New Higgins Beach eatery on the right track in first weeks

Some friends of ours wanted to get together and suggested that Shade at the Higgins Beach Inn on Ocean Ave in Scarborough might be an interesting place to try. I wasn’t familiar with it, but it sounded okay to me. A search of the internet seemed to indicate that it had only been open for a few weeks, so I was happy to get in early and see what was going on there.

We entered through the front of the inn, were guided into the restaurant, and seated. There were no seats available on the three season protected patio, so we were given a choice of indoor tables. We chose one by the window which provided us with a fair amount of sun.

There was a single drink menu at the table in addition to our food menus. We passed around the drink list looking for the evenings correct libation. I selected the Low Tide – vodka, lime, almond, rose. I thought it sounded like an odd combo, but it intrigued me. The ladies chose the Surf – vodka, limoncello, rosemary, lemon, soda and my buddy went with the 9’6 – rye, chai infused vermouth, Cynar, maple, angostura.

Once the drink orders were in, we made an effort to look at the food. I was in for an app and then an entree or sandwich. My wife and I decided to share an app of Frito Misto – fried calamari and clams served with olives, lemon, pepperoncini, sriracha aioli. Our friends wanted the Pork Belly – seared pork belly, ponzu sauce, cilantro lime to start.

Our drinks came out and we put in the starters. I got right to my drink which was translucent with a pink tint. I took a swig and could detect each flavor easily. I didn’t love the almond as it didn’t fit the overall tone of the cocktail, but it also didn’t distract enough from the rose limeade feeling that was left without it. I liked it.

The women indicated that their cocktails were quite sweet. I wasn’t interested in a taste of those, but I tried a sip of the 9’6 after receiving a generous invite to do so and I thought it was solid. The drink held firm on its rye base with the other ingredients adding only a slight sway.

Changing our focus back to the food, I was ready to find a main course. I noticed the fish of the day was red snapper and the fish sandwich included that, so I turned my attention solely to the entrees for something that seemed more appealing to me. Sticking with seafood, I finally chose the New England Style Fish and Chips – haddock, caper remoulade, hand-cut fries, malt vinegar.

Apps came out and we placed our orders. My wife went with the Three Tacos Plate – chefs daily fish with cucumber relish. She went with the Berry Spinach Salad – goat cheese, crostinis, candied pecans, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, balsamic dressing – and he ordered the Steak Frites – hand-cut fries, house-made herb butter.

I dug right in to the frito misto. I enjoyed the crispy bites of seafood and well-prepared aioli. The fried kalamata olives and pepperoncini added a little something extra. It was pretty tasty. Across the table, the pork belly seemed to be enjoyed.

After the starters were finished, we chatted and drank and I accidentally finished my cocktail. I must have really liked it because I didn’t even realize the velocity with which I was pouring it down my throat. I passed on another one, knowing that it would just go down too easily again. One of our tablemates requested a Pep in Your Step – bourbon, strawberry black pepper jam, ginger ale.

Entrees were soon delivered and they all looked delicious. I dug into mine and the fish was fresh and tasty and the remoulade a beautiful compliment. Unfortunately, the fries, despite clearly being fresh and tasting quite good, were a little soggy. Those on the steak plate also had the same issue.

Everyone seemed pleased with the food for the most part. We all made our way to the bottom of our plates and were ready to head out. We listened to the dessert menu and it sounded pretty solid, but nothing in particular stood out to me. We passed and moved on.

At $77 before tip for my wife and me, we thought the food was maybe a tad pricey overall for what we got, though the drinks seemed more reasonable and the steak seemed to be pretty sizable. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t go back, because the food was good, it just seemed we should have received a little more on some of our plates.

Despite the slight price issue, we were satisfied overall with Shade. I would implore Shade, as I do with many eateries, to make sure the fries are coming out crispy as their taste was excellent, but a soggy fry is a disappointing one. For a new restaurant though, Shade seems to be on the right track. With a couple minor improvements, I think they’ll be a fantastic place to dine.

Stay hungry.

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Peter Blanchette

About Peter Blanchette

Peter Peter Portland Eater grew up in Lewiston, Maine and graduated from the University of Maine in Orono with a degree in English. After college, he left the state to work in Massachusetts, but the allure of a more comfortable life in his home state brought him back after eight years. Upon his return and after meeting his now wife – Mrs. Portlandeater, he slowly integrated himself into the Portland food scene by trying as many restaurants as he could afford. That and a desire to write for others again led him to start where he reviews restaurants and blogs about whatever Portland/Maine food topics he finds interesting.