This isn't so much a review as it is a recommendation: If you like oysters and you're in Southern Maine (even just passing through!) you really should get yourself into Portland and stop in for oysters at J's.
They're an unassuming little joint on Portland Pier (right off of Commercial Street) and they serve perhaps the best and freshest oysters around. On our most recent visit, the weather was truly amazing - low humidity, lots of sun, temp in the 70s - so the outdoor seating along the edge of the pier had a wait time of about 45 minutes. There were plenty of seats inside, though, at the central bar or in one of the booths arranged around the perimeter of the building. Since we were there for oysters and not to gawk at a bunch of boats, we chose the immediate inside seating and were given a booth on the pier side with huge windows that looked out over the water anyway.
|NOT what you'll find at J's.
J's has not changed much inside since my first visit 35-some-odd years ago. The inside is dark wood and low ceilings. The waitresses and bartenders are friendly and attentive and there's always laughter and conversations going on at the bar and in the booths. It's always reminded me of the kind of comfortable neighborhood bars I've hung out it in, only with oysters and clams instead of peanuts and bowls of Filthy Little Things. The hostess shows you to your seat, you order a baker's dozen oysters and a locally-made Shipyard IPA or two, and for a little while everything is all right with the world.
The oysters are delicious: absolutely fresh, sweet and briny, served up with a bit of lemon for squeezing and a little cup of cocktail sauce and extra horseradish. No matter how you like to eat your oysters, though, try at least one with nothing on it but your lips just so you can experience the awesomeness of really good bivalves.
J's has other stuff too, of course (their bacon cheeseburgers are quite decent if you're with a friend who inexplicably doesn't like oysters) and their bucket of steamers - local Maine softshell clams steamed and served hilariously in a galvanized metal pail) are excellent. I really can't recommend them highly enough.
Check out their website here - it's very simple and loads quickly, and you'll find a menu there as well (menu items seem to be current, but I think the prices are out of date - they were very slightly higher than show online when we were there on Monday.)