The Best Restaurants in Portland, Maine

The 16 Best Restaurants in Portland, Maine

When you think of Portland, Maine cuisine, a few things likely come to mind. You might imagine Maine’s famous lobster or the oysters that New England is so well-known for. But there’s a lot more to Portland’s restaurant scene than this!

Portland is a city for foodies, with incredible restaurants around every corner that showcase not only traditional Maine cuisine but foods from all over the world. Yes, there’s lobster and oysters and clams, but there are also unique takes on comfort food classics, special spins on a traditional slice of pizza, and some of the best donuts you’ll ever have. Whether you’re craving something Latin-inspired, Japanese, Italian, or simply something that’s mainly from Maine, you’ll find it in Portland! 

Looking for where to eat in Portland, Maine? We’ve compiled a list of the best places to eat in Portland, from taco bars to omakase dining. Eat your way around this list, and you’re bound to have an incredible time in this city built for food lovers.

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The 16 Best Restaurants in Portland, Maine

1. Quanto Basta

Best Restaurants in Portland, Maine: Quanto Basta
Images courtesy of Quanto Basta

Inspired by owner Elizabeth English’s many years of cooking and living in the Campania region of Italy, Quanto Basta is a Neapolitan-style pizzeria and one of the best restaurants in Portland, Maine. What began as a food truck is now a brick-and-mortar location with a menu filled with authentic Italian recipes and fresh ingredients from Maine farms.

The name comes from a term that’s frequently used in Italian cooking that means “to taste” or “however much is enough.” Italian cuisine is often unmeasured and comes from practice and experience, making every dish perfectly imperfect. And that’s exactly how we like it. 

Must Visit Restaurants in Portland, Maine: Quanto Basta

As the menu relies on local farms, it changes with the seasons. But some things are guaranteed when you walk into Quanto Basta, like the unmatchable smell of the fresh pizzas cooking in the custom Italian oven and the light and airy ambiance of the space, complete with white brick walls and a black-and-white marble counter. You’ll find this charming spot over in the West Bayside neighborhood of Portland.


2. Bread & Friends

Unique Restaurants in Portland, Maine: Bread & Friends
Image courtesy of StarChefs

As you might expect, Bread & Friends, one of the best new Portland, Maine restaurants, does two things exceptionally well. The first is their naturally-leavened bread and all the delightful jams and spreads that go on top. 

The second is their very friendly service. Both bread and friends are at the heart of this new bakery and restaurant, as it was started by a pair of two husband-and-wife teams who are long-time friends.

When you step inside this light-filled space, located in the Old Port, you can order at the counter or take a seat at one of the Scandinavian-style light wood tables set against gray brick walls that make the space feel airy. From Thursday through Monday, you can chow down on a brunch filled with shareable treats, a perfect idea for the friends you’ll want to visit with. From Friday through Monday, dinner is also served, offering a variety of dishes that are focused on local produce and delicacies.

For the remainder of the week, the bakery is there to help you get your fix of this eatery’s amazing bread and pastries. Order yourself a coffee from their coffee program made with Bolt Coffee Co. and a sweet treat, like one of their seasonal pop tarts or their ricotta Danish.


3. Wayside Tavern

Best Restaurants in Portland, Maine: Wayside Tavern
Images courtesy of Wayside Tavern

There’s something about Wayside Tavern that just feels like home. This Portland restaurant, located in the Parkside neighborhood, is like your old-fashioned neighborhood watering hole, where everybody knows your name and the bartender is ready to serve you a stiff drink and a big smile.

On the menu are a variety of snacks, small plates, and large plates with a focus on New England favorites, like Maine oysters, broiled scallops, and steamed mussels. On Sundays, they add additional lunch offerings, like smash burgers and croque madames. 

Owned by husband-and-wife team Siobhán and Michael Sindoni, this tavern’s dishes pull from their travels in Italy and Michael’s classic culinary training to create plates that are technically perfect and uniquely theirs. It’s a restaurant where you can find delicacies like foie gras on the same menu as a fried chicken sandwich.


4. Papi

The decor of Papi, one of the best places to eat in Portland, ME, is as vibrant as the flavors on the menu. As soon as you step inside this Old Port find, you’ll be greeted by colors and patterns, from the lush greenery dripping from planters to the ornate tiles on the ceiling to the marbling of the bright white bar.

This new restaurant is inspired by the creative spirit of Puerto Rico, with the menu being filled with dishes taken from owner and beverage director LyAnna Sanabria’s childhood Puerto Rican household in Vermont, owner and executive chef Ronnie Medlock’s childhood summers in Puerto Rico, and front of house manager Gene Valentin’s Puerto Rican and Mexican household. All three believe deeply in uplifting their community through food.

Their menu’s dishes feature Puerto Rican flavors with their own flair, like the Pork Trigongo con Carne Frita, a play on the traditional mofongo, made with plantains, yuca, amarillos, garlic, chicharrón, and butter. To pair with their plates, Papi also has an extensive drink menu, including a list of many cocktails inspired by Latin flavors and spirits.


5. The Ugly Duckling

Cool Restaurants in Portland, Maine: The Ugly Duckling
Images courtesy of Nicole Wolf

There’s nothing ugly about The Ugly Duckling, a new Portland restaurant that’s getting quite a bit of attention. Grab a seat at the horseshoe-shaped bar of this bakery, coffee shop, and luncheonette, with its beautiful exposed brick behind you, and order up a sweet treat or a savory sandwich.

When it comes to this West End restaurant, it’s whatever you want it to be. Need a caffeine fix? Order up a specialty latte. 

Looking for brunch? Sit down and enjoy a breakfast sandwich on one of their homemade buttermilk English muffins. 

Need a little booze? Pick a drink from their specialty cocktail list. Or maybe you just want to take home one of their sweet desserts, like their individual cakes in jars or cookie doughs.


6. Lenora

Inspired by Mexican street food, Lenora is a new find in the Old Port that’s quickly becoming one of the best places to eat in Portland, ME. Husband and wife team Jen and Rian Wyllie call Lenora a taco bar. But that’s a bit of an understatement.

When you enter this restaurant, with its soothing earth-toned palette, hanging lanterns, and bright splashes of color between the teal tiles around the bar and the bright greenery hanging throughout, you’re in for a night filled with flavor. Tacos are indeed on the menu all day long, from the Breakfast Taco, with scrambled eggs and jack cheese, to the Street Corn Taco, with grilled corn and cotija. 

But over on their all-day menu, you’ll also find tostadas and tortas, as well as sandwiches and baked goods on their breakfast menu. Alongside your meal, you’ll also find a litany of drink pairings, from their numerous espresso-based drinks in the morning to their extensive cocktail menu, complete with several takes on a margarita. 


7. Miyake

Best Restaurants in Portland, Maine: Miyake
Images courtesy of Miyake

Miyake may not be a new restaurant, but it’s recently undergone an extensive facelift. The new Miyake now seats 28, with a 10-seat beverage bar, an eight-seat sushi counter, and the remaining banquet seating. The simple, minimalist design of the restaurant lets the food be the star.

How you dine is up to you. Order from the long sushi list, with unique offerings like the Ceviche Roll, made with Japanese snapper and wrapped in soy paper, and the Spicy Maine Lobster Roll, made with locally caught Maine lobster mixed with Kewpie mayo and togarashi. Or go omakase-style and let the chef serve you up their sets of nigiri or sashimi.

The restaurant also offers a selection of cocktails, beer, and wine, as well as a list of either cold or warm sake. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made 30 days in advance. When you book, be sure to note where you’d like to sit, and they’ll do their best to accommodate you. 


8. Dok Mali

Inspired by Thailand’s bustling night markets, Dok Mali serves an array of Thai street food options alongside some truly delicious dim sum. Located in East Bayside, this new restaurant has become one of the top places to eat in the year since it opened.

The space itself is light and airy, with a white marble bar and matching white walls, exposed wood beams, and hanging woven lanterns. The food takes center stage. Dine on dumplings, like the Blossom, made with caramelized minced chicken, ground peanuts, and radish drizzled with coconut sauce. Or go for one of their heartier main courses, like the Lion King, made with braised short ribs, potatoes, carrots, and roasted peanuts in massaman curry.

The drink menu is just as unique and as much of a showstopper. Their cocktail list is made up of specialty drinks and their own twists on classics. One particular fan favorite is their Boba Time, made with gin, lemonade, butterfly pea tea, and peach popping boba.


9. Twelve

Unique Restaurants in Portland, Maine: Twelve
Images courtesy of Meredith Brockington

Housed in a historic building that was recently rebuilt brick by brick, Twelve celebrates all things Maine. This East End find has become one of the best restaurants in Portland, ME, but critics rave that it’s actually already one of the top places to eat in all of the US!

Twelve’s home was initially built as part of the Portland Company train factory 127 years ago. Its official name was “Building 12: Pattern Storehouse,” but it was known better as Twelve. When Prentice Hospitality Group decided to use the old location as their new restaurant’s home, it only made sense to pay homage to its roots. 

But there’s another reason for the name. No matter when you go, you’ll have a different experience as “Twelve” also hints at the fact that the chef builds their menu around the months of the year. Twelve only works with area farmer’s markets, local fish purveyors, and Maine farms to get their seasonal ingredients.

Those ingredients come together in a four-course price-fixe meal. But if you want to go a la carte, you can also grab a table on the patio or sit at the bar. Walk-ins are welcome at the bar, but otherwise, it’s best to try to get a reservation as early as possible.


10. The Holy Donut

With two locations in Portland and two more outside the city, The Holy Donut has become a Portland tradition. And once you try a bite of these hearty potato donuts, you’ll be saying, “Hallelujah!” 

The Holy Donut was born and raised in Portland. Back in 2010, founder Leigh Kellis began making donuts from scratch in her kitchen on Munjoy Hill. After months of taste testing, she landed on a northern Maine recipe with her own unique spins. Kellis and her family started making donuts from a local coffee shop, but they quickly outgrew the space and opened their own location.

Each day, you’ll find a selection of about 20 flavors of potato donuts available in their shops. From seasonal favorites like Apple Cider to classic delights like Old Fashioned to specialty options like their Holy Cannoli Ginger Glazed, you’ll want to eat your way around the menu. The Holy Donut also strives to be inclusive of all dietary restrictions, so you’ll also find a variety of vegan and gluten-free options on the menu.


11. Bar Futo

Over in the Old Port, you’ll find a playful take on Japanese cooking. Bar Futo cooks the majority of their food on Japanese binchotan, which many consider to be the best charcoal in the world. You can get some traditional favorites on their hot and cold plate offerings, like their Chicken Katsu, served with charred onion mayo, or the Beef Tartare, with potato, mochi, soubise, and chili. 

Or stick to the skewers, where you have several unique options. But the one that tends to get the most attention is their Big Mac skewer, a nod to the fact that the location was formerly a burger joint. Covered with their own secret sauce, “shredduce,” and sesame, it just goes to show that Bar Fluto may take its cooking seriously, but it’s also down to have some fun.

Also on the menu is a massive list of sake options, each with its own unique flavor palette. But if sake isn’t your thing, you’ll also find many specialty cocktails, as well as a zero-proof menu for those who want a drink without the buzz.


12. REGARDS

Best Restaurants in Portland, Maine: REGARDS
Images courtesy of REGARDS

REGARDS, located in the Old Port, is a hodge podge of multiple cultures and cuisines. Partially inspired by their local fare in New England and the Northeast, this restaurant and bar also takes notes from Southern California and Mexico City. 

Chef Neil Zabriskie was greatly influenced by his childhood in Southern California and his years of cooking in New York City. But he also wanted to highlight the local cuisine of his adoptive home of Portland, Maine. But at the heart of it all is a desire to create community around food, which is why each carefully concocted dish is meant to be shared.

Fitting right into the Arts District, REGARDS is an artsy date night spot with dim lighting and vibrant paintings set against exposed brick walls. Split some Maine oysters or share a tamale made with housemade masa. For dessert, you’ll find some unique sweet but not-too-sweet treats, like the Sweet Potato with dulce de leche and pepitas or the Corn Ice Cream with figs, burnt honey, and ginger leaf.

In sticking with the Latin side of the restaurant, there’s an extensive mezcal and tequila list. You’ll also find a small list of specialty cocktails, as well as a selection of wines with offerings not often seen on menus, like orange wines.


13. Eventide Oyster Co.

Best Restaurants in Portland, Maine: Eventide Oyster Co.
Images courtesy of Mat Trogner

When you think of Maine cuisine, it’s likely that the first thing that pops into your mind is lobster. And while lobster is a Maine specialty, there’s another type of seafood that used to be a major staple of Northeast fare. Oysters used to be a part of New Englanders’ diets for years, which is what birthed the boom of the oyster bar. 

Nowadays, oysters aren’t an everyday food group for most Mainers, and oyster bars are more scarce. But some restaurants are aiming to bring them back, like Eventide Oyster Co., located in East Bayside.

This popular Portland, ME restaurant takes on classic New England fare, offering oysters on the half shell from Maine, as well as other traditional New England favorites like New England Clam Chowder, Maine Lobster Stew, and their truly incredible and non-skippable Brown Butter Lobster Roll.

Alongside your meal, you can also treat yourself to one of their specialty cocktails. Just as they offer New England classics with their own twists, you’ll find old favorites on the menu, as well as less traditional options you’ll only find here, like their Ground for Divorce, made with coffee brandy, vodka, Bonal, and sherry.


14. Fore Street

Many would say that Fore Street, which has been one of the best restaurants in Portland, ME, since 1996, is what helped spur the city into being the dining capital it is now. It’s been winning awards for over two decades. 

Located on Fore Street near the waterfront in the Old Port, this restaurant has a warm and cozy interior built around their brick and soapstone hearth, where hardwood and apple wood fires cook their cuisine. Fore Street’s style is classic and timeless, and their menu matches the ambiance with dishes that have long been staples of New England. 

The menu changes frequently as Fore Street works with local farmers, fishermen, and foragers to get ingredients that are fresh and in season. As such, your options are filled with local fare, from Maine oysters to rope-cultured mussels to hanger steak prepared depending on the season.

However, while the food menu is distinctly New England, the wine list comes from the best wine regions from all over the world. Some of the wines are unique to Fore Street and can only be found in the restaurant.


15. Duckfat

Cool Restaurants in Portland, Maine: Duckfat
Image courtesy of Zack Bowen

Poutine lover? Then, Duckfat is where to eat in Portland, Maine. This European-inspired eatery can trace its roots back to Amsterdam, where owners Nancy Pugh and Rob Evans came across a Belgian frites window and thought the warm cone of fries would fit right in with Portland’s food scene.

Duckfat serves up Belgian-style frites, or fries, that are twice-fried in duck fat. Each fry is bursting with flavor. And while you can simply order the fries on their own, you can also punch up the flavor by trying their poutine offering, which uses the frites as a base. They’re then topped with locally sourced cheese curd, duck gravy, and fresh chives.

Yes, there are other delicious options on the menu, like their Duckfat Grilled Cheese, made with raclette, cheddar, sundried tomato pesto, and sourdough from local bakery Night Moves. But you really can’t go to Duckfat and not get their famous frites. And when you’re ready to end your meal with a sweet treat, don’t skip out on their milkshakes, which are made with local gelato from Gelato Fiasco.

Duckfat does have a sit-down location in Portland, but if you’re in a hurry, you can stop by their walk-up window to get some frites to go. Both are located in the Old Port.


16. Clam Bar

Fried clams may not have been invented in Maine, as they’re credited to have been started over in Essex, Massachusetts, but they’ve become a staple throughout all of New England. Taking over the site of Benny’s Famous Fried Clams in the West End, Clam Bar is aiming to continue their tradition of providing these beloved treats. But they’re also putting their own spin on the classic fried clams Mainers have come to know and love.

Clam Bar offers traditional New England cuisine with a South American twist. Instead of your typical Maine steamers, you can get Jalisco Steamers, local Maine steamer clams with smoked brisket and consommé, shishito, and jalapeño. Or try their take on a lobster roll with the Lobster Roll Con Créma, made with butter-poached lobster, citrus slaw, and créma served on a brioche roll.

Local rotating craft beer is available on draft, and there are also a few classic cocktails, like margaritas, served alongside the food menu.

There you have it! The best restaurants in Portland, Maine. What are your favorite Portland, ME restaurants? Let us know in the comments!


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Author

  • Jacqueline Gualtieri

    Jacqueline is a writer and editor pursuing the freelance life to explore the world. Born and raised in New Jersey, she spent her college years in Boston before settling down with her partner and puppy in Monterey, California.

    When she’s not writing, you can often find her planning her next trip. Road trips are her favorite, whether it’s driving across the country or simply exploring a new city in her own backyard. She loves uncovering the history of every new place she goes.

    Jacqueline has a restless passion for learning and makes it a goal to pick up a new skill every year. She’s picked up embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and cross-stitching, but she’s hoping to master more languages to help her in her travels. She’s also a published author, with short stories and poetry appearing in several anthologies.

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