158 Pickett St. - South Portland, ME


See that young lady right over there? Why, she’s about your age, son. This must be kismet. It’s just her and us at 7:43 AM grabbing a bagel on a Saturday morning. She’s a hot ticket too… The way the warm morning light hits her freckly cheeks, she’s a looker m’boy.

            You’re going to talk to her and there are no two ways about it. First: make sure your eyebrows are full. Straighten ‘em I’m serious. You gotta make ‘em like a sharpie marker attack. The first thing a woman notices — even if she doesn’t know it and most of ‘em don’t — is a man’s eyebrows. Believe me, if you got no eyebrows you are as good as a damn eunuch to these females. They yearn for robust brow hair like what grows in our family. We’re blessed in that regard.

            Oh! Oh you see that? What she just did… No of course you didn’t. Jeezum crab apples perception must have skipped a generation. No she didn’t just wipe her mouth. That’s rookie talk son. She dabbed at the right corner of her lips using her left hand. That means she’s ovulating. What’s ovulating? It means she’s in rut! In heat! She yearns for jelly, son! Alright, alright I’ll cool it. She is looking, yes. But she can’t hear me, I have precise volume control, down to the foot.

            Put simply son, you have a chance here. Hold your breath, quick. Hold it… Keep holding, what are you looking at me for? Ok… Keep holding, this is important, boy, life or death here. Just one more second annnnnd… exhale.

            Can you feel it? Your manhood is at a rolling boil. You are throwing off more pheromones than a fightin’ chimp.

            Alright, go get her.

            Wait! Sit back down quick. Almost forgot: when you speak to her, speak only in the present tense. No, “I was hoping.” Or, “I would like to.”

            “I am taking you out.” That’s a good, strong, declarative sentence. “You are joining me for a meal tonight.” Why aren’t you holding you breath? Hold your breath again, son. Yes, now!

            And think only winning thoughts here. This is your one shot at keeping this family’s genetic seed from dying in the fallow desert of your loins. What I mean is earth’s very evolutionary line depends on this, son. From its inauspicious beginning, wallowing and fighting in the primordial sludge, life has found a way to hold strong its singular line. From prokaryotes to eukaryotes to fish to crawling marmots, up to the pea-brained Neanderthal life has won the battle against both death and time. Now, right there! in your greasy teenage abdomen that line is in danger of meeting its end! Will you let life as we know it die? Or will you man up and go ask a young woman if she is not opposed to continuing this magical mystery of being? Can you just take time out of your busy morning to do that? Huh?

            I thought so. Alright you can breathe again.   

            Look at that, it’s working already! You see her sip that coffee? Don’t act like you’re at a monkey house, son! Watch better. Watch more carefully or this whole thing is shot. There you go. Like that. Just glance at her sippin’ that coffee. She can feel it, the imminence of the vital tradition of courtship: the necessary hokey-pokey prelude to the flamenco dance of sublime creation.

            What are you doing just sitting here, looking like a damn cactus? Get over there! Get over there and — oh man! Look at that! She’s leaving. No, sit back down, sit back down. Jeezum crow! You had your chance and look what happened. Slipped away. I hope you learned something, son, because I certainly did. I learned quite a bit about you. I’ve had it up to here with all your big talk. Next time you quit yapping and act! Jeezum crow…

 

 

FOOD:

3.4

My inaugural trip to 158 (One Fifty Ate) Pickett St. began with high expectations. My first foray had me sitting down to an “everything” bagel with cheddar, Canadian bacon and eggs. Everything was in place, but the end result just wasn’t really impressive. The bagel was well made, but the eggs, cheese, and C. bacon just didn’t bring much flavor to the table. After resorting to salt and pepper, the bagel went down much more tastily. My second trip furnished me with a a lox special featuring chili garlic cream cheese and the works. The bagel was presented very nicely and they didn’t skimp on anything, but again, the flavor just didn’t deliver what I was hoping for. In short, both bagels felt absent of the necessary seasonings, a bit bland, in honesty. Don’t get me wrong, they were both better-than-average bagels. But after hearing the hush-voiced veneration 158 Pickett receives, I expected something far more exceptional.

PRICE:

Bagel Bite

Most of the bagel specials run around $6-$8. Add a coffee to that and you’re barely into the double digits. Good brekky prices.

AMBIENCE:

Bespoke Hermit Shack

This might be my favorite part of One Fifty Ate. The artsy, hominess of its interior seems the right amount of intentional. I know the space itself is small and gets crowded (and a little smoky), but I went early both times and never had to deal with a line. The wood and art and cozy seating perfectly matches the type of food they’re serving up.

SERVICE:

Counter Culture

They turned out my bagel sandwiches quick and easy both times. Definitely had the speed and quality aspect of the operation wrapped up. I’d imagine with a line their speediness wouldn’t be as impressive, but I’m sure they pump out the orders post haste.

EAT OR SKIP:

Skip

Like most of the skips I’ve ever given, this comes with disclaimers and equivocations. First, I know that my opinion will not stop tons of South Portlanders and USMCC students from frequenting 158. Heck, if I lived in South Portland, One Fifty Ate would most certainly enter into my weekly breakfast schedule. However, if you’re driving around, looking for the best place, so many other breakfast sandwich options (Ohno, Dutch’s, Tandem Bakery, etc.) are superior to what I had at 158. All things considered, I don’t want to make it sound like 158 isn’t a good bagel shop. Their bagels are legit and their ambience and attention to detail are well appreciated. It’s simply that they don’t appear to have a handle on the sort of seasoning that sets apart the good places from the better.

 

158 Pickett St.
158 Benjamin W Pickett St, South Portland, ME 04106

Q Street Diner - South Portland, ME


Laird Gilkes IV had stipulated in his will that his wake would take place inside Q Street Diner. Now, the tables were pushed against the wall by the entrance and the chairs were all arranged in rows facing the window, in front of which Laird’s waxen body sat.

            Laird didn’t want a traditional ceremony in which he was laid out like “a snoozin’ slouch,” as he put it. Laird wanted to be seen in action. So his embalmed form was sitting at a table; his rigid arm raised a black cup filled with steaming coffee and his head was thrown back as if caught at the peak of a raucous joke. I imagine it had cost an extra penny for the morticians to figure out how to rig him up  — fishing wire shot from Laird’s limbs making him appear, if you caught the right light, to be a shrieking man snared in a massive spider’s web.

            I was the first one there, being Laird’s best friend. Laird’s wife had long since passed thanks to a weak heart — she was a large lady — and they’d had no kids beside. The Lesters — a father, son mortician operation — whispered with the wait staff by the door; I think the younger Lester had his eye on the waitress with spectacular hips.

            Sherman and Layla Kinnerman were the first to arrive; this surprised me. Sherm had, understandably, harbored a grudge against Laird. Twenty years ago, or so, Laird took Sherm’s family on a Caribbean vacation while Sherm was in Toronto on business. It had never come out whether or not Layla Kinnerman, a minx even at 70-something, had sealed the deal with Laird over those sunbathed seven days, but rumors still abound in several directions. Thus, my surprise at Sherm’s promptness. Maybe it was just that Sherm couldn’t wait to see Laird dead and wanted to make sure he had front row seats. He nodded to me as he passed, his head frilled in a fur hood, pulled up against the dead chill of winter.

            The wait staff began to circulate with plates of silver dollar pancakes, one of Laird’s favorites.

            Next through the door was Barry Trembleau. His bald, buzzard’s head nearly scraped the ceiling and his oxygen tank wheeled with him like a little an obedient fire hydrant. Barry and Laird had fought side by side in Vietnam. When the nights got late and the Goldschlager — another favorite of Laird’s — got low, they’d always come to the story of the Asian goose they’d used to flush out a Vietcong bunker. The way Barry would tell it, it was the height of tactical stratagems. The way Laird saw it, they were two men higher than an Aroostook spruce, futzing with wildlife.

            The story went: Barry and Laird were stuck in an encampment on the Vietnamese coast and thus were powerfully bored. After ripping down an overstuffed blunt filled with the army’s best wacky tabaccy, Barry, skilled with ropes, decided to snug a poacher’s knot around the leg of a goose that just wouldn’t stop honking around their position. Laird, an inveterate jokester looped a grenade to the other end of the goose’s rope and pulled the pin. Their mirth at this outrageous prank turned instantly to chagrin when the goose flew into their bunker. Hollering, they fled, pursued by the hissing, explosive goose. After running for several agonizing seconds, Barry and Laird looked back to see the goose still in hot, flapping pursuit. So when the explosion came, it surprised the heck out of them that it was from far behind. As luck would have it, Laird was a terrible knotsman and so the grenade had gotten caught in a bush that happened to also be the entrance to a critical Veitcong bunker. Hearing a close explosion the Vietcong had taken themselves as besieged and come one by one, hands up, surrendering to the two giggling G.I.s. Both men had earned some stripes on their uniform for that.

            Now, seated in a thick ribbon of sunlight, Barry shot me a lazy salute.

            Next in were the Juarez twins, both their young families trailing in tow. Laird had become a sort of demigod to the Juarez twins — now in their respective primes at thirty-six. They had emigrated up to Maine from Juarez, thus their unimaginative moniker given by Laird. Their real names were Ronaldinho and Pitá Izquierdo — far more difficult to pronounce than simply saying the Twins Juarez.

            Laird had given them their first job at his repair shop before they spoke a lick of English. Laird himself had made sure they stayed in school long enough to get their bachelors and then as a gift for completion he’d introduced them to the Harrison twins, two long-legged beauties who now carried their respective offspring into the Q Street diner.  

            Heralded by a keening shriek, Shep Blatter burst through the door.

            “It’s not true,” he shouted. “Gilkes was healthy as a bull moose not one week ago!”

            This was an outright falsity. Laird had been laid up in hospice for three months with the spreading cancer that would bring his quietus. Shep, on the other hand, was a drunkard whom Laird occasionally accompanied out for rips. I could smell Shep’s breath from where I sat, the space afore his white-whiskered maw quavered like air over Arizona pavement.

            “See!” said Shep, squinting one bleary eye at where Laird was strung. “There he is, enjoying a steaming cup!” Shep teetered to where Laird sat — Shep’s walk stemmed exclusively from his lower torso, his thighs wide and knees stuck at the thirty-degree angle. “You old hound you had me going,” Shep said, reaching out and patting Laird’s hand. Upon feeling Laird’s cold, mannequin skin, realization burrowed its way through Shep’s bulwark of rye. He fell to pieces right at Laird’s feet. After a tasteful pause, the Lesters hauled Shep to a seat near me in the back where he whimpered and slugged conciliatory snorts from his flask.

            It being about time, people began to filter in more rapidly. There was Chilly Wentzle, an old fishing buddy of Laird’s with whom Laird had won the East Coast Angler’s Award with leviathanic stripers straight from ’77 to ’82; the “Gilkes Chill” those years had been dubbed. There was Candy Humboldt, Laird’s modern jazz dance partner. There was the entire Clan Lugerbank, a laconic pride of feral North Ponders whom Laird had schooled in Greco-Roman wrestling.  They were followed by, among others, Cougar Manx, a local Flamenco guitar wizard, Vidalia Gooch, a transgender gypsy who had exorcised Laird’s 1986 Ford Bronco, and Biff Termagant, the self-titled Boldest Man Walking.





            I recognized nearly every attendant. Most were townies and others were old friends of Laird. Laird and I had been best friends since junior high, so I knew pretty much everyone he did. Closeness notwithstanding, there was one man who shuffled in that I could not place. He wore a dark green cowboy hat pulled way down over his forehead and had a beard that sprung out from over the top of a tightly wound scarf. His limping gait was almost comical. I swiveled in my chair to get a better look but the mysterious fellow scurried and sat at an oblique angle to me, way back in the corner.

            At the head of the room, Ignatius Burton Creed, a one-armed lobster man and licensed Justice of the Peace from Acadia, stood and cleared his throat. Ignatius had sung baritone in Laird’s barbershop quartet. Despite Ignatius’ labored throat clearing, nobody was really quieting down. He began despite the noise

            “Here we gather for a great man,” he said. He-uh we gatha, it came out in the inimitable Maine dialect granted only by a lifetime of exposure to pines, moose, and snow. His words soothed the dining room to silence.

            I became contemplative, as one does at an affair like this. Laird’s death still hadn’t found its way into my heart. I just sat there and thought about the man I knew, rather than the man I was going to miss. And who was that odd man in the back anyway? Who was I for that matter? Would I have an attendance like this, were I to suddenly pass?

            Ignatius spoke on, galvanizing the disparate characters in attendance. I faded in and out of attention. After a pause from Ignatius, Cougar and Candy stood up to perform a flamenco piece with Cougar on the strings and Candy interpreting the somber notes through dance.

            My lack of focus made sure that I wasn’t even the first to notice the mysterious man stand. I reacted to Layla Kinnerman’s gasp.

            “Lies!” croaked the shrouded man from the back of the room. “Lies!” he repeated, kicking the chair in front of him. With everyone’s attention firmly in place, the shrouded man yanked from his jacket a small, oil-black pistol. Gasps and shrieks rippled through the gathering. With a cry of rage this unknown man rushed the head of the room where the still-dancing Candy Humboldt waggled her arms in a trance.

            Cougar, considerably more present than Candy, dropped his guitar and tackled her off to the side. The shrouded figure rose to full height and shot three rounds at the already-deceased form of Laird Gilkes IV. Shrieks rang out even though Laird was already dead as hell. I dove down below my seat like the rest.

            “Nobody move,” said the mysterious man, laughing now. It was an odd laugh in that I’d heard it before. Heard it a million times… By God if it wasn’t the laugh of Laird Gilkes IV!

            I peered over the top of the seat. At first I thought, Not possible. You’re seeing things! But there, taking off his hat and fake beard, laughing like a damn hyena at a hippo feed is Laird Gilkes IV in the flesh. “Because we’re about to have a party!”

            “A haint!” screamed Inger Lugerbank, clutching for her husband. “A wicket spirit, my Lord my lord!”

            “Fear not, Inger,” said Laird Gilkes IV, pistol whipping the head off of what everyone had previously taken to the Laird Gilkes IV. “I had him made out of wax. Pretty neat work huh!”

            “Ha!” said Shep Blatter, who leapt up, wobbled and fell back into his chair. “I knew he wasn’t dead!”

            Sure enough, Laird had gotten us all. At the party that his faux-wake became, Laird let us all in on the intricacies of the ruse. He’d been faking the hospice with the help of hired actors and had lost all the weight voluntarily thanks to what he called “the role of a lifetime.” Everything had gone perfectly. Now, he yelled, clapping me and everyone else within reach on the back, he had all his friends in one place — an accomplishment that he rightfully predicted wouldn’t have happened without his actual death. He’d pulled one last fantastic prank on everyone in attendance. It was beautiful, he’d said. Boy oh boy did we whoop it up that night. Boy oh boy.



FOOD:

2.9 Stars

I deem this some of the more ubiquitous diner food I’ve eaten in Portland. Not that that’s an indictment of Q Street, nay. Far from it. It’s a potent form of comfort to know, before ordering, exactly what you’ll be getting. E.G. Corned beef hash from a can, puffy pillows of pancakes that suck up more syrup than a parched Mountie, and eggs that are eggs indeed.

PRICE:

Two Gum Wrappers and a Moth

$ The price is righteous.

AMBIENCE:

Exhibit at the Diner Museum Circa 2219

Quintessential covers a lot of the bases in describing Q Street Diner. Are the walls adorned with random photos of Golden Era celebrities? Yes. Old LPs nailed to the wall? Why not. Faux wood grain Formica tables, indoor-outdoor carpeting and metal chairs? Sure, yeah, OK. During my visit my dining partners were grandparents, parents or impressionable children. Meaning, no young couples or hipster foodies could be found in the place (other than my flannel-wearin’ ass).

SERVICE:

Hun

My water stayed full and my coffee oft-warmed. The overall experience was fantastic. I felt important without being fawned over.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Q Street Diner contains a local flavor that can be enjoyed no matter where you call home. This is no doubt a place that more than one octogenarian calls my favorite spot. Let it be understood, this food will neither really impress nor disappoint, it will satisfy your diner urges. If you want something a bit more bespoke, there are plenty of other places around Portland and So Po. But if you’re looking for a nice little diner where you can blend in with the locals, Q Street is the ticket.

 

Q Street Diner

9 Q St, South Portland, ME 04106


Piccolo - Portland, ME

 



In the low lit, cozy dining space of Piccolo on Middle Street, I approached the Almighty Creator of Life. We were meeting for dinner. He sat in heavenly splendor, surrounded by swirling immaculate robes of gossamer thread. As I sat, some of His robes flew in my face and I had to politely bat them away. The One True Power stifled a grin.

            “God,” I said.

            “I prefer Yahweh…” He said, crossing His arms.

            “My humblest apologies,” I said. “Yahweh I—“

            “I prefer Allah,” He said, chuckling. The Ambrosial Creator of the Universe reached across the small wooden table and squeezed my hand. He patted it twice more for good measure before picking up a menu and ignoring me entirely.

            “I can’t thank you enough for joining me here,” I said, lacing my hands in supplication. “I just had one question and you’re the only person… uhhh… the only being who I trust to give me true clarity.”

            He was still looking at the menu. I paused, uncomfortably aware of the scraping of knives and forks of the two tables next to us. With extreme languor the Supreme Being lowered his menu so that his cosmically radiant eyes could be seen over the top. His wizened all-knowing lids hung over irises of infinite depth — two swirling convex glimmers of unlimited creation and a kinda dick-ish glower.

            “Everybody has a question,” said the Creator. “And don’t pray like that. It’s embarrassing.” He tossed his menu on the wooden table and scooted his chair — causing it to honk loudly against the floor — and crossed his legs.

            “Everybody just has one question and it’s never the one they should be asking. ‘What’s the meaning of life?’ That’s for you to decide. ‘How much time do I have left?’ Five years, now what? ‘What happens after death?’ Yadda yadda yadda…”

            The King of Kings waved his radiant hand and inadvertently hit a gnat into his water.

            “I damn it,” he said, fishing the gnat out with his pinky.

            “Is it still OK if I ask one?” I said. The One True Authority raised his eyebrows and blew out a sigh.

            “Yeah,” He said. “Yeah… sure. And FYI, I’ve chosen not to read your intentions. Even I need a surprise every once in a while.”

            I nodded. I’d been thinking about my question for a while. And you could say I was more than surprised when the Highest Power and Omnipotent Consciousness actually answered my texts asking Him to grab a bite. I’d assumed He’d be harder to pin down.

            “Is the most important aspect of human life,” I said. “Is it actually death?”

            God flicked the gnat from His finger and turned to look at me. Subtle surprise painted His divine countenance, like I’d slipped a curveball by Him — I have to admit I was proud about that. It’s probably pretty hard to surprise the Alpha and the Omega.

            “What do you…” the Creator said. “What do you mean? Death?”

            “Yeah,” I said. “I mean when you think about it, death—“

            “You guys… uh… know what you’d like?” The chipper server said. Of course she’d come right when I was talking about death and so she wore that awkward look of trying not to acknowledge she’d just heard what we were talking about.

            “Haha,” said the Source of All Holy Light, aiming His speech at the server. “Our conversation was getting a little heavy there.” He lightly squeezed her elbow and eased the mood considerably. The server, violently red hair in a pony tail behind a face that was maybe thirty percent teeth and twenty percent eyes, nodded and smiled, shifting the ratio to sixty ten.

            “So… who wants to go first?”

            “I’ll have a Grolsch and the quinoa salad and he’ll have the…” the Transmundane Emperor glanced over at me for a second. “He’ll have the pork chop.”

            I was actually going to have the lamb neck ragu, but I got the feeling that the Divine Consciousness was not in a great mood.

            Pertly nodding, the server left us. I couldn’t help but glance at her jean-hugged butt; it was nice.

            “But anyway,” I said.

            “Go on,” interrupted the Celestial Divinity. His brow had definitely lowered a bit. He loudly slurped His water as I began.

            “OK,” I said. “Well, to explain. Every day, for me, has more poignancy because I know that some day I will not be able to do what I’m doing because I will be no more. Everything I do. Brushing my teeth, sitting in traffic, even taking a morning sh… stop in the bathroom. All those things will eventually disappear when I die. So they’re all special — holy even — just by virtue of me being able to do them.”

            An egret — from out of nowhere — lit on Father Creation’s outstretched arm. He stroked its long, shapely neck. He motioned me to continue.

            “What I mean to say is, my life has more meaning because it actually ends. If I knew I was going to live forever, then, sure, at first that would be nice, I think. But then you can do anything forever. Nothing has meaning anymore. I could practice yo-yo or karate or even have sex for as many years as it takes me to be completely and utterly sick of them, and I'll still have just as much time as ever. With limitless time everything becomes, essentially, boring.

            “Like, even if the universe didn’t end when all the stars burn out — being stuck alive and alone in a pitch black dead universe for all eternity sounds like unimaginable torture — even if we found some loophole or parallel universe so that we lived with other people on a vibrant planet. Nothing could keep its luster for eternity. Even love, I think, would become stale. Being with the same person for seventy years is long. But being together with that person for 10,000? 10,000,000,000? Those numbers are drops in eternity’s ocean.

            “It’s the lack of time that makes things important. Even creating living beings, creating planets, creating infinite universes would become drudgery if we—”

            The Holy Trinity slammed His enigmatic fist upon the table, rattling the water cups. The egret flew up into the rafters.

            “You know not of what you speak!” He thundered.

            His form expanded from within and without, growing a thousand fold in seconds. His inconceivable chest puffed out like a mating bullfrog. Clutching me by my very soul, the Corporeal Manifestation of the Infinite pulled me high above.



            Out and out we soared, the earth fleeing from us like a blue softball, lustily hurled. The stars, limitless spangles of nuclear light, spread before us, engulfing vision before condensing again into brilliant galaxies. Further we sped, beyond the pale wisps of dying star clusters and rushing vortices of colliding nebulae, until, at last, I beheld, in my puny insignificance, the sweeping gestalt of creation.

            “You call that boring?” the Creator asked. He shook my shoulders and slapped my face. “Huh?!”

            I seemed to have hit a nerve.

            “N-no,” I said. “I mean… It looks pretty cool.”

            “It is SUPER FUCKING COOL,” said the One and Only. “Check this out,” He said, sweeping us back inward. He showed me civilizations and existences unseen by mortal man. We sped over a lush sylvan playground of a world where fur-covered bears serenely hovered over beings slumbering in everlasting peace. Another planet contained millions of rolling heads named Thaddeus, spinning and bumping into each other, all apologizing at once. Another world just had a ton of trombones stacked in a dusty pile and like eight vintage Playboys; the immortal consciousness quickly zoomed on from that one. World after world: advanced civilizations of harmonizing machines, argon breathing, sentient clouds, insectoid men living inside insectoid women. He showed me countless worlds, each unique in their splendor. And then we stopped.

            “So,” said the Only Power. “You… you get it?”

            “I get it,” I said. “But I still think it would get boring after… well, eternity.”

            His shoulders slumped and we were back at the table. The egret had its long beak down the neck of the Almighty’s Grolsch.

            “Yeah…” He said.

            There was another extended, uncomfortable pause in which the Ineffable Frontispiece on the Almanac of Creation pouted and watched traffic out the window.

            “Why don’t you just become mortal?” I asked. “Or maybe just impose a time limit on yourself? Un-create yourself?”

            The All-Knowing-One gave me a smirk.

            “Yeah,” He said, rolling His eyes. “Yeah sure… The oldest and most enduring consciousness in the cosmos should commit suicide. Sweet idea.”

            “No…” I said. But of course He was right.

            Without notice, He rose, taking a second to free His voluminous robe from a snag in the wooden chair. “You got any more questions? No? Good. Enjoy your meal. I know you will.”

            I watched Him go. He looked pretty put out. I thought about saying something to comfort Him, but nothing really seemed appropriate. Plus, He probably knew what I would have tried to say anyway.

            At the door, the Apex of All Consciousness turned and caught my eye.

            “Thanks,” He said. “Thanks for the reminder! Ass.” The door rattled as He slammed it.

            “Would you two like…” said the server, rounding the corner. She stood at a loss.

            “No I think we’re good,” I said. My pork chop was still steaming and juicy. The Almighty's salad hadn't been touched. “This looks delicious,” I said. She nodded and turned to leave.

            “Actually,” I said. “What are you doing this weekend?”

            “Um,” she said, making the abrupt switch between professional and personal mode. “Well I’m working both days. So I don’t have a ton of time.”

            I smiled at her and she smiled back: an enormous smile. It was so genuine. I liked it.

            “Perfect,” I said.

           

 

FOOD:

4.2

Beautiful, carefully portioned, delicious dishes await. I started with a salumi plate featuring traditionally, deliciously smoked Italian meats. Tasty indeed. As an entrée I had a lamb neck ragu over, what I think was, papardelle (they change the menu often — which is a fantastic thing — and I forgot to write down what exactly the name of my dish was…). Nomenclature notwithstanding, the meat was robust and tender and the noodles were obviously homemade — meaning more flavor and satisfying texture. Follow that up with a dessert of what appeared to be a gourmet elephant ear — like the kind you’d find at the circus or a street fair — filled with hints of orange zest and other spices, all topped with confectioners sugar. Cup of coffee to finish. Good GRACIOUS.

PRICE:

Mamma Mia

$$$, but every single dollar sign is worth it. This is not “value portioned” food. This is food where you can have an appetizer, entrée and dessert and not feel like Kuato’s Brother in Total Recall. For a date or special occasion, it is worth every lira.




AMBIENCE:


Un Piccolo Posto

 

Its size might be one of my favorite aspects. The name, Piccolo, means “small” in Italian and the space itself delivers on that promise. While not feeling cramped in the least, it feels cozy in all the best ways. With space for probably ~25 people, maybe less, you’ll feel like you’re being served in someone’s nicely decorated living room. Really a treat.

SERVICE:

Molto Bene

Professional. My water glass was never empty. This is the sign of a legit spot, for me, because I cannot help but drink water that’s in front of me. Seriously, I down it faster than teenagers at an EDM concert. This makes me the bane of all servers because my water glass is almost constantly on empty. However, this unintentional test often separates the pros from the dilettantes. And the service staff at Piccolo kept my water tip topped. Let that also tell you everything you need to know about the pace of our meal and the availability of our server whenever we were looking for her.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

To keep it brief, Piccolo prepares fantastic, authentic Italian cuisine — that means more than just pasta. Go there for a special meal.

 

PICCOLO
111 Middle Street
Portland, Maine
info@piccolomaine.com 
207 747-5307

Bonfire Country Bar - Portland, ME


Flexing his rippling thighs, the Bro Ranger peered out the foggy window of his upscale apartment. Below, bundled forms humped their puffy, stumbling bodies across the snow swept ground of the Portland Peninsula. The Bro Ranger pulled amply on his Black and Mild and blew a smoke ring shaped like a dick.

            Behind him, Totino burst through the door. Swart, stump-like and always smiling, Totino ran up the to Bro Ranger and slapped his bro behind.

            “Ranger,” Totino said, winding up for another ass slap. “There’s a nerd posse afoot. They’re on the hunt for women.”

            The Bro Ranger nodded gravely and put his Black and Mild out on the heel of his boot. With practiced finesse, the bro ranger produced a mask from his pocket and slipped it over his product-soaked hair.

            “Then we best get moving,” said the Bro Ranger. Totino slapped the Bro Ranger’s ass again. The Bro Ranger slapped Totino’s in response; a crisp, stinging crack of heterosexual fondness. And then they rode.

 

The bar was packed full of hot bodies, eager to rub crotch. The floor was slick with spilled drinks and unconscionably loud country music punished the air. It was heaven.

            Nestled betwixt a heaving thicket of cleavage and neatly buttoned oxford shirts, the nerd group stood out unmistakably.

            “Obviously,” said the lead nerd, a tall drink of water sporting a pocket protector holding not one but two Texas Instruments Calculators. “A dichotomy of variegated forms is essential to homeostasis.” The lady he held hostage with his nerd-speak had the rapt gaze of hypnosis. Meanwhile, her diving cleavage was being viciously ogled by the nerd’s whole posse: a greasy, neck-bearded cohort who constantly rubbed their sweaty hands on their cargo pants and stank of pencil shavings and Mountain Dew.

            “Naturally,” said a new nerd, slipping obsequiously into the group. This new nerd was humongous. His chest swelled against the confines of his Yu-Gi-Oh t-shirt. Pens and pencils bristled from the pockets of his pleated, pressed khakis.

            “But have you considered,” said the new nerd, strongly shoving his taped glasses up his chiseled nose, “the ineluctable modality of the visible?”

            The lead nerd of the nerd posse sputtered, unsure of how to counter such a dense verbal salvo.

            “Indubitably,” said the lead nerd, limply proffering his feeble hand. “I’m Marvin Gervin. And you are?” The new nerd, eyes alight with grim joy, gripped Marvin’s outstretched hand.

            “My name,” said the new nerd, grinning a dogtooth grin. “Is the Bro Ranger.” With a flourish the Bro Ranger ripped off his disguise, masterfully replacing the broken glasses with his signature black mask. His t-shirt clove down the middle, revealing a half-buttoned Henley, the Bro Ranger’s chest protruding from the top like two baby’s heads bent in mutual contemplation.

            The nerd group recoiled, hissing. Young, recently graduated women turned and swooned; the humidity in the bar rose considerably.

            “Ma’am,” said the Bro Ranger, reaching out a hand to the oppressed lady. “Run back to your friends, I’ll take care of these nerds.”

            Before she could act, Marvin made his move. Using his lubricating palm sweat to his advantage, he slipped from the Bro Ranger’s grasp and clamped onto the damsel. Cackling, he tugged her toward the door.

            “Not so fast,” said Totino, barring Marvin Gervin’s path.

            “Ha!” said Marvin, smiling at Totino’s dwarfish bod. “You reckon me ensnared?!” Marvin pulled a calculator from his pocket and chucked it at the floor. Smashing upon the beer-soaked linoleum, it exploded in a ghastly cloud of skin flakes and dandruff, now liberated from its keyboard. The Bro Ranger and Totino coughed, covering their eyes against the putrid necrotic cloud.

            “Adieu, Bro Ranger!” shrieked Marvin from somewhere in the mist. The nerd group, stationary until now, scattered, evading the Bro Ranger and Totino’s clutching hands.




Once the skin cloud had cleared enough to see, the Bro Ranger’s eyes met Totino’s.

            “That bastard has to pay,” the Bro Ranger gagged.

            “You got that right kemosabe,” said Totino. With toned aplomb, the Bro Ranger shrugged on his cutoff jean jacket and stormed for the door; Totino followed in his wake.

            “No,” said the Bro Ranger, turning to Totino. “I’ll handle this one alone.”

            “But—“ began Totino.

            “No buts,” cooed the Bro Ranger to his unflappable comrade. “This nerd is mine.”

            And so the Bro Ranger strode out to track the nerd posse solo, leaving Totino in the bar to drink and score some ‘tang.

 

            The street was barren except for a dusting of snow, piled in nooks and corners. The Bro Ranger walked boldly through the frost. His eyes scanned the cobblestone street for signs of nerdliness.

            In the snow that hugged the ground, footprints of all shapes and sizes formed an enigmatic collage. Of course, the Bro Ranger was no amateur at tracking. In the chaotic mosaic of footprints, he began to discern a pattern. Wending from the door of the bar down the street was a limping gait, the tread of a no-doubt orthotic shoe accompanied by a shuffling high heel. No way two treads like that should be linked. Puffing away at his newly lit Black and Mild, the Bro Ranger stalked his prey.

            The steps wended throughout the Old Port, unsure of where to stop. Marvin was nervous, he wanted this encounter to end favorably and had been unsure where to take a lady. The Bro Ranger laughed, discerning Marvin’s weak-ass game in his tottering steps.

            The trail ended at a small, wooden door, one the Bro Ranger had never noticed before. There was no name or number on the outside of the building. No matter, thought the Bro Ranger. He brushed the snow from his cutoff jean jacket, hiked up his pants and stepped inside.


            As his eyes adjusted to the low, old-timey light of the bar, the Bro Ranger’s grin slipped from his chiseled face.

            Alpha nerds. Everywhere.

            The Bro Ranger gazed out over a bespoke speakeasy-style cocktail bar: poindexter Valhalla. It was a sea of whimsically square spectacles, ethically sourced wool sweaters, and flowing beards. Slowly, carefully, the Bro Ranger inched to the bar. He had to act carefully.

            “Welcome,” said the Bartender, a paunch-bellied, rosy-cheeked, over-enthusiastic eunuch. “Here’s a menu, buddy.”

            The Bro Ranger took the menu — parchment paper clipped to a slab of bark — with distaste.

            “I’ll take whatever you think is best…” said the Bro Ranger, casually.

            “Okey Dokey!” said the Bartender, capering away to a tap lined with homosexual microbrews. The Bro Ranger turned his attention to more pressing matters: rescuing the damsel. He scanned the bar to no avail: it was a veritable sea of nerds! Hipsters, geeks, and urkels nerded out in hushed voices, respectfully praising the various potions upon which they sipped.


            A tap on the back caused the Bro Ranger to jump. Turning, the Bro Ranger beheld Marvin’s ovoid, sweating face. Over Marvin’s shoulder, a young man sporting a waxed mustache and selvedge jeans manacled the damsel in conversation.

            “You let her go,” the Bro Ranger snarled.

            “Let her go?” said Marvin, eyes glinting with poindextrous glee. “She’s just being… enlightened.”

            The Bro Ranger stood up, knocking the mid-century modern stool upon which he sat back into the bar. The resulting thwack turned all heads to the, now fully erect, Bro Ranger, staring down at Marvin’s quivering, emaciated frame.

            “Now, just wait a second,” puled Marvin, snot dripping from his rat nose. “You can’t just strike me. Not now!” Marvin nodded toward the recently engaged throng of righteously indignant nerd ladies and nerd boys, surrounding the Bro Ranger completely. The Bro Ranger had derailed their curated trains of thought — they fumed with milquetoast smarty rage.

            “Oh can’t I…” said the Bro Ranger, cocking his mallet of a fist.

            “But what about your drink?” Marvin asked.

            “My drink?” said the Bro Ranger.

            “Here you are,” said the Bartender, a hyena’s cackle in his voice. The Bro Ranger looked back and recoiled.  The drink was foamy and pink, presented in a dainty fluted glass. Clutching his hairless pecs, the Bro Ranger felt an embarrassed paralysis creep over him.

            “You like it?” chuckled Marvin. “I had him make it especially for you.”

            Marvin’s laughter spread like a prairie fire in July. Nerdmen, Geekwomen, young children — nerdkins sporting bow-ties and loafers, sipping homemade soda — all of them laughed at the Bro Ranger. No bro could withstand this level of embarrassment. The Bro Ranger’s testicles sucked deep into his abdomen. Tears of humiliation watered the torn denim of his lapels. Truly this was his end. The Bro Ranger felt the testosterone jettison from his body. His skin turned cold and he braced himself for the death of his social life as he knew it.



But hark! A wooping yip interrupted the Bro Ranger’s demise. Bursting through the doorway, Totino came to the rescue.

            “Aiaiaiaiaia,” Totino shrieked, delivering the crude justice of a kick to Marvin’s impotent, math-loving groin.

            “Come on, Bro Ranger!” said Totino. “That drink isn’t for you! It’s for pussies!”

            Upon hearing his wing man’s spell-breaking incantation, the Bro Ranger’s paralysis broke. He staggered to his feet as nerds pounced at Totino from all sides, screeching with bookish indignance. Totino’s foot met with hilarious amounts of nerd junk as he kicked his way through a flowing torrent of would-be Big Bang Theory cast members with 0% fighting experience.

            Immobility overcome, did the Bro Ranger dash immediately for the door? No! He was far more masculine than that!

            Barreling through a wall of wailing nerds, the Bro Ranger hooked an alpha fist around the damsel’s arm.

            “Let’s get out of here,” he said. The Damsel looked from the mustachioed nerd to the Bro Ranger’s face, indecision clear on her brow. This nerd’s mind-witchcraft was strong. Luckily, the Bro Ranger knew how to break his nerd spell.

            “This dick’s mustache is fucked,” explained the Bro Ranger. Understanding crept into her eyes. Little by little, the burgeoning knowledge of the Bro Ranger’s ineffable sweetness lit her brow.

            Without warning, she bared her teeth in anger. Her eyes slit and the Bro Ranger stepped back, letting go of her arm. The mark of the bitch glowed powerfully on her face. She had been unalterably brainwashed by this nerdish mob.

            “Eww,” she said, looking the Bro Ranger up and down. “You’re an asshole.”

            “Whatever ho,” said the Bro Ranger. “You’re busted anyway.” With this last judgment dutifully passed, the Bro Ranger swiftly departed.

            Not far behind Totino — middle fingers proffered to the roiling queef-sniffing masses — backed out of the shitty stupid joint. As the door shut behind him, only the lamentations of nut-hurt pencil-necks could be heard. And like that, the Bro Ranger and Totino were gone.

 

            Back inside, the Bartender rose from his hiding spot behind the counter. “Who was that dick?” he asked to nobody in particular.

            Marvin, doubled over on a hand-planed mahogany coffee table, mustered breath enough to respond. “That,” he wheezed. “Was the Bro Ranger.”

           

            Somewhere in the Old Port, a ghost-white pickup truck roared to life. In it sat the Bro Ranger and Totino, Black and Milds crankin’ hot in their grinning mouths. Rolling down the window, the Bro Ranger bayed lugubriously to the breeze, “Hi-yo Silverado! Away!” And with that, they disappeared into the New England night leaving only a belch of thick diesel exhaust in their wake.          



 

FOOD:

2.5 Stars

I came for dinner during the “Bacon Happy Hour.” This is a time when bacon is brought to you as a bar appetizer, free of charge. This wasn’t terrible, since the quality of the bacon was pretty solid. I then ordered Jalpeno (sic) Poppers — also solid: they were halved jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped with bacon. Yes, I ate a lot of bacon. The burger, however, was uninspired at best. Under-seasoned, cooked medium with lettuce, tomato, onions and lettuce. What it lacked in taste it overcompensated for in size: two meat patties between an oversized bun branded on the top with the signature bonfire B. Yes, they’d burned a B into the top of the burger bun. That’s dedication to branding. Add two beers to that meal and I ended up with the next part of my review.

PRICE:

Everything is Bigger in Texas

$$1/2. My meal capped out at $35 with a nice tip. That’s a little steep considering. This is no gourmet burger. Also, the poppers, while tasty, were not restaurant tasty. They were “your cousin makes food that’s pretty solid and you pretend it’s the most amazing thing ever” good. It was a $20 meal at most.

AMBIENCE:

Ring of Fire

Actual saddles for seats. Exposed wood that smells of spilled beer. A bartending staff whose looks are homogenous in a very superficial way. Flat screen TVs on every vertical surface. Country music underpinning every single thought. A literal serve-your-own-beer wall: a gimmick, beer is still measured by how much you pour, so you’re basically just absolving the bartender of any involvement in your DUI. I will concede, someone spent a lot of time on the details of this bar. Heck, they serve every beer with a camouflage, Bonfire-branded koozie that you’re supposed to take home. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the amount of thought that went into outfitting Bonfire; it’s simply that I don’t like the content of the actual thoughts.

SERVICE:

Wrapped Up

Very nice service. The waitress was attentive and kind. In fact, all the waitresses/bartenders at Bonfire seemed quite adept at their job of humoring any heterosexual male with enthusiastic conversation. It’s nice in the way that perfunctory kindness can only be. Well done. Good job.

EAT OR SKIP:

Skip

Overall I had two different experiences in my two times at Bonfire. Time One, as we shall now refer to it, was an awful introduction. It was 11:30 PM on a Saturday evening. The place was packed with recently graduated skirt chasers and plenty of newly graduated skirts willing to oblige. I had to jockey for a place to stand. The country music being played that night was so loud it can still be heard somewhere in space. It sucked. Time Two involved me enjoying a casual burger at 6:00 PM on a Tuesday while watching fifty-year-old men hit on bartenders their daughter’s age. Country music still permeated the air — hell, country music videos shined on nearly ¾ of the TVs in there — but the atmosphere was palpably less bro. The food was not nearly as much an afterthought as I expected it to be. That being said, it was still not good enough for me to ever really want to come back. There are just too many fantastic bar grub joints in Portland with much less cloying atmospheres. Eat there if you love yourself some country-themed, gimmick-stuffed ambience. Don’t eat there if you’re pretty much anyone else.

 

Bonfire Country Bar

37 Wharf Street, Portland, ME, United States

Phone:     +1.877.653.7678

E-mail: Bonfire@OldPortNightlife.com




OOO

I deeply regret to relate that this week’s Drunch is postponed. I, foolishly, thought that I was capable of both being on vacation — drinking beers and skiing — and working hard to complete this week’s Drunch. I was grossly mistaken.

 

However, from beyond the veil of my beer-soaked haze I offer this sneak peek at next week’s review of Bonfire. Behold.

 

 

Drunch will be back next week with its regularly scheduled skullduggery. Thanks for your patience, understanding and beautiful bodies.

 

-Brett


Boo Facebook. Hooray E-mail.




This week, I’m attempting to rid Drunch of its social media dependency.

How? Simple. If you like Drunch and want to see more, just click the link to the left that says “Subscribe by E-mail." After clicking, enter your e-mail, click "subscribe" and you're all set!

By entering your e-mail, updates will come straight to your sweet little inbox and I won’t have to try to harangue you via Facebook — a social media giant whose tumble from the beanstalk imminent.


Rest assured, I will never abuse this divine right you've given me. You'll receive once-weekly updates, telling you when new posts are up, and incredibly rare missives of exciting Drunch news. That is all.

Thanks in advance for signing up! And if you’re already an e-mail subscriber, good on you!

Drunch will be back in force next week with the review of Bonfire, a country-music-blasting, red-solo-cup-serving, bro bar that I hate. Yeehaw!


-Brett

Bao Bao Dumpling House - Portland, ME



This is how it happened.           

            CHAP CHAP CHAP! A giant rotopoopter sound just like that wakes me up. I kick my door open, peashooter in hand, to russle what hooligans is on my property. ‘Stead of some gumbubble hard-bodies they’s just six green men, naked as little rhino babies, scuffin’ through the leaf piles in my front yard.

            I yell, “a-hya!” And they stop their doo-dinkin’ and turn — swear to God Jesus their peepers is lit up. Look like I just flashed a possum family with a Maglite. Then they make this vibratin’ yawp so I panic and kick a chuck o' dirt at the one closest me. Well, he poots, turns into a little old washtub and walks into the woods.

            You can probably guess by now that I’m spooked. I never seen a fartin’ green fella transmogrify into a washtub and stroll off into no thicket. So I go back inside, lock the door and turn on Wheel to calm my nerves.

            Soon as Sajak goes to commercial I happen to look up and gall-dang-it if those little green goons ain’t at the door, possum eyes glitterin’. Little search lights they send out scannin’ my trinkets. Oh lord I won’t have peace now, I think and rattle a dirty fork against a plate I had by my sittin’ chair. Course they take that as a “come in” and seep through the keyhole. And so there they is, five of ‘em — ‘cept the washtub one he's long gone — standin’ in my parlor.

            Now I don’t live with no one near no one — Buck Pepper’s a good six miles by trail — so hollerin’ wouldn’t-a done any good. All I can think of is to wave at the closest goon. He’s about four foot two, bug-skinny with fangs popping out where his nipples shoulda been. I say, “Fred!” I called him Fred, I think he liked it. “Fred,” I say. “This ain’t how it’s gonna go.”

            But Fred, he smiles and swoops his hands in a figure eight — only had two fingers and they’s changing sizes like inflatin’ balloons — and next thing I know I’m sittin’ in my sittin’ chair in, what I assumed to be, their copter-doo.

            Turns out it is their copter-doo.

            Well now I’m expectin’ them to stick all kinds-a nuisance up my bunghole. Turns out they’re not that type. Instead, me and these five goons bump around the galaxy a while. They learn my tongue quick enough but I never learn theirs. When they want to say things behind my back they vibrate so’s you can feel it way down in your apricots. You know, “VVVVVVVVVVVV.” Not unpleasant to tell you God’s honest.

            I try to ask 'em all the time what this here's about, but they won't tell me. Mum little suckers on that point.

            By and by we skedoo to what they tell me is their home planet: a nice little triangle-shaped red doodad hung up in the four-sunned sky. The Freds — I called ‘em all Fred at that point — call the planet “Dishmaster.” Said it was the closest word in the human language to the original name. Odd fellas.

            I trust by now you don’t believe a word comin’ outta my chuckhole. Heck I wouldn’t either. Soon as I heard some swingin’ dick goin’ on about fang-nipple men drippin’ through keyholes and oglin’ trinkets I’d book them a pillow-room. It happened to me though so I can’t shrug it so easy.

            Anyway their planet smells like a nursing home and the grass is red. All sorts of little fang-nipple dudes hustlin’ around, don’t appear to be no ladies so far as I gather. The four suns in the sky are actually kinda pleasant, each beamin’ down a different hue. And all these Freds got little buildings look to be made outta takeout fork plastic stacked up like beehives. Instead of going into one of those bustle-boxes the Freds take me to a double-wide just like mine ‘cept it’s hoverin’ like a hoverjet, five feet off the ground. ‘Bout this high. High as my arm is now. That high.

            Anyway, inside there’s a big old chair like mine and guess who’s in it but the gall dang washtub! I say, "hey Fred sorry about chunkin' dirt atcha," and the little guy vibrates hard. I get to thinkin' he's gonna zap me, but instead he turns into Darryl Crenshaw. You know Darryl, pool shootin’ dude with the lazy eye?

            Yeah, that Darryl.

            “Hey-uh,” this washtub Darryl says to me.

            “Hey-uh,” I say back. Then curiosity gets the better of me so I ask him what the heck this is all about. And you know what Darryl says? He says to me, “hey I got a favor to ask I need about eighteen bucks. I’m good for it though.”

            That really threw me. Now, by this point I’ve come to find out that I can handle crossin’ the galaxy, talkin’ to vibratin’ hook-nippled Freds, endin' up on a foreign planet and I can even handle seein’ a washtub turn into Darryl Crenshaw. But what I cannot handle is just givin’ a man my hard earned own. And eighteen skittles ain’t buckshot. So I gave him a good firm lookabout. Real firm.

            Washtub Darryl says, "please, brother."

            And that gets me. I'm a sucker for a polite man. So I fish the money out and hand it over. Soon as the green hits Darryl's palm BAMMO! I’m back in my double wide, right here on planet mother earth. Just like that. A-course I scrammed straight to the bar to get a drink — contemplate my journey and such. Then a-course I ran into you.

            But anyway, that’s why I ain’t got your money. I mean, you can go rustle down Darryl for it, but I don’t think that’ll do no good. I’ll get it to you soon though. Sorry about that, but you know how things are.

 

 

FOOD:

3.6 Stars

I am a dumpling mega-fan. I will say that I appreciate the dumplings (and rest of the menu) at BaoBao. I appreciate them. Appreciate.

PRICE:

Scrumpling

$$

AMBIENCE:

Dragon Wall

Imagine your textbook Chinese/Japanese/Thai restaurant. You know, table made of thermal fused melamine laminate with a matte black finish, metal chair with a padded seat. Now imagine the “premium” version of that. Then throw a big old dragon on the wall. The lighting could be cozier, too. Not to pick BaoBao’s ambience apart too much, but it just does the job, full stop.

SERVICE:

Wrapped Up

Great, helpful servers. I had questions and asked for suggestions and they were most helpful. Top notch stuff.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

I give this eat a bit grudgingly. I really like what BaoBao stands for, but I’m not sure I love what it actually is. In a couple trips I’ve had the traditional pork cabbage dumplings, lamb dumplings, kung pao chicken dumplings, even vegetarian dumplings. And despite all that, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re hankering dumplings, I can’t say these actually trump (taste-wise) what you could get at some random Chinese restaurant. I know that sounds like sacrilege, akin to claiming that a “nice” burger doesn’t taste as good as a Whopper, but it’s actually different. Bottom line, they’re just not as tasty as I wish they were. It’s a fun place to go for some drinks and a different menu than your average eastern joint. It is not, however, the last stop for your every dumpling need. Gracious, how I wish it were. They have a great beer selection though. So, they’ve got that going for them. Which is nice.

 

 Bao Bao Dumpling House

113 Spring St.
Portland, ME

(207) 772-8400

 

Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. - Brooklyn, NY



The Ballad of Captain Grey

 

From upon the quay one could say they see no ship at all,

The angry ocean boils and foams, a raving heaving squall,

But in that gnashing maelstrom there is one surviving boat,

And at its helm my hero Captain Grey keeps us afloat,

 

What little of his coarse black hair not plastered to his head,

Stands in a rigid cock’s comb: an affront to doom and dread,

His trunk-like chest it ripples as he wrestles with the wheel,

Those steadfast squinting onyx eyes glinting with gutsy zeal,

 

I gaze to Grey from where I cling gasping at the railing,

Of all the men I’ve ever met, Grey he has no failing,

And in our crew there remain but two, not counting me and Grey

Simple Shippy and Quiet Phil cleave with us through this fray

 

Now Shippy is an oafish lad, not one for deeper thought,

Through hell and worse by our side Shippy, like a hound, has trot,

And Quiet Phil is, simply put, emotive as a stump,

A man could swear that he was dead if not for his heart’s thump.

 

With Captain Grey we first set sail that sun-swept blue sweet day,

So long ago it now appears we flew from Casco Bay,

For fame and fish our crew of twenty lustily set sail,

With Captain Grey firm at the wheel I knew we couldn’t fail,

 

As his first mate it was my job to keep the crew in check,

So day and night I sang the Captain’s praises from the deck,

“Stately Grey’s an enigmatic one,” crowed my praising voice,

“But were I to pick from a million men, Grey’d be my choice!”

 

As I foretold the Captain quick upheld his reputation,

With daring deeds of seamanship that need no lame inflation,

Grey he possessed the perfect plan for all situations,

Homer and Thucydides can’t match his machinations

 

First Grey posed ever valiantly his eyes cast to the lord,

As in rough seas our un-lashed gear was bucked straight overboard,

Next, he daringly hunkered down inside his locked bunk,

As pirates swung onto the ship and looted every trunk,

 

Then came the morn he courageously ran our ship aground,

Only a man as bold as he would sail where reefs abound,

And though we fished and trawled and strove our hardest to the mate,

The captain he had bravely bought us useless rotten bait,

 

Our first port of call saw nearly all mates swim for the land,

Sure we came in eight months late, but such weakness I can’t stand,

I know the hardship of our trip sounds irrefutable,

But Grey’s great plan was so profound it is inscrutable,

 

We fabled four embarked once more: Shippy, Cap, Phil and me,

Our billowed sails left those yellow doubting culls in the lee,

And despite two more long years at sea we have naught to show,

But given the chance to choose again, with Captain Grey I’d go.

 

Now the wind howls murder, ice water spits into our eyes,

Black rain falls both up and down and the seas merge with the skies,

We totter in a mast-less tub, on a wet precipice,

But if there’s a man it’s Grey that can get us out of this,

 

Suddenly strikes a black rogue wave wise Grey no doubt foresaw,

Smashing down it gnashes the ship like a great salty buzzsaw,

Both Shippy dear and Quiet Phil vanish into the brine,

Their loss no doubt necessity to Grey’s cunning design,

 

As Grey preordained, I now cling with him to a split plank,

I tried to yell a compliment but only sea I drank,

Then in the haze I catch Grey’s gaze and see it straight and true,

Dauntless Grey, my guiding light, knows exactly what to do,

 

He looses a knife from his boot and raises it on high,

The plank we grip can’t hold two manly men like he and I,

It is his ship, I fast concede, though ‘tis only a slat,

As his blade sinks down ‘tween my ribs that, my good friend, is that,

 

Oh Captain Grey though my lungs fill with water briny dark,

Your perfect plan is still in motion, though I disembark,

Yes in the end you’ve robbed me of my very life and love,

Yet you I still venerate as I sink to what’s above.

 

 

FOOD:

4.6 Stars

Full disclosure: I’ve known about Greenpoint Fish and Lobster before there ever was a Greenpoint Fish and Lobster (I’m buds with one of the owners). However, I will say that there is no bias in this rating. What Adam and Vinny and their professional-as-hell staff have managed to pull off food-wise is a triumph. Not only are the sea creatures fresh, their preparation is fresh as hell.

PRICE:

Greenbacks

Leave the record deal in Williamsburg. It’s not cheap, but you can get satiated without pulling any bank heists. $$

AMBIENCE:

Well-Appointed Galley

Clean, white tiles are the order of the day. Paired with wooden stools, tables, seats, a decadent white marble counter and a smattering of nautical touches, GFL’s seaworthy ambience is palpable.

SERVICE:

Ship Shape

The place was bumpin’ on the Saturday night I visited, but that didn’t stop the beer from flowing and the dishes from coming out right on schedule.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Yes, my good friend is one of the owners of Greenpoint Fish and Lobster. Yes, when the fish sandwich landed in front of me, I prayed to Poseidon that it would actually be OK, so I wouldn’t have to fake orgasmic enjoyment as I forced it down. To my delight the sandwich, and everything else I then ordered, was legitimately scrumptious. No bullshit. No exceptions. I would recommend GFL to any lover of sea-based protein and even those who don’t yet believe a sea robin can be succulent. High ten. The hype is well deserved. Can’t wait to go back.


Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co.

114 Nassau Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Corner of Eckford Street (Nassau G)
(718) 349-0400

Fish Market:
Mon-Sun: 11 AM - 9 PM

Raw Bar/Kitchen:
Sun-Thurs: 12 PM - 10 PM
Fri & Sat: 12 PM - 11 PM

For Catering/Wholesale/Inquiries:
info@greenpointfishandlobster.com

 

Sonny's - Portland, ME



I wonder how many chances I’ve missed? How many potential significant others I’ve failed to engage as they stood, fidgeting, behind me in line at CVS? How many mentors I’ve neglected to strike up a conversation with at the bar before a show because I chose instead to sit in my apartment, watching the same movies I’ve always watched? How many vital friends I’ve not made because of the way they looked so confident among their own group of friends way over there on the other side of the room?

            I suck in cold air that prickles my nose and mouth. Opposite me the sun falls, singeing the clouds and breaking the sky into fathomless neon blue. Buildings are shadows. My breath veils my view, dissipating as fast as it comes.

            What paths have I missed? What friend that I never made would have kindled in me a love of the tactile beauty of throwing clay upon a pottery wheel? Which enthusiastic young woman — perhaps one I’d passed after making brief eye contact in the aisles of the grocery store — brimming with enthusiasm and passion, would have broken my self-consciousness for good and all, ushering me into a lifelong love of flamenco or modern dance? What lonely old man, whose porch I happened to be caught on in the dead of night looking for a trash can in which to hide the evidence of underage drinking, did I run away from, and in so doing failed to uncover the tranquil majesty of car repair? All these people and paths I missed, why did I miss them? When did I miss them? And who led me to this path now?

            Cars flow by as I walk. They pass, one after another, a stream of stillborn relationships, lost soul mates, phantom enemies, dead friends. Surely what I have missed engulfs at least a hundred thousands times anything I will see or do.

            I think of the highway, scores of strangers traveling in the same direction with the same goal at the same time — all anonymous — and am humbled.

            The day still turns.

            I lower my head against the blinding sunlight. I don’t try to make eye contact with any coalescing outlines in my path. By the time I recognize features these people are past me. A father and mother, their children stomping the brittle sidewalk ice like Lilliput giants. A young woman clicking along, professional, her bag clutched with white knuckles. A young man like me, head down. My ever-growing past engulfs them.

            Why not take a chance? Catch an eye. Hold a smile. Simply a glance requires all of my effort and all of my heart and each time is like ramming my head through glass, steeling myself for the pain as I smash the palm of my forehead against the pane of my personal box’s window to emerge clear-eyed, ready to connect. And how fast the wounds heal with each fresh smile. And how quickly they re-open at the inevitable unspoken goodbye. The skin never toughens; it is virginal each and every time, always feeling the pricks and slices of every shard.

            What else have I missed? Would I want to see the list? I think not. It must be overwhelming, depressing. And what of everything I am destined to miss in the future? Would I want to see that list as well? Try to shorten it somehow? Would my paralysis break? Would I become something more? I don’t think so.

            Two young women approach — I can hear them — laughing carelessly. The left one’s sunlit waterfall of brown hair bounces luminescent upon the shining shoulders of her purple coat. Of her features I see a mouth first: porcelain smile inlaid with teeth like pearl trim. Then the pencil-traced drops of her eyes, curling up in mirth; I am part of the scenery. Her friend tosses her golden hair and I can smell it on the wind, floral and clean. Another foreign universe, already past, gone.  

            The sun dips its toe out of sight, reddening. An earth tone panorama reveals itself to me as if sprung from the earth’s crust of its own accord.

            Every day it goes and it goes. I ignore future friends. I gaze mute at unremembered lovers. I avert my eyes from my lost enemy who would eventually become my closest confidant. I forever lithely skirt the chance to change.

            But all those people must be missed — I convince myself. Everything is at the expense of everything else with time the taskmaster shoving me along. If I stopped to meet every person then I’d do nothing else. Spouting hi and hi and hi to all the hurrying bodies flowing by. I’d meet new people, but would it be enough to offset the value of the time that I could use to cherish those I already know?

            I don’t know.

            All of humanity is summed up in each person, yet each person is just a facet of humanity.

            I walk on in my time.

            I choose not to dwell any longer on these thoughts. I choose to enjoy the people I’ve met, if only because they are the only people I will ever know. I choose not to stay with the people who only value me as a mirror through which they can see themselves in a new way. I choose not to stay with the people who look to me to provide their whole personality. I choose not to stay with the people who use me as a springboard for their own ends.

             I choose to stay with the people who are full and share themselves with abandon.

            The sky is ablaze as I rap the thick door once only. Its hinges creak as scents and laughter bubble around its open corners. Inside the apartment the windows are fogged. Friends and family — they are not discrete to me — shout my entrance. I sit and laugh with the best people I can ever know. Kin by blood and choice, the ones who make me feel awake and alive whether it’s with love, frustration, joy, sadness, anger, envy or a combination of those and so many more. I no longer care for what I’ve missed; its vast abundance is immaterial. This company is both the future I’ve chosen and the future that has been chosen for me. These people — in their specific, unrepeatable yet familiar splendor — alone are the raw materials for this untold story of existence that will at last be forged in the smithy of my soul.

 


FOOD:

4.1

Gastropub to the nth degree. The food at Sonny’s is reminiscent of what you’d scrounge up at grub-slinging bars in the same way that a gecko is reminiscent of a Dreadnoughtus. Cubans, burgers and fried chicken sammitches abound, as does a confit chicken quarter and a formidable hanger steak. Good beer selection, fine craft cocktails as well. I’ve heard the brunch is a fine thing, but have not partaken just yet (I’d trust it to be quite good).

PRICE:

Let Dad Pay

The quality comes with a price, but not one that’s too steep for the taste. $$$-ish

AMBIENCE:

Classy New England Living Room

With a panoramic bar window that gazes over Post Office Plaza and a wood-jammed interior — converted from the former old Portland savings bank — to match the coziest of Maine nooks, Sonny’s deserves an enthusiastically avuncular pat on the behind.

SERVICE:

You Done Good… Son

Even being a pain (I switched from a table to the bar halfway through my meal), they accommodated like champs. Yes they can serve.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Absolutely a tip-top place to go. The ambience, food, booze array and service combine to form a Voltron-esque dining force. Put Sonny’s on the “sure bet for a fine time” list if you have a squidge extra cash in the pocket.


Sonny's Restaurant

85 Exchange St.

Portland, ME

207-772-7774


Duckfat - Portland, ME



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FOOD:

3.8 Stars

I want to like Duckfat vastly more than I like Duckfat, but I still like Duckfat.

PRICE:

Plump Wallet

Not expensive, but not inexpensive. Duckfat deftly straddles the line between gourmet and grub. Expect to spend around ~$30 if you get a couple beers, fries and a panini.

AMBIENCE:

Nest-worthy

The perfect place to stomp into on a cold winter’s night. Be forewarned, the space is not large, so a wait is always possible, especially for larger groups. The winter waits are rarely extensive (except on bigger weekends). During tourist season? Bring a book.

SERVICE:

On Quack (in a good way)

Always attentive, in my experience, Duckfat’s service is some of the finer in Portland. Huzzah.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Duckfat is what Nosh wishes it were. Offering hearty paninis like the Homemade Meatloaf, the Overnight Roasted Duck Confit and the Roast Pork Belly and an intense poutine made with fries fried in duck fat, this is some flavor-forward fare. That being said, Duckfat still manages to ruffle some of my feathers (I’m so sorry). This could be due to a flaw in my very fabric — I note that the name of the place is Duckfat, so a certain heaviness of fare is to be expected — but I always leave feeling slightly unpleasantly overfed. Should I eat less? Probably. Is this my fault or the food’s? A bit of both I think. The food is rich; it’s supposed to be rich. But it is RICH. Which, taken another way, means the food is tasty as all get-out. I guess just beware of your own limitations when your eyes are ordering for your stomach.

 

DuckFat

http://duckfat.com/

11am - 10pm // 7 days a week

43 Middle Street
Portland, Maine
207.774.8080*

*Duckfat does not take reservations