Portland is a compact and walkable town, the heart of which is downtown’s Old Port area. It’s easy, therefore, for culinary fans to find James Beard–award-winning restaurants around the corner from food trucks peddling crème brulee and empanadas. A donut shop, whose creations have been lauded by The New York Times, is just two blocks from a French-inspired patisserie. On Commercial Street, the city’s waterfront boulevard, seafood reigns supreme at eateries ranging from upscale full-service restaurants to local watering holes and lobster shacks. Downtown ethnic eateries feature cuisines from Africa, Jamaica, the Middle East, China, the Mediterranean, Poland, France, Thailand and beyond.

Thirsty? Portland offers a dizzying array of brewpubs, taverns and wine bars. There’s a cutting-edge waterfront distillery/brewery/tasting room across the street from the city’s oldest alehouse. You can whet your whistle on kombucha (fermented tea), mead and hard cider, as well as buy all the ingredients you need to recreate a favorite Portland cocktail — from bitters to barware — at a mixology/cocktail shop.

 


 

WHERE TO STAY

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Pomegranate Inn

49 NEAL ST.

Located in a handsome 19th-century Italianate mansion on the western side of Portland, “The Pom” exudes classic architecture and elegance. Stepping through the front door is like falling through Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated with faux-marble walls, painted floors, topsy-turvy lampshades, checkerboard floors, and whimsical painted flowers and birds spilling out from under dormers.

A boutique inn, The Pom has a colorful vibe that is brilliantly on display in each of its eight individually decorated guestrooms, where whimsy combines with shabby chic. Guests are pampered with elegant private baths, spa-quality robes, HD televisions and, as the innkeepers note, “room essentials such as wine glasses, corkscrews, irons, hair dryers and more.”

Known for its outstanding seasonal and locally sourced gourmet breakfasts, The Pom features small plates of savory and sweet items (Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Frittata, strawberry lemon and basil salad, Mexican hot chocolate scones, honey-roasted pineapple with blueberries) and, of course, freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. After breakfast at The Pom, guests are happily fortified for the pleasant 15-minute walk into the heart of the Old Port where more feasting and fun await.

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The Danforth Inn

163 DANFORTH ST.

Understated elegance, sophisticated décor, a discerning collection of art — these are the hallmarks of The Danforth, which also features especially lovely common rooms, including an enclosed garden and a third-floor conservatory and sitting room. Most of the inn’s nine rooms, each graciously decorated and elegantly appointed, have working fireplaces. Each room is enhanced by architectural detailing and original art.

The Danforth’s on-site restaurant (dinner only) and bar, Tempo Dulu, offers Southeast Asian cuisine prepared with locally sourced ingredients. The menu includes dishes from Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, all artfully created and beautifully plated. In 2016, Maine Today named the Tempo Dulu bar one of the top 10 hotel bars in the city, citing its live moss chandelier, velvet lounge chairs, piano and fireplace — not to mention its selection of award-winning cocktails, many of which are created to complement the restaurant’s cuisine.

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Mercury Inn

273 STATE ST.

Mercury Inn is a bed and breakfast unlike any other in Portland. Inside the Victorian building is a refreshing, contemporary space whose owners, Tim and Jacob, are committed to operating an environmentally and economically sustainable business. They both are passionate about preparing healthy, beautifully arranged and locally sourced food. They “We place a high premium on having direct relationships with the farms we supply from. By working with local farms we are able to ensure the quality of food coming directly to our guests while also supporting Maine's small business community and the larger state economy.”

Both the common spaces and the inn’s seven rooms feature modern, comfortable furnishings and clever color schemes. Guest room walls are a soothing soft gray that make a perfect background for bright, sunshine-filled bursts of yellow fabric found on comforters, pillows and chairs. Throughout the inn, nontoxic, environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, light bulbs and administrative supplies are in use.

The innkeepers know the Portland food scene especially well and take great joy in introducing the city’s eateries—as well as the vibrant arts and culture—to their guests.

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A SAMPLING OF PORTLAND EATERIES

 

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Fresh oysters by Eventide Oyster Co.

A few of Portland's finest:

Central Provisions

414 FORE ST.

An open kitchen turns out eclectic, beautifully presented small plates at this rustic-chic Old Port eatery that also specializes in craft cocktails, punches, wines by the glass and local beers. CP is a recent James Beard finalist for best new restaurant in the nation, so prepare to wait. (No reservations are accepted.) It’s worth it!

 

Eventide Oyster Co.

86 MIDDLE ST.

A revival of the great American oyster bar, Eventide features the best oyster selection in Maine, as well as an acclaimed lobster roll and a wicked-good New England clambake. The chefs have been nominated multiple times for the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Chef: Northeast award. Communal seating and convivial atmosphere.

 

Emilitsa

547 Congress St.

Local, fresh, organic ingredients combine in rustic Greek fare, reimagined in Mezethes (small plates), Megala Piata (large plates) and pristinely fresh seafood dishes that “honor the breadth of traditional cuisine from all regions of Greece.”

 

Fore Street

288 Fore St.

Pioneering chef Sam Hayward’s landmark restaurant that started the Portland food revolution with its founding in 1996. Seafood dishes are especially divine. The kitchen and its wood-burning oven are visible to diners, and the sources for all foods are listed on the menus.

 

Five Fifty-Five

555 Congress St.

Another one of the first restaurants to spark Portland’s birth as a food lover’s destination. An elegant atmosphere complements the creative, ever-changing menu. Meals are created by the plate.

 

Honey Paw

78 Middle St.

With a focus on handmade noodles, The Honey Paw offers an East-meets-New England approach, blending the best of local ingredients with traditions, styles and techniques from Southeast Asia, China and beyond.

 

Global dining:

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Sushi by Miyake.

Petite Jacqueline

190 State St.

French bistro fare at its best, including steak frites, boeuf bourguignon, bouillabaisse and a raw bar.

 

Piccolo

111 Middle St.

A modern take on classic rustic country food with a focus on recipes Calabria and Abruzzi. Everything is made with the best local produce, fish, meat and the finest imported Italian ingredients.

 

Miyake

468 Fore St.

Exceptional Japanese food with menus drawing on the seasons, the abundance of local seafood and vegetables and heritage-breed animals raised on owner Masa Miyake's farm.

 

Kicking Back Casual:

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An exterior photo by Duck Fat.

The Thirsty Pig

37 Exchange St.

House-made sausages from local farmers, locally made beers and outside picnic table dining in season.

 

Nosh

551 Congress St.

Upscale pub (open late) serving creative jumbo-size burgers, sandwiches and other comfort eats. Known for their fries, which are sprinkled with sea salt or bacon dust!

 

Duck Fat

43 Middle St.

Also known for its fries (see Nosh above), this tiny sandwich shop has it all: In addition to those classic Belgian fries, their paninis, soups, salads, charcuterie, sodas and milkshakes are all made in house. Great beer and wine list.

 

Becky’s Diner

390 Commercial St.

Locals — including the fishermen — and tourists sit at Formica tables beneath a press-tinned ceiling and fill up on buttermilk pancakes, eggs done any way you want and huge sides of home fries. Expect a modest check and the satisfaction that you’ve experienced a Portland classic.

 

In case you’re feeling peckish in between meals:

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A selection of donuts by Holy Donut

Holy Donut

7 Exchange St. & 194 Park Ave.

Maybe the most delicious donuts ever. The (not-so) secret ingredient: fresh Maine potatoes. Adding mashed potatoes gives the donuts a delicious moist texture that makes them melt in your mouth. Using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, Holy Donut offers approximately 20 flavors — including sea salt, Allen’s coffee brandy and fresh lemon — that rotate seasonally. They also make sweet potato donuts and vegan, gluten-free and filled donuts. (The bacon cheddar variety is a big seller!) Both shops close when the last donut is sold each day, so get there before noon at the latest.

 

Standard Baking Co.

75 Commercial St.

Handcrafted bread and pastries, including an almond croissant that rivals anything out of Paris.

 


 

PORTLAND FOOD EXPERIENCES, ON LAND & ON SEA

One of the most enjoyable ways to explore Portland’s food and drink scene is to spend some time with local experts. Here are several ways to do just that:

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Lucky Catch

Hop on a lobster boat for an “up close and personal” lobstering experience. Learn how lobsters get from the bottom of the ocean to your dinner plate; conservation efforts; and the difference between hardshells, shedders, shorts, culls and keepers. Any lobsters that are caught can be purchased after the cruise for the wholesale “boat” price. At the cruise’s end, Portland Lobster Company restaurant (across the pier) will cook them for you!

 

Maine Beer Tours/Maine Brew Bus

Offers more than 10 tours, each with a distinctive theme. Most start and end on Commercial Street (waterfront) and include several stops (including one for a food sampling).

 

Maine Foodie Tours

Offers culinary walking tours of the Old Port area, Happy Hour tours, progressive dinners, a lunchtime lobster crawl and more.

 

Wine Wise

A sommelier offers Old Port wine walks, weekend sunset wine sails, whiskey and cocktail walks and themed wine and food pairings (walks).

 


 

LOBSTER, ANYONE?

THESE GEMS ARE ONLY OPEN SEASONALLY, USUALLY FROM APRIL TO OCTOBER. TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT, CHECK BEFORE PLANNING YOUR VISIT!

Eating lobster at a picnic table by the sea is a memorable, and tasty, experience. Here are three waterfront lobster eateries within easy driving (or ferry ride) distance of Portland.

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Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company

36 Main St, South Freeport, ME (15 miles north of Portland)

Located next to a working boatyard, Harraseeket is a family-operated restaurant and local landmark that’s been serving lunch and dinner since 1970. It’s extremely popular and, at the height of summer, it can be crowded — it’s just three miles from L.L. Bean’s in Freeport. But hanging out, looking at boats, watching the waterfront activity and chatting with others while waiting for your number to be called is part of the fun. This BYOB picnic-table spot (there’s also inside dining) offers a full menu in addition to a traditional Maine lobster dinner. Homemade pies, local ice cream and Maine whoopee pies complete the Harraseeket experience.

 

Lobster Shack at Two Lights

225 Two Lights Rd, Cape Elizabeth, ME (9 miles southeast of Portland)

Perched above the rocks, this lobster and fried-seafood spot has commanding views of the Atlantic Ocean and two lighthouses. The drive to the end of the road (and the start of the ocean) is beautiful. The Lobster Shack is an award-winning restaurant that has been a local landmark since the 1920s. After ordering, grab a spot at one of the picnic tables perched just above the crashing surf, below a lighthouse and next to a foghorn. There’s an indoor dining room for chilly or foggy days. The Lobster Shack serves a full menu (lunch and dinner) in addition to a traditional Maine lobster dinner and is a BYOB establishment.

 

Cook’s Lobster & Ale House

68 Garrison Cove Rd, Bailey’s Island, ME (via ferry)

Taking a narrated cruise from downtown Portland to Cook’s Lobster where you can enjoy a leisurely, two-hour lobster dinner by the sea … that’s a happy day! Casco Bay Ferry provides daily round-trip service (summer only) to Cook’s, where you can enjoy expansive waterfront views, a working lobster harbor and the only cribstone bridge in the world. Cook’s has been serving Maine lobster dinners since 1955 and features a large pub and bar that offers more than 20 Maine beers and signature drinks. In addition to the traditional Maine lobster dinner, Cook’s offers an extensive menu of appetizers, soups, salads and a raw bar.

 


 

FOOD, FUN AND FARMS—A BIT FARTHER AFIELD

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The York Flagship headquarters by Stonewall Kitchen

Maine Distilleries - Cold River Vodka Distillery

Route 1, Freeport, ME (15 miles north of Portland)

Maine Distilleries, which produces Cold River Vodka, Blueberry Vodka and Gin, is the only “ground-to-glass” distillery in the nation in that the distillers manage every aspect of their small-batch production — from the planting of Maine potatoes and the triple-distillation process to the final bottling of gluten-free, all-natural, super-premium vodkas and gin.

Known for their distinct nose and satin-smooth finish, Cold River gin and award-winning vodkas are batch-distilled in a copper pot still, using water from Maine’s Cold River and farm-fresh potatoes. Each bottle is numbered by hand to reflect its batch and ensure its exceptionality.

 

Stonewall Kitchen Store & Corporate Headquarters

2 Stonewall Lane, York, ME (45 miles south)

This is mecca for those who love culinary gadgets, specialty foods and products, cook’s tools, cookbooks, baking products and beyond. This location is Stonewall Kitchen’s corporate home and comprises a large store, a café that serves breakfast and lunch, a cooking school and corporate offices and production facility. A viewing gallery overlooks the company’s jam-making process, and a cooking school offers classes year-round. (Note: There’s a Stonewall Kitchen retail store in downtown Portland at 182 Middle St., but the York location is vastly larger and presents a greater array of home décor items.)

 

MAINE FARM DINNERS

Maine’s roots in the farm-to-table renaissance are deep, and some of the best food you’ll ever enjoy is served right on Maine farms. Although they differ in ambiance, these three Farm Dinners all share a common mission: strengthening the local food system by serving the freshest, most delicious food possible.

Wolfe’s Neck Farm

184 Burnett Rd, Freeport, ME (25 miles north of Portland)

A working organic farm on 626 acres with four miles of oceanfront on Casco Bay, Wolfe’s Neck farm-to-table rustic dinners—think pig roasts and harvest bounty—are top-notch culinary events due to their partnership with Chef Masa Miyake and Miyake Farm and Restaurants. The dinners are held roughly once a month in late summer and early fall. (Tickets sell out well ahead of time.)

 

The Well at Jordan’s Farm

21 Wells Rd, Cape Elizabeth, ME (6 miles south of Portland)

The Well is actually a restaurant located right on Jordan’s Farm, next to their produce stand. Chef Jason Williams opened The Well in 2010 and has to walk only a few yards for many of his ingredients. The restaurant’s menu changes daily, depending on what's in season, but Williams offers family-style dinners, a five-course tasting menu and delicious desserts like his house-made donut with blueberry compote and crème anglaise. The atmosphere is casual, drinks are BYO, payment is cash only and no reservations are needed. The Well at Jordan’s Farm is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.