If location is everything, then the recently opened Blind Pig Provisions in Kittery, Maine, has it all. Located on Badger’s Island, the convivial gastropub overlooks the Piscataqua River and Portsmouth Harbor. If you’re lucky, you’ll snag a waterside chair or a table in the beer garden, a brilliant sun will be setting, and they’ll have your favorite brew on tap. Fortunately, the restaurant, the latest venture from chefs Matt Greco and Mike Prete (owners of The Kitchen, Sandwich Kings Food Truck, and Portsmouth Catering Company) doesn’t rely on location alone. Add a relaxed atmosphere, new-American cuisine, reasonable prices, and smart cocktail, wine, and beer lists and it’s destined to become a neighborhood favorite.
“We really wanted to be a part of the growth of Kittery; it’s a fun location,” Greco says. “I think it’s what Seacoast diners are looking for right now: not too fancy, not too casual, with a good food and alcohol product.
”The indoor space, with seating for about 50, is designed to resemble a speakeasy, with rustic, wood walls decorated with Prohibition-era posters and photographs, a corrugated steel ceiling, and a large U-shaped bar. In warmer months, the space spills out into the riverside beer garden, adding another 40 or so seats, and ramping up the be-happy, friendly atmosphere.
Start with a cocktail, such as the tangy Caiparinha or the Chef’s Martini, made with white chocolate liqueur, butterscotch, and chocolate. Refreshing options include Strawberry Lemonade and a Blueberry Martini. The wine list has about 14 red, white, and bubbly selections from around the world, all reasonably priced, and the ever-changing beer list features a dozen beers on tap. Try a regional draft such as the Funky Bow G-String, a pale ale made in Lyman, Maine, or the Shed Brewery Mountain Ale, a strong English-style brew from Middlebury, Vermont. There are also brews from around the country, including the Uinta Hop Nosh, a crisp IPA brewed in Salt Lake City.
The appetizers are not too large, so go ahead and order two or three to share. The side-by-side Dueling Chowders gets rave reviews. Which bowl wins? It’s a tie. The tomato-based Manhattan-style is full of ﬂavor; the New England bowl is rich and creamy, and both have a good amount of clams and potatoes. The fried Lake Smelt is a winner, served with a puckering, malt vinegar mayo and pickled veggies. And, what’s a pub without deviled eggs on the menu? The Which Came First gives them whimsical play with two deviled eggs and two chicken legs served with a satay sauce and ponzu marmalade. It’s a fun presentation and a tasty dish to share. The Board includes a house-made duck pastrami, lardo, pickled egg, roasted garlic mostarda, and a selection of cheeses.
Other signature appetizers include the crispy-on-the-outside, soft-in-the-middle Hand-cut Fries and Brussels. “As long as people can eat Brussels sprouts fried, they’re happy,” Greco says. These are not your mama’s boiled cabbagey sprouts. They’re crunchy and well ﬂavored with garlic and Parmesan, without a hint of bitterness, served with a Dijon dipping sauce.
Entrees change with the seasons. The cold-weather Lamb Shank is a favorite, a fall-off-the-bone-tender braised shank dressed in capers, olives, and ﬁgs and served with a polenta cake and spicy tomato sauce. The Lamb Bolognese is packed with ﬂavors, including thyme, oregano, mint, and garam masala, enriched with chicken liver pate. Don’t pass up the Pot Pie if it’s offered, a modern take on a beloved classic. It boasts textbook-perfect roasted duck with fennel, peas, carrots, and onions topped with a light, ﬂaky crust.
No matter what you think of salt cod, you should give the Brandade a try. These salt cod cakes come with a hearty romesco sauce and a parsley salad, seasoned with pungent horseradish to add tang and texture. Seafood lovers will ﬁnd other tasty options, like the lake Smelt, served with malted mayo and pickled veggies, and the citrus-infused Pan-seared Snapper, which shares the plate with a white bean salad and garlicky wilted escarole.
When summer is in full swing, the Sandwich Kings food truck will be parked in the restaurant’s lot, serving lunch. Warm weather favorites include the Lobster Reuben, a fresh New England twist on an old standby, as well as a more traditional Lobster Roll. Burgers and the Chicken and Wafﬂe are also popular.
Desserts always include three options: a cake and ice cream combo, like the Pretzel Pound Cake with Salted Caramel Ice Cream; a cannoli, like the Frozen Cannoli dipped in chocolate; and something chocolate, like Flourless Chocolate Cake drizzled with white chocolate-ginger sauce.
Blind Pig Provisions
2 Badger’s Island