Wayside Tavern is the latest restaurant to occupy the cozy space at The Francis Hotel. Since the hotel opened in 2017, there have been two other restaurants in the space, first Bolster, Snow & Co. and then Flood's. I stopped in for dinner the other night with my husband and two friends in from out of town. One used to live in Portland, so she was excited to check out a new restaurant, as was I.
Wayside's owners didn't make too many changes to the interior—Flood's had given the dining room and bar arrangements a pretty substantial overhaul. There's a couch and some chairs in the back dining room, but the other two rooms are filled with small tables.
We started with a round of cocktails; I had the Hemingway daiquiri, always a fave, while others tried a Negroni, Manhattan, and a Paper Plane.
The dinner menu is comprised of a selection of about 12 small plates, several of which are priced by the each, and 6 larger entrees. We decided to order several things to share and each got an entree.
I wanted to order more than we were able, but we narrowed it down to a few dishes that came in waves. We started with the Castelvetrano olives ($6), broiled oysters ($4 each), and a chicory salad ($13).
We ordered the salad on the recommendation of our server at Helm
, where we started the evening with oysters and wine. I'm so glad he mentioned it because it wasn't apparent from the menu that it's a take on a Caesar salad, and it was so good with the bitter chicory greens. Olives, especially these buttery green ones, and broiled oysters are some of my favorite preparations, so I was happy.
Our next set of appetizers was the beer battered cod bites ($6 each) with a dilly aioli and lots of fresh lemon juice, and warm delicata squash with gorgonzola, and spicy honey ($11). We all loved the unique flavor combination of this dish.
I went big for my entree with the steak with an au poivre sauce and whipped potatoes ($35). And I was so glad I did. The sauce was delightfully peppery and the meat had a great crunchy crust on the outside. My mouth is watering recalling this dish!
Other entree choices included a pork steak with fennel, onions, and hazelnuts ($27) and a special 'nduja pasta ($21). We didn't slow down for dessert either, ordering both a tiramisu and a butternut squash apple cake with ice cream. Both were great, but the standout was the Irish-ish Coffee, with walnut liqueur and a thick layer of pistachio cream. Delightful.
We had a delightful meal at Wayside—I heartily recommend you check it out! I'm definitely planning another visit this holiday season so I can sample more of its delicious small plates.
Wayside Tavern | 747 Congress St., Portland, Maine | 207-613-9568