For many people, Portland has become the place to be, and it’s easy to see why. We’ve got culture, the arts, and of course…killer food and drinks. I’m happy to say I finally have friends coming to visit me this summer, and I cannot wait to show them why I love this foodie capital so much! Be warned: there will be lots of seafood, and you will probably drool just a little bit.
Bite Into Maine: Lobster Roll Now, I know Bite Into Maine is technically in Cape Elizabeth, but I really cannot say no to a great lobster roll (and its varieties) in such a beautiful location! Not only is the roll my favorite, but being right on the water, with the Portland Headlight for scenery is like being part of a too good to be true postcard of the East Coast. The lobster roll isn’t too shabby either: filled with a whole lobster, and made depending on what’s available, though it’s commonly curry, wasabi, picnic style, or classic Maine. My favorite: The Classic, but all of them are worth a try (or two!)
Gilbert’s: Lobster & clam chowder Clam chowder is crucial to the Maine experience, and I love being able to get a giant bread bowl of it from Gilbert’s. Yes, there is another one as well in Windham, technically making this place a chain, but they do chowder really well. Creamy, flavorful, and stuffed with potatoes, bacon and of course, fresh clams. Their twin lobster deal is a must if you’re looking for a full meal, but the clam chowder is definitely the best in my book!
Street & Co: Lobster Diavolo There are many, many places you can go for lobster in Portland, but I prefer Street & Co for the fine dining experience. The interior is truly beautiful, and the menu perpetuates the absolute best of what Portland has to offer us for seafood, including mussels, lobster, salmon and all the seafood you could ever want. My reason for coming back to Street & Co again and again: the Lobster Diavolo. It’s the perfect meal for a romantic dinner out, since it’s for two people. Lobster, mussels and calamari on a bed of linguine and topped with red sauce. God, it really doesn’t get much better than that! Top it off with dessert, and you’ll swear that you’re never going home.
If you’re not entirely sick of seafood after a lobster roll from Bite Into Maine, chowder from Gilbert’s, and a lobster dinner of the finest quality at Street & Co, make sure to stop by Portland Lobster Company. Maine is well known for lobster dinners, complete with family and lots of butter, as you look at the gorgeous coast line! Well, you can have all that without the crowd (usually) at Portland Lobster Co. It’s fresh, and you get corn on the cob to go with your classic Maine summer meal. Bring on the butter and some beautiful views of the water!
If you’re going to do poutine, you may as well do it right, and Duckfat is just the place to try it. How can you possibly go wrong with fries that are fried in duckfat, then topped with savory gravy and cheese curds, with the possibility of a fried egg (if you order it that way). No matter how many times I’ve gotten Duckfat’s poutine, I’m still in love with it, and find myself recommending it to everyone I know who has yet to try it. An indulgence worth every single damn bite.
Nosh: Bacon dusted fries
You just can’t write anything about where to take a tourist in Portland and not include Nosh’s bacon dusted fries. These are not your ordinary fries by any means, and they go great with one of Nosh’s many burgers, including the Nosh Burger, with a fried egg, blue cheese and bacon. But the fries are always the real standout of the meal, and have caused many Portlanders to debate which is better: the aforementioned Duckfat Poutine, or Nosh’s bacon dusted fries. It’s still up for debate, but these fries are a must for any tourist of Portland who is serious about our foodie scene.
Slab: Sicilian Pizza and a Killer Meatball Sub
Come for the pizza, stay for the meatball sub. Sicilian pizza definitely stands out in Portland, where pizza is all about Otto’s and their crazy toppings or Portland Pie. But Slab holds up because this is portable pizza! A slice of pizza is a whole pound, but it’s more dough and less sauce, which is great for tomato haters. But the best thing on their menu goes beyond pizza, and is actually their Meatball Sub. Forget what you know about meatball subs, because this one is intense. 2 people can split it, and feel full. It is literally overflowing with meatballs and bursting with flavor.
Central Provisions is currently one of the foodie darlings of Portland, considering Bon Appetit named it one of the Hot 10 of 2014 for their inspired use of crudo. Getting in may require waiting in line, but it’s well worth it. Whether you stop in for the small plates, cocktails or brunch, it’s going to be a meal to remember. Small plates are a beautiful thing, and they really call for sharing. Suckled pig, jalapeño cornbread and brunch’s bread and butter are all things I’ve enjoyed, and I intend on coming back to try more of this innovative and special menu soon.
Sur Lie: True Tapas
No surprise to anyone that reads this blog, but Sur Lie is most certainly on my list of restaurants that I love for 2015. Every time I’ve went has been nothing short of delicious, and there’s always something new to try. Brunch is tasty with a decidedly Puerto Rican influence, while dinner does tapas the way that it should be done. Their portions are large enough to share so that you can sample the whole menu between a few people. The innovative menu is going to make you stop and stare, especially if you get to try some of the chef’s amazing specials, like rosemary lamb sweetbreads, a salmon lox charcuterie board or the Cubano sandwich. Don’t be surprised if you come back twice in one visit to try more!
Allagash: Acclaimed Microbrewery
It’s no coincidence that Allagash is celebrating their twentieth anniversary this year. Their beer is well loved in Portland, and across the Northeast. With so many varieties, everyone can find something that they love. My personal favorite: Allagash White, which is great for beer drinkers that don’t quite “love” beer, which is me in a nutshell. But if you want the real Allagash experience, you have to go visit them and take a tour! You might even find yourself able to get a taste of their top brews, and take a seat outside on a warm summer day.
Blue Rooster: Totine as a late night bite
So Blue Rooster recently added more seating and now has alcohol, making this literally the perfect place to come for a late night bite when you’re just not sure you want the night to be over. It’s been one of my Old Port go to’s since I got here, and if you’re a tourist (in my age range) you’re going to want to go out and experience the night life. But after time at The Pearl Taphouse, 3 Dollar Dewey’s and OPT, you’re definitely going to need a break. This break is called Totine, and it’s pretty amazing. Think poutine with tater tots. The 3rd grader in you gets to be happy too! When you’re drinking and need something a little greasy to soak up some extra alcohol, this is where you come and totine is what you order.
Bar of Chocolate: The Chocolate Martini
The Old Port is filled with many gems, and The Bar of Chocolate is one of the best ones I’ve found. Any list about Portland’s food and drink scene just isn’t complete without at least a mention of this delectable wine bar. Tucked into a brick wall near Vignola Cinque Terre, you’d never find it if you weren’t looking for it. Once inside, it feels like you’ve been transported to Paris. The Chocolate Martini is my favorite, but any of the dessert martinis are a sure bet, like the Grapefruit, Mocha, or Lemoncello. If you’re looking for a spot for girls night out, your next date night, or a Bachelorette party, look no further.
The Marshmallow Cart may be new to Portland (as of May) but they are quickly gaining steam for their delectable homemade marshmallow creations. Whether you go with the traditional marshmallow on a stick, or prefer it with a rice krispy treat or a warm belgian waffle, you really cannot go wrong. Other add ons include specialty marshmallow flavors (maple and vanilla seem to be the most popular) as well as Nutella, perfect with that ooey gooey marshmallow! Calling all sweet tooth lovers: this is your new favorite food cart!
You just can’t get away from the food truck culture here in Portland. We have great restaurants, but half the fun is being able to track down your food, of course. El Corazon is a food truck that hangs around Spring Street, along with Congress Street Square (now a known food truck area) as well as around Portland and the surrounding area on weekends. If you’re lucky enough to find it, try their burritos, because they are some of the best that Portland has to offer. In a sea of food trucks, El Corazon always stands out.
When you think BBQ, I know you think of down south, but hold on. Walk into Salvage, which is separated from the hustle and bustle of the Old Port and downtown, and you’ll forget you’re in Portland. Salvage has some quality BBQ, and the rest of the country is slowly realizing it too. When you’re a favorite of Andrew Zimmern, things better be tasty! And don’t worry, you’ll find chopped pork, brisket, ribs, mac n cheese, pickles and all the other things that BBQ is known for. The fact that we have BBQ this good in Portland is just one more reason why we are a food city that cannot be ignored.
Pai Men Miyake: Ramen
Ramen, ramen, ramen. No matter where you go, ramen is hot (both literally and figuratively). Pai Men Miyake is the known place to go and get ramen and noodle bowls, no questions asked. High quality ingredients and authentic recipes make Pai Men stand out in a city that loves ramen (don’t forget there’s a new ramen shop up on the East End that just opened, after all). Another thing you have to try: the pork buns. Trust me when I say you’ve never had anything like them, and you can only get them here.
Chinatown in Boston may be known best for dumplings, but don’t say no to Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland’s West End! Bao Bao has some of the coolest dumplings I’ve ever tried, like lamb and black bean or Kung Pao chicken. Combine these classic dumplings with a cocktail, like the Beet & Yuzu, which is just the right amount of sour and sweet. Make sure to try some noodles too, like the Beijing noodles, or the wonton noodle soup. You’ll leave satiated and happy, and thinking about delicious dumplings for days.
The Holy Donut: One of a Kind Donuts Ever had a potato donut? If you haven’t, change that right now. The Holy Donut could start its own religion, and easily. Here in Portland, if you haven’t tried one, you just haven’t lived! Trying just one is tough, because that means you don’t get to try the dark chocolate sea salt (my favorite) or the Chai donut (my other favorite). These specialty donuts take everything you think you know about donuts (Dunkin, I’m looking at you) and turns it upside down. Soft, moist and sweet, the Holy Donut will make you a believer.