Where to Eat in Portland, Maine

Updated 7/13/16

Portland, Oregon gets a lot of attention for its food scene, but Portland, Maine is hot on its heels. Bon Appétit Magazine recently named Portland as the “Foodiest Small Town in America.” After numerous trips to Portland in the last couple of years, I whole-heartedly concur and have given my recommendations on where to eat in Portland, Maine. Long known for its lobster and seafood, Portland now boasts a number of James Beard award-winning chefs among its 200 restaurants, and is at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, with many restaurants featuring locally grown, raised or fished ingredients.

Maine also has a very strong beer culture, and the Greater Portland area is home to nearly 20 breweries, some of which are recognized nationally.

As charming as a city as Portland is — with its Old Port shopping, harbor tours, and popular art museum — my favorite thing to do in Portland is EAT! It has taken a couple of years to write this post because every time we go back, we try something new. Have something to add? Leave a comment!

Where to Eat in Portland, ME

The thing about Portland is that, while it is a great city to visit with kids, not all of the restaurants are super kid-friendly. Many don’t take reservations and in high season command hour-plus waits for tables. Others focus on a very narrow menu of locally sourced ingredients. Depending on your family’s dining preferences, sure to choose carefully.

Breakfast

Bayside American Cafe formerly Bintliffs — we ate here when it was called Bintliffs, but it has had the same owners since 2003 and I would expect the same excellent choices to continue. Located in an old two-story building in the Bayside neighborhood, Bintliff’s American Cafe was founded by Roger Bintliff in 1990. It quickly became a local landmark and has long been popular among Portlanders for its famous brunch. Joe and Diane Catoggio purchased the restaurant in 2003 and have continued the Bintliff’s brunch tradition. The inside is decorated in a funky and eclectic cafe chic decor. Breakfast features an array of eggs benedict selections (my favorite), along with specialties like granola-crusted french toast and dark chocolate waffles. And yes, you can get lobster…lobster eggs benedict, lobster frittata, lobster omelettes…you name it.

98 Portland Street, Portland, ME 04101, 207-774-0005. Reservations accepted. Decor = Charming, Food = Tasty and creative, Price = moderate, Kid-friendly = yes.

The Holy Donut — I’ve had my eye on Holy Donut for a couple of years but often arrived into Portland late in the afternoon and found their inventory already sold out for the day. This year, I arrived just a few minutes after they opened and had my choice of the bunch. These hearty, potato flour donuts are freshly made (when they are gone, they are gone) in a wide variety of flavors including Real Mojito, Toasted Coconut, and Dark Chocolate sea salt. If you liked filled donuts, they have some interesting options like Holy Cannoli and Bacon Cheddar. They even offer vegan, sweet potato, and gluten-free options. We sampled three flavors on our recent trip, the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt (my favorite), Pomegranate glazed, and Maple Bacon. Each donut is large and the potato flour gives it a heavier consistency so they are very filling (and delicious!)

Holy Donut has two locations but in the Old Port is 7 Exchange Street, Portland, ME 04102, 207-775-7776. Go early because they close when they run out of donuts. Decor = coffee shop casual with a few seats available, Food = delicious and creative, Price = moderate, Kid-friendly = yes.

Holy Donut -- the best donuts in Portland Maine!

Dark chocolate sea salt donut from Holy Donut

Bonus: We still haven’t made it here, but friends that visit every year swear by Becky’s Diner.

Lunch

Duckfat— Duckfat is the first restaurant everyone mentions to me when we ask them where to eat in Portland. And with salty fries cooked crispy in duck fat, super thick milkshakes, and condiments like truffle ketchup, how could they not? As you approach Duckfat, it is easily apparent that you aren’t the only one to have heard of this eatery from the long line you will find out front. If you go during the summer, don’t be surprised to wait an hour or more on the sidewalk for your turn to squeeze into a tiny table. Also, while fries and milkshakes sound like a kid’s dream, the menu may not be well-suited for picky eaters. Outside of these decadent offerings, Duckfat also offers a small selection of salads and sandwiches. On our visit, I tried the B.G.T. panini (bacon, goat cheese and tomato) and Hannah had a salad. They were good but the fries are definitely the main attraction.

43 Middle Street, Portland, ME, 207-774-8080. Does not accept reservations. Decor = crowded, rustic cafe, Food = worth a trip, Price = moderate, Kid-friendly = if they are patient and not too picky.

Duckfat -- Where to eat in Portland Maine

Fries and milkshakes at Duckfat

East Ender — If you don’t want to wait in the crazy long lines at Duckfat, head next door to East Ender. Good for lunch or dinner, East Ender offers an interesting gastro-pub menu and a wide selection of beers in a casual setting. Picky eaters should be ok if you doctor up some of the menu options like grilled cheese with tomato jam or the cold smoked burger with gochujang ketchup, onion jam, stilton and steak fries. Lobster lovers will also be happy with options like the fried lobster sandwich with peppadew relish and lobster aioli. When we visited, we tried the lobster nachos, but I have to admit that I prefer my lobster in the classic style and not mixed with other foods.

47 Middle Street, Portland, ME, 207-879-7669. Reservations are accepted. Decor = exposed brick, two-story old building with a comfortable, casual vibe, Food = good, Service = helpful and friendly, Price = moderate, Kid-friendly = yes, but no kid’s menus.

Lobster nachos at East Ender in Portland Maine

Lobster nachos at East Ender

Bite into Maine — If you head out of town to the scenic lookout at Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park, just outside of downtown Portland, you can find the Bite into Maine lobster truck. I highly recommend a stop here for the classic Maine views, but also for what may be the best lobster roll ever. Their lobster roll with wasabi aioli may just be the perfect combination of flavors and well worth the trip.

Bite into Maine is open May 9th – October 31st at Fort Williams Park 1000 Shore Rd Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107, 207.420.0294. They close when they sell out! Food = worth a trip, Price = moderate, Kid-friendly = as long as they like lobster!

Dinner

Eventide Oyster Co. — It was only about a year ago that I discovered the wonder of oysters and now I just can’t get enough. My preference is for New England oysters so I didn’t want our most recent visit to Maine to be all about lobster. Eventide was the perfect choice. Not only do they have a huge selection of oysters in the raw bar (and do a great job guiding you to which oysters are the best match for your taste), but they also have a crispy oyster bun with pickled veggies. While their lobster roll and oyster bun have the shape of a small hotdog bun, like the classic lobster rolls, they have the soft consistency of an Asian bun. Eventide focuses on hot and cold small plates, so it is great to order a few dishes to sample and share. While adults may love the loud music and bar-like atmosphere, it may not be the most kid-friendly. Since they don’t take reservations, people that are waiting an hour or more online tend to congregate on the sidewalk, in the bar and around the edges of the small rooms.

86 Middle Street, Portland, ME, 207-774-8538. Reservations are not accepted. Food = must go!, Price = not cheap, Decor = modern boisterous bistro, Kid-friendly = not really.

Eventide Oyster Company -- Where to go in Portland, Maine

Oysters and the lobster roll at Eventide Oyster Company

Vinland — Vinland focuses entirely on local and organic ingredients to offer food that “delights and satisfies the soul.” The menu is divided into plants, meats, seafood and sweets/cheeses, with options for 10-course tasting menus. You will want to order two to three dishes per person to get to the “satisfied” level. The restaurant itself is small and narrow, with a modern, yet earthy vibe. Each dish is plated differently to showcase the ingredients, so you selection may arrive on a slab of slate or a wooden platter, but in any form it will be beautifully designed and sculpted. We sampled  a variety of dishes including grilled cornbread, crispy skin chicken, and black trumpet lobster. Kids may have a tough time with the limited menu and quiet, more refined dining room.

593 Congress Street, Portland, Maine, 207-653-8617. Reservations are accepted. Food = great for foodies, Price = Expensive, Decor = sleek and organic, Kid-friendly = not really.

Crispy chicken at Vinland in Portland ME

Crispy chicken at Vinland

Portland Lobster Company — this casual restaurant is perfect for kids and also has a larger outdoor deck with live music. They make the perfect lobster roll (and pretty yummy fries too)…sweet, fresh, with some melted butter.

180 Commercial St., Portland, Maine, (207) 775-2112, crackin@portlandlobstercompany.com. Food = fresh and delicious, primarily seafood, Price = moderate, Decor = casual, counter service, Kid-friendly = definitely, as long as they like seafood, burgers or hot dogs.

Portland Lobster company lobster roll

Lobster roll at Portland Lobster Company

Next on my list to try — Fore Street Restaurant — just as soon as I get a reservation.

Dessert

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream — if you want some homemade ice cream in interesting flavors (like butterbeer), then Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream is the place to go.

51 Exchange Street, Portland, ME

PIN THIS FOR LATER

Where to eat in Portland Maine -- some of our favorite restaurants from the many trips we've made to Portland including Duckfat, Eventide, Holy Donut and more.

We head up to Portland every year so I would love to hear your suggestions and favorite restaurants in the comments below.

Mentioned in this post
  1. Bayside American Cafe formerly Bintliffs
    Restaurant in Portland Maine

    98 Portland St
    Portland Maine
    (207) 774-0005
    http://www.baysideamericancafe.com/
  2. The Holy Donut
    Restaurant in Portland Maine

    7 Exchange St
    Portland Maine
    (207) 775-7776
    http://theholydonut.com/
  3. Becky's Diner
    Restaurant in Portland Maine

    390 Commercial St
    Portland Maine
    (207) 773-7070
  4. Duckfat
    Restaurant in Portland Maine

    43 Middle St
    Portland Maine
    (207) 774-8080
    http://duckfat.com
  5. East Ender
    Restaurant in Portland Maine

    47 Middle St
    Portland Maine
    (207) 879-7669
    http://eastenderportland.com/
  6. Bite into Maine
    Restaurant in Cape Elizabeth Maine

    1000 Shore Rd
    Cape Elizabeth Maine
    (207) 420-0294
    http://www.biteintomaine.com/
  7. Eventide Oyster Co.
    Restaurant in Portland

    86 Middle St.
    Portland
  8. Vinland
    Restaurant in Portland Maine

    593 Congress St
    Portland Maine
    (207) 653-8617
    http://vinland.me/
  9. Portland Lobster Company
    Restaurant in Portland Maine

    180 Commercial St
    Portland Maine
    (207) 775-2112
    http://portlandlobstercompany.com/
  10. Fore Street Restaurant
    Restaurant in Portland Maine

    288 Fore Street
    Portland Maine
    (207) 775-2717
    http://www.forestreet.biz/
  11. Mount Desert Island Ice Cream
    Restaurant in Cumberland County Maine

    51 Exchange St
    Cumberland County Maine
    (207) 210-3432
    http://www.mdiic.com/

5 Comments on “Where to Eat in Portland, Maine

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  1. I am hungry after reading this now. We were only n Portland for a day and wish we had more time especially to eat. These are great suggestions and thank you for the mention. We loved Portland Lobster Company. My daughter desperately wanted to go to Holy Donut but we got in late. For some ice cream, we loved Beal’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream.

    I would be flattered if you would add Sisters Gourmet Deli to your list of places to visit next time!

      We will be there next weekend and try to stop by!

    I completely agree about the Holy Donut! YUM! Those were probably the best donuts I’ve ever tasted! My favorits were the dark chocolate sea salt and the blueberry glazed. We were only in Portland briefly because we were headed up the coast from the airport, but it seems like a neat city.

      The chocolate sea salt were my favorite too

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