Former French Laundry chef Rob Evans of Hugo’s was nominated Best Chef in the Northeast by the James Beard Foundation in 2008 for innovative New England dishes like the Casco Bay cod in a chowder broth topped with celery-root brandade. Evans also cooks at Duck Fat, a hole-in-the-wall where you can dunk light and crispy duck-fat fries into Thai-chili or curry-mayo sauce.
Napa expat Steve Corry, named Best New Chef in 2007 by Food & Wine Magazine, prepares a popular and sophisticated Sunday-only brunch at Five-Fifty-Five. Order the sweet and savory “American toast” of sourdough bread with Maine blueberry-ginger jam and a pistachio crust. Doors open at 10:30 a.m.; delay and find a line.
Sam Hayward’s Fore Street started Portland’s foodie influx in the mid-nineties, and the seafood and meat dishes grilled over its soapstone and brick hearth are still some of the city’s best culinary offerings. Menu changes daily, but you'll always find wood-oven-roasted mussels, turnspit-roasted pork loin and chicken, and grilled marinated hanger steak. On your way out, pick up breakfast in the Standard Baking Company downstairs (75 Commercial St.; 207-773-2112), which uses organic flour to make rich sticky buns and ethereal croissants.
Masa Miyake’s (formerly of Inagiku at the Waldorf-Astoria) eighteen-month-old Food Factory Miyake is a 25-seat Japanese restaurant (129 Spring St.; 207-871-9170) specializing in expertly crafted sushi and oversize shrimp shumai. The chef harvests his own clams at nearby Orchard Beach. Bring your own booze and drink it without a corkage fee.