Food and Drink in Portland (Maine)
According to the Maine Restaurant Association, Portland is home to about 230 restaurants. Although many restaurants are within the downtown area, some good ones are located on the outskirts and are worth the trek. Seafood is a staple, with lobster being the star. Almost every restaurant features a "lobster roll," which is basically fresh picked meat from the lobster brushed with sweet butter and served on a toasted roll with (or without) mayonnaise. Other traditional dishes include whole lobster boiled or steamed under seaweed at a seaside lobster bake.
The Portland Lobster Company: For a truly Portland seafood experience, head to The Portland Lobster Company, specializing in you-know-what -- lobster. Big appetites can order the Downeast Feast, which includes lobster, steamers (Maine steamed clams), corn on the cob, coleslaw and fries (180 Commercial Street).
Dimillo's on the Water: Situated in a converted car ferry on the Portland waterfront, Dimillo's on the Water offers fresh seafood with an Italian flair. Choose from items like the Lobster Roll, Beer Battered Fish and Chips, the Maine Crab Club, plus a number of traditional Italian dishes such as Chicken Parmigiana. While you dine, you can watch the sights and sounds of Portland Harbor from the outside decks or enjoy the water views from every window in the dining room. (25 Long Wharf; open daily at 11 a.m.).
The Front Room: Serving American comfort food made from local ingredients, The Front Room offers classics such as Croque Monsieur (French for grilled ham and cheese), eggs benny, or biscuits and gravy. The cozy restaurant boasts warm woodwork and lots of windows overlooking the scenic Eastern Promenade (73 Congress Street; daily brunch 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.).
Becky's Diner: Eat where the locals eat at Becky's Diner. Here you'll see a mix of waterfront workers sitting at the long counter, elbow-to-elbow with tourists in the know. This diner-style restaurant serves generous breakfasts made from local ingredients, such as their French toast cooked with fresh-baked Italian bread. And the vast lunch menu includes items ranging from the ubiquitous Lobster Roll to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, along with typical diner fare such as all-day breakfasts and burgers (390 Commercial Street; open at 4 a.m. daily).
Duckfat: Duckfat is a European-style fry and sandwich shop with reasonable prices. Their Belgian fries are cooked in duck fat for a unique flavor and served in a paper cone, and the milkshakes are made from locally produced ice cream (43 Middle Street; open daily at 11 a.m.).
Five-Fifty-Five: For an exciting gastronomical experience, Five-Fifty-Five offers a brunch menu that is far from just bacon and eggs. Try the Traitor's Eggs -- poached eggs served with lobster meat and a lemony hollandaise sauce. Maine Restaurant Association named Owner/Chef Steve Corry 2011 Chef of the Year (555 Congress Street).
Casual, Out of Town:
Freeport: Gritty McDuff's is a brew pub that offers more than just pub fare. Enjoy New England's classic seafood complemented by a pint of hand-crafted ale. There's even a playground onsite for the kiddies to play while you wait (187 Lower Main Street).
Peaks Island: The Inn on Peaks is owned by the Shipyard Brewery and its pub offers views of the Portland skyline. Choose from menu selections such as burgers wraps or the signature Buffalo-fried Maine Shrimp -- beer-battered shrimp served with a blue cheese dip and a spicy Buffalo sauce (33 Island Ave.).
Cape Elizabeth: On the rocky shores of Cape Elizabeth, adjacent to the famous Portland Head Light, sits The Lobster Shack at Two Lights. Enjoy the inexpensive yet fresh menu selections at picnic tables that overlook the surf, or eat inside the dining room, which features simple furnishings and large picture windows (225 Two Lights Road).
Don't Miss in Portland (Maine)
Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad: Take a ride on a historic narrow gauge steam train. The train departs on the hour between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and passengers can enjoy the view of Casco Bay while riding along the waterfront by the Eastern Promenade (58 Fore Street).
Portland Head Light: Maine's oldest lighthouse, built during George Washington's presidency, is located on the shores of Cape Elizabeth. Originally, the 80-ft. tower was lit with 16 whale-oil lamps. Today there are a number of interpretive displays at the onsite museum (1000 Shore Road).
Portland Observatory: Climb the 103 steps to the top and enjoy the views of Portland and Casco Bay. This signal tower is the only remaining wooden maritime signal station in the U.S. It was built in 1807 and is currently listed on the National Landmark Registry (138 Congress Street).
Victoria Mansion: Originally built in 1858 for a wealthy New Orleans hotelier, the Italian villa-style mansion has graceful verandahs, a four-story tower and a lavish interior. The house was named for Britain's Queen Victoria when it was turned into a museum in 1941. Visitors can tour the property, which still boasts 90 percent of its original contents such as gas light fixtures, elaborate wall paintings and exquisite woodwork (109 Danforth Street).
Wadsworth-Longfellow House: Built in 1785, this is the boyhood home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was the first wholly brick dwelling in Portland and now features a collection of Maine's historical artifacts (489 Congress Street).
Maine Historical Society Museum: Located next door to the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, this museum houses exhibitions that feature art and artifacts that bring Maine history to life (489 Congress Street).Explore Peaks Island: Take the 15-minute ferry ride (56 Commercial Street) from Maine State Pier to Peaks Island. On the island, you can rent a bike from Brad's Recycled Bike Shop for $14 per day (115 Island Ave.), or take a guided kayak trip to explore the protected waterways of Casco Bay -- you'll paddle past Civil War-era forts, lighthouses and seal-covered ledges (70 Luther Street).
Shop in Freeport: The well-known outlet shopping destination includes the L.L. Bean flagship store, which is open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year (95 Main Street). New attractions in the store include a 24-ft. riverbed aquarium alive with fish and turtles native to Maine.
Stroll the Village of Kennebunkport, Maine: Located about 45 minutes south of Portland, this charming coastal village features several Federal- and Victorian-style homes built by wealthy merchants and sea captains in the 1700's and 1800's. Today it is regarded as one of the most expensive vacation areas in the Northeast (the Bush family has a home here). Visitors can explore the small district of art galleries, seafood restaurants and souvenir shops.