A few years ago, my family and I drove to Florida. Along the way, we stopped at a few different restaurants that I chose by googling, cross referencing reviews, and location. I dug through blogs, municipal websites, and news articles looking for the diamond in the rough that wasn’t too far off the highway that would be delicious and not terribly unhealthy and showcased the culture of the area where we were. We stopped at some great restaurants and I don’t recall anyone in the car being disappointed in our dining options. All that being said, my process started about an hour before we needed to stop for lunch because it took a while to do all of that hunting around. Next time I might take to social media and search hashtags and hope to find people like Rob who runs the Eating Portland Alive account here in Maine. (If you’re not following Eating Portland Alive on Instagram then are you even going to the best restaurants in Portland?)
Rob started Eating Portland Alive 5-years ago and is up to almost 11k followers. His photos of meals and descriptions of food are enticing and authentic because he spends the time learning and getting to know the staff and chefs in the restaurants. Rather than writing what he thinks his audience wants to hear, Rob writes about his experience and showcases wonderful Maine businesses and foods; it’s authentic and honest, and totally helpful if you’re trying to find a new place to eat.
Rob started the account because, as he says, “I had all of these restaurants at my fingertips.” He works in Portland and took advantage of his lunch time to visit many of the amazing restaurants that surround his office in Portland. (He also mentioned the light during lunch time is good for photos. Which is a super helpful tip.) His favorite restaurant is, “Whatever I feel like in that mood,” but his favorite seafood spots are a bit more specific naming restaurants like Mami, Scales, and Miyake. According to Rob, “My part in the equation is minimal. The chefs are doing all the work. I want to take a picture that looks good and help showcase what they are doing.”
When Rob and I had lunch, we met at Crunchy Poke on Fore St. in Portland. I had the spicy tuna poke and it was outstanding. I like spicy food and often find in Maine when something is advertised as spicy it’s either not or over-the-top-spicy; this poke bowl was perfect. Rob and I sat and chatted about food, of course, sustainability, trends in food, authenticity, what to do in Portland besides eat, and even development, “Portland doesn’t have a problem with growing. We need to figure how to sustain what we already have.”
I wanted to meet and chat with Rob because I really like what he is doing; reviews, photos, and stories like his are how I want to learn about food and new places to try. Sure, I can read an article in the paper or a magazine or whatever, but usually the author only spends an hour with whoever they are interviewing and asks the usual questions. Rob is exploring Portland (and surrounding areas) restaurants in the same way that I want to explore and share about the fishing industry. I don’t want to read another article about a fisherman that talks about what time he gets up in the morning. Fishermen wake up very early and there’s not really more you can say about that. I want to know what he’s bringing for lunch or does anyone in the family get up with him and why?
During one of the past snow storms, Rob posted about all the restaurants that were still open during the bad weather. That’s way more helpful than knowing how much snow is on the ground, and there’s something very humanizing to me about people hunkering down at a local restaurant enjoying some Maine fare. I definitely picture them playing Cribbage. It sort of replenishes my faith in humanity to think about Rob sharing the information so that people that want to avoid cabin fever can get out of hibernation and spend time together, connecting and eating. (And, like I said, playing cribbage.)
And, lastly, the place Rob sends people looking for something to do in Portland other than eat? Lucky Catch, of course! (Another story, for another time.)