We arrived in the main center of Portland, Maine less than 20 minutes after we deplaned at the airport, which included renting a car (flying to Maine actually takes less time than my commute to Connecticut. Sad but true.)
We parked on Commercial Street in the first spot we could find, and then turned around to see distillation equipment in the window of an unmarked building. It was new, and definitely not there when we had last visited in the fall.
Curiosity got the better of us and we crossed the street and peered in the windows. Imagine our surprise when we saw people staring back. We walked in to find a fully operational restaurant. One that didn’t seem to have a name. We saw an “8″ on the floor and assumed it was called just, simply, “8.” We were not correct. We got the menu and realized that we were sitting in the brand new (less than 2 weeks after opening) In’finiti Fermentation and Distillation.
We later found out that it’s run by the same people that do Novare Res, which is probably one of the best beer bars (and beer gardens) I’ve ever been to. Just for the sheer options of awesome beers they have if nothing else.
We got a couple beers (their own brews, which we found very drinkable but no stand outs) and chatted with the bartender who said that their food was like “elevated bar food.”
I asked him what his favorite thing on the menu was, and he proceeded to list off about 15 things. I told him he was not making my choice any easier. We decided that we would come back that night for a proper meal.
By the time we came back for dinner, it was packed and there was about a 45 minute wait (it wound up being nearly an hour, which the host apologized for many times, though we were having a fine time just drinking good beer at the bar).
I wound up drinking a Marshall Wharf Dopplebock, which I loved. It was creamy and chocolatey and was easy to sip while standing up to food. Great beer. (And local!)
The aesthetic of the place was described by a Beer Advocate review as being “somewhat industrial with a touch of steampunk.” I can’t think of a better way to put it. And it is an aesthetic I really like. I was a big fan of the tables and stools being made from tree trunk slabs and the pipes holding up all the tables.
They have a large collection of brewing and distilling equipment, all of which is visible behind big glass windows.
And these gorgeous copper beauties up front that first caught our eye.
Even the bathroom sinks were kind of awesome.
Ok… so I was pretty enamored. But how would the food stand up?
We started with the lobster marscapone arancini (rice balls) with blood orange “paint”.
They were quite tasty but we both wished for more lobster flavor. I liked the orange flavor which was mild, but Mike didn’t think it added to the dish. So we were a bit ehh on this. Then again, you really can’t go wrong with crispy rice.
The burger was getting a lot of buzz on various social media outlets we were looking at while awaiting our table, so Mike went for it. Luckily, they put the spicy stuff on the side so I could try the burger. It was, in fact, very good. The meat tasted like meat. A nice char, a bit of salt, and a great meaty flavor that was well complimented by the toppings. And the burger wasn’t too tightly packed. It was packed just enough to stay together. Great texture. The fries were good but not exactly the bliss others were raving about. But still good.
I went with the Turf and Turf which came with braised short ribs and crispy pork belly, seared polenta, and fried cippolini onions.
This was an ode to meat cooked without fluff. Just meat. Pure and simple. I think that short ribs should be tender enough that you don’t need a knife, however, so these were a bit lacking and could have used some more slow cook time. But the meat just tasted good. Good like meat should taste.
We really enjoyed the atmosphere of this place and the beer selection. The food was solid. Very good but I can’t say it was amazing. The burger was really good and I enjoyed everything we ate. I look forward to trying it again and trying their own beers, liquor, and bitters they are making in house. It’s a nice addition to (the already food saturated) Portland. I’m sure this will be a really great place to get a really great beer right on the main street by the water. And as the weather warms up, that deck they have will be lovely.
Total Nom Points: 7 out 10