Originally published in Maine magazine, October 2022.
Restaurateurs Michelle and Steve Corry opened 555 North with fan-favorite dishes from their former Portland hotspot.
555 Congress Street in 2003, it was part of an emerging cadre of Portland date-night destinations, such as Fore Street, Street and Co., Rob Evans’s Hugo’s, and Walter’s on Exchange Street. Five Fifty-Five became known for its elevated American cuisine and impeccable service just as chefs across the country were embracing the farm-to-table movement. Chef Steve Corry was the first in Portland to serve truffled lobster mac and cheese, a now-classic comfort food mash-up that became the restaurant’s signature dish.
In the nearly two decades that have passed, a lot has changed, both in the Portland restaurant scene and in the Corrys’ lives. The couple opened their second restaurant, the French bistro Petite Jacqueline, and they had two sons, now teenagers. In early 2020 Steve and Michelle decided to close Five Fifty-Five to spend more time with their family. This proved to be a prescient decision, as COVID struck a few weeks later and pandemic restrictions hastened the restaurant’s discontinuance. The Corrys thought perhaps they would reopen Five Fifty-Five someday in a location closer to their home in Scarborough.
Then Steve’s friend Gerard Kiladjian, another longtime hospitality professional, called to ask if Steve was interested in reopening Five Fifty-Five in Brunswick. Kiladjian had signed on to manage the recently renovated Federal Hotel and was looking for a familiar name to anchor the property’s 150-seat restaurant. Corry initially said no, but after visiting to see the renovation of the historic property and negotiating a favorable schedule that would allow the couple plenty of family time, Five Fifty-Five was reborn.
Dubbed 555 North, the restaurant echoes its Portland predecessor with some familiar dishes and a time-tested approach to serving seasonal ingredients in palate-pleasing ways. Fans of the previous iteration will recognize several signature dishes on the menu, and will enjoy the same friendly and attentive service. The new restaurant is much brighter and larger than the old one, with floor-to-ceiling windows flanking one wall of the dining room and a large center bar that Steve plans to develop into a raw bar.
When I visit on a Friday night, we’re guided to our table in the side room by a young hostess. The restaurant is full, generating a pleasant buzz from our fellow patrons. Michelle Corry is known for her wine selection, having garnered a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2015, so I opt for a glass of a Chilean cabernet sauvignon to start the meal. With about 75 options, the list here is slimmer than the 400-plus bottles at Five Fifty-Five, but it still offers a crowd-pleasing variety of new- and old-world wines by the glass and bottle.
As I enjoy a slice of the housemade bread, served warm and slathered with delightfully salty chive-lemon butter, I see grilled Caesar salad and steamed mussels on the menu. The two dishes were staples at Five Fifty-Five, so I order both to begin the meal. The salad, which comes thoughtfully split between two plates after our server hears that my husband and I plan to share it, delivers a slightly smoky char from the grilled romaine and a classic creamy dressing with plenty of lemon. The meaty Bangs Island mussels are surrounded by a garlicky broth spiked with pickled cherry peppers that lend a pleasant heat.
The lobster mac and cheese has been temporarily replaced by the more summery “Knuckle Sandwich,” a stack of fried green tomatoes and a lobster salad dressed with basil-lemon mayonnaise that Steve developed for Food and Wine magazine. As the weather cools, the luxurious dish made with a blend of five cheeses and studded with chunks of butter-poached lobster will return to the menu. I opt for another Five Fifty-Five classic, the three-day marinated hangar steak, prepared on this night with a fresh chimichurri sauce and a side of rich, creamy, wilted spinach.
We also try the scallops, coated in freshly cracked black pepper and then seared until a hearty crust forms. Steve tells me later that applying high heat to the black pepper takes away some of the stinging spice, mellowing it into a warm complement to the meaty bivalve. Five scallops come arranged around a pile of fluffy mashed potatoes that are blended with a fennel cream sauce. An emulsion of carrot juice and butter, fragrant from the addition of vanilla bean seeds, completes the dish without overwhelming the fresh flavor of the scallops.
Desserts from sous chef Sean Hobson are also a hit, with the “Coffee and Donuts” standing out as the most popular. Three craggy beignets dusted with powdered sugar and accompanied by a mug of rich mocha pots de crème make a playful end to the meal. As the restaurant is only a few months old, 555 North is still finding its sea legs in its new iteration, but between Michelle’s front-of-the-house leadership and the competence of the kitchen team led by chef de cuisine Michael Greenstreet, the Corrys are confident their latest project will live up to the reputation of its predecessor.
555 North | 10 Water St., Brunswick | 207.481.4533
History in the Making
The Federal, home to 555 North, is a nineteenth-century sea captain’s home that takes its name from the building’s classic Federal style. Captain Daniel Stone began building the house around 1806 and lived in it until his death in 1825. The history of the property was part of what attracted Steve Corry to the project, as his Portland restaurant also had a storied history: the three-story building was once the home of the Machigonne Fire House, which had the illustrious honor of debuting Portland’s first steam-powered fire engine.