It wasn’t long ago that the culinary scene in South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood wasn’t much. Uncle Andy’s Diner had been slinging no-frills breakfasts since 1954 (it closed three years ago). Verbena began offering tasty sandwiches and salads in 2009, and Taco Trio followed with traditional Mexican fare a couple of years later. Foulmouthed Brewing took over an old auto garage in 2016. Since 2020, though, the neighborhood has found a whole other gear, with one stretch of Ocean Street, between Hinckley Drive and E Street, welcoming five new establishments whose standout dishes quite arguably add up to the absolute best block of food in Maine.
This spin on a knish, the classic Jewish hand pie, sees potato, cream cheese, and scallions wrapped in dough that’s topped with everything-bagel spices. Pick the “smoked salmon-naise” sauce for dipping — it’s lox and bagels but even better.
A shade of green as light and bright as springtime, the pesto that chef Paolo Laboa makes is the star attraction at his Portland restaurant, Solo Italiano. If you don’t feel like making a reservation, stop by his South Portland market and grab some, along with house-made fresh pasta (and maybe a slice of mascarpone cheesecake for dessert).
Whether you’re slurping Mere Points, Brinestones, or Robinhoods, the staff at the seafood market, restaurant, and bar always seems happy to discuss the finer points of oyster varieties (is that nuttiness, or perhaps a hint of mushroom?). To cut the brine, order a bracing Manhattan from the bar.
Chef Chris Wilcox’s lineup of New American entrées is full of delights, from feathery-light gnocchi to fiery mussels escabeche. But save room for dessert. The butterscotch pudding is a nostalgic (and better) riff on the old childhood favorite, with crispy bits of cocoa accenting the silky pudding.
Like a classic Cubano but with a soft, sweet bun instead of crusty bread, the medianoche is a hearty heap of ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, and pickles. At Caribbean-inspired Cafe Louis, chef Evan Richardson subs out straightforward yellow mustard for his “salsa Louis,” a sauce made by mixing mustard with roast-pork drippings. Go for brunch or dinner — the medianoche is on both menus.