I didn’t realize Portland, Maine, was such a foodie city! I have no idea why my husband wanted to go there on our recent New England road trip but I wanted to check out Maine myself so I never asked. (Make sure to read about our hike in New Hampshire and the Flume Gorge from the same trip).
I trust you all and everyone who follows me on Instagram for your recommendations and I got so many I wanted to share them all so if you are headed to Portland, Maine, you can reference them as well!
A ton of people sent me this Bon Appétit article naming Portland their 2018 Restaurant City of the Year, so obviously that’s a great reference. See all my recommendations and everything you all recommended to me below! (I think I got them all but if I missed something you love in Portland, please tell me in the comments!).
Our first stop was Duckfat. I was told by some friends (and a lot of people) that we HAD to go there. It also just happened to be 2 blocks from our hotel, so it’s the first place we went. It’s a tiny spot, that had a wait at 2 pm on a weekday if that tells you anything.
We could smell the food from down the street. We put our name in and grabbed a drink at the bar next door, East Ender. I’m sure they get a lot of that even though they have food.
At first I wanted just the fries with the dipping sauces but the Mr. wanted to try the poutine and I felt like I needed to get the thing that everyone says to get (although this didn’t work for me with In-N-Out Burger because I thought animal style was disgusting). The poutine on the other hand (Belgian fries topped with local cheese curd, duck gravy, and chives) was AMAZING. I’m glad I don’t live close to Duckfat because I’d want to eat it all the time. Delicious.
We drank some local beers and had sandwiches as well, oh AND I had to try their strawberry milkshake which was insane. YOLO on vacation right?! Definitely go to Duckfat if you go to Portland. It’s worth the wait!
Next, I was told to go to Highroller Lobster Co. for lobster rolls. The place is ca-uuuuute inside. I mean their branding is just ON POINT down to the t-shirts which we should have bought as a souvenir.
My husband got the lobster roll and I got the lobster bisque. FYI lobster is not cheap.
I got my bisque in a bread bowl thinking that would fill me up more, and while it was delicious, it was just honestly a really small portion of soup. I mean, I’m all for smaller than your average “American” supersized portion, but for how expensive it was, there should have been a lot more bisque. I didn’t even want more lobster chunks, just bisque!
I also realized that I just don’t love lobster. I would just much rather have crab. The rubbery texture of lobster just isn’t for me.
Downtown Portland is really cute with some shops, and obviously lots of restaurants and bars, but I didn’t really think there was a ton of stuff to actually do. Please correct me if I’m wrong in the comments of this post — tell me what else people can do there!
I recommend going with friends so you can hang out at a brewery all day. My husband and I had a great time but we weren’t in Portland very long, and we slept in really late just because we could! If I went again, I’d probably drive somewhere nearby for a hike in the morning and then do a brewery in the afternoon and dinner later.
We did go out to Cape Elizabeth to the Portland Head Light. It’s a nice little walk and the views of the lighthouse and the water are beautiful. Construction started on the lighthouse in 1787!
On your way in or out from the lighthouse you can stop and walk up to the Goddard Mansion. Which, sadly, is just a shell and is fenced off. Built in 1858-59 for John Goddard, you can read more about it here. It’s too bad it wasn’t turned into a B&B or something cool like that.
We went to Rising Tide Brewing for a sunny afternoon and tried every beer on the menu. Before we tried each one we would look at the description and guess if we would like it or not, and we were often surprised. There were only a few that really weren’t for me, but it was fun to try them all! We played a little corn hole there and then grabbed a coffee at nearby Coffee By Design and popped into Youngs Furniture which has some awesome, modern, affordable pieces.
I didn’t get any photos but we went to Tandem Coffee for breakfast the first day. My husband got the sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit, I got something else, which was apparently the biggest mistake of my life. He said it was the best sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit he’s ever had in his entire life. I seriously regret not getting it and not going back before we left town to have one!
Lucky for me, my husband appreciates art and is not hard to talk into stopping by an art museum (which is usually my No.1 priority on every trip everywhere). Lucky us, admission was free on Fridays from 4-8 pm and we just happened to be there on a Friday, so after beers at Rising Tide we went over to walk through the Portland Museum of Art which was absolutely lovely and has a wonderful collection.
Renoir’s Confidences (Secrets), 1874, above.
There just happened to be a Noguchi show while we were there which I thoroughly enjoyed.
We also had pizza at OTTO, which was fun and good. Nothing revolutionary but good (I mean, I did grow up in a family of gourmet pizza restaurants so…). I was actually talking to my husband about this as we were talking about food — because we would talk about if we liked it and where it ranked for us, and I realized that our standards are sort of ridiculous. It’s like, ya it was fine, when really it’s pretty darn good, but compared to eating one of the best thing in the city, it’s just fine. And living in the DC area we have access to so many amazing restaurants that my standards for good food has shot up to another level. Good restaurants are good. They can’t all be great, right? Good is good.
Overall we had a wonderful time in Portland, and if you love craft beer and lobster you will love it. I probably gained like 5 pounds from poutine, but it was worth every calorie.
For a list of all of the places that were recommended to me, and everything mentioned in the Bon Appétit article, check out my handy Portland Maine Google Map!
Photos by Meg Biram