Herewith, our 2012 guide to Maine's best cheap eats, all for under $15.
- By: Michaela Cavallaro
- Photography by: Mark Fleming
If you combine Mainers’ appreciation for thrift with our love of good food and the still-shaky economy, you get a great time to eat on the cheap. Maine boasts numerous delicious bargains… if you know where to find them. Herewith, our 2012 guide to cheap eats.
1. Lunch on the Run
With these grab-and-go items, there’s no customization available: You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.
Hand-carved turkey sandwich $3.99
Turkey, lettuce, and tomato on homemade bread. 30 Coldbrook Rd., Bangor. 207-942-4878. dysarts.com
Daily sandwiches $5.99
Rosemont Market and Bakery
One meat option (perhaps turkey, provolone, sun dried tomato, and pesto mayo on focaccia). One veggie option (perhaps portabella mushrooms, swiss cheese, honey Dijon, and romaine hearts on baguette). Guaranteed deliciousness. 580 Brighton Ave., Portland. 207-774-8129. rosemontmarket.com
Daily sandwiches $7.99
The Cheese Iron
A rotating selection of meat and veggie sandwiches you can eat as-is or, if you’ve got a few minutes, pressed panini-style. 200 U.S. Rte. 1, Suite 300, Scarborough. 207-883-4057. thecheeseiron.com
Pork Parfait $7
A sixteen-ounce cup filled with baked beans and topped by pulled pork has been one of this beloved food truck’s most popular items for the sixteen years it has been serving roadside. Look for it in Fort Kent, Madawaska, Caribou, and Presque Isle. ribtruck.com
Daily sandwiches $3.75 half/ $7.22 whole
Atlantic Baking Co.
Pick from an array of sandwiches made daily on ABC’s own bread; we recommend its signature sandwich, the turkey breast on caramelized onion focaccia with swiss cheese, lettuce, and a balsamic reduction. 351 Main St., Rockland. 207-596-0505. atlanticbakingco.com
Slab pizza $4.50
Call ahead to reserve one of Stephen Lanzalotta’s Sicilian-style slabs covered in crushed tomato, garlic, and mozzarella, or prepare to cool your heels in line for a while.
45 India St., Portland. 207-775-1854. micucci.com
2. High-end Bargains
Sample the state’s best restaurants on the cheap.
Burger and tater tots $13.95
The burger itself is great, but the tots — double breaded, fried mashed potatoes — totally steal the show. 58 Pine St., Portland. 207-772-1110. caiolas.com
Mussels appetizer $10
Grab a seat at the bar for these signature mussels in garlic-almond butter with complimentary freshly baked bread and spend the rest of your budget on a tasty cocktail. 288 Fore St., Portland. 207-775-2717. forestreet.biz
Six-course tasting menu
$45 per person, Hugo’s
Admittedly, this stretches the definition of cheap eats, but Tuesdays through Saturdays through April, Hugo’s offers a two-for-one deal on its amazing six-course tasting menu. 88 Middle St., Portland. 207-774-8538. hugos.net
Wine-time tapas $3-$6.89
From 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, take advantage of half-price tapas and $2.50 glasses of wine in Blue Spoon’s cozy dining room. 89 Congress St., Portland. 207-773-1116.
Maple sugar pork roast sandwich $9
Chef/owner Krista Kern Desjarlais makes haute cuisine accessible to the masses with her new lunch service, featuring items like a maple sugar and spice pork roast, basil mayo, and kimchi sandwich. 111 Middle St., Portland. 207-772-1004. restaurantbresca.com
Half portion of pasta $16
Fulfill your locavore leanings with Primo’s ever-changing pasta dish. The one constant? Hyper-local ingredients to surround the starch. 2 South Main St., Rockland. 207-596-0770. primorestaurant.com
3. Maine Favorites
You can’t say you’re really a Mainer if you haven’t tried the majority of the items on this list.
Lobster roll $10.49
You’ll have to eat your lobster in the car, but Michael Boland, who owns the Bar Harbor fine dining destination Havana, swears by this unassuming spot between Augusta and Belfast. 1408 Rte. 3, South China. 207-993-2596.
Picnic-style lobster roll $13
Bite into Maine
Sure, it costs more than the roll above — but it comes with a layer of homemade coleslaw underneath the fresh lobster meat, plus an amazing view across Casco Bay. Open May through October. Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth. 207-420-0294.
Maine Italian $7.50
Forget the hot dog bun — Mother’s has a gourmet take on the Italian with Genoa salami, cukes, red onion, and capers on a hard roll. 1502 U.S. Rte. 102, Bar Harbor. 207-288-0230. motherskitchenfoods.com
Whoopie pie $2.20
If you want the official state treat, get your hands on the one that won a People’s Choice Award for the best whoopie in Maine. Available with vanilla or peanut butter filling. 20 Waterville Rd., Skowhegan. 207-474-3100. alspizzaskowhegan.com
Fish & chips $10
If Bet’s isn’t open when you drive through Boothbay Center, that’s likely because she’s out fishing for your meal. Open seasonally on the Common, Boothbay Center.
Crab roll $6.69 small/$7.99 large
Order it large and toasted — that’s how Primo chef/owner Melissa Kelly likes this Down East delicacy, which is served on a hamburger-style bun. 4 Elm St., South Thomaston. 207-596-6810.
Two hot dogs $2.60
Wasses Hot Dogs
Food blogger Malcolm Bedell of FromAway.com swears by these natural-cased dogs, fried in peanut oil and washed down with a pint of Oakhurst Dairy chocolate milk. 2 North Main St., Rockland. 207-594-7472. wasses.com
Seafood Chowdah $5.99,
If you aren’t satisfied by the whole pieces of fresh Maine lobster, scallops, shrimp, and clams, fine — you can eat the bowl, too. Soup’s made on Sundays only.
1135 Forest Ave., Portland. 207-878-3240. susansfishnchips.com
4. Liquid Lunch
You didn’t think we meant martinis, did you?
Beer and cheddar soup and a roll $5.50
Public Market House,
28 Monument Sq.,
BBQ three bean chicken chili $4.27
Soup for You
222 Broadway, Farmington.
Miso ramen $9.50
Pai Men Miyake
188 State St.,
Pho $6.95 small/$7.95 medium/$9.95 large
795 Forest Ave., Portland.
5. Not Quite a Meal
A mid-afternoon or late-night nibble doesn’t have to break the bank.
Wings with heaven sauce $8
Beloved by chef Michael Salmon of the Hartstone Inn in Camden, these crispy chicken wings are perfect along with a cocktail. 18 Central St., Rockport. 207-236-8500. shepherdspierockport.com
Sunday night tapas $1.50 to $4.50
We defy you to come up with a better way to wind down your weekend than half-price Thai-inspired appetizers available from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. 671 Congress St., Portland. 207-347-7557. bodamaine.com
Pizza bianca $2.75 a slice
This white pizza, served on New York-style thin crust and covered in fresh ricotta, is the real deal. 2 Downeast Highway, Ellsworth. 207-664-0230. finellipizzeria.com
Fries and truffle ketchup, $5 small/$6.50 large
A paper cone of salty local potatoes fried in duck fat, then dipped in astonishingly addictive truffle ketchup doesn’t actually make a nutritious meal — but after a stop at Duckfat, you’ll wish it did.
43 Middle St., Portland. 207-774-8080. duckfat.com
6. Maine-style Mexican
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you: the Pine Tree State does have a great array of inexpensive south-of-the-border eateries.
Pescado taco $3.95
A soft corn tortilla filled with grilled fish, avocado, chipotle sauce, and veggie slaw makes the Maine Mexican concept seem divinely inspired.
101 York St., Portland.
Bean burrito $5.25
A favorite of University of Maine students and the local hipsterati, Verve’s burritos are tasty and filling. 2 Mill St., Orono. 207-866-4004. verveburritos.com
Barbacoa de cabra (barbecued goat) taco $3.50 each or 3 for $9
If you’re going to give goat a try, this unassuming storefront in South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood is the place to do it — and don’t skip the fresh salsas. 119 Ocean St., South Portland. 207-767-9055. taco-trio.com
Fish taco $9.75
Home Kitchen Café
Fresh pan-fried haddock, tossed with homemade salsa, shredded red cabbage, and pepperjack cheese will satisfy your midcoast fish taco cravings. 650 Main St., Rockland. 207-596-2449. homekitchencafe.com
Chicken quesadilla $6.95
Grilled chicken, artichokes, and pesto aren’t exactly authentic quesadilla fillings — but when they taste so good, why quibble about the details? 30 Main St., Camden. 207-236-2465. boynton-mckay.com
California burrito $7.95
Loco Coco’s Tacos
Things get a little loco with the California burrito, packed with steak, French fries, guacamole, and fresh salsa. 36 Walker St., Kittery. 207-438-9322. locococos.com
7. Killer Sandwiches
Cheap-eats classics, these sandwiches take the concept of delicious foods stuffed between two sides of bread to new heights.
Pulled pork sandwich $5.99
New Gloucester Village Store
Pork that’s been roasted overnight in the brick oven on honey wheat or brioche with a side of coleslaw. 405 Intervale Rd., New Gloucester. 207-926-4224. ngvillagestore.com
Grilled cheese & baked beans $4
Morse’s Lobster Shack
White, processed American cheese on white bread with a bag of chips, a pickle, and a huge cup of beans. 18 Bath Rd., Brunswick. 207-725-2886.
7-napkin burger $7.99
Owls Head General Store
Chosen by Food Network magazine as the best in Maine, this burger comes with mayo, ketchup, mustard, cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato, and a pickle. 2 South Shore Dr., Owls Head. 207-596-6038.
Fried oyster po’ boy, $7.50 small/$12.50 large
Po’ Boys & Pickles
Golden fried oyster, lettuce, tomato, and red pepper mayo on French bread. 1124 Forest Ave., Portland. 207-518-9735. oboysandpickles.com
Bill Cosby $8.40
Roast beef, Monterey jack, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions on white, wheat, rye, pumpernickel, or a wrap. 581 Benton Ave., Winslow. 207-873-7808. big-g-s-deli.com
The Nightmare, $8.15 small/$12.05 large
American cheese, swiss, provolone, mozzarella, ham, capicola, Genoa, and American salami, plus lettuce, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, pickles, salt, pepper, and seasoned olive oil. 239 Ocean St., South Portland. 207-767-3220. southportlandpizzajoint.com
8. Dine-In Deals
Just because it’s inexpensive, doesn’t mean you have to eat it in the car.
Pizza & a pitcher of beer $15
The Old Goat Pub
Gourmet toppings, local brews, and a small-town atmosphere make this pub a top choice for locals. 33 Main St., Richmond. 207-737-4628. funwithagoat.com
Tasty, inexpensive hot and cold lunches — but the price you pay at this State House favorite is being surrounded by politicos. Burton Cross Building, 111 Sewall St., Augusta.
That’s right, breakfast. How about eggs with corned beef hash or bacon, home fries, and coffee for five dollars? 11 Mill St., Orono. 207-866-2111.
DIY stir fry $5.99/lb
Bow Street Market
Fill your lunch pail with a selection of rice, noodles, veggies, meat, and seafood, add garlic and chili paste and bring it to the deli counter to have it transformed into a custom stir fry. 79 Bow St., Freeport. 207-865-6631. bowstreetmarket.com
Eggs Benedict $7.50-$8.50
Café This Way
Stick with traditional Canadian bacon, or get creative and try it This Way, with smoked trout or salmon in homemade hollandaise. 14 Mount Desert St., Bar Harbor. 207-288-4483. cafethisway.com
Steak-tip salad $9.99
Nothing livens up a salad more than premium Angus sirloin steak tips — unless you prefer chicken (they have that, too). 512 Main St., Saco. 207-282-7425. thekerrymenpub.com
- By: Michaela Cavallaro
- Photography by: Mark Fleming