Hot Suppa! is the neighborhood spot your neighborhood needs — because everyone should enjoy a good dinner that won’t put you back more than, say, $15 for a catfish fillet.

This spot, with its exposed brick and ranks of booths, made its start with breakfast served daily, fine-tuning its kitchen for years until making the next step to dinner. Much of that early day-menu expertise makes dinner a better thing, infusing it with bonhomie.

Alec Sabina is one of the two owners, brothers who opened up in January 2006 after a lot of traveling.

“It’s nice to start something new in the wintertime,” he said about serving dinner. “It’s not going to be as busy.” He is grateful for the chance to refine the evening meals.

You can opt for the strong old-fashioned ($8.50) if it’s been that sort of day, because they are well-made and the right size — and no doubt the same can be said for the other cocktails on the drinks list, like The Porch Swing with Hendrick’s Gin, Pimm’s Cup No. 1, lemonade and cucumber. The old-fashioned also comes with a maraschino cherry — which is not the case when you order one at Fore Street although cherries are provided on request. Hot Suppa! knows we are not superior to the allure of a neon red cherry.

In fact, we’re not superior to almost anything that tastes good, and the menu at Hot Suppa! has that firmly in mind.


Boudin balls made with Cajun pork and rice and served with Creole mustard and pickled okra are one appetizer straight from the Mississippi delta. Crispy calamari comes with hot pickled peppers, and fried green tomatoes are served with chilled Maine scallops and remoulade.

The fried oysters ($7.95) were perfectly made on my visit, juicy and moist inside with a skinny, crisp shell of fried batter. The pile of baby spinach they sat on is dressed with blue cheese vinaigrette, no mayonnaise in sight, giving the plate a welcome range of cool green, hot and pungent flavors.

A cup of gumbo ($4.95) was fixated on smokiness and spice, thick with file powder and crammed with sliced andouille and tender chunks of chicken. You can also opt for a dinner-size serving.

A list of salads answers the call for more greens — like the house arugula, chevre, pecan and apple salad, or The Wedge, with iceberg lettuce, bacon, grape tomatoes and blue cheese or buttermilk ranch dressing.

Fuente Milano, a blend of Verdejo and Viura grapes from Spain, and Tariquet made with Ugni blanc and Columbard grapes from France (both $7) are two white wines from a list of six bottles.

Cornmeal-crusted catfish fillet with Maine shrimp in a tasso cream sauce on grits ($14.95) made a great meal, the fish likely farmed but mild and sweet-fleshed, the grits creamy with butter and Parmesan.


Maine shrimp in tasso cream sauce is also offered on its own as an appetizer. Merged with the rest of this entree, it shifted the fish and grits into high gear. Tasso is marinated, smoked pork from Louisiana and responsible for so much of the savory flavor in the dish. Just as important, little sweet Maine shrimp were cooked with the same skill that kept those oysters moist, each one sweet and resilient.

The cheeseburger ($8.95) isn’t in the same class. Skinny, cooked hard and so brown it was crunchy, the burger, with American cheese on a soft bun, was a kind of archetype of fast food better than that served at the franchises and yet — not that great.

The menu says the beef patties are 4 ounces — perhaps they are so skinny because they are so wide.

Poor boys, made with a split baguette from Sorella’s Bakehouse and spread with mayonnaise, come with fried oysters, fried Maine shrimp, fried catfish or fried green tomatoes. The Peacemaker marries oysters and bacon — and they were always fond of each other — on buttered French bread, a thoroughly appealing poor boy I wish I could have tried too.

Foie gras poutine ($21.95) glimmered from the wall board as a kind of distant goal — beckoning the courageous and the insanely hungry with foie gras, cheddar cheese curds and gravy on fries.

Sides of apple slaw, sauteed collards, cheddar spoonbread, baked beans, mac’ and cheese and more make the kind of list you can keep in mind during the afternoon at the office.


Of two desserts, we chose the chocolate bread pudding ($5), only chocolate because of a smattering of small chocolate chips melting into the billows of white bread, soft with its soaking of egg and milk. Fake whipped cream was a turn-off, but our forks kept diving in for more.

I added cream to a cup of light decaf by ripping open creamer cartons, a breakfast touch that would be nice to leave to the morning hours.

N.L. English is a Portland freelance writer and the author of “Chow Maine: The Best Restaurants, Cafes, Lobster Shacks and Markets on the Coast.” Visit English’s website,


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