NYCGuide

Where To Eat & Drink On Your NYC To Portland, Maine Road Trip

Because you or someone you know is visiting New England at some point.

Where To Eat & Drink On Your NYC To Portland, Maine Road Trip guide image

photo credit: Anne Cruz

If you live in New York City, you’ve probably thought about escaping the city’s smells and road tripping to Maine at least once this summer—it’s a lot cheaper than flying to Italy, you can fulfill your “coastal grandmother chic” destiny, and there are a lot of picturesque lighthouses, rocky beaches, and excellent places to eat. While places like Portland or Acadia might be on your itinerary, Portsmouth and Ogunquit are just a couple of towns along the way that deserve their own stop. There are plenty of casual stops that will help you prevent hunger-induced road rage, as well as sit-down restaurants that are destinations in their own right. To help break up all the food stops, we’ve also included a few tourist attractions to visit, from historic campuses in New Haven to a 10-acre museum in Portsmouth, since food is only part of the fun of road tripping. 

Where To Eat & Stay In Portland, ME guide image

PME Guide

Where To Eat & Stay In Portland, ME

THE SPOTS

CONNECTICUT

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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Gold's Delicatessen

$$$$(203) 227-0101
Hours:MONClosed

Every time we pass through Connecticut, we stop at Gold’s to grab sandwiches piled high with corned beef or pastrami and served with a perfectly tart and crunchy pickle. The sauerkraut on their reuben isn’t overpowering, and the house russian dressing is ideal for adding a hint of creamy tanginess to balance out the richness of the meat. Their location in Westport is only a short detour from I-95 or Merritt Parkway, the main roads you’ll take towards Maine, and there’s a Trader Joe’s across the street if you want to pick up any other road trip snacks. 

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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Modern Apizza

$$$$(203) 776-5306
Hours:MONClosed

New Haven-style pizza is called “apizza,” and there are three institutions that have defined it: Frank Pepe, Sally’s, and Modern. All three are worth trying, but it’s easiest to snag a table at Modern if you want to have a sit-down meal and stretch your legs a bit. If you’re on a tight timeline, we recommend taking a quick stop in New Haven and enjoying a takeout pie on the hood of your car. If you want to eat as much seafood on this road trip as possible, go for the white clams casino pie that comes loaded with mollusks, bacon, peppers, and a mozzarella base. Another excellent option is the Italian Bomb, which comes with so much bacon, sausage, pepperoni, and vegetables that the thin coal-fired dough needs to be delicately handled so toppings don’t fall onto your plate.

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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Atticus Bookstore Cafe

$$$$(203) 776-4040
Hours:MON
7AM-9PM

Atticus is a great spot in New Haven for a quick cup of coffee, pastry, and the opportunity to cosplay as a Yale student. The bookstore and cafe is right around the corner from Old Campus, home to many of Yale’s first-year students and the oldest buildings, so you can stroll along the courtyard and appreciate the architecture while enjoying croissants or a strawberry cream cheese danish. As for the coffee itself, we’re big fans of the french toast oat milk latte, which tastes like a collision between apple cider doughnuts and cereal milk in the best way possible. Their more substantial grab-and-go options include a bánh mì made with miso-roasted tofu, a smoked ham and cheddar croissant sandwich, and a caesar made with rosemary roasted chicken and torn sourdough croutons. 

PORTSMOUTH, NH

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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STREET

$$$$(603) 436-0860
Hours:MON
11AM-9PM

Portsmouth is just across the border from Southern Maine, and about an hour drive from Portland. It’s worth stopping here to watch boats sail along the Piscataqua River and walk through the scenic downtown area, but you should also make time for Street 360. This international street food restaurant is located in a shopping center just before you get into downtown, so there’s plenty of parking available. We recommend coming with a group and splitting a wide range of options like subarashii fries that come drizzled with both scallion mayo and kimchi ketchup and the bibimbap with crispy sticky rice that’s served in a piping hot cast-iron skillet. You can definitely have a really nice meal here for under $30 a person, and the atmosphere is lively enough to restore your energy after a long day of driving, but not so loud that you can’t hear your table’s conversation. 

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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Botanica

$$$$(603) 373-0979
Hours:MONClosed

Most road trip dining is utilitarian by design, but you should make Botanica the one meal you take a detour for. The restaurant and gin bar feels polished but still cozy, like a place where you could dress up or arrive in your comfy joggers and not feel out of place. The menu is French using lots of local produce, with dishes like venison meatballs with zucchini in a blueberry sauce and a delicious, hearty risotto with tiny gems of eggplant. The cocktails are also a highlight with our favorites being the ultra-floral Turkish rose with rose cordial and cardamom bitters and the Empress gin and tonic that magically changes from indigo to pink as you swirl it, making you feel like a fancy scientist. 

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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Nikki's Banh Mi

$$$$(603) 431-5445
Hours:MONClosed

When you’re only making a quick stop through Portsmouth, Nikki’s Banh Mi is ideal. You can definitely grab a couple of to-go sandwiches, but if you don’t want to risk getting baguette crumbs all over your car, the interior is cozy enough to enjoy your meal at the counter with a beer or Vietnamese coffee. You can customize your spice level on the sandwiches, and we also recommend the bánh mì tacos made with pillowy soft flour tortillas.

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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Red Rover Creamery

$$$$
Hours:MONClosed

This scoop shop is right along Portsmouth’s main street that leads to Memorial Bridge and across the state border into Maine. Flavors like honey lavender and blueberry maple jam taste like the epitome of summer, but you can also choose from classics like vanilla and espresso fudge ripple. We’re hoping to come back soon to try their ice cream sandwiches, which are made with either brown butter chocolate chip cookies or ginger snaps. 

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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The Wilder

RESERVE A TABLE

POWERED BY

open table
$$$$(603) 319-6878
Hours:MON
3:30PM-10PM

You should definitely consider staying a night in Portsmouth, so you can try all the great restaurants and explore the quaint downtown area. When you do, cap off your evening at The Wilder, a gastropub in the heart of town. You can toast to a day’s drive with delicious cocktails, and the dishes—like pork belly poutine and the fried chicken basket—are excellent and exactly the type of thing you might enjoy after a few drinks. Cocktails like The Sneerwell, made with chai bourbon, black cardamom syrup, and whiskey barrel-aged bitters, and Lady Stardust, which features tequila blanco, mango, pineapple, and hot sauce, both go down like water.

Strawbery Banke Museum

$$$$(603) 373-6112
Hours:MON
10AM-5PM

There’s definitely more to do in Portsmouth than just eat. Make some time to walk around and explore the Strawbery Banke Museum that’s actually an expansive 10-acre campus with historic buildings and gardens. You can step inside homes and stores to see what life was like for residents of Portsmouth's Puddle Dock neighborhood over a span of 300 years. Our favorite stop is the Wheelwright House, where you can learn about hearth-cooking techniques from the 19th century from a culinary historian. Your $20 ticket also grants you access to the museum for two consecutive days, so you can come back if you’re in town for a bit. 

ELIOT

White Heron Maine

$$$$207-703-2305
Hours:MON
7AM-2:30PM

Dunkin’ may be the most iconic New England choice for coffee, but this small cafe outside of Kittery is also worth a detour on your trip through Southern Maine. Sweets like their tahini oatmeal chocolate chip or lemon lavender cornmeal cookies are ideal for an afternoon pick-me-up after a long stretch of driving. And their coffee and ready-to-eat wraps and sandwiches with hummus, apple, and avocado or curry chicken salad make for a great lunch if you’ve planned a coastal hike. They also sell bags of beans, so when your vacation is over, you can make coffee and daydream about overlooking the ocean waves.

KITTERY

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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Bob's Clam Hut

$$$$(207) 439-4233
Hours:MON
11AM-9PM

Bob’s Clam Shack is by no means underrated (there are signs and placards commemorating it being featured on various TV shows and “Best Of Maine” lists), but it lives up to the hype. There’s typically a line to order, but it moves quickly and there are plenty of tables outside to people-watch tourists and wait for your food. The crisp and tender fried clams will probably convert your friends who steer clear of anything seafood, and the steak fries that come with seafood baskets or rolls are generously seasoned and have the perfect balance of crunch and soft texture.

YORK

Nubble Lighthouse

$$$$

This seaside lighthouse is one of Southern Maine’s most iconic attractions, so we recommend grabbing some coffee (Sunny’s is a cute breakfast truck nearby) and enjoying the view early in the morning to avoid crowds. The lighthouse itself sits on a picturesque island that isn’t open to the public, but it’s still plenty enjoyable to sit in the nearby park and entertain yourself watching the seagulls.

OGUNQUIT

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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Cornerstone Artisanal Pizza & Craft Beer

$$$$7146867410
Hours:MON
12PM-9PM

During the summer and early fall months, finding a place to eat in a Maine beach town can be a little like going to Disney World with lots of hangry kids, sunburned vacationers, and long waits. Thankfully, Cornerstone is here for you in Ogunquit, and its large indoor and outdoor dining areas are great for big parties. There’s a wide variety of pizzas, local craft beer on tap, salads, and kid options to please just about everyone. Cornerstone also is perfect if you’re tired of spending $30 on small lobster rolls or just want a break from seafood in general.

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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Treehouse Taqueria

$$$$
Hours:MONClosed

Walking up the nondescript staircase leading to Treehouse Taqueria feels like arriving at your cool, free-spirited friend’s tropical cabin. The backyard is quiet and has a small fire pit, while the covered patio lets you enjoy the breeze without putting you at risk of baking in the sun. Their $20 mix-and-match taco plate comes with options like chicken tinga, birria, and jackfruit al pastor, but our favorite is the veggie taco with bright broccoli, queso blanco, scallions, and chili flakes. Sweet, tropical drinks like the Desert Sun and Moonlit Sun are also tailor-made for enjoying on a lazy summer afternoon, and they also offer 32-ounce cocktail buckets for $20 if you plan to spend the night nearby. 

WELLS

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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Bitter End

$$$$(207) 360-0904
Hours:MON
11:30AM-8PM

BittThe Bitter End is just off Route 1, the road you’ll take to hop between sleepy beach towns up the coast towards Portland. The big backyard often hosts live bands and works great for a dinner with family or a Happy Hour with friends, while the dining room is filled with all the kitschy decor you’d come to expect from a region that seems to have more antique stores than actual houses. Appetizers like Thai fried brussels sprouts and onion strings are perfectly crisp and well-executed, and their dinner menu also has entrees like seared scallops, mezze plates, and chicken sliders. 

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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The Maine Diner

$$$$(207) 646-4441
Hours:MON
7AM-9PM

Maine Diner has a menu with enough options to come back dozens of times without ordering anything twice. There’s typically a 10-30 minute wait for a table, but you’ll need that time to think about your order. We suggest fueling up for a long day of driving or beach-going by getting chili-laden potato skins or the triple-decker club sandwich with the house-made turkey. If you stop in for a late lunch, they also make a delicious lobster mac and cheese that will ensure you have a blissful afternoon nap in the passenger seat as your co-pilot cruises along Route 1.

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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Congdon's Doughnuts

$$$$(207) 646-4219
Hours:MON
6AM-2PM

Congdon’s is a Southern Maine institution, so you’ll likely see a line out the door when you pull into the parking lot. Thankfully, the line moves pretty fast, and you can enjoy your doughnuts and coffee on the road or in their outdoor seating area that overlooks Route 1. It’s worth getting at least a half dozen doughnuts so you can try their raised, filled, or cake varieties with different fillings, frostings, and sprinkles. After the doughnut shop closes for the day, they also convert the large lot into a food truck park with rotating vendors, a beer garden, live music, and car shows. 

KENNEBUNK

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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The Clam Shack

$$$$(207) 967-3321
Hours:MON
11AM-8PM

Nearly every establishment in Kennebunkport is mobbed during the summer months, and The Clam Shack is no exception. Unlike many other places that make you choose between mayo and butter on your lobster roll, The Clam Shack also serves it with both, making it a rich and creamy filling that pairs great with the crunchy and tart side of slaw. After your lunch, you can walk right across a bridge into Kennebunk’s main drag of shops and historic district, where you can buy an oversized crewneck that says “MAINE'' and take a break from being in your car. 

BIDDEFORD

photo credit: Anne Cruz

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Palace Diner

$$$$2072840015
Hours:MON
8AM-2PM

We recommend coming early to Palace Diner in Biddeford, since there are only 15 seats available at the train car counter, but you can also place a to-go order and eat in the nearby outdoor courtyard if you want to keep things moving. The dine-in and takeout menus vary slightly, but either way, you should try their fluffy buttermilk flapjacks and the deluxe breakfast sandwich that comes with a thick square slab of eggs, cheddar, jalapeños, mayo, and your choice of bacon or sausage on a toasted english muffin.

CAPE ELIZABETH

Portland Head Light

$$$$(207) 799-2661
Hours:MON
10AM-2PM

The Portland Head Lighthouse is actually located in Cape Elizabeth and makes a great little detour just before you head into the city. You can enter the lighthouse’s keeper’s quarters, which now acts as a museum, and the larger Fort Williams Park has plenty of trails, historical structures, and picnic areas to explore. If you want to have an impromptu picnic, there are also a few seafood vendors nearby, like Bite Into Maine and Cousins Maine Lobster.

SOUTH PORTLAND

photo credit: Anne Cruz

Indy's Sandwich review image

Indy's Sandwich

$$$$2077474082
Hours:MON
8AM-3PM

Indy’s Sandwich makes for a great place to stop before you enter Portland proper. The menu is full of vegetarian options, and most of the sandwiches can be celiac-friendly if you get it on gluten-free bread. We’re huge fans of the Henny Penny, which features a juicy and piping-hot piece of fried chicken, but the katsu curry with rice also works if you’re craving something warm and comforting. There’s plenty of space to sit inside, but you may be tempted to come back to the counter to order more snacks or a glass of nitro Thai tea before you head out. 


If you’ve made it this far, congrats—you’ve arrived in Portland! Make sure to hit up a couple breweries, do some whale watching, or visit a few local shops and museums. While you’re in town, check out our guide to find all the best restaurants for your trip. 
Where To Eat & Stay In Portland, ME guide image

PME Guide

Where To Eat & Stay In Portland, ME

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