Every year I take a handful of trips up to Portland, ME. It’s one of my favorite places to visit. Winter, Summer, Spring – there’s no wrong time to go. You can spend a day, or five, and still leave wanting more.
Most of my trips to Portland turn into never-ending restaurant crawls. The maze of streets in between Commercial and Congress are flooded with incredible places to eat, drink and shop. And every time I return, there’s a number of new places that have been added to the roster as independent business owners continue to open up shop. An inexpensive hospitality oasis less than 2 hours from Boston; If you haven’t made a trip yet you should seriously start asking yourself “Why?”
Here’s my hit list…
Hunt & Alpine Club: For cocktail and popcorn. Throw in a Børd for good measure, like The Hunter (one animal, two ways) or The Skier (more cheese please).
Duckfat: A Portland staple, this place has earned it’s reputation for it’s fries, and rightfully so. Their classic Belgium fries made from local Maine potatoes which are then fried in duckfat. You can get them hand cut and straight up with your choice of dipping sauce, or go all out with an order of Poutine topped with cheese curd, duck gravy, and fresh chives. Fried egg optional.
The Honey Paw: The newest restaurant from Chef/Co-Owner Andrew Taylor & Arlin Smith (See Eventide and Hugo’s); The Honey Paw is a delightful place to start or end your culinary journey on Middle St. The menu boasts a big offering of house made noodles and small plates which show some Asian influence, but for the most part are globally inspired. Along with wines on draft and a beer list offerings from around the world, this place provides one of the most unique I’ve had to date. I could not word it any better than Joe Ricchio over at Maine Magazine who’s review is so perfectly done, I feel like I re-experience the restaurant every time I read it (which is more times than I care to admit).
Eventide: The Honey Paws (older) sister restaurant, and conveniently located right next door, is a must for oysters, bubbles, and the best lobster roll you will ever eat, topped with brown butter vinaigrette and served in a bao bun.
East Ender: Another must on Middle St., this newcomer has seasonal small plates and craft cocktails.
Bubba’s Sulky Lounge: I’m pretty sure this is where the original Saturday Night Live dancefloor is currently being housed. It’s one of the weirdest places you will ever go, but after a day of drinking and eating you might feel inclined to get some cardio in. Dance like a crazy person, you’ll feel right at home.
Local 188: For brunch! After a long day, and night, of drinking and eating there’s only one thing left to do… top it off with one final meal for the ages. I’ll be totally honest, I’ve had a few misses on service when dining at this place, but in the end the food has always made up for it. From the giant pancake (the size of a small child, cooked in a cast iron skillet for 20 minutes before being topped with whipped cream) or the huevos rancheros and bubbly breakfast cocktails, this place will put a little pep back in your step before heading back to Boston.
Standard Baking Co: Stop here before leaving town and bring a little Portland home with you. The family owned baking co has been a staple in downtown portland since 1995. Known for it’s pain au chocolate, almond galletes and endless list of house baked breads made with standard’s own organic starters and locally sourced all natural ingredients. Baked goods always make for the best souvenirs IMPO.