Eat & Run: At The Maker’s Galley, a small menu of shareable, stylish plates

Truthfully, you may not want to “eat and run” at The Maker’s Galley, which opened in November in the old Rosemont Market space on Commercial Street in Portland. It’s really much more of a nibble and linger sort of a place, and you probably should go with a friend in order to share.

While you’re doing so, you can watch chef Arianna Stefanilo make your meal in the pristine open demonstration kitchen or wander the gift store, which is filled with beautiful Maine-made artisan goods, which you – or, at least, I – will want to take home. According to Maker’s Galley owner Rachel Sagiroglu, as quoted on its website, “My vision for the Maker’s Galley is a gathering place where customers can experience the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of Maine on Portland’s waterfront.”

At noon, on a warm-ish Wednesday in early April, the store-cum-cafe’s big garage doors were thrown open to that waterfront, and the street sights and sounds indeed poured in. In the kitchen, Stefanilo worked with many Maine ingredients to serve a small tapas-esque menu, items like warm, marinated olives ($ 6), a charcuterie board ($ 26), Caesar salad ($ 12), chicken skewers with orzo salad ($ 16) , and a number of wines by the glass. The menu touted its Maine pedigree, noting ingredients from Winter Hill Farm, Maine Street Bee, Skordo and several other local farms and producers.

The whipped feta with tomato jam and olive oil-brushed croutons at The Maker’s Galley. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

The food is available for takeout; items are packaged and sit in a glass refrigerator near the cash register. But if you go that route, you’ll miss the pampered feel of a sit-down meal at the Maker’s Galley: There seemed to be almost as many solicitous staffers as customers the afternoon I had lunch. My server took the can of kombucha I’d selected from the refrigerator and poured it into a pretty stemless wine glass for me. And the crafts weren’t the only thing I wanted to take home – the beautiful, pleasantly heavy-in-the-hand gold utensils beckoned too. After two years in which much of what I ate came in a paper or plastic takeout container, it was a treat.

The food itself, and presentation, are equally pampering. I ordered whipped feta with tomato jam and house bread ($ 12). Stefanilo said she came up with the tomato jam last summer when her garden was overflowing with cherry tomatoes. She experimented with onions, cloves, balsamic and coriander and later brought a jar to the shop, where her colleagues swooned and insisted she find a home for it on the menu. The bread came cut into thin slices, lightly toasted with olive oil and salt and fanned around one side of a large, curvy bowl, while the jam and feta were stylishly smeared around the other side. It’s simple and delicious.

The sautéed mushrooms at The Maker’s Galley in Portland. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

One item didn’t seem to add up to lunch so I added the mushrooms ($ 10) to my meal, a classic preparation sautéed with garlic and sherry. The mushrooms had chew, char and meatiness and just the right amount of salt. Stefanilo clearly knows her way around a salt shaker; both dishes I ordered were just shy of salty – that bullseye that translates to zippy, craveable food.

Near the refrigerator, you’ll find baguettes, muffins and bagels you can take home. Do you make those here? I asked the server. “Arianna does everything!” she answered enthusiastically. “It’s unbelievable!”

The Maker’s Galley is also open for breakfast (bagels, muffins, yogurt and such), Sunday brunch and an early dinner.

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