Looking for the best places to eat in Portland, ME? I recently had about 36 hours to eat my way through Portland. Here are some spots I would definitely recommend!
Eventide Oyster Co.
Good for: Lunch or Dinner. Their menu features small plates and of course, lots of oysters!
My first night in Portland I went to Eventide – it was a Monday night and people were spilling out onto the sidewalk. It was about 50 degrees and people were bundled up and eating outside just so they could have a table. The place is really cool inside – there is an L shaped bar across from the door and in the middle of the L are all the oysters on ice. There is a guy who is stationed right behind them to do the shucking. I was seated at the bar right near him so I could watch him work his magic.
This is how busy the restaurant was. There were two ladies who walked in before me and were waiting on a table. I was seated and ate 3 courses and paid before they finally got seated!
And so I discovered that night, and would continue to discover throughout my trip, the joys of traveling alone. When there was a long wait for a table I was able to walk in and be seated at the bar with no wait. And luckily, I always scored the last seat!
I know you’re wondering what I ate at Eventide, so I’ll tell you. First you should know that everything there is small plates. And I was super hungry as I had only had some soup on our way out of Vermont and a Kind bar mid-afternoon. So I started with the lobster stew because my server said that it was like nothing I’d ever had before and she was right. Chunks of lobster, potato and mushrooms in a green curry coconut broth. It was really good. Then I had the lobster roll because my friend who used to live there told me that they had the best lobster roll. Now, I’ve had a few lobster rolls in my life but I will say that this was my favorite ever! It was a brown butter lobster roll, so it was super rich. The bun was soft like a brioche. But the size was perfect – I could have held it in one had. So it was the perfect amount of yummy for me!
Good for: Dinner or Happy Hour
My second (and final) night in Portland I was faced with a dilemma – I had about 10 restaurants I wanted to eat at, but I only had one meal left! After much deliberation I determined seafood was the way to go, so I went over to Scales, which is located right on one of the piers in downtown Portland. I got there around 7pm (on a Tuesday) and the place was already packed. But, I was able to snag a spot at the bar after waiting for just 5 minutes.
I really did not want to overeat, I mean, I never really want to. But. There were too many good options and I was very hungry so I just went for it.
I started with arctic char tartar. One, because I’d never had it. And two, because when you walk into the restaurant there is a giant display of fresh fish and I saw some arctic char laying in there. So I knew it was fresher than fresh. It was so good that I ate all of it. There were green olives and some other magical things mixed with the fish and it was fresh and flavorful and not fishy at all (which it should not have been).
So then, the entrée. I really considered going small. But the couple next to me ordered the scallops and they looked so amazing, and the bartender had said how good they were, so I got them too. No regrets. They were served in a literally bubbling skillet of cream sauce with spinach, delicata squash and mushrooms. The scallops were perfectly cooked and the entire dish was practically perfect. No, it was perfect. I devoured most of it but reached my stopping point with two scallops left. The unfortunate part of traveling is that you can’t take your leftovers with you.
Did I want to see a dessert menu, the bartender asked? Sure, never hurts to look. But what does hurt is when you try to eat a dessert when you’re already full of seafood and wine. I did it anyway. Because they had an ice cream sundae with cider donut holes and butterscotch sauce. So how could I not at least try it? It was worth the pain and the calories. I walked back to the hotel after dinner because I found it necessary.
Good for: breakfast & lunch
I found this when I was research best breakfasts in Portland, and my whole experience there was terrific. It’s a small place on the first floor of an old Victorian house, so it maybe seats 40-50 people. I snagged a seat at the bar and already knew what I wanted to order – the fried green tomato benedict. With cheesy grits. I chose correctly.
The benedict had 3 friend green tomato slices strategically placed over the two English muffin halves. The eggs were perfectly poached the hollandaise was dreamy. The grits had shredded cheddar sprinkled over them and it melted into them and was perfect. The service was great too.
Good for: lunch & dinner
I read a few different articles talking about how good Duck Fat is. So I’d already had it on my list. But what locked it in even further was when I was talking to a foodie friend prior to my trip and he told me “you have to go to Duck Fat”.
It’s this quaint spot that had a few tables outside, a small bar, and maybe 8 tables inside. I think I got there around 1pm and there were a bunch of people waiting, but again – being a solo diner – I snagged the last spot at the bar.
Duck fat’s claim to fame is their duck fat frites. You can order a small or large and it comes with house-made dipping sauces. Their menu has a few Panini sandwiches and a couple specials and that’s it. But it’s perfect.
So I had the fries with a curry mayo that was fantastic. And I ordered a vegetarian Panini that had roasted delicata squash, turnip, leek and cauliflower kraut, boursin cheese and brown butter-sage mayo. It was perfectly toasted and gooey on the inside. The mix of flavors was perfection. Like it was so good that I will probably try to recreate it at home. They also feature a daily “spritz” and when I was there it was basically a maple apple soda. It was crisp and refreshing and not too sweet.
Good for: breakfast & lunch
So while I had scouted Hot Suppa well in advance, I found myself Wednesday morning not having any idea where to eat breakfast! I did some searching and found this spot called Dutch’s, whose menu featured a variety of breakfast sandwiches. And I am a sucker for a good breakfast sandwich, so I decided to give it a try.
Now, those who know me know how much I love the breakfast sandwiches at Egg Slut in LA (I think there is one in Vegas now too). I mean, I have gone out of my way more than once to get a sandwich there. But Dutch’s? It’s now my favorite east coast breakfast sandwich. And maybe my all time favorite. Don’t tell Egg Slut.
This sandwich. OMG. It was served on a sesame brioche roll. It had pulled ham (like pulled pork only hammier), fried egg, pimento cheese, cheddar cheese and red pepper jelly. Sweet and salty and savory – and so messy! It oozed all over with every bite, so I think I went through like 10 napkins. But it was so delicious and satisfying.
The inside of Dutch’s is really cool too. It sort of looks like an old diner inside. Very spacious. You order a the counter and they bring your food out to you. They had a long counter facing the window and that’s where I sat. So that way passersby could see what a mess I was making.
Mt. Desert Ice Cream
Good for: Ice Cream (duh)
I had read about this place while doing my research, and it was said to have very interesting and unusual flavors. I don’t know if it was because it’s sort of the end of ice cream season but the flavor selection was definitely limited. I had the butterscotch miso. It was sweet with just a tiny hint of salty and the only downside is that it was 80 degrees outside and it was melting almost too quickly for me to keep up with it. But I would say that if you’re wanting some really good ice cream, give them a try.
Good for: Coffee
I’ll admit – I’m a bit of a coffee snob. I do not drink in-room coffee at a hotel unless they have liquid creamer. But even then, I would much rather get a really good coffee at a local spot (i.e., not Starbucks). So I found a coffee shop that was 5 minutes from my hotel and walked over on my last morning in Portland.
This place totally reminded me of a coffee place in Kansas City that was in my old neighborhood. It was laid back and cozy and they had a very basic menu. I don’t need a fancy coffee – I’ve become a straight up latte kind of girl (with almond milk because whole milk makes me feel a little bloated). Their latte was perfect and delicious and I would totally go back there again.
I had scoped out a spot called Tandem Bakery that I think would have been wonderful, but unfortunately for me they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So I’ll have to catch them next time I visit (and there will definitely be a next time).
If you’re looking for other spots to eat and drink in Portland, here are some of the resources I used and would recommend.