I’m a little shocked they are letting me write this, as I’ve gained a reputation around Page One as the resident garbage disposal. Yea, I like food. A lot of it. All of it. But though I pride myself as a connoisseur of cheeseburgers and don’t hide my disdain for the culinary snobbery of Portland, I know good food when I taste it. Even I can appreciate a pretentious menu if it showcases quality, creativity, flavor and value over the trendy gimmicks rife in this town. I was psyched when we decided on Duckfat for our dine-in lunch this week–one look at the menu and I started drooling. But even with their legendary fries taken into consideration, the meal lacked many of the key criteria of an exemplary lunch.
Let’s get one thing straight: the fries are famous in this town for a reason. Anyone who denies that they are the best fries they’ve ever tasted is lying. I mean they are cooked in duck fat. Absolutely superlative. The generous portion comes in a cute paper cone that keeps them hot and crisp, and as they are cooked in duck fat, they have a decadent flavor that sets them apart.
The accompanying aiolis and ketchups add to their cause. Dipping the fries in these garlicky, truffled, spicy, tangy dips sets off a fireworks display of rapture in your mouth. My taste buds sang an aria. I couldn’t get enough of the truffled ketchup, chipotle, and garlic varieties, but there were others as well. I recommend ordering a few to sample with your order of the best fries in the world. The consensus here was that we could have eaten ten times the fries without a second thought.
Now to the scant, flavorless meat of the review. Opinions among the Page One team were mixed. I believe that while some of the paninis we ordered were tastier than others, all were tiny, smushed and therefore absurdly overpriced. My duck confit panini was thin on duck and even thinner on the listed toppings, arugula and rhubarb-orange marmalade. And it was bland. Max loved his roasted pork belly sandwich, and Scott liked his BGT (Bacon, Tomato and Goat cheese), but again, for over 10$, I expect a sandwich to #1 include fries and #2 to perform a song and dance routine for me. Robinson declared “I could have eaten five of those sandwiches,” and he meant because it was small, not because it was delicious.
The milkshakes were also hit or miss. Jeremy called his Original (extra thick with Tahitian vanilla bean and creme anglaise) “decadent” but others thought the shakes were too small for the price and also lacking in “heft.” Maybe that’s what we get for straying from the OG though. The tomato-fennel soup got a solid “good” from Elise, but the salads were nothing special. Becky noted that the turkey on her salad appeared to be deli meat. Shamus said “I ordered a salad from a sandwich place, so I have no right to complain,” but I disagree. At these prices, especially in a town with endless fresh produce resources, there’s no excuse for a sub-par salad. Perhaps the saddest lunch of the day was Erich’s Poutine, a soggy portion of fries, cheese curd and gravy.
At the end of the day, Duckfat fries will forever be a treat, but few of us will seek out this lunch again, and certainly not as take-out. With an ever changing menu, it’s worth a try if you have extra cash to gamble, but over a third of the team described their meal with a shrug and a “meh.” As for me, I’ll pass on Duckfat from now on…unless someone puts it in front of me…Or I’m hungry…
Most-Favorited Dish: Belgian Fries
Honorable Mention: BGT (Bacon, Goat Cheese and Tomato)
About half of Page One employees would enthusiastically return to Duckfat
Words Used By Our Team to Describe the Experience:
Address: 43 Middle Street, Portland, ME
Hours: Sunday – Saturday 11am-10pm