Today’s Special: DiMillo’s on the Water

Where: Portland, Maine
What: Fresh local seafood
Karma Points: Supports local; fabulous harbor views that soothe the soul

When DiMillo’s opened its doors in 1982, it was the only floating restaurant on the Upper East Coast. Today it is still the restaurant in Portland, Maine with fabulous views of the harbor and ocean.

“We’re right in the middle of Portland Harbor and every seat has a view,” says manager Steve Dimillo, who is one of original owner Tony DiMillo’s nine children. Today there are some 12 family members that help run DiMillo’s to keep it afloat (pun intended!). “People want to sit and see boats go by.”

Steven’s father originally had a restaurant on land before moving it to the ferry at this harbor location. He bought the pier and had planned to build a restaurant at the end of the pier, but then had this idea for a floating restaurant in the harbor. And since then, that idea has taken off. Last year they served about 243,000 meals to satisfied foodies.

Aside from the spectacular water view that each table gets graced with, fresh caught Maine seafood is the other draw here. Locally caught haddock, sea scallops and clams are some of the most ordered items on the menu. And of course Maine lobster is available here as well, and here it’s available in as many permutations as you can think of – crispy friend lobster, Lobster pot pie, lobster burger, lobster Bolognese papparadelle, lobster grilled cheese, lobster pizza, or good old-fashioned steamed lobster.

“People just go crazy over the scallop sandwich,” DiMillo says. It’s a combination of ingredients, there is nothing complicated. It’s fried fresh local scallops, homemade tartar sauce, pepper jack cheese, fresh bacon bits on a locally baked torpedo roll. Our most popular seafood entrée is our mixed seafood broil. It’s a combination of haddock, scallops and Gulf shrimp. That’s the beauty of the food here – it’s simply prepared, with butter and broiled seasoned bread crumbs. Maine shrimp are very small, some would call it a popcorn shrimp and we do fried Maine shrimp.”

If you’re a foodie who loves hamburgers, DiMillo’s has a new burger that is made with locally raised, hormone-free New Gloucester, Maine beef. “Pineland Farms is a local farm that is raising all natural, no antibiotics, so it’s a real quality meat,” DiMillo says. “It’s a local beef served on a buttered grilled Challah roll.”

DiMillo’s proudly buys local ingredients, including fresh seafood, bakery products and other restaurant goods. “We put more into this economy than all these restaurants combined and we have a lot of restaurants here,” DiMillo says. “Portland was considered a top foodie town by Bon Appetite.”

Each week the DiMillos go over comment cards patrons fill out and they do take each comment very seriously. “If there’s anything negative at all, our dining manager sets it aside.” DiMillo says. The floating restaurant is frequented by people visiting from all over the country, including from Arizona and California this week.

A trip to New England isn’t complete without trying some real homemade New England chowder. The New England clam chowder, made fresh daily with Maine clams, is the top draw. The runner-up fan favorite is the haddock chowder.

If you’re on a budget, but still want to dine out here, DiMillo’s offers Sunset Specials Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and you can choose from five entrees at $14. The deal comes with chowder or salad, a beverage and ice cream or their own bread pudding.

But the most popular dessert item is the blueberry cobbler, made with wild Maine blueberries by local baker Aunt Kakes. DiMillo’s makes two desserts that are best-sellers as well – the bread pudding with Bourbon sauce and a variety of cheesecake offered weekly, such as Bailey’s cheesecake.