Our Rating  

Norm's East End Grill
47 Middle Street

Four 1/2 Plates  
Reviewed: Fall, 2003

I t's a hot, little spot, serving up full plates of fresh food to a broad range of customers. From families to urbanite singles, if you're in the mood for a great, moderately priced, home-cooked meal fresh from the kitchen, Norm's East End Grill is the choice to make. Warm and friendly is what you'd expect from a barbecue. At Norm's this is what you get, but add along to this great service, expediency, and cleanliness.

When it first opened its doors for business in 1995, my husband happened to be one of the first two customers to eat there. After hearing the play-by-play from him about the barbecued chicken, homemade biscuits, and black bean soup, I wasn't long in following. Back then at Norm's, low maintenance practicality, and an affordable menu was the name of the game. As far as I can tell, not much has changed since. Norm's East End Grill still serves up some of the best, grilled meat this side of the Mason-Dixon line, and their original recipes have thankfully remained unchanged.

If you're craving the classics, search no further. Whether you choose barbecued chicken, steak tips, or ribs (either spare or country style), it's guaranteed you'll be licking your fingers throughout the meal. There is an unlimited supply of extra BBQ sauce & napkins at every table so pull up a seat and make yourself at home.

Norm's has garnered some respect for its recipe on pulled pork, offered in either quesadilla or sandwich form. Its burgers, beef brisket, and grilled chicken sandwiches shouldn't be overlooked either.

If you're in the mood for something less red-blooded, there are always several mixed-green salads to choose from. One of the best balsamic vinaigrettes I've sampled in Portland can be found here, and if you're feeling bold, try the Greek salad with fried calamari and feta. The blackboard specials remain consistent seasonally and usually offer one seafood course. Normally I wouldn't recommend eating surf selections from a grill specializing in barbecue but Norm's is the exception. Fish & chips, blackened catfish, crab & clam or fish cake appetizers, grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon, or one of Maine's own specialty dishes of fried clams, scallops and haddock, you will find all of them fresh, cooked light, and just right.

Side dishes include soups, stews, fresh cornbread, chili, baked beans, cole-slaw, onion rings, and a choice of fries-either sweet potatoes or standard-spuds-try them, they're always from scratch but never dry.

Norm's East End Grill has grown over the years. Its original one-room restaurant has been recently remodeled into a split-level. Now offering customers two, full dining rooms, one kitchen-style counter, and a full bar serving beer, wine and cocktails. Even with all its new space, I'd still advise arriving early on weekends, as they take no reservations. Oh, and all this relatively new legroom and comfort? It's come without any severe price increases. It's this lack of pretension that helps brings customers back again and makes Norm's conversion into "hot property" utterly unsurprising. Norm's recently opened another location, Norm's Bar & Grill, on the West End, and the fact that there are now two locations for Norm's only challenges me to eat more.

wheelchair accessible
vegetarian selections
vegan selections  
most credit cards accepted
I suspect the kitchen from Norm's childhood has everything to do with the way this wonderful restaurant template was fashioned (there were seven children in the Jabar home). This is a place where all are welcomed, t-shirts or business suits alike, and where all can expect to eat comfortably, on time, and without breaking the budget. When you're at Norm's you're on leisure time, a fact mirrored by the pleasant and very efficient wait-staff. When the question was put to her, my favorite server, Claire said, "Norm's is a great place to work". Judging by that honest smile she gave me, I can say it definitely shows.back to the top

      I.W.M. Rieger is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Maine






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