Portland Pie Company's thing is pizza
Portland Pie Co.786 Elm St., Manchester
Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11a.m.-midnight.
Portland Pie has three restaurants in Maine, and the menu and decorations are definitely Vacationland- themed, even in the Granite State. But it's not lobster traps and old salt fishermen in slickers; Portland Pie's Maine is more the LL Bean/Acadia style with a contemporary, not kitschy, vibe.
The Manchester restaurant is divided into a lounge, which fronts Elm Street, and dining room, in the rear. We were seated in the lounge, where the tall tables and chairs and omnipresent TVs made for a comfortable, fun spot for a family dinner.
On our last dining adventure, we learned a valuable lesson about pacing ourselves, none of us more than our Teenage Bottomless Pit, who for the first time was barely able to put a dent in his entree because he pigged out on appetizers. So we approached the app menu at Portland Pie a bit more cautiously. The choices are largely of the bar bites variety, with a couple of unique twists.
Our Gourmet: I opted for one of those twists, Lobster Sliders ($13.99). I got four mini lobster rolls, served on soft, flavorful herbed buns. There was plently of lobster: big chunks, very little filler and almost too little mayonnaise. I love lobster rolls, but this filling was a bit dry for my taste. (7/10 – And it does come to personal taste, as The Dining Companion thought the sliders were fantastic and should have received at least a 9. Light and sweet, she said.)
TBP ordered the Quesadilla ($6.99) a flour tortilla filled with four cheeses and served with sour cream and salsa. It was a cheesy, tasty and not too filling warmup for the pizza to come. (7/10)
The Dining Companion: I ordered the Onion Battered Green Beans ($6.99): Green beans coated in an onion batter and baked until crispy and served with a Southwestern ranch sauce. They were cooked until just tender, with just the right amount of crispy batter coating and the sauce was the perfect companion. Our waitress confirmed that these were indeed NOT fried, but baked. In fact, she said, there's not a deep fryer in the house. Healthy points there! (9/10)
If you're ordering pizza (and we think you should), be prepared to make some decisions. Do you want one of the specialty pies or a create-your-own? What kind of crust: basil, wheat, garlic or beer? What size: 10-inch, 12-inch, 14-inch thin or 16-inch? (Most of the pizzas are $11.49 for a 10-inch to $18.99 for a 16-inch; the seafood choices are a little more.)
OG: Portland's specialty pizza menu is divided among chicken, meat, veggie or seafood. I chose the Cadillac Mountain (10-inch, $11.49) — marinated chicken, tomato slices, red onion and pesto with three cheeses — on beer crust. I love white pizzas, and this was a good one. The chicken was mouthwatering; the onion and pesto made a savory combination with the cheeses; and the beer crust was a hearty and tasty choice, though I liked TDC's crust better. I thought the tomatoes (there may have been six small slices) were superfluous. (8/10)
TBP ordered the Aroostook County (10-inch, $11.49) — red sauce, Southwest chicken, bacon, red onion and tomato with the three cheese blend and finished with a swirl of ranch. After asking to have them hold the onion, he picked the basil crust, a surprisingly high-brow choice, his mom and I thought. He thought the pizza was great, but after tasting TDC's, he wished he had ordered it on the garlic crust. Back to true form, he was able to finish his pie and was looking forward to dessert! (9/10)
TDC: I ordered the Red Claws (10-inch, $13.99 ) — butter, fresh garlic and a three cheese blend with fresh Maine lobster, artisan shaved cheese, and finished with a scallion pinwheel — on a basil crust. But when TBP then proceeded to order a basil crust as well, I changed to the garlic crust for the sake of variety. This turned out to be another delicious white pizza.
After experiencing the lobster sliders – which I thought were perfect without the mayo – I had anticipated more lobster on the pizza – a bit in every bite. I'd have to say that it was more like a bit in every third bite, but it was excellent nonetheless. Even though the garlic crust was very good, I believe the basil crust would have better suited this pizza. (8/10)
OG: TBP and I split the Apple Crumble Dessert Pie ($8.99) — kind of a dessert pizza with sliced apples with cinnamon and sugar, topped with what was called apple crumble but was more reminiscent of an apple butter. It was all served atop a flat butter pie crust that was spread with cream cheese. Rich and sweet yet tart, thanks to the apples and the cream cheese. (7/10)
TDC: Being the chocolate lover in the group, I opted for Rachel's Chocolate Lasagna ($6.99) It is billed as being made from scratch by Dora's Delights, a bakery in Scarborough, Maine. This delicious delight is three layers of rich chocolate cake with a chocolate custard and white cream filling, topped with a toffee and chocolate glaze. OMG, a road trip to Scarborough is in the works! I would have to say that this was the best chocolate dessert I've had in a while – and I've had some great ones. Not overly sweet or heavy (which surprised me) and extremely moist with a perfect blend of flavors and textures. OG shared some of this and concurs with the rating: 10/10
Pizza is what Portland Pie Co. is all about, but it's far from all they serve. There are salads, sandwiches, calzones, wraps, pasta and more. We'll have to go back, under the pretense of trying something else, but to be honest, we'll probably stick with the pizza — after all, there are 18 specialty pizzas, and we only were able to try three.
Portland Pie Co. ranks right up there among our favorite pizza places. Combine the great pizzas with the excellent atmosphere and pleasant, helpful waitstaff, and you've got a terrific spot for lunch, dinner or a late bite with a beer.
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