Updated Nov 2021
Portland Maine has an incredible number of great eating places. Whether formal sitdown places or more casual places where you can pick up a snack, you will not go hungry. Hint: make reservations in advance….especially during peak seasons. Here are some of our favorite places to eat (and one that has fallen off of our list).
Fore Street Restaurant is our number 1 pick to eat in Portland. The former warehouse has been restored to a lovely atmosphere with a large open kitchen with a wood-burning oven. Past memorable meals have been wood-grilled squid (with heirloom tomatoes, butter lettuce, roasted corn, and charred vinaigrette), oven-roasted Atlantic black sea bass (with herbed celery, mushrooms, sherry wild mushroom butter, and roasted cabbage), and quail. And of course, the Maine staple, lobster. If you have the room, try the cheese dessert plate.
Scales is part of the same restaurant group that owns Fore Street. You can never go wrong with lobster here…especially the excellent pan-roasted lobster with herbed garlic butter. On our 2021 visit, we were disappointed by the overly salted clam chowder but also loved the steamers in their rich broth. We couldn’t resist tasting the delicious apple crisp with vanilla ice cream dessert. Our minerally, 2019 Francine Bachelier Petit Chablis with a rounded finish complimented the food perfectly.
The same group as Fore Street also owns Street and Company (is there a theme here?). We started with briny Damariscotta and Newcastle oysters (we enjoyed both with a slight preference for those from Damariscotta). Our entrees were excellent. The grilled lobster came with perfectly cooked linguini, olive oil, and loads of garlic. The stew with clams, mussels, and swordfish was in an incredibly rich and tasty saffron broth. Our wine was a pleasant 2019 Oro de Castille Verdejo.
Whether you go here for a meal, for drinks, or just to listen to the live music, its outside deck (it also has a tented area) offers a nice view of the Old Port. In addition to a lively fun atmosphere, the food is quite good. We had a delicious bowl of steamer clams and a tasty dish of fried belly clams.
This is not a place to go if you are watching your cholesterol. But what a treat at this ultra-casual spot. Its Belgium fries cooked in duck fat are legionary, and worth a calorie splurge. They also have interesting paninis. If you like fries, another place to check out is Nosh Kitchen Bar and its bacon fat-fired fries.
This fully stocked Italian grocery store is fun to wander through. But it is also a great place for a casual meal. The star of the show is its delicious gooey Sicilian pizza with fluffy and very tasty dough. You can get a pizza to go or they have a small area to sit down to eat. And, for dessert, check out the cannolis.
Most people would put Eventide Oyster Company on their top restaurant list. We would have done so too until our 2021 visit. This visit was so disappointing that we doubt we will ever return. To be fair, any restaurant can have a bad day. And, all restaurants were struggling with a lack of staff at this time. But it wasn’t the service that turned us off. It was the food. The pricey meal (compared to similar dishes at other restaurants) of tiny lobster rolls in doughy buns and tasteless fried oysters was a huge turnoff. OK, maybe we will re-think taking it off our list permanently. But with so many other great places to eat in Portland, it is now definitely on the bottom of our list. To help you decide, here are some of our previous more positive experiences.
2018:This immensely popular, casual restaurant and oyster bar was packed for Sunday brunch. We had a fried hake sandwich with tartar sauce and a wonderfully rich Sunday brunch special, the restaurant’s signature brown butter lobster on a steamed bun and topped with two runny-yolk poached eggs and hollandaise sauce.
2015: We started with a selection of three types of local oysters from our favorites Browne and Norumbega (both from Damariscotta) and John’s River (from South Bristol). To accompany the oysters, our server highly recommended their own concoction–frozen, fresh-squeezed horseradish juice (very interesting, in moderation). We also had a number of small dishes. These, from our favorite, down were: Fried Winterpoint oyster on a bun with tartar sauce and pickled vegetables, Brown butter lobster roll, fried BBQ oysters with Korean BBQ emulsion and pickled cauliflower, and last (not because it wasn’t good, but just because there was nothing unusual or special about it), tuna tartare. Our only reservations about the food was the bun used with our two favorite dishes, while tasty, was a bit gummy for our taste.