Reviewed: Fall, 2000
After our meal at the Dry Dock, I had to be slid on greased ways back onto Commercial Street, employing the tug of my wife's arm to steer me home. Neighbor to Bath Iron Works, the aptly named Dry Dock Restaurant and Tavern builds a hearty meal sure to fill the hold for your next cruise through the Old Port.Matt O'Donnell is a poet and freelance writer who lives in Portland.
Walking around the Old Port all morning, we were damp, chilly, and hungry; it was a soup day. We wished to visit someplace new to us, a place to fill us up but not break the bank. We glanced at several window-mounted menus, but nothing sounded like it would hit the spot. Our two most important criterion, good and cheap, didn't seem to meld in the minds of any restaurateurs whose doors we passed. At the eastern end of Commercial Street, our search nearly exhausted, the high wooden sign of the Dry Dock Restaurant and Tavern beckoned. Swinging open the huge oaken door and poking our heads inside, we agreed this would be our port of call.
The downstairs dining room and bar were full, but a chalk board pointed us to the upstairs dining room and we made our away aloft. Both floors are nicely appointed and my wife remarked on the beautiful and well maintained woodwork that comprises the main element of the décor. Upstairs and downstairs dining rooms are set apart from their respective bars by a small, semi-circle half wall, a design that alerted me to the importance of food at this tavern.
Reading the specials reinforced our decision to patronize the Dry Dock this day as our eyes fell immediately upon their desire. The Southwestern Black Bean Soup for me, while my wife jumped for the Corn and Haddock Chowder-the cold indecision of our long walk erased by the mere chalky indication of hot, delicious food.
The Black Bean Soup hit the spot, served with a nice helping of tortilla chips and topped with a dollop of sour cream, and I hardly came up for air as the soup went down. Black beans filled the cup, and the Southwestern spice contained just enough kick for my mild mannered palate. My wife enjoyed her chowder as well. A healthy portion of tender haddock was joined by corn and unskinned new potatoes in a buttery broth of just the right consistency.
From the specials board, my wife ordered the Veggie Burger of the Day, Sundried Tomato and Pesto-basically, a good size veggie patty with sundried tomato and pesto sauce. I chose a Dry Dock Special Burger off the menu, and ordered Beer-Battered Onion Rings in place of French fries, but our waitress forgot to note the substitution. No worries, however, the crinkle cut fries were crispy and tasty enough that I didn't really mind the mistake. Besides, I needed all of my energy focused on navigating the heights of my burger, piled so high with sautéed pepper, onions, mushrooms, and lettuce, tomato and sprouts, I couldn't get my mouth around it. We were impressed by the generous portions dished out by our Dry Dock chef. A mound of fries heaped our plates along with sides of lettuce, tomato, onion, and sprouts that weren't just for show. Submerged beneath the condiments, a large torpedo of a pickle complimented the order.
While my sandwich was unmistakably above average, my wife said of her meal, and I quote, "This is probably the best veggie burger I've ever had." This from a woman who was eating veggie burgers long before eating veggie burgers was hip-and a person not at all prone to such categorical statements.
Beached in our chairs, and quite satisfied, we had no room this afternoon for dessert. Apple Crisp a la Mode, Rice or Blueberry Bread Pudding, and Pecan Pie baited us but we didn't bite. Our waitress presented us with a modest check in the amount of $22.89, which we paid with pleasure.
Dry Dock Tavern appetizers vary from French fries to Peel & Eat Shrimp and range from $1.50 to $10.95. Several salads from $2.95 to $8.85 preempt Baked French Onion Soup, Chowder and Soup of the Day, and Shirley's Chili ($2.95/cup, $3.95/bowl). A variety of sandwiches follow, from the Veggie ($5.25) to Fresh Roast Turkey ($5.50) to Maine Crabmeat Roll ($8.95) to the daily priced Lobster Roll. Several soup, salad, and sandwich combos are available from $5.50 to $6.25. "World Famous Dry Dock Steakburgers" heads the burger listings. The burgers are good, for sure, but even "Old Port Famous" might be a stretch. I would argue that "Dry Dock Famous Dry Dock Burgers" is more like it. (Meaningless menu hyperbole happens to be a pet peeve of mine.) Regardless of their title, the dozen assorted Dry Dock Burgers, varying from the basic Steakburger ($5.75) to the Teriyaki Burger ($5.95), Veggie Burger of the Day ($5.95), and the Chili Burger ($6.50) are worth each penny of their respective prices.
"Fresh and Fabulous Chicken Breast Sandwiches" is a more realistic menu heading, and if the twelve chicken sandwich choices (all $7.50) are as tasty as their beef counterparts, the Dry Dock will have aptly named this section of their menu.
Dry Dock Special Entrees and Specialty Sandwiches cover the next menu page (tired yet?). They range in price from $6.50 for a Hot Pastrami with Swiss on rye, to $13.95 for the most expensive item listed, an eight-ounce Filet Mignon Dinner. Finally, a "Kids' Menu," consisting of P.B. & J. ($2.50), Grilled Cheese ($2.95), Hot Dogs $2.95), Chicken Fingers ($3.75), and a Cheeseburger ($3.95), rounds out the back page, along with "Mrs. W's Award Winning Homemade Desserts (baked fresh daily). One visit to the Dry Dock doesn't seem enough, and we'll return to choose from their substantial menu again.
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