Young bistro with perfect location good but not yet great

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Mrs. Portlandeater and I decided to head down to the restaurant that was formerly Joe’s Boathouse in South Portland. Now North 43 Bistro, the eatery is set in a scene that can hardly be topped. Facing the water and Spring Point Marina, customers have the option to sit outside and enjoy a view that instantly dissipates stress or sit inside and still enjoy much of the same through windows.

We arrived with reservations and chose to sit outside. It was windy, but we were shielded from much of the breeze because we were sitting close to the building. As we reviewed menus, a few parties came outside to sit and promptly made their way back in to avoid having their possessions and food fly away.

Both of us decided to order a drink. The beer and wine selection offered an extensive list of choices, but we each settled on a cocktail. I wanted the North 43 Sting – El Jimador Tequila, Triple Sec, fresh blackberry chili, honey, cilantro, citrus. She opted for the Raspberry Spritzer- Ice Pik Vodka, fresh raspberries mint syrup, soda water.

A waitress stopped by our table after we had made our drink decisions, but only to tell us that she’d be with us soon. After a longish wait – the kind that prompts an “I hope she comes back soon”, but not a “this is getting really ridiculous”, she came back and took our orders. Our drinks took a little longer than expected once we ordered them too, but eventually made their way out to us.

Before diving into our libations, we ordered food. I requested the Pulled Jerked Chicken and Monterey Jack Cheese Sandwich – grilled red onions, smoked paprika sriracha mayonnaise, and bibb lettuce served with sweet potato disks. I substituted fries for the disks. She wanted the Summer Green Salad – roaster corn, hot house tomatoes, crispy corn threads, diced onions, avocado lime dressing – with grilled chicken.

Our beverages were about the same color, though the one in front of me was a deeper red. The cilantro on top of mine had flown out of the glass on it’s trip to our table, though my wife’s mint leaf was firmly in place. I tried a sip of the sting and enjoyed it. It was potent, had a respectable heat, and moderate fruit flavor. She liked hers but noted the raspberry as nearly nonexistent.

The pattern of slightly slow service continued before our food arrived. My sandwich came out on white bread with a pile of fries. Her salad had the sliced chicken breast on top. I tried my fries immediately to verify that they were as crispy as they looked. They indeed were.

The sandwich was good overall. I particularly enjoyed the jerk seasoning and flavorful mayo, but I couldn’t detect any cheese by sight or taste. The waitress stopped by after I had eaten nearly half of it and I let her know. She offered to bring it back for a cheesing and I accepted. After some time, it returned with cheese on top and a polite explanation that the cheese was actually cooked into the chicken.

My wife enjoyed her salad, but commented that it was a little small and the dressing was sparsely appointed. I continued to eat my sandwich which was now better with the jack on top. We both finished what we had ordered and passed on a dessert. Our total came to about $53 before tax and tip. We paid and made our way out.

In the end, North 43 Bistro didn’t blow me away, but they weren’t bad either. Their service was friendly, but it was a little on the slow side. My drink was good, but my wife’s lacked flavor. Our food was mostly good too, but my cheese – cooked in or not – was too sparse to be included in the name of the item. I’d go back, but probably after they have a little more time to get going. The restaurant is only about a month old and I believe they’ll improve. Except for their location. That’s just about perfect already.

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.