Kid Friendly Restaurant Review: Elsmere Grill, South Portland

So I was craving chicken BBQ. I know, my husband was just as surprised as I was. No I’m not pregnant! I haven’t craved BBQ since before Beale Street BBQ closed its South Portland location a number of years ago. We went through the short list, Salvage BBQ (my husband tells me the meat is too smoked for his liking) or Bucks Naked (wasn’t that impressed last time), so that left Elsmere Grill, a new place in South Portland. Open to other suggestions if anyone has some.

They serve all the way through, from lunch to dinner. A bonus for anyone with a toddler. They also have high chairs. We arrived at 4:30pm. The decor is fitting for a BBQ joint and so is the space, an old garage. The waitstaff was pleasant, but seemed to be just going through the motions. At least Maddie was able to get our waitress to smile at least once. The beer and wine list is decent for a BBQ place and they appeared to have a fully stocked bar. Also have several large TVs to watch the game if that’s your thing.

The menu was as expected, pulled pork, chicken and brisket plates, as well as a number of sandwiches and salads. It also noted the many gluten free items. My husband and I both ordered the pulled chicken plate, with coleslaw, beans, collard greens and salad. $16 each for two sides, plus $2 for a salad.

Perhaps it was the memories of Beale Street that ruined it for me, but the food was not what I expected and the portions were on the smaller side. (I ended up eating a bowl of cereal when I got home.) The chicken wasn’t pulled, but sliver dollar sized pieces, burnt to a crisp around the edges. It tasted pretty good once you cut off the burnt parts, but not what I was expecting. The cole slaw was the best part, chopped and vinegar vs. mayo based. However the serving size was miniscule. That goes for the collard greens too, which were good but gone in two bites. The beans (a little larger portion) were also tasty. They weren’t ladened with BBQ sauce and cooked with bacon like you find in some BBQ joints. The salad was a decent size for a side and fresh, but no terribly inventive. Maddie loved the beans and tolerated the collard greens and the chicken. Next time, she’ll need her own so that mommy has enough food though. Lastly, the chicken and salad came out in a paper bowl like you’d get chicken tenders or french fries in at a fair or something, while the sides were in regular ceramic bowls (the size of ramequins really). Seemed wasteful to me to use that much paper and individual side dishes.

So overall, I give the place a B and the meal a C-. Maybe some of their other food is better and bigger portions, but if you are advertising yourself as a BBQ place, you may want to focus on your main attraction.  I won’t go out of my way to go back.

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