The centre of Portland is warm, welcoming and absolutely charming with its red brick buildings, its docks projecting into Casco Bay and its fishing boats.
Marked by a major locavore wave and described as “Foodiest small town in America” in 2009 by Bon Appetit, Portland is irresistible for food lovers.
Overview of a long and tasty weekend.
For the pleasure of brunching
Pay attention! As you drive through the streets of Portland, you’ll see more than one car with the “Becky’s Diner, Nothin’ Finah” sticker on it! “Becky’s Diner is an institution in Portland. Locals and visitors crowd along the counter or on the beautiful terrace on the second floor to enjoy their famous blueberry pancakes above the docks, overlooking the bay (390 Commercial Street).
Friendly dinner with a varied menu, including omelettes as thin as a pancake to garnish to your taste. For an omelette that goes off the beaten track, top it with their slightly spicy meat chili and cheese. All served with thick crispy roasts (47 Oak Street).
Located directly on the Portland docks since 1929, Le Porthole is a charming establishment where you can eat lobster at brunch. Lunches and dinners are also served. In good weather, you can enjoy its terrace along the quays. (20 Custom House Wharf).
They have renovated since my visit. The scenery is no longer as picturesque (I liked the pale blue wall and the old posters). Nevertheless, it is still a choice address.
A lunch at the DuckFat
Chef Rob Evans is one of the chefs who helped establish the Locavore philosophy in Portland. Its renowned Hugo’s restaurant (88 Middle Street) is one of the most famous in the city. Whether you have the chance to dine there or not, you have to plan a lunch at the Duckfat, Chief Evans’ high-end delirium.
As its name suggests, duck is in the spotlight, both in their salads or paninis with duck confit and in their famous chips cooked in duck fat (which can be served with homemade ketchup with truffles, among other things). For dessert, we buy a Tahiti vanilla milkshake, a tasty and refreshing treat (43 Middle Street).
Unavoidable Lobster rolls
What would a stay in Maine be without Lobster roll?
While they are easy to find (they are on the menu in many restaurants), they are not always satisfactory. Who’s interested in a mayonnaise sandwich with shredded lobster on top? Instead, we want a roll generously filled with beautiful large pieces of lobster, nothing less! Here are some establishments where the Lobster rolls will not disappoint you.
Portland Lobster Co.
Very little, if any, mayonnaise, the Lobster roll from Portland Lobster Co is a sure bet in the heart of the city centre. To be enjoyed at the outdoor counter, with your feet hanging at the end of the platform! (180 Commercial Street).
The Lobster Shack at Two Lights.
You have to leave Portland and drive about 15 minutes south to Cape Elizabeth and taste the delicious Lobster rolls of the Lobster Shack at Two Lights. A true institution, be prepared to line up if you go there on a sunny summer’s day.
But this little wait is worth its weight in lobster; well toasted bread, generous topping, mayonnaise “next door” to control the amount added… but above all, taste it all with a view of the sea, it’s priceless! (225 Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth).
3 suggestions for dinner
Booking a table at Fore Street should be a reflex as soon as you plan to move to Portland! With chef Evans (Hugo’s and Duckfat), Fore Street chef Sam Hayward is among the city’s most renowned chefs. Its motto: local and organic as much as possible. Moreover, as you enter the restaurant, you can see on the right the pretty glass room where the fruits and vegetables of the day are placed, and where the cooks will draw during the evening. We know this, because the kitchen is open to the dining room, so you can enjoy the show of busy cooks in front of the wood-burning ovens throughout the evening.
It is difficult to talk about the menu with any precision since it changes daily depending on the harvests and arrivals. If you are lucky enough to see it à la carte, the seafood tasting tray (which includes several bites of tartar and ceviche) is a great introduction. On the plate, the scallops were fresh and medium. Even the bread served on Fore Street is a treat in itself.
Such an interesting restaurant that remains unpretentious (the waiters are made of jeans), it really tastes like coming back! (288 Fore Street)
A Mediterranean-style cuisine, generous, both chic and franquette. The antipasti tray is very interesting. When they are on the menu, we also taste polenta fries for a little crunch! On beautiful summer evenings, the nicely illuminated wooden terrace creates a charming atmosphere. A little away from the busy streets of the centre, Caiola’s is worth a visit. (58 Pine Street).
Street & co.
More classic, the Street & co offers mainly fish and seafood. Located in the pretty brick-walled dining room, you can enjoy clam pasta, garlic butter lobster, and whole grilled fish. As a starter, the lobster bread pudding was a success. (33 Wharf Street)
To get the chance to eat at this address I heard a lot about during a long weekend in Portland, don‘t do like me and go there on Saturday evening: they are closed on Sundays and Mondays. As for me, better luck next time… (Read: a good excuse to go back!) (111 Middle Street).
Good beers from Maine
Maine, where many microbreweries produce hundreds of beers, is a paradise for beer lovers.
While staying in the Portland locavore, you can choose Shipyard, Allagash, Gritty’s, Geary’s, Sebago, Sea Dog and other beers brewed directly in town or within a few kilometres of it.
To enjoy a local beer on the terrace:
I’m Oyster.Nice establishment on the docks. Ideal for an aperitif, a few oysters and a good beer. The waterfront terrace is charming (5 Portland Pier).
The Thirsty Pig. You can enjoy a local beer with various homemade sausages. Nice terrace at the back (37 Exchange Street).
A sweet note
Two FatCats Bakery.
Behind the yellow facade of Two Fat Cats are a host of old-fashioned pastries, including their famous whoopie pies (mentioned on The Best Thing I Ever Ate on the Food Network, fall 2010). Far from being a pie, these half biscuit half cake treats will fill the sweet tooth of more than one gourmet (47 India Street).