Eat & Drink

Portland, Maine Is The USA’s Surprising Best City For Foodies

As one of the East Coast’s most beloved small cities, it’s unsurprising to hear that more international tourists are heading on over to Portland, Maine, especially when the former state capital is consistently named one of the top foodie destinations in the United States. A focus on local, sustainable produce and simple techniques has laid the groundwork for a uniformly excellent and energetic dining scene.

Here are just five must-have American dining experiences to give you a good idea of what to expect when eating your way through this dreamy New England city.

The Highroller Lobster Co.

 

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Famous for their lobster and crab rolls, Highroller began life as a roaming food cart before graduating to a brick-and-mortar diner. The kitchen’s trendy twists on classic Maine staples include indulgences like Deep-Fried Lobster Tail, served in similar fashion to a classic corn dog with dripping warm butter; an enormous Surf & Turf burger with warm lobster meat atop a brisket patty; and a gluten-free lobster bisque with butternut squash and sherry.

Though it’s the sandwich that’ll likely win you over: a US$19 (AU$27.60) Lobster Grilled Cheese made with English muffin loaf, holding a gooey web of Jarlsberg flecked with chunks of fresh Maine lobster. This sure isn’t the healthiest option, so make it up to yourself afterwards by wandering through the gorgeous cobblestoned streets and aged alleys of Old Port.

Where: 104 Exchange St, Portland, ME

Hot Suppa

 

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As Portland’s favourite breakfast spot, Hot Suppa is a Southern-styled diner with some seriously delicious comfort food. It’s a tough decision scrolling through the menu, with highlights like a Pulled Pork Egg Sandwich served with pickled red onion, smoked cheddar, and South Carolina BBQ sauce on sourdough; The Mother Clucker with fried chicken breast, buttermilk biscuit, cheddar curds and sausage gravy; and an old fashioned Waffle Plate with two eggs any style, bacon, and sausage links. Most options come with a side of grapefruit, and an extra US$2 will have them add local Maine maple syrup to anything.

Or you can save this spot for the evening and dive into their dinner menu: a genuine collection of modernised soul food classics, from the Hot Cat (cornmeal crusted catfish fillet) with grits, shrimp, chilli peppers and spicy butter, to the Pimento Cheeseburger with Maine beef, tobacco onions, and green tomato chow on a crusty Kaiser roll.

Where: 703 Congress St, Portland, ME

Eventide Oyster Co.

 

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Eventide‘s original location in Portland is one of the most celebrated dining spots in New England, renowned for its offering of at least a dozen types of freshly shucked oysters, various hot and cold small plates, and deliciously buttery buns.

The latter category includes a crunchy Korean Fried Chicken option with kimchi and cucumber; a Fried Winter Point Oyster bun with tartar and pickled veggies; and the signature Brown Butter Lobster Roll, which eschews tradition by tossing the blend of chunky fresh lobster in nutty brown butter and serving it warm. Out of all the many lobster rolls you can try during your time in Portland, this is the absolute best.

Where: 86 Middle St, Portland, ME

Becky’s Diner

Becky's Diner Portland Maine Chris Singh

Becky’s Diner. Image: Chris Singh

Opened by Rebecca Rand on Portland’s breezy waterfront in 1991, Becky’s has gone from a modest family-run diner to a certified dining icon, counting the likes of Bill Clinton, Susan Sarandon and Taylor Swift as previous customers. It’s all about basics here, an expansive and energetic old-school American diner with a warm local vibe and an endless menu. It’s where you’d find the coveted traditional Maine lobster roll, which is served at market price and features a quarter-pound of fresh lobster meat with mayo and lettuce alongside melted butter, French fries and a pickle. Drip some of the butter onto the rich chunks of lobster and take a big bite to enjoy one of the state’s essential eats.

Rand originally opened the diner to cater for the odd working hours of local fishermen, so if you’re a particularly early riser (or very late sleeper) then note that Becky’s actually opens at 4am each day and buzzes right up until 9pm (10pm on Friday and Saturdays during summer).

Where: 390 Commercial St, Portland, ME

UNION Restaurant

UNION restaurant portland maine Chris Singh

UNION Restaurant. Image: Chris Singh

Part of The Press Hotel, UNION Restaurant is farm-to-table done exactly right, making full use of the state’s abundant seasonal produce to deliver exciting, simple dishes throughout the day. Executive Chef Josh Berry leads a kitchen that takes pride in provenance as they put together everything from healthy breakfast bowls like Warm Chai Spiced Quinoa, to popular dinner dishes like Braised Rabbit Fazzoletti with whipped provolone tomato and warming spices.

Though it’s hard to beat this place for hearty breakfasts, like the perfectly made Omelette with two farm fresh eggs and any three choices from the likes of bacon, cheddar and local cold water lobster. The morning menu reads like a discerning New England chef’s wish list, so repeat visits are a must.

Where: 390 Congress St, Portland, ME