace fun to eat where dinner would be cheap. I suggested LFK. He’d never been. The place at the dinner hour was pretty full, but we found two seats in the back at one of the communal tables. We edged our way in and immediately made an easy acquaintanceship with those on either side of us.
We ordered hamburgers. At $13 each they’re not inexpensive, but if you’re only having that plus a drink or two each the tab can remain reasonable.
The burger is a good one, even if it is baked in the oven because the restaurant doesn’t have a grill in its kitchen. But it had lots of onion and garlic, which took at least a day to finally leave me. No dating that night.
Then earlier this week, I saddled up to the bar on my own to have dinner. The place was filled with an interestingly irreverent crowd, who might think twice about shredding a fetish or two.
I now like the place best on weekdays because the weekend crowd gets kind of slippery--with types from the Old Port bars going “uptown.” In New York we used to call them the bridge and tunnel crowd, who came in from the burbs on weekends to frequent the hotspots that locals would dessert after Thursday.
More crust than cheese, this is a terrific macaroni and cheese
At dinner the bar was abuzz with regulars of all stripes. And the specials board of dishes was intriguing. Before I even ordered I knew that one of my dishes would be their macaroni and cheese. I saw it at an earlier time being served in its little crock looking delish with more crust than a codger.
Roasted beef marrow with a caper tapenade was a special and would be perfect with the mac and cheese. It was indeed.
Bone marrow with caper tapenade
The pasta was truly great. It’s the dry version, which wouldn’t pass muster with a run-of-the mill foodie who prefers it wet and creamy. This was pure unadulterated mac and cheese, crunchy and sticky dry, which I loved. The marrow with its tapenade and toasts points was very well done in the French style. That and a few cocktails and a more perfect little dinner couldn’t have been had.
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.