By Samantha Spoto
Photo by Samantha Spoto.
On the west end of Portland, Maine’s Congress Street sits Hot Suppa, a cozy restaurant serving up southern comfort classics.
I learned of Hot Suppa while in search of Portland’s most interesting person. I had asked several strangers if they could direct me to who they believed held that title and was eventually led to Hollis McLaughlin, a well-known Portland native who spends most of his days seeking conversation in Hot Suppa’s small, purple-painted brick building.
The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and although the menu appears small, I struggled to select only one item to taste. Hot Suppa offers breakfast and lunch seven days a week, while dinner is restricted to only five days. Between lunch and dinner hours, the restaurant closes to prep for the next hungry crowd.
I ordered the pulled pork mac and cheese, a dish with barbecue pulled pork, caramelized onions, and tobacco onions all atop macaroni and cheese. After much deliberation, I decided on this dish because the most interesting person in Portland mentioned that he enjoyed Hot Suppa’s mac and cheese. Ultimately, I couldn’t pass up a recommendation from a Portland and Hot Suppa native.
Each bite of this dish packed incredible flavor. The barbecue pork had a tinge of spice that paired well with the creamy mac and cheese. In addition, the crispy onions added a nice texture to this comforting meal. For those with dietary restrictions, Hot Suppa offers this dish with gluten free pasta.
Although I did not have a drink while dining at Hot Suppa, they offer full bar service. Many of their beverages reinforce the southern approach, with drinks like the French Quarter or a simple Sweet Tea. Between four and six, customers join in on happy hour, during which they can grab a drink and $1 oysters.
I instantly noticed the warm dynamic among Hot Suppa’s staff. Their friendliness towards one another translates to the customers. They always approached the table with a smile and an extraordinary willingness to make my time there as comfortable as possible.
I had the opportunity to chat with one of the owners, who was exceptionally accommodating and helpful in making me feel acclimated during my short stay in Portland. He sat with me for nearly an hour to talk about Hollis, who he has grown to know intimately over the last few years. Hollis even has a menu item named after him, which showcases the importance of and admiration for Hot Suppa’s guests.
I understand why Portlanders rave about Hot Suppa. Overall, the food and dining experience left me feeling full–of both food and gratitude for their genuine hospitality. If any restaurant has the power to immerse you in Maine’s community, Hot Suppa does so effortlessly. On their website, the owners share their purpose: to create an atmosphere that one friend tells another not to miss out on. They’re certainly achieving their mission with great success.