Whenever I tell someone I live in Portland, ME, and if they’re remotely well versed in foodie culture, they as me one of two questions. ”Have you been to Street & Co.?” “What about Fore Street / Hugo’s?”. Now let me explain my position on being known for these three restaurants. I’ve been blessed to have dined at all three establishment – something not everyone can say, but there’s a really big part of me that just gets so upset that Portland is known for those three restaurants. Hugo’s, Fore Street, and Street & Co, are all uptight so-called “casual” fine dining restaurants, and while there may be no dress code, the egos and atmosphere that come with both Street & Co, and Fore Street are astronomical. I’ve never felt more inadequate, incapable, uncomfortable, and upset in a restaurant than I just did at Street & Co. A year ago, I dined there with one of my best friends, and while our meal was incredibly prepared, our time was ruined by our waiter’s condescending attitude towards us. With snark remarks like “In case you don’t know what anise tastes like, it resembles black licorice,” and, “We just really need to turn this table soon…” along with a “We can’t accommodate you ordering in rounds– you need to place your entire order now,” I was greatly offended, upset, and angry. So I let the storm pass– I didn’t blog about it, and I sulked in my frustration towards Portland’s Best Known Restaurant for a year. Then, the other night- Anna and I decided to make a spontaneous reservation and indulge in fresh seafood. Arriving five minutes after seven, we waited an extra ten minutes for our table to be set– something I could have cared less about. We were sat, and immediately our waitress approached us. With a harsh annoyed tone, she asked if we knew what we’d like to drink. As Anna tried to order a bottle of wine for herself, the server could offer not suggestion, nor did she encourage my mom to buy the bottle which she seemed most interested in. After she left to place our orders, Anna and I exchanged looks, and took a deep breath- we were in for a wild ride. Returning with both bread and beverages, the waitress asked for our orders, made no reassuring comments, and even, rolled her eyes at us, when asking if we could get a side of linguini. She left us feeling un-welcomed and feeling as though our business was not appreciated.
Anna and I delved deeper into our conversation, our tastes were delivered. On Anna’s plate came a date stuffed with “strong cheese”, which breaks down to a mix of gorgonzola and sardo, which are melted and then solidified with white wine. The flavors complimented one another wonderfully, though this date came nowhere close to the cheese stuffed date at Bresca we tried back in March. My taste was a grilled duck breast with goat cheese and dried cherries. Served cold, it was surprisingly pleasant to the tongue, and I thought that the concept of the dish was simple yet magnificent. The tanginess of the goat cheese, contrasted by the gaminess of the duck were highlights of my night. Following our tastes arrived a salad- nothing special, in fact, ruined by being overdressed. The mixed greens, candied pecans, pears, and thyme vinaigrette were by no means an innovative salad, and quite honestly lacked in the fundamentals of a good salad. After living off of the green salad from both Local 188 and Sonny’s, I couldn’t get over how the salad at Street & Co. was missing so many of the basics… It’s quite sad to be frank.
For our entree, we decided to get the Lobster Diavolo for two (actually for 4). It came to us in a sizzling pan, with a grilled lobster split down the middle, ample amounts of little-neck clams, rope mussels, and tender calamari. Underneath hid a pound and half of linguini, and a char-grilled tomato sauce, with too much garlic. My biggest trouble with Street & Co. has always been the fact that when served lobster, the customer is expected to pick the meat out themselves. For some, I’m sure this is great– but I don’t want to pay $40 + to pick out my own meat. I don’t want my fingers and hair and body to smell like lobster shells, and I certainly don’t think a lobster costs over $8 at this point. So what else am I paying for? Clearly not the labor, because I’m the one whose conducting most of it. Needless to say, the lobster itself was quite divine, but how does one go wrong with lobster? The mussels and clams were uncleaned- my biggest pet peeve. I almost complained to the waitress after five of my clams tasted more like sand than they did of their supposed flavor. The sauce was also bothersome. It really overpowered all the seafood- and I suppose in some instances that was good (clams and mussels), but after a while, everything tasted the same, and it grew quite monotonous. At this point in the meal, our waitress had yet to check in with us about any of our plates. Never once did she ask us how we were enjoying things, or if we needed anything else. To go the extra mile, my water remained empty for more than twenty minutes, even after the bussers walked by our table multiple times. As we asked for our steaming pan to get packed up, our waitress asked us, in perhaps the most disgusted and condescending tone I’ve ever experienced if we wanted our check- which, hey, was right in her hand, or if we’d like to hear about dessert. At this point, I decided that I didn’t want dessert there, even though, they do have one of my favorite panna cottas in the world. Anna on the other hand, asked her about dessert, and in all but 10 seconds, our waitress listed at least seven different possibilities for the evening. After having repeated herself three times– due to our request, I still only remember two items on their menu. We both politely refused, and our waitress rolled her eyes once again. She dropped our check, and left without saying thank you or anything of that sort. Anna sighed and looked at me with appalled eyes. In my head, my notes were already tallying up. Mediocre food, awful service, and being rushed are all things I’m not fans of. When I pay good money to go to a restaurant, I expect good service, good food, and a good time. Good service comes with the title of being a waitress, and if you’re going to work at a place as well-known as Street & Co., I highly suggest you have some hospitality skills in your arsenal. I left with a knot in my stomach, with rage emanating, and with a desire to NEVER return to Street & Co. I’ve given it three chances, and unfortunately, it’s gotten worse every time I’ve gone back. I think I can now officially say, I will never have the desire to go back- no matter how delicious their Sole Francaise is, because honestly, food is only 40% of the dining experience, 60% is the overall atmosphere, environment, and service.