April 21, 2013

Dine Out Maine: It's hard to find finer pub food than Frog and Turtle's

By SHONNA MILLIKEN HUMPHREY

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Line chef Kevin Heenan prepares the platters, which are offered on the pub menu. The restaurant also offers a dinner menu.

Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Walter Noah Tipton serves cheese and charcuterie platters to Allen and Amanda Conant at the Frog and Turtle in Westbrook.

Gordon Chibroski

THE FROG AND TURTLE

3 Bridge St., Westbrook

591-4185

thefrogandturtle.com

****

HOURS: Bar opens at 4 p.m. Dining hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday.

PRICE RANGE: $5 to $29. Pub menu averages $11; dinner entrees $15 to $20; brunch $10.

BAR: Full

CREDIT CARDS: All major

VEGETARIAN: Yes

GLUTEN-FREE: Yes

KIDS: No children's menu

RESERVATIONS: Yes

WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes

BOTTOM LINE: The Frog and Turtle ups Westbrook's foodie street credibility and style. Local music is a treat, and its brunch is a good one. (Try the homemade raspberry jelly doughnuts for a sugar rush; a pint-sized Bloody Mary will bring a rush of a different kind.) For those seeking dinner, make a reservation and consider ordering from the upscale pub menu. A plate of pork wings with fiery tangerine sauce while listening to excellent local music makes for a great evening.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value:

* Poor  ** Fair  *** Good **** Excellent *****Extraordinary.

The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.

The broth itself tasted complex and layered, as expected with Tranchemontagne's reputation for exquisite sauces, and each spoonful sported a good variety of seafood texture. But at least one third of the bowl's volume consisted of chunky, red potato pieces. I like potatoes as much as any potato lover, but this was too much, and I suspect it was just a ladle gone awry.

The Traditional Chicken Pot Pie ($17) was a stew with shredded pieces of chicken breast, the same chunky red potatoes as the chowder, and green peas beneath a square of puff pastry. It was presented in a personal red Le Creuset casserole.

Again, this pot pie contains a less thick and more complex broth. No gelatinous, homestyle gravy -- more of a soup consistency. Traditionalists expecting a crumbly pie crust and thicker consistency might be disappointed, but to me, it was quite tasty.

The menu divides into two basic categories -- pub and dinner -- so we returned to the pub portion for an oven-baked flatbread. The Frogarita ($13) was the star of the night, boasting housemade dough rubbed down with pesto, roasted garlic, sliced tomatoes, basil, brie and bacon. I was curious, because it seemed like a lot -- and it was. A lot of very big flavors and textures -- pesto, garlic, bacon AND brie?

I counted at least 40 soft, whole-roasted garlic cloves. It was interesting and unique, as well as rich and memorable with its chewy-crisp crust, but also heavy. And one piece was all I could finish, as it dipped into salty flavor overload.

So, the recap? The pub menu seems to offer more originality and flavor than the dinner menu. This makes sense, considering the Frog and Turtle's gastro pub delineation.

Consider some of the other pub menu offerings: A house-cured charcuterie plate, poutine or maybe a six-ounce and growth-hormone-free Angus burger topped with fiore sardo. Mmm.

The dinner menu roots itself in comfort food standards. Think grilled ham and oven-roasted chicken breast. Still good, but safer, choices.

Shonna Milliken Humphrey is a Maine freelance writer and author of the novel "Show Me Good Land."

 

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