If you have never been to Portland, Maine before, you are sure to be delightfully surprised the first time you visit this charming little city.
Located right on the coast, Portland is a walkable place chock full of locally-owned stores, historic buildings, and artistic vibes. And while it is not well-known outside of New England, this city has also made a name for itself as one of the best foodie destinations in the country. Although much of this incredible cuisine involves seafood caught fresh right off the coast of Maine, the food in Portland goes beyond the ocean, including excellent fine dining experiences, traditional American as well as international fare, a plethora of amazing micro-breweries, and many other options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
To cover all of the amazing restaurants in Portland requires more space than I have here. However, I have compiled five of the best spots to enjoy some delicious food in this beautiful city.
Rose Foods – 428 Forest Ave.
This small bagel shop is open from 7am until 2pm daily, and should be your go-to stop for a breakfast sandwich while in Portland. Here you will find an assortment of freshly made bagels that will make you think you’re in NYC not Maine. Load up your bagel with any number of cream cheeses, delicious fish, and vegetables, or, if you are in the mood for something else, opt for the matzo ball soup.
Highroller Lobster Co. – 104 Exchange St.
No trip to Maine is complete without a little bit of lobster. At Highroller you will find lots of delicious and unique ways to sample this crustacean, including a traditional lobster roll, and less traditional lobster grilled cheese, lobster tacos with a crispy cheese shell, lobster rangoons, and “lobby pops”, which is literally lobster on a stick. If someone in your group is not a lobster-lover, they can choose a burger, BLT, or some oysters instead, while enjoying an extensive local beer list.
Oxbow Blending and Bottling – 49 Washington Ave.
If you are looking to sample some staple Maine brews while you are in Portland, look no further than Oxbow. Although the beers are not actually brewed here (they are created 50 miles away in Newcastle), this space is where all the blending and bottling of their aged beers takes place and home to a bar where you can try all of their work. Even better, Oxbow has partnered with Duckfat Frites Shack to offer a decadent menu of sandwiches, poutine, and shakes.
Fore Street – 288 Fore Street
Consensus is that the opening of Fore Street in 1996 marked the beginning of Portland’s rise to prominence as a hub for great food. This is no surprise, as this locally sourced restaurant offers incredibly crafted, locally sourced food in a beautiful ambience that puts it in a league of its own. The menu varies depending on what is seasonally available, but everything is consistently delicious. Reservations are a must before heading here, as it is packed every night of the week.
Back Bay Grill – 65 Portland St.
Although the look of the Back Bay Grill is a bit subdued, the food more than makes up for this. Visitors to this restaurant get to choose between a variety of options off a prix fixe three course menu that is updated daily. The food is sourced from local farms, the service is impeccable, and the wine list is extensive. Book your table ahead of time, as this is another restaurant where those without a reservation may be out of luck.
If you’re planning a road trip to Portland, Boston, Acadia or other spots in New England, be sure to reach out to me for help with your planning and many more tips!
Kira Gartner is the owner of Blue Sky Destinations, a boutique travel agency specializing in river cruises, luxury expedition cruises and customized European vacations. For years she has helped curious travelers plan vacations that allow them to unwind, reconnect, and immerse themselves fully in a destination. Reach out to her for a free consultation - and let her start designing your dream vacation!