My best friend got married this month.
In a move of sheer genius, she decided to not have any bridesmaids. Rather, we acted as her “attendants,” which is a fancy word for getting to spoil her thoroughly while still wearing our own dresses.
In another genius move, she had a destination wedding in Portland, Maine. This was partly because the groom’s family is from Canada, so it was a nice-halfway point. It was also because Portland—or more specifically, Peaks Island—is a beautiful place for a summer beach wedding.
For my group of friends, this little matrimonial jaunt served as a nice long-weekend getaway out of the unbearable district heat. In Portland, the weather was a balmy 70 degrees (down into the 60s at night!) and there was a constant breeze coming off the Gulf of Maine. I could wear a cardigan! Without perspiring profusely! It was radically exciting.
The little city is gorgeous, with boutiques that sell all sorts of things made out of driftwood, and pubs that look like they’ve been serving Maine’s craft beers to sailors for centuries. I loved the sound of seagulls flying overhead, and the fact that you could ferry your car to different islands off the coast.
But best of all, I loved the food. In Maine, I had my ultimate fill of lobster, which was to be expected. I also sucked down way too many milkshakes, which was a rather unexpected delicacy. Maine’s milkshakes were some of the best I’ve ever had. Really.
We brunched quite a bit, being there for four days, and we tried all sorts of restaurants. But there are two brunches that I simply must tell you about—and they go from one extreme to the other.
The Classic Diner Brunch: Becky’s
Becky’s on Hobson’s Wharf was a bit of a walk out of town. And then it was a bit of a wait for a table. We put our names down and waited patiently as the two women at the front hollered for the next person in line. They were turning tables fast—even the bar stools were hot commodities—but we managed to eventually snag a booth.
The classic diner serves breakfast all day, and the enormous menu goes like this: What do you want with your eggs? There are also pancakes, French toast, omelets (including a Titanic Omelet) and a peppering of specials, like the Commercial Street, which is basically a glorified breakfast sandwich.
Really, any kind of breakfast dish you could ever imagine is on this menu. It was glorious. The place also serves lunch and dinner, with all sorts of seafood like chowders, clams, shrimp, haddock and scallops.
Scallops. In a diner. Only when you’re literally sitting on the water is this allowed.
I had the lobster roll. Because you have to have a lobster roll when you’re in Portland. It was a quarter pound of fresh picked lobster meat with mayonnaise and lettuce on a bun. It was quite a simple sandwich, which was the point, I guess. They let the lobster speak for itself in Maine. And it was delicious.
Our group ordered a smattering of dishes from all corners of the menu, and the common theme was that they were simple but filling. For instance, the tomato soup was like something you could make at home—no flourish, but it was tasty. Its side of grilled cheese was made with white bread and cheddar, nothing fancy.
Same with the tuna melt. On simple white bread, toasted perfectly, and made with solid white tuna chunks and mayonnaise. Nothing fancy, nothing gourmet. Just really solid, delicious, substantial diner food.
But it was that blessed milkshake, served in an ice-cold metal tumbler, that was the crème de la crème of Becky’s. Topped with a hefty dollop of whipped cream, my chocolate shake was thick and creamy and absolute perfection.
So go to Becky’s, if you’re in Portland. Snag a cherry red stool at the diner’s bar and order yourself a milkshake and some sort of toasted fish sandwich. Relish in the simply efficiency of the place. It’s a classic brunch.
390 Commercial St
Portland, ME 04101