Note: Serious Eats reader Mary Phillips-Sandy and her boyfriend/photographer Bryan Bruchman were nice enough to contribute a review to AHT. This is a welcome addition to our nonexistent coverage of Maine. Thanks, guys!
The Blue Spoon
89 Congress St., Portland, ME 04101 (map); 207-773-1116
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Perfectly-cooked local beef compensates for boring buns and lack of salt.
Want Fries with That? Yes. Rosemary-flecked potato wedges are totally addictive.
Prices: $9, with or without cheese and bacon
Portland, Maine, is as food-obsessed as the national media makes it out to be, and many discerning locals will tell you that the burger at the Blue Spoon is the best in town. Only one way to find out if it's true.
Although the Blue Spoon has a well-curated menu that features a variety of fresh, local ingredients, I noticed burgers on several tables during a recent lunchtime visit. The tiny kitchen is partially open, so you can enjoy the hot beefy aromas while you wait for your order.
And it's an order worth waiting for. The beef is free-range, grass-fed sirloin from Highland Cattle raised in Orland, Maine, at A Wee Bit Farm. It's lean, juicy and rich without being greasy. My medium-rare was perfectly pink inside, with thick grill marks and a nice exterior char; the bun (a plain seedless number) was unremarkable and a bit bulky for my taste, but it's crusty enough to prevent burger-sog as those juices run out.
As for style, these aren't your flat-and-smashed patties. They're hefty and round, though not grossly oversized. At first I was concerned about a lack of salt, but the more I ate the more I realized beef this good is fine without much sodium. In fact, it's better than fine. Clearly, the Blue Spoon knows it's best to let the meat speak for itself.
Restrained amounts of local greens, ripe tomato and red onion come standard, and for the whopping price of $0 you can add extras like cheese (American, Asagio, goat or feta) and thick-sliced bacon—my companion went for a goat cheese-bacon combo, a savory symphony of buttery, tangy, salty, smoky and meaty. The supporting starch role is played by oven-baked rosemary potato wedges that accompany each burger—no extra charge for those either. They're served piping hot, salty, and greaseless, with creamy interiors.
So is the Blue Spoon burger the best in this little city with a big stomach? Maybe—there are also those who swear by the Front Room, the Grill Room, and the bar-style burger at Rosie's. But there's no doubt that the Blue Spoon burger is a serious—and seriously delicious—contender.
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