6 days. 40 destinations. 1 guide to the city’s best eats.
By Anestes Fotiades / Photographed by Douglas Merriam
Standard Baking Co.
Lauded by the likes of Bon Appétit and Saveur and well loved by locals and visitors alike, Standard Baking has been a fixture of the Portland food scene for two decades. Their traditional French breads and baked goods make the top of everyone’s required eating list.
Harbor Fish Market
Founded in 1969 by Ben Alfiero and now run by his three sons, Harbor Fish Market is a waterfront institution. Snap a photo of its weathered red façade, then head inside to shop for whole fish, oysters, and clams.You can also send fresh lobster to friends at home via Harbor Fish Market’s delivery service.
Duckfat has been Instagrammed, blogged, and Facebooked ever since its opening day in 2005. Luckily, it still lives up to the hype. Pair your sandwich or panini with an indulgent milkshake in flavors like Burnt Maine Honey or Spicy Chai Tea. The fries — cooked, of course, in duck fat — are just as exceptional.
This is not your standard Thai restaurant. Well known for its modern take on Thai street food, Boda serves a diverse range of small plates that are just right for the start of a multi-stop dinner. Be sure to try the Miang Kum Som-oh: pummelo fruit with toasted coconut, peanut, lime, ginger, and shrimp.
Pai Men Miyake
Just across the street from Boda, you’ll find Pai Men Miyake, a spot that’s been integral to the restaurant renaissance in Longfellow Square. Start with a rich, satisfying bowl of miso ramen. The ceviche sushi roll, pork gyoza, spicy Tokyo abura, and brussels sprouts are all equally excellent accompaniments.
Empire Chinese Kitchen
Portlanders had almost become resigned to a lack of good Chinese food — then along came Empire. Start with the duck buns, garlic green beans, and pastrami egg rolls, and then work your way through the specials of the day.
Novare Res Bier Café
The 200-plus bottled beer list and consistently excellent draft selection has made Novare Res a mecca for beer geeks across the country. Hidden away down a back alley off Exchange Street, Novare makes for a great escape from the crowded summer streets of the Old Port.
Hot Suppa is a New England diner crossed with a Southern roadside cafe. The corned beef hash, grits, Cubano sandwich, and laid-back atmosphere have earned Hot Suppa a loyal local following.
Scratch Baking Co.
Beautifully made brownies, blondies, breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, and macaroons make this artisanal neighborhood bakery a popular destination both for locals and visitors in the know. Muffins, cookies, and coffeecake flavors vary daily, but favorite standbys like sea salt shortbread, cinnamon rolls, and blueberry pancake cake are on hand every day.
Bite Into Maine
A visit to Portland would be incomplete without a trip to see the iconic Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth. In its shadow, you’ll find Bite Into Maine, a little food truck that has earned big accolades for the creativity and quality of their lobster rolls. Go for the Picnic Roll, made with lobster, drawn butter, cole slaw, and celery salt.
Speckled Ax wood-roasts an ever-changing lineup of natural and traditionally processed coffee beans from around the globe. For a special treat, try the Kyoto ice-extracted Tower Shot. Or, if you’re lucky to arrive at the right time, experience one of the barrel-aged collaborations between Speckled Ax and Allagash Brewing Company. Pair your coffee with a sweet or savory hand pie made for the coffee shop by Maine Pie Line.
Emilitsa will change your understanding and raise your expectations of Greek food. Explore the all-Greek wine list and sample from a menu of fresh-flavored Mediterranean dishes like the grilled octopus or the truly extraordinary chicken souvlaki: skewered, grilled chicken served with sweet peppers and onions steeped in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and Greek oregano.
Milanese transplants Donato Giovine and Mariagrazia Zanardi run this classic Italian gelataria on Fore Street. End the night with an authentic scoop of pistachio, zabaione, or stracciatella, or try a gelato cannoli for an Italian take on the ice cream sandwich.
Aurora Provisions is a popular destination for residents of the West End neighborhood. Drop by for a breakfast sandwich or raspberry scone with your morning latte. While you’re there, browse the well-stocked pastry case and retail store filled with Maine-made products.
Vena’s Fizz House
Co-owner Johanna Coreman’s great-grandmother Vena was a leader of the temperance movement, so it’s safe to say Grandma Vena would have been pleased by the mocktail bar at this establishment. With bubbly concoctions like the cherry lime rickey and ginger julep, chances are you will be, too.
This unassuming Italian bistro serves a menu of excellent pasta and sauces. There are no bad choices at Paciarino — each pasta is made fresh by hand every day — but the Tagliatelle Bolognese is truly outstanding.
Homegrown Herb & Tea
Equal parts apothecary and tea shop, Homegrown is the place to go when you need a restorative retreat. Owner Sarah Richards custom blends each cup to suit your particular needs, whether you’re battling achy joints, a pounding head, or an afternoon slump.
Browne Trading Company
Known as a purveyor of fine seafood to urban A-list chefs, Browne Trading’s retail store also houses an excellent wine shop. Select a bottle or two for your al fresco dinner at The Well (see below), or pick out a special wine for a gift to a friend back home.
The Well takes farm-to-table philosophy and turns it around to bring fine dining to the field. Chef Jason Williams delivers elegant, fresh-flavored plates to outdoor tables at Cape Elizabeth’s Jordan Farm. Pair them up with your favorite BYOB wines.
The location of the original Miyake sushi bar now is home to Miyake Diner, which is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night. Peruse the menu for plates like short rib curry and house-cured octopus salad while local food celebrity Joe Ricchio guides you through the by-the-glass sake menu.
158 Pickett Street Cafe
“One Fifty Ate” bakes up some of Southern Maine’s best bagels. Enjoy a toasted poppy seed with herb cream cheese at the picnic tables out back, or take breakfast to go and stroll along nearby Willard Beach and Spring Point (home to iconic Spring Point Ledge Light).
Allagash Brewing Company
Get a behind-the-scenes tour at Allagash and pick up a few of their limited-release beers, like Allagash Four, brewed with four malts, four sugars, four hop varieties, and fermented four times with four different yeast strains. While you’re in the neighborhood, stop in to see Portland’s hottest new brewery, Bissell Brothers, and visit New England Distilling Company for a taste of the first Maine whiskey in production since Prohibition.
Rosemont Market and Bakery
Rosemont is Portland’s one-stop shop for local and sustainable foods. Biodynamic wines, organic Maine-grown fruits and vegetables, and excellent local cheeses and meats can all be found in one of Rosemont’s three neighborhood markets. Hungry visitors can also choose from a smorgasbord of ready-made sandwiches, soups, baked goods, and breads. The Commercial Street location is just steps from the Eastern Promenade, the perfect spot for a summer picnic by the water.
Maine Craft Distilling
Established in 2012, Maine Craft Distilling is at the forefront of Portland’s resurgent spirits industry. Stop by on Friday afternoon to meet head distiller Luke Davidson, get a tour of the facility, and become a card-carrying member of the weekly Tasting Club. Don’t miss their signature Blueshine, made with Maine-grown barley, wild blueberries, and a touch of native maple syrup.
The newly renovated Hugo’s is a highlight of any Portland eating tour. A modern, comfortable space and open kitchen are the setting for a dining experience that is as innovative and stimulating as it is gracious. Choose a prix fixe meal (either five courses or two) and mix and match your selections from the “Foraged & Farmed,” “From the Sea,” and “Forest & Field” menus. Go for the wine pairings, and then sit back and enjoy.
Tandem Coffee Roasters
Tucked away in the industrial East Bayside neighborhood, you’ll find the award-winning Tandem Coffee Roasters. It’s popular with the city’s hip (and hip-at-heart) thanks to a welcoming clubhouse atmosphere and expertly prepared light roast coffee. Stop by Tandem on Saturdays to score a chocolate sea salt potato doughnut from The Holy Donut along with your morning jolt.
Jay Villani, founder of Local 188 and Sonny’s restaurants, has brought authentic Southern barbecue to a renovated railroad warehouse. Go with a hearty appetite. Highlights include the fatty brisket, grilled cornbread, and creamy mac and cheese.
Portland Hunt & Alpine Club
Hunt & Alpine burst onto the scene in late 2013, bringing craft cocktails and a cool Scandinavian style to Portland’s Old Port. Spread your wings and experience something new here. Gin drinkers should forgo their usual martini or gin and tonic to try the Lunar Phase (gin, Cocchi Americano, lime juice, and house-made quinine syrup). Those who prefer darker spirits should try the Left Hand or explore the impressive list of bourbons and ryes.
Well-crafted cocktails, a beautiful space, and excellent small plates have made this high-energy restaurant a smash hit since it opened in February. No visit is complete without ordering the three Bs: boquerones (fresh marinated anchovies), the bread and butter, and the brussels sprouts.
James Beard Award–winning chef Sam Hayward and his talented team continue to set a high standard at Fore Street, which has remained on the short list of Maine’s best restaurants for nearly two decades. Pro tip: Fore Street holds a few tables and the bar in reserve each night. Slip in when they open at 5 p.m. and you can grab a seat, even if you’ve neglected to make reservations.
Blue Rooster Food Co.
The chefs at this compact late-night Old Port eatery use their farm-to-table background and culinary expertise to prepare house-made ingredients that give their sandwiches and dogs a special edge. Try their tater tot poutine for a playful take on a classic French-Canadian dish.
At this intimate West End restaurant, chef Abby Harmon serves an upscale menu inspired by rustic Italian cuisine. In a town that’s made Sunday brunch a religion, Caiola’s is widely regarded as one of the very best. Come early to secure a seat on the back deck and get an order of Lost Bread to share.
Eventide Oyster Co.
The large selection of East and West Coast oysters will draw you in, but the innovative, Asian-influenced small plates will keep you coming back. Eventide also serves a solid brunch. Get there early during summer — the compact space frequently has standing room only.
Founder Erica Archer hosts wine-tasting events that are as educational as they are fun. Whether you take a wine walking tour of the Old Port or sail aboard a historic schooner, you’ll come away with a better appreciation of wine and a list of bottles to pick up for the trip home.
Urban Sugar Mobile Cafe
Husband and wife Valeri and Kevin Sandes use their culinary training to deliver a high-class, made-to-order sugar rush on the road. Mini doughnut varieties like maple pecan and lavender with lemon curd and vanilla crumble make their food truck hard to resist.
This pocket-size restaurant serves a modern interpretation of traditional southern Italian cuisine and some of the most inventive desserts to be found in Maine. Go for the Sunday Supper, when the kitchen crew pulls out all the stops. This weekly tradition is popular with Portland industry insiders — take a look around the room, and you just might spot the chef from a restaurant you visited earlier in the week. neglected to make reservations.
Anestes Fotiades is the founder and editor of the Portland Food Map, an indispensable guide and daily news source covering Portland’s burgeoning restaurant scene. A software designer by trade, Fotiades combines a directory of Portland’s eating establishments, with news on upcoming restaurants, and a detailed calendar of food related in events into one website. Learn more at portlandfoodmap.com
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