Lobster rolls have their place. And burgers are hard to dispute. But it’s a new year and new food season in Maine’s tastiest city.
Along Portland’s growing gustatory ghetto, Washington Ave., the crispy chicken sandwich at months-old Roustabout rules the roost. Available at lunch or brunch, it’s a two-handed brioche-wrapped challenge. Arriving, as all signature dishes should, with attitude, it’s marlin-spiked with a knife and topped with a pickle. No wimpy toothpicks here. It means business.
Take a bite and be prepared to hoist anchor. If the nautical themed decor and “man overboard” napkins don’t reset your course for adventure, this sandwich surely will.
The chicken is fried yes, but greasy? Not in the least. The meat was so fresh, moist and poultry-forward, we assumed it was clucking around Munjoy that morning. “Our chickens come from Pennsylvania,” said co-owner Kit Paschal, who is not afraid to say that.
For newcomers it’s hard to source Maine chickens said Paschal, and farm to table is “a little tired.” We expect it in Maine now, but don’t let it ruffle your feathers. There is a new Colonel in town and his name will soon be rolling off diner’s lips: Captain Crispy Chicken.
The brioche bun is another brilliant twist. It doesn’t fall apart in your hands. One could even attempt this on a date. The sandwich is bedded with smoked pepper mayo, pickles and iceberg lettuce. This takes a chicken sandwich to a different place, from the bread to the center: Crunchy on outside, juicy and zesty inside.
The fries, like many potato accompaniment, are no afterthought either. Irregular polygons, of crispy goodness.
You can walk into the open kitchen and salute chef Anders Tallberg. He of the now-shuttered, James Beard winning Hungry Mother in Cambridge, brought his A game to this masterpiece.
For urbanites winter is a time to explore indoor pursuits. Put this sandwich on top of your must-try list. Pairing suggestions: Rising Tide’s wayward coffee porter, an appetite and good company.
Roustabout, 59 Washington Ave., Portland.