Chaval [Portland, ME]

Yay for you. Since I last posted anything about Portland, we have also been to Scales for seafood a couple of times. Definitely try to reserve if you want that. Phone is better than online.

We’ve also developed a crush on Cheval in the West End. Two visits so far and remains on our must-dine list for next trip. (In the location of the former Caiola’s.)

The menu at Cheval leans Spanish and a bit French, and includes a wonderfully executed selection of small plates and mains. If you partake, Cheval’s cocktails and their wine list are exceptional (and by that I do not mean crazy expensive). I’d reserve here too because this place has earned a lot of love since it opened.


Thank you much for the recommendation. It led to my best meal (foodwise) this year. Chaval really demands its own thread if someone with the power wants to break it out.

Chaval did have a reservation available and we thought the menu looked more interesting than the other places we were considering, and generally I’d rather try a 2 year old place that is hitting it’s stride than a 20+ year old classic, even if it is renowned as Fore Street. It’s really nice to go in with temperate expectations and be blown away.

We arrived a bit early for our reservation and a few bar seats opened soon afterward. We ended up staying at the bar for dinner. I almost always prefer dining at the bar, and Chaval’s bar is set up next to their open kitchen so it was a great vantage point. The bartenders were a bit busy with their orders and having (lots of) sidebars with the wait and foh staff, but it was still great to watch the precision team in the kitchen.

We stuck to the snacks and small plates portions of the menu, and I would order every dish again. I can’t remember any low points. The mojama was a refreshing take in tuna that really stands out from the typical (crudo, poke, tartar etc.) preparations. The flavors were distinct but complimented each other without being salty for a cured dish. For a place that has flavors as rich and complex as Chaval, I was amazed by their ability not to blow my palate out despite trying many different dishes. Other stand out dishes included the mushrooms and duck egg, beef tartare, and soft shell crab. We left not a crumb or bit of sauce on the plates.

I often eschew deserts. However, Chaval is one place where they are strongly recommended. The custard churros were the best? churros I have ever tasted, and there was a savory desert special as well which I appreciate. Also, the craft cocktails were on par with any of the other bars in Portland. Those could warrant entire post by themselves.

In retrospect I am amazed were able to get a same day reservation here. I have to assume Chaval will get some serious acclaim soon and that will not be the case forever. It is a bit off the beaten path in the west end, however it made for a nice walk to dinner and back to work off a bite or two and remember the meal. If you only have one meal in Portland, I would not think twice about making it at Chaval.

Thanks again Denise.


Beyond thrilled that you enjoyed Chaval, @uni! Yes, Chaval does deserve its own thread. I think that, for now, being tucked in the West End is helping the small restaurant get enough love yet still be a place where you can snag a reservation.

I’m in awe that you got to sit at the bar. When we’ve been the bar seats have been the most coveted in the house. What a great vantage point.

I have a belated report of my own that I can write up as well.


We’ve met family/friends at Chaval a couple of times for brunch and will definitely return. Last year we went for Mother’s Day and this year before a play at the Good Theater. It’s sort of become our go-to brunch place and we will return. We enjoyed the garden benedict on good biscuits, the regular benedict, tartiflette and huevos revueltos, if memory serves. It’s a fun space and service has been excellent.

Not to hijack the thread, but we’re headed up to Portland this Saturday for dinner at Hugo’s. It’s our 43 anniversary!


Happy 43rd! We haven’t been back to Hugo’s in quite some time. That was our undisputed celebratory choice in Portland for years.

May you have a wonderful meal worthy of your wonderful occasion. I’ll be toasting you from here.


Thanks so much, Denise! I’ll definitely report back, and I raise a glass right back at ya.


@bear Noice! :clinking_glasses:

1 Like

Happy anniversary, mama and papa bear!


Had dinner yesterday at Chaval and overall had a good but not great night. Some of the dishes were quite nice like Morcilla puffs, mushrooms and duck egg, Jamon iberico de Bellota etc some were OK like the steak tartare, heirloom salad etc. some were rather disappointing like the steak frites and the salad. Dessert was quite a mixed bag with the churros as the low point and Tropico and the deconstructed black forrest cake much better. We will come back when we go back to Portland but it wasn’t the highlight we were hoping for.


Sorry to hear your experience wasn’t what you hoped for. However if that is the case, why would you go back there? There is too much great food in Portland to settle for something that was rather disappointing at times.

We tend to give restaurants which also showed high potential in dishes always a second chance

1 Like

Same here.

Of course things can also go the other way, when we were wowed by an initial visit somewhere only to revisit and learn the initial experience was a moment that can’t be recaptured.

We hope to get back to Cheval again in the fall.