Walter’s has been part of Portland, Maine’s dining landscape for more than 21 years. Five and a half years ago, Jeff and Cheryl Buerhaus bought Walter’s and added their flair to it. I had dinner at Walter’s this past Friday night and I can’t wait to go back.
Shortly after I was seated, Steve Lovenguth came over to welcome me and to introduce himself. He is the bar, wine and beverage manager and has been in business with Jeff and Cheryl for several years. He wanted to make sure I knew he was available if I had any questions and that he would be happy to make food and wine pairing suggestions. While I looked at the menu, I ordered an Agave Fields: Milagro Reposado tequila with Patron Citronage, agave nectar, lime juice and seltzer. Just plain delicious.
Steve told me the mustard crusted rack of lamb was outstanding so I took his word for it. With that he recommended the Cambiata Tannat and brought me a sample of it to see if I liked it. This man know his wines. it was a perfect choice. I started with the Tropical Tuna Tartare with mango habanero coconut mojo served on fried yucca. My salad was the Caesar Hay Stack with a roasted garlic lemon dressing. For a main course I had the rack of lamb, ccoked to perfection and served atop risotto and spaetzle. Dessert was a fresh summer berry tart.
These pictures don’t lie. Each dish had a gorgeous presentation and the flavors were out of this world. Jeff comes from South Florida and brings a Caribbean influence with splashes of Asian, Mediterranean, South American, Southwestern and Creole. Steve calls him “one of the most talented chefs I’ve ever met.” As Jeff’s cooking features cuisine from all parts of the globe, Steve’s wine list reflects that. The menu, he says, allows him to be creative with it.
Steve’s career path began when he was serving in the Air Force in Guam where he started bartending. After he left the service he attended bartending school and then moved to Monterey where he landed a job at the Carmel Valley Golf & Country Club and that’s where he began to get an education in wine. The restaurant featured 350 bottles on the wine list and twice a week while doing inventory he would take five or six bottles and read each label front and back. After Monterey Steve moved to the Bay Area and went to work at the Fog City Diner. He then headed north to wine country and spent two and a half years as wine manager at the Swiss Hotel before moving on to Michael Chiarello’s Tra Vigne in Napa. During that time he visited more than 200 wineries and refined his palate. He spent time in Florida and Colorado before finally settling in Portland nine years ago and met Jeff. “We have a lot of respect for each other. It’s been a great partnership ever since.”
I moved to the bar and chatted with a few folks while Steve crafted a Mochatini for me. I had the good fortune of meeting Walter’s architect Andy and his wife. Walter’s is stunning and Andy gets much of the credit for that. As I was leaving, Jeff came in and I had a brief visit with him. His passion as well as Steve’s is evident. The staff at Walter’s is top shelf and most of them have been there for years. Steve can’t sing their praises loudly enough and gives them much of the credit for Walter’s success. In the foodie town of Portland, Walter’s is one of the brightest shining stars.