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.”

Becky's Diner - Portland, ME

What grand bravery to follow a dream. What eclipsing courage to plunge into the personal unknown — facing ruin and failure — in pursuit of self-actuated glory.


The elegant denial of rationalism required to truly believe in yourself: the person with whose weaknesses you know, the person whose fear is yours, the person with whose every failure you are most intimate.


How can you trust that person with your fragile dream?


Because you must.


Failure, in the face of your impossible pursuit, is almost assured.  But how much sweeter the life that strives and falls short than one that never dares; how uncomfortable the final rest of one who feared to try.


Life itself is struggle; it is inescapably true. We must embrace the struggle, exalt the struggle, place the struggle upon a pedestal higher than man and woman and beast, for it is the unifying code and very subatomic structure of life. Without struggle there is no victory, no relief, no poignancy.


We want the end of our desire: one final act that satiates us permanently. And that is precisely what we will never have. We are our desire until we die. And so to love desire itself, that is the meaning. That is this life’s purpose.


Everything, especially us, must eventually disappear. What more pure is there then, than a transient dream and the brief, lively struggle for its achievement? To live only for the achievement of a goal is to live in brief flashes. To live in the singular moment of effort is to live constantly.


Nothing we own will stay ours forever, except our action.


As always this sentiment — the dream, the goal — can be perverted to the accomplishment of wicked ends. We cannot know if our goals are good or bad. Each of us is a saint to one person and a monster to another. The points of view are too many. People will dream what they dream and do what they will do. We can only hope that we do no evil. The evil rarely think they are.


We must cast this doubt from our minds and struggle all the same.


And what to one is simply getting out of bed is to another a triumph of the highest order. The ease with which the first man rises should in no way diminish the power of the accomplishment for the other. A single victory to one man is as valuable as remaining undefeated to another. The very laws of the universe mandate that everything is relative, thus, so are our accomplishments. So are we.


The dream does not need to be tangible; happiness is also a dream. Working toward happiness in the face of a difficult job and troubles with money and envy of neighbors is a goal on the same plane of kings and Gods. Every life’s struggle is worthy of being etched into stone and displayed for all posterity.


And what if we achieve our dream? Nothing short of a miracle.


But the satisfaction cannot last. For who has not succeeded, only to think, I want to succeed again? The hunger for more success, for the next victory, the next dream, is almost inescapable. Victory is temporal. The hunger lasts forever.


Becky Rand’s ambition was to create a diner where people could go early and late, for homemade food of the best ingredients for a fair price. Her dream was Becky’s Diner and her dream is a reality. Her effort has borne impossible fruit. And she has found purpose, found life, in the struggle to keep her dream a reality on Hobson Warf — to save it from slipping prematurely into the past.


Her success is irrefutable. Perfect. That is what we can applaud. The realization of her dream and the effort to keep it thus, are all we can truly judge. To compare her diner, her dream, to another — the thing I do so readily — is, in this context, profane. Becky’s — and every other restaurant and diner and establishment like it — is a monument to triumph over the totality of human strife.


To Becky’s we can turn for hope, for joy, for sun-dappled dreams. Let it stand as a temporal testament to the beauty of sweat, the staggering profundity of effort, the unmitigated joy of hope. Let Becky’s stand for all our dreams.


Good for Becky. Good for us.




3.0 Stars

This review was inspired by the fact that, while Becky’s may not be my favorite diner, it is a staggering accomplishment for someone to even start a diner, let alone keep it successfully running. So, if you’re looking for diner food, diner food is what you’ll get. Good, solid stuff.


Old Timey

Seriously, the price is the jam. $8 omelets, $5 eggs, you know the drill. Big portions, little prices all made with ingredients you’d keep in your own kitchen.



Maps of Maine on the walls, booths on the outside, counter on the inside surrounded by stainless steel stools with red pleather tops. Feels as though, statistically, at least one family is having their “Annual Becky’s Meal” at all times.



Becky’s servers get up early, as in, the time I go to bed early. And they serve with a smile. Great people and good service.



If you want a diner diner, Becky’s is it. Artisanal crepes and cappuccinos this is not. It is, however, skilled at what it does for a price that puts a smile on your face.


Bayside Bowl - Portland, ME



Anchor (N) – The member of a bowling team most likely to bowl the highest score and take bowling so seriously that any jokes about them in this definition will probably earn the writer a verbal or physical altercation.


Approach (N) – The period of time between addressing the pins and releasing the ball when one has absolutely no control over their legs.


Beer Frame (N) – On a team of four bowlers, if three out of the four bowlers hit a strike in one frame, the bowler who did not get a strike must buy a pitcher of beer for the rest of the team i.e. blinding genius.


Bowl a 300 (N) – Bowling a strike every single frame (including three strikes in the last frame); an event which, like the wendigo, is rumored to exist but few, if any, have ever been seen.


Bowling (N) – A sport that every young man wishes impressed women more than it does.


Bowling Ball (N) – A polyurethane sphere with three, finger-sized holes capable of humiliating a person with great athletic talent and making a hero of someone with none.


Bumpers (N) – Ball-deflecting objects on the lane adjacent that mean tiny kids will be constantly dicking around in your peripheral vision, totally ruining any chance you had of bowling a good game.


Celebrate (V) – (to celebrate) to act elated, either earnestly after a good bowl or, most often, ironically, after you throw the ball in the gutter for like the eighth time.


Field Goal (N) – When, on the second bowl, you roll the ball perfectly between two pins, like an idiot, hitting none; witnesses are required to raise their arms in mock “it’s good” fashion.


Frame (N) – The smallest unit of time necessary to prove you suck/are amazing at bowling.


Friendly Competition (N) – In the context of bowling, this word is meaningless. See: Cutthroat Competition, Silent Car Ride Home, Relationship Counseling


Gutter (N) – twin vortexes lurking just beyond both edges of the lane; rumored to make a thin, siren-like wail that can only be heard during an important approach.


High Five (N) – A slapping motion of two or more hands made after every single shot for like the first four frames and then everybody stops unless you’re just crushing strikes and then everyone wants some hot five-age.


High-Pressure Situation (N) – A period of time in which you actually care about chucking a ball at ten pregnant-lady-shaped painted logs while the earth itself is nothing but a subatomic dot stranded in the vast reaches of an endless, undying universe.


Just One More (N) – (an idiom, regularly used in reference to an alcoholic beverage) a thousand more.


Lane (N) – An oblong rectangle of parallel, oiled boards that, if stepped on, will cause you to perform at least ¾ of a split and humiliate yourself no matter how you try to play it off.


Lane Etiquette (N) – the act of checking left and right — to make sure nobody is already in their approach on a lane adjacent — before bowling your ball; the best way to avoid a fight with an anchor.


Nice Shot (N) – An idiom used as a combination of solace/encouragement when one almost hits a crazy-difficult split. Like, seriously, almost nails it.


Pins (N) – Ten painted pieces of wood, arranged in a triangle at the end of the bowling lane, imbued with the malevolence of Satan.


Spare (N) – The act of knocking down all the remaining pins on the second bowl of a frame, usually accompanied by the phrase, “It should have been a strike.”


Spare Ball (N) – A secondary ball used specifically for bowling spares owned by a bowler by whom you will be so badly beaten that your enjoyment of bowling will be permanently diminished.


Split (N) – A situation in which, after the first bowl of a frame, at least two remaining non-adjacent pins can go fuck themselves.


Slip (V) – (to slip) An awkward, unexpected motion of the foot; the scapegoat for every single bad shot ever bowled.


Strike (N) – An act after which one is permitted to either A: jump, scream, howl, and dance or B: shrug, act angry, and mutter, “Jesus… finally…”


The Zone (N) –  Roughly three beers deep.


Tots (N) – A delicious, crispy, potato-y lane-side treat and specialty of the Bayside Bowl kitchen.


Turkey (N) – A situation — heralded by bowling three strikes in a row — in which it is somehow acceptable to shove your hands into your armpits and flap your truncated, wing-like elbows while gobbling. Alternately, a hand on top of the head in rough mimic of a cock’s comb is also acceptable. Teammates are required to celebrate this decision, no matter how oafish the gyrations appear.





Bowling alley fare this is not. Bayside knows their way around a lane and a kitchen. The standouts are the burgers and tater tots, with a solid burrito and many more options. And if you don’t think tots go well with bowling then you, my friend, are mistaken.


7-10 Split

Average prices for above average quality. Burgs/Sandwiches/Wraps run around $10. Also, Moosehead beer is so cheap it’s almost like they don’t add it to your bill, either that or I’m drunk.


No Country for Bowled Men

Nice, modern design makes for a rad, comfortable atmosphere that doesn’t get in the way of the main aim: bowling.


Five (star) Bagger

Seriously, the fine servers at Bayside are just excellent. Lane-side service, + they remember your tab + they are pleasant to be around. A++.



It’s a fine alley with great crowds and mighty grub. The real strikin’ deal.


Blue Rooster Food Co - Portland, ME

Looking through the verdant swaying foliage from the panoramic window in my bedroom, I almost convinced myself I didn’t have any animal hybrids at all — as if it were just solitary me in the midst of wild ocean on a tropical haven of solitude.

            Peering from under the sheets of my egg-shaped water bed, I realized that the previous night was one of the first good sleeps I’d had since the whole electrified wolfverine escape. I felt good. It’s interesting, when you forget what it feels like to just feel good, to not feel put-upon and heavy with problems that you can’t directly solve. This island, BloodSpew Cove — my island — is kind of a handful.

            The electrified wolfverine mishap was basically just a miscalculation on my part. Who knew they would be strong enough to gnaw through their steel enclosure’s bars? After devouring Ken Klatch, a really nice lackey, they absconded to the wilds where they’re now vigorously procreating. Looking on the bright side though, having giant, vicious, electrified quadrupeds isn’t the worst form of security against would-be snoopers.

            Unfortunately, I can’t spin the Tasmanian Marlin Man imbroglio. The three maimed interns aren’t going to dole out very good reviews after that one.

            To make matters worse Gloria Languardo, my unflappable assistant, was worried by this week’s gen-mod forum presentation in which I unveiled the SARS AIDS Cheetah.

            “What, exactly,” she said, “is the benefit of the fastest land-mammal imbued with both SARS and AIDS?” Well, she stumped me with that one. I was just thinking, check out this badass cheetah, y’know? Needless to say I tabled that project along with the invisible sentient Alzheimer’s cloud.

            I’m not all blunders thought. I mean, yeah, my Dad, Dr. Inferno, gave me this island. I named it BloodSpew Cove. The whole idea of filling it with heinous genetic mutant abominations was purely my initiative. I realize that the idea wasn’t anything particularly new — yeah yeah Dr. Moreau got there first — but I still brought it all to life.

            The actual problem — besides all these little mishaps — is that the third annual board meeting was coming up and all the investors would be here in a week. That means Professor Knife, Bill Hates, Señor Deathface, The Gay Phantom and the head of the board, my father, Dr. Inferno.

            This is the problem with our capitalist shackles; it allows no room for blue sky innovation! True progress — not to mention the entire structure of scientific inquiry — requires you to chuck a couple concepts against the wall and see what sticks! But nooooo, you have to be saleable, scalable, profitable and marketable from day one. No grace period, no try it out period! No, hey maybe in retrospect that radioactive crow-bear wasn’t the best idea. Just bam! Profit, profit, profit.

            BloodSpew Cove actually started off swimmingly; my fireproof mice were basically the hottest seller in 2011. They helped as an early-warning for stuff like carbon monoxide or actual flames. Only problem, of course, was that they were also bullet-proof, ageless and humped like mad, which any idiot who read the fine print would have known. Luckily, those lawsuits are still pending.

            In better news, Horatio, my chickenrhino wrangler, sang the praises of my new herding dog: the taser hound. Keeps the chickenrhino’s charge-pecking to a minimum, which means food bills go down. Great stuff.

            It’s hard enough to run an island in the middle of the pacific. Try adding vicious, crafty, ungodly critters to that mix. And then try to make it profitable. This is no banana stand operation.

            Supply-wise this island is a money suck. We used to ship everything out on my forty thousand cubic foot nuclear submarine, the Arc Too. But that’s been out of commission since 2010. I’m convinced that the more money a vehicle costs, the faster it breaks. Currently, we get all our supplies from Amazon.

            Six days out from the meeting, my father came for a preliminary inspection. His goatee, as always, was waxed to a full point.

            “So, you want to give me the run down?” he said. I hemmed and hawed that I was still in early stages of the presentation and wouldn’t want to divulge an unfinished draft.

            “You haven’t started yet,” he said, taking off his signature square, bright red sunglasses and rubbing his eyes. “Listen, Nate. This island is an opportunity. I realize that the economy hasn’t been kind to it lately, but the board is starting to get a little worried. You need to show them that next year we’ll be in the red, and not the kind of red we’ve been seeing recently.”

            I kicked some dirt under a lab table.

            “These escapes,” said my Dad. “This island is a death trap. Three maimed interns, Ken Klatch eaten two months ago, three lackeys who now have both SARS and AIDS. The escaped electrified wolfverines roaming the forest making it so Amazon has to deliver to my island for safety purposes? I mean Nate…”

            He stopped when he noticed a tear trace my cheek. He put a hand on my shoulder.

            “It’s OK. Just take care of those electrified wolfverines. Everything else should be fine.”

            His helicopter hadn’t even taken off before the alarms started going again. Another escape. Two decapitated lackeys later, we managed to goad the lobstergent back into his sand hut.

            It took forty eight hours in bed for me to break out of that bout of depression.

            I mean, in the beginning, I’d set out in hopes of conquering the planet with my heinous affronts to God’s plan. Right now? I’d seriously just settle for amusement park status. Y’know, ship in kids by the ferry load, tire the suckers out and then hit their parents' wallets with a gift shop at the exit. Man, that would be the life.

            Three days out from the meeting and things were actually looking up! We had to clean out the Snale tank — a whale-sized aquatic snake — and it went off without a hitch: no deaths. Surprisingly, lackeys are pretty hard to come by these days. They’ve got to be hardy, strapping and bereft of a single individual thought. Also, it helps if they’re of various nationalities; you don’t want to get slapped with the old “Arian Domination” label.

            It’s a great island though. My Dad bought it — along with several other remote, ominously-shaped islands (skull, bomb, middle finger, &c &c) — back in the nineties when it looked like property value would never stop soaring. Then when he got nailed by the market he sold all of them but his island and mine.  

            Two days to the meeting and still no progress on the wolfverine situation, but I had a brilliant thought. If I needed help, why not help myself?

            So, I cloned myself.

            I’m no idiot about cloning, I didn’t make some evil twin or anything. In fact, I added some ant genes to his makeup so he’d not only be more diligent but would take commands from me, his queen. Plus, I tattooed a big 2 on his face so I wouldn’t have to worry about any of those silly gunfight double binds with both of us yelling that we’re the real original at some indecisive lackey holding a quivering pistol.

            Needless to say my clone was a huge help. I gave him one tour of the island, showed him around the different boring jobs I had to do and boom, instant second in command. It’s amazing I didn’t think of it earlier.

            Last day before the big meeting and everything actually came together! Surprising to see. My clone pulled his weight in a major way. He even managed to herd all the electrified wolfverines back into their pit. That ant gene really put some diligent pep in his step.

            I felt good. I was getting things done and that really boosted my spirits. I beamed at the thought of the board getting to see my island then.

            Then the board meeting happened. In short, it did not go as originally planned.

            About an hour before the meeting, I was lounging on the picturesque vista by the praying manatee lagoon and my clone dropped by to give me an update. At least that’s what I was expecting. Instead, this clone had a huge five on his face and started to strangle me. So there I am about an hour before the meeting, beating my clone to death with a pina-colada-filled coconut to the chittering snorts of the praying manatees below. Quite a scene!

            Welp, turns out I put Queen ant genes into my clone instead of just worker ant so that was a faux pas on my part. Basically, my clone was clandestinely pumping out ancillary clones and cleaning up to keep me distracted. By the time the Gay Phantom arrived — he’s always the most punctual — in his invisible submarine, the place was pretty much bedlam.

            Clone 2 was trying to destroy every other creature on the island to make room for his brood of copies — I saw a clone numbered 59 suplex a security guard. I had to text Miss Languardo to get on the intercom and let all staff know that they needed to basically flee or be mercilessly destroyed.

            We ended up having the board meeting in Professor Knife’s Hover-Scythe.

            “It appears our investment,” I said, not even bothering to open the PowerPoint presentation I’d prepared, “will need a longer-term view.”

            My father and the board eventually agreed to a small downsize. Total, eschaton-level melt-down of an evil island was actually covered in our insurance package, so that was great foresight.

            I’m currently looking into office space around the Silicon Valley area. I figure we can have a cool office with like a Ping-Pong table, video games and maybe something edgy like a beer vending machine. That sort of stuff boosts morale. I want to make sure my staff and abominations don’t feel like they’re getting the short end in this deal. They’re the ones who really matter, after all.




Inventive dogs. Scrumptious tots. A great spot for a quick lunch.


Cock-a-Doodle Deal

Wow that is a breathtakingly bad pun (if that can even be considered a pun). You’ll not pay much though.



Sitting inside consists of solely counter space around the outside of the room. Probably accommodates 15 comfortably. Fits the style of food perfectly though, plus the rooster décor is awesome.


Struttin’ Their Stuff

Order from the cashier. Get food from the cashier.



If you’re in the mood for a killer dog, solid sandy or some hot tots (hot in the “popular” sense, not spicy-hot), Blue Rooster will have you crowing. There is now a special nook in hell for me thanks to all these rooster puns.

Empire Chinese Kitchen - Portland, ME

Marti stumbled onstage.  Upon touching the polished wood his thick-soled prescription shoes let out a hideous squark. Draped in an ill-fitting suit, his shirt half-un-tucked, his tie askew and a distinct mustard stain on the crotch of his black pants he turned to the audience with a mole-like squint.

            The audience roared. Nearly one hundred thousand of them were packed into the stadium to see Marti perform. The house lights had come down and only the varnished brown stage, Marti and his instrument were lit. Camera flashes popped from the darkness of the crowd. Marti sneezed wetly into his tie and then scratched his boat-like posterior.

            To say that Marti moved with ungainly slowness would be an affront to both words. He was a hoving slug of a man. His instrument lay across the stage, glinting like a dentist’s tools under the harsh spotlights. Upon reaching center stage, Marti got tangled in his own feet and toppled like a warm tower of cheese. Instantaneously, a severe, black-suited man with commanding eyebrows appeared from the wings and helped Marti to his feet. The clapping had died to just a thunderous din, hoarse voices shouting Marti’s name from every nook and cranny of the packed amphitheater.

            Upon getting Marti upright, the severe man melted into the wings.

            Marti’s skin had a sickly pale sheen of grease. After wobbling to some sort of steady standing position, he flashed his teeth at the audience. They were tiny, each with ample breathing room in its space in Marti’s gums. At Marti’s direct recognition of the assembled crowd, pandemonium took hold.

            Marti waved a grotesque claw of a hand, nails yellow and long, and the top nearly blew off the place.

It was time for Marti to perform.

            Marti took what seemed to be his first steps in the direction of his instrument. His hands shook and sweat had formed two black half moons beneath his arms. Like the visible stink that emanated from Marti’s ovoid frame, the giddy anticipation in the place was palpable. They had come for Marti, and here, in all his glory, Marti was.

            With a languishing plop, Marti lay himself on the cold metal of his instrument. Its seat was form fitted to fit Marti’s ungainly proportions.

If one expected — finally seated in his instrument — an eerie calm to descend on Marti’s stricken, shaking face, they would be wrong. He continued to fidget and generally look miserably nervous. Something appeared horribly wrong. Yet the audience seemed either not to notice or actively love Marti’s discomfort, because as soon as his ghastly rump touched the shining metal of his instrument’s seat, the collective roar became a howling typhoon.

            Marti lay there, bathing awkwardly in the adulation of the audience as the severe man appeared again. He lifted a colander-like apparatus from behind the instrument and placed it on Marti’s grease-slicked head.

At last his fidgeting ceased. The instrument began to hum and the audience dove into a buzzing silence.

            From its center, the chair and Marti himself began to let off a hazy glow. Slowly, steadily the instrument began to pulse with ethereal light. The audience fell completely silent and their faces were illuminated into glowing ovals of anticipation. Marti’s torso, or the region just above it, shook with a terrible violent whiteness before disappearing. Marti and the chair had vanished.

The audience gasped. But then, beneath their exclamations and whispered excitement, a low note pierced the turmoil.

It was beautiful.

            The note rose and snaked its sibilant way through the air, as if sung for each individual specifically. Simply one note blanketed the stadium, immaculate in its pitch and timbre. It made you feel heavy, pushed down into your seat with the beauty of it. As the note trailed off and the stillness of the theatre was nearly complete, the visions exploded into view.

            Pure thought made manifest: primal views of the neuron’s potential, not of a specific idea but of the kernel of an idea, not a happy vision but a vision of happiness incarnate. Sights, with now glorious sounds emanating from them, glittered on the stage and with each pulse of their unthinkable shape ruined the crowd with the ecstasy of their presence.

            Marti’s mind had made this. This shifting, coagulation of joy that now entranced the entire audience and millions watching remotely. There was no execution by Marti involved. Pure and simply put, these were the potential of Marti’s thoughts. A vision into the unknown realm of could, where the power of his untapped dreams were allowed to escape.

            At first, many tried to play the instrument, including men of incredible caliber and executional skill in every other realm of life. Piano grandmasters, writers, doctors and the highest-minded physicists all had tried their hand at it. But what the instrument amplified was not execution, but the opposite. So those with little, those losers, those outcasts, those good-for-nothings found that their talents far outstripped society’s elite. Beauty sprung from barren soil, not fertile ground. In other words, the machine ran on potential, not execution.

            Tears of joy painted the audience's cheeks. Spouses hugged, children held their parents clothes, lovers squeezed each other’s thighs, all sobbing and laughing at the purity of an emotion so perfectly raw. Like transposition into the very heart of both their sweetest nostalgia and highest triumph, the people were engulfed in the sight and sound that Marti’s mind expelled. The tones were more meaningful than any instrument plucked or blown. The sights were more arresting than the birth of a first child or the naked back of a newfound love. There was no Marti and the audience during the nearly three-hour show. It was simply individuals by themselves, alone with not what they thought they wanted but with what they needed at a fundamental level. Marti presented them with what they had been denied by the very structure of their minds: purity, clarity and unmitigated happiness. And it was not a cheap empty happiness but a lasting appreciation of the full, tragic beauty of our brief station on this floating rock and the significance and impossibility of us all being here at this exact point in time, striving valiantly — together and alone — to find meaning in nothing.

            At last, the stage went silent. Every member of the audience sat mute, basking in the afterglow of their mutually departed bliss. Marti lay in his chair, fidgeting, sweat ringing his waist and crotch. The severe man slipped beside him and removed the helmet. With ungainly gyrations, Marti wiggled himself out of his seat. The crowd remained in stunned silence as Marti wobbled to the center of the stage. Marti bowed, revealing an ominously dark stain on the seat of his pants. A mile away, a flock of crows were startled from a pine tree at the explosion of cheers.

            A retinue of security guards rose from below the stage, holding the frothing masses back. Marti hobbled away from the instrument, now lying inert and sodden. He only fell once before disappearing behind the silk curtains of the stage.





Well-prepared and flavorful, this is Empire’s strong suit. The dishes each have a unique feel and match their price in terms of sophistication. Really great stuff.


Early in the Month

It’s not expensive, per se. But it won’t be your go-to spot when the well is starting to run dry.


Wood Enthusiast

Wood, bamboo, other types of carbon. A spare, cohesive space with just enough decoration to give it an authentically hip feel. Very nice job.


The Catch

This is what spawned the review. In its raw, conceptual form, Empire is everything you want: great Chinese fare, cool atmosphere, reasonably-ish priced. In execution, it all falls apart. I’ve been to Empire at least five times in trying to give it the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, every single time I’ve been there something has gone wrong. My first experience was of being stranded by the bar without service for a two-hour meal in which my appetizer of choice ran out after I had ordered it. Second time was much the same as the first, much waiting by the window seats. Third time I tried sitting in the main dining area and there was literally an aphid in one of my dining-mate’s noodles. Fourth and fifth were a bit better but still included basic misses like not getting utensils before our food, long waits, missing servers and water that stayed empty the whole meal. I don’t want you to think of this as purely the servers’ fault, it’s not. This seems like a fundamental flaw in Empire’s very structure. Something needs to be worked out with either the food preparation or the communication, because as it stands, food takes way too long and is way too inconsistent. I want to like Empire so much because the food and ambience are so great, but there is no escaping the vortex of unhappiness that has been my experience dining in.



I’m not going to say skip it, because I know it’s great. I didn’t even mention the concert venue upstairs, which is also awesome. Empire is a great place it just really needs to get its act together before I go in there to eat again.



Little Tap House - Portland, ME

In my youth I found a truth, a vital verity,

It’s not a jab, a blow, a stab to say, “it’s not for me.”


“It’s not for me,” decidedly is five small words, almost a plea,

Less judgment than confession, see, to express, “it’s not for me.”


For reputation adulation’s best decidedly,

But for the truth, though uncouth, one must speak candidly,

For one man’s meat’s another’s offal, how awful, truthfully,

So when a place isn’t to my taste I must say, “it’s not for me.”


And ill opinions kill when persons take them personally,

But a bad review’s not about you, untrue, “it’s not for me.”


Like movies, games, books, comics and of course TV,

My favorite joint could have you point and say, “it’s not for me.”


So while taste is best kept close to chest, not shouted carelessly,

As I slog through this blog, I must squawk unequivocally,

For a spot resides that oft divides opinions drastically,

Little Tap House, I’m forced to grouse, *ahem* “it’s not for me.”


Its trappings and its wrappings are presented stunningly,

But simply put – mouth meet foot – the food… “it’s not for me.”


Before you bark, “what a lark!” understand the gravity,

Of lambasting a place (risking egg on face) to say, “it’s not for me.”


The Shepherd’s Pie, the Fish & Chips and Lobster Mac make three,

Dishes I’ve tried, that on my hide, were challenged season-ally,

Though well-prepared these vittles shared a flaw resoundingly,

Lacking herb and spice, though cooked quite nice, I say “it’s not for me.”


Now, people rant their burgers can’t be beat (I shan’t agree),

Burgers abound around, I’ve found, so still, “it’s not for me.”


Meet meat.

555, The Front Room, Caiola’s and In’Finiti,

Their burgers all are on the ball, so I scrawl, “it’s not for me.”


It’d be a shame to blame its fame on sheer proximity,

Its service and its feel appeal to tipplers like me,

Meaning for one drink – nod nod wink wink – I’ll go unblinkingly,

But for a munch, dinner or brunch, I say, “it’s not for me.”

The House of Tap gets a good rap from the majority,

In short the seasoning’s my reasoning why, “it’s not for me.”

Were I rootin’ tootin’ drinkin’ hootin’ there’d be no scrutiny,

But sitting down to dine I frown, sorry, “it’s not for me.”


See Portland’s food is beyond good, with true variety,

Which means a space of ample grace and ingenuity,

Whose fare has tracked a certain lack of one necessity,

Is not enough for me to bluff and say, “it’s just for me.”




2.8 Stars

I really wish I liked Little Tap House more. The menu is well laid out and diverse, but in the end I’ve never really been satisfied by a meal there. The burgers are certainly fine, no disappointment there, but they’re not better than so many other burgers in Portland.


Middle Management

With burgers ~$13 and Entrees at ~$22, it’s not inexpensive. Nothing wild for Portland, though.


Urban rustic

A dollop of “Farm-y” touches, meaning hardwood flourishes and some farm implements on the walls. It’s well laid out, intimate and comfortable.


At the ready

A fine wait staff. Good for what ye need.



As good as Little Tap House is for a drink, it just doesn’t stack up for dinner. Mind you, if you go, you won’t leave in a huff. But there are other options nearby in Portland that, for about the same price, (Caiola’s, In’Finiti, 555, Portland & Rochester Public House to name a few) will leave you better satiated.