Quick Picks for Portland, ME: Best Restaurants

Take a cue from the National Historic Trust and make it a point to visit Portland, Maine at least once in your lifetime. This quintessential New England town has been honored as one of the organization’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations. And with good reason.

Rich in culture and rife with beauty, the small but vibrant city of Portland has tons to offer. Located on the southern coast of Maine about 90 miles north of Boston, Portland is the metropolitan heart of the eastern state. Whether you are soaking in the great nightlife, checking out the historical architecture or marveling at the scenic coastline and majestic mountains, you will have a memorable time.

And when it comes to food, the place is a culinary Mecca that takes advantage of its many local farms, fishing grounds, dairies, and apiaries. The city’s small population also makes melding of ideas between chefs easy, leading to creative and constantly evolving dishes.

We turned to writer and in-the-know local Wil Whalen for his quick picks. Here are his recommendations:

High-End Destinations

Places you’d take a date, the parents, or go to for any special occasion. At these restaurants, it’s about the total experience.

Grace Restaurant
15 Chestnut Street
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 828-4422
www.restaurantgrace.com

Without a doubt the two most stylish restaurants in Portland, Maine are Grace and Fore Street. The food at both places is amazing. Grace is an old Catholic Church that has been renovated into a restaurant, but the ambience of the church is still there. Just walking inside it is breathtaking.

Fore Street
288 Fore Street
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 775-2717
www.forestreet.biz

Fore Street has been a staple in Portland for a long time.  Great food, great service, great drinks.  It’s the perfect place for a romantic date or to take out-of-state visitors. The low lighting gives it a cozy feel.

Solid Selections

Well-priced restaurants that feature a wonderful atmosphere and incredible food. These are a person’s “go-to” place whenever they’re asked for a recommendation.

Otto Pizza
576 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 773-7099
www.ottoportland.com

Otto Pizza makes some of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.  It’s a tiny place on Congress Street.  One side is a slicery and the other side is a small dining room with table service and a bar.  The staff is awesome and the food is amazing.  If you’re an adventurous person try their mashed potato pizza.

Nosh Kitchen Bar
551 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 553-2227
www.noshkitchenbar.com

Specializing in pork, Nosh is a great place that has been featured on Travel Channel’s Man v. Food. Bacon dusted fries – need I say more?

Secret Stashes

These are primarily known by the locals, covering any budget and any type of food; special, secret, and adored by those in the know.

J’s Oyster Bar
5 Portland Pier
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 772-4828

It’s REALLY hard to find a local’s only place in Portland because the tourists or the Food Network always finds them.  J’s Oyster Bar is about as close as you can get.  It’s packed 365 days a year.  A true hole-in-the-wall dive bar with some of the most amazing seafood you’ll ever eat. And it’s very affordable.  The staff can be a little gruff sometimes, but honestly that’s part of the charm.

Ruski’s Tavern
212 Danforth St
Portland, ME 04102
(207) 774-7604
Ruski’s Facebook page

Ruski’s is probably the only place I know of that the tourists haven’t found.  A tiny hole-in-the wall at the West end that is ALWAYS packed. Great food, hearty portions, cheap drinks, fun staff. It’s the kind of place where you know half the patrons as soon as you walk in.

Wil Whalen is an award-winning freelance writer/music blogger from Portland, Maine. Check him out at
dangerwilrobinson.blogspot.com.

 

Have six places in your city that people should know about? Submit your Quick Picks to editor@firsttoknow.com and we may use them for the column.

Check out all our Quick Picks features:
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Houston, TX
Orange County, CA
Portland, OR
San Diego, CA

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