What can possibly be said about Portland’s hottest new dining destination that hasn’t already been said in the likes of the Press Herald and Eater Maine? That’s the challenge I find myself dealing with since being tasked with this week’s review of Central Provisions, the latest and greatest addition to the vibrant Portland dining scene. Lucky for me, I’ve got a fantastic batch of input from our P1WS crew to help me try to articulate exactly what it’s like having a Central Provisions experience – and I stress the term experience -as it’s a pretty mind-blowing one to say the least.
I suppose my resume qualified me as the obvious choice to review this new hot-spot, being that I have made this place like my second home in town; normally stopping in at least once (usually twice) per week to enjoy one of the restaurants constantly changing tapas-style small plates paired with a cold draft of the area’s most critically acclaimed new microbrew: Bissell Brothers Substance Ale. More about the drinks later, but first let’s discuss the hands-down MVP of the Central Provisions team – THE FOOD.
The day we visited Central Provisions it was only their second day of serving lunch, and we had a large party of 16 people, which is a challenge on any day much less the second lunch service of their existence. I am happy to report that the entire CP team was up to the task, and all reviewers had nice things to say about the entire service level from start to finish. The one small hiccup we had involved one of our programmers didn’t get his rabbit sandwich delivered. But all in all the service was given a 4 out of possible 5 stars rating for service on our visit. Not too shabby for the 2nd day of lunch.
I am personally a huge fan of tapas-style dining, as I like to try a lot of different things and share a bunch of flavors amongst the group. Central Provisions delivers this to a “T”, and once the food started coming out of the kitchen, it was a non-stop feast until everyone was pleasantly full and ready for a nap. Chris Gould, the genius behind the Central Provisions kitchen, has mastered the art of blending the existing flavors provided by a certain ingredient and then just adding in just enough of the sweet or savory to just make it not only work, but deliver something truly exceptional. What stuck with me about the food is how incredibly fresh and full of flavor it all is. Everything on the menu is fantastic; from the “Bread & Butter” (yeah it’s kind of like bread and butter… only eleventy billion times better), to the selection of lunch time Panini’s available (including rabbit, fish and pork belly varieties). Multiple folks called their “Baja Fish Panini” “the best fish sandwich ever”. P1WS staffers used words like “decadent”, “impeccable” and “OMG” to describe this dining experience in one word.
Other culinary highlights included the “tempura fiddleheads” (affectionately called “crack” by one team member), as well as the “Beet Salad”, which may not sound like much, but was described as “so fresh, light, tasty and beautiful”, and “different from the norm in this town.” And you know a place is doing something right when people are leaving stellar reviews of their take on “Cole Slaw”. OK… so before I spend the entire review gushing over the incredible food, I must also discuss the bar offerings, as they were just about as highly regarded as our meals on this glorious day.
Specializing in post-prohibition era (and Hemmingway influenced) cocktails, the bar at Central Provisions does a lot of things really well. Some favorites include the “Cobbler”, which is a tasty apple flavored concoction, as well as a “George Dickel Rye Old Fashioned”, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, although Elise noted that, “they don’t even waste time muddling a cherry in it… it doesn’t need it. It’s that good.” The other big hit was the “Hemingway Daiquiri” which was enjoyed by the bulk of the marketing team.
On the beer side of the equation all that really needs to be said is “Bissell, please.” The hottest new offering from the thriving Maine craft brewing community is the aforementioned Substance Ale from the Bissell Brothers Brewery. Central Provisions is one of a select group of local places where this new “IT beer” can be reliability procured any day of the week. The P1WS team loves this perfectly balanced ale, and it showed by the fact that there were at about a dozen of them on our tab when it was all said and done. In addition to the Substance Ale, Central Provisions offers a nice (if a tad limited) selection of local brews on draft, so most people will find something that they like.
All in all, Central Provisions has definitively earned the top overall spot on our young food blog here at P1WS. Out of all of the tasters, only two decided that this new eatery wasn’t deserving of a full 5-star rating. So with that being the case, we will award a 4.75 out of possible 5 stars. But rather than using the same old stale “star-based” scoring system, we have been debating what to use for our own rating system. One of the most popular suggestions is to use a “Keanu” rating system. Yes… that Keanu. So it would sound something like this… “Don’t miss out on Central Provisions when in Portland, it’s a must for anyone that enjoys great food and cocktails. Five Keanus (aka Point Break level of awesome.)”
Most-Favorited Dish: Confit Rabbit Panini
Honorable Mention: Spicy Fried Potatoes
100% of Page One employees would enthusiastically return to Central Provisions.
Words Used by Our Team to Describe the Experience:
Address: 414 Fore Street, Portland, ME 04101
Hours: Monday-Sunday – 11:00am-12:00am
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