April 2019 | view full story as .pdf
at Top of the East
By Colin W. Sargent
After a recent film premiere at Portland Museum of Art’s pillared indoor theater (a hidden gem), the question pops up: Where can we go after the show?
There are a million possibilities in the “Restaurant City of the Year.” But to a barnacly Maine native, there’s only one to fit the exacting requirements. The Top of the East is right across the street from Portland Museum of Art. You can park at the Westin Harborview Hotel ($24/day) and attend your film premiere. Then float over to the Westin’s legendary Top of the East without re-parking.
Sometimes kismet is foresight in disguise. It’s only icing on the cake when you learn the executive producer, co-screenwriter, and star of the film Jacqueline and Jilly (Maine native Victoria Rowell) is already staying at the Westin!
Great drinks aren’t the only offer at the Top. It serves up romantic city views of our illustrious skyline and Portland Harbor. Your prospects are up in lights from this Olympian perspective. If you haven’t been up here for a while, it’s twice as good as you remember it.
The small plates are delicious. You’ve got to start with the exciting Flight of Shrimp ($15)–Gulf shrimp jumping with a house-made vodka-infused cocktail sauce. Why start with a flight? There’s a sweet story here. This bar, with its head in the stars, is located in the very hotel that world-famous aviator Charles Lindbergh dedicated in 1927 after he flew solo across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis. As part of the hotel’s grand opening, its front-door keys were flown over Portland Harbor by Lindbergh’s PR guy and dropped into the drink—to signify the hotel’s doors will always be open. Tonight, we’re so glad they are.
Everybody loves a backstory, but food is the news tonight. The Cuban Sliders ($12), made from “local ham and pork, mustards, pickles, swiss,” are too satisfying to share. Everybody’s sneaking the homemade Maine Potato Chips with Caramelized Onion Dip ($9). Vegetable Samosas with Cucumber Raita ($9); Lobster Sliders ($21); Warm Pretzels with Dark Beer Dip ($12); a Charcuterie Board ($18); the Top of the East Caesar ($10); and Pineland Farm Cheddar are being gobbled up around us, with drinks ($15 each) served promptly in between, among them the “Bubbly Pear” (elderflower liqueur, pear puree, and L’Onesta Lambrusco sparkling red); a “Maple Old Fashioned” (Bulleit rye, Maine maple syrup, and molasses bitters); and the “Top of the East 75” (Beefeaters gin, Christian Brothers brandy, and fresh lemon).
Still hungry? Finish with the New England Farms 3 Cheese Board with honeycomb, fig jam, crackers, and Marconi almonds ($18). Another guilty pleasure is Chocolate Fondue, with marshmallows, Ladyfingers, strawberries, whipped cream ($10).
From first-time visitors to the most hard-boiled natives among us, we’re swept away. What a place to come in for a landing. They’ve handled a big party very well, and they didn’t carp about separate checks. It’s not for nothing they’re the Top. Tonight, the Top of the East is having a great night. n
Top of the East, 157 High Street, Portland. Mon.-Thurs., 4-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2-11 p.m., Sun. 4-11 p.m. 517-8818