The Best Restaurants In Portland, Maine

The world’s best oysters, crispy fried chicken, and other things you should plan a trip around in Portland, Maine.
The Best Restaurants In Portland, Maine image

photo credit: Dana Valletti

Maine is known for being a place where you can indulge in the fantasy of having lobster for every meal. And sure, incredible lobster rolls abound, but Portland is also a cultural destination in its own right. We have close proximity to both hikes and gorgeous beaches, the best bus stops in the US, and the potential to run into more moose than people. The best part, though? There’s so much to eat, lobster or otherwise, as you explore Maine’s most populated city.

So whether you’re here to visit a lighthouse in your very best flannel, enjoy all of Maine’s state parks, or want to just branch out from your go-to places around town, this guide has all the restaurants and spots worth checking out.


photo credit: Twelve



$$$$Perfect For:Date NightDrinking Good CocktailsSpecial OccasionsUnique Dining ExperienceFine Dining
Earn 3x points with your sapphire card

Twelve is everything you’d want from an upscale, special occasion New England restaurant. Set on the Portland waterfront, this spot does a prix-fixe and a la carte menu with dishes on both that re-envision the classics—you’ll see stuff like locally-foraged Maine mushroom porridge, Ritz cracker halibut, and a lobster roll on a hand-laminated croissant. All the food is well-executed, especially any desserts or pastries, while the service feels attentive without being intrusive—which means your water glass will never be empty and they won’t be pretentious when describing the local kamut flour they use to make their croissant dough.

photo credit: Dana Valletti



Old Port

Bar Futo doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a secret chicken menu and they serve up a Big Mac skewer to nod to the fact that their space used to be a former Five Guys. Generally, though, they do a lot of cooking over Japanese binchotan, whether it’s all kinds of skewers or small plates like charred shishitos with horseradish ranch and Maine uni with potato mochi. Go for one of their highballs from their short cocktail menu and learn about the Toki Highball machine that serves up Suntory whiskey with superpowered carbonated soda.

The place works for groups when you want to have a light dinner after dropping a ton of cash on seafood, or for a low-key date. Despite the fact that this space was once probably covered in peanut shells, now it's filled with cozy two tops and two different bar areas.

photo credit: Dana Valletti



OpenTable logo

Regards is a warmly-lit spot in the Arts District that has range. Grab a seat at their marble bar for a margarita with eucalyptus during their Happy Hour, or make a reservation at one of their banquettes and let their knowledgeable waitstaff walk you through their menu that’s inspired by the chefs and owners’ time spent in Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York City, and Maine. Come for cocktails, delicious desserts, and great seafood that goes beyond the usual suspects you’ll find in Portland—you might eat housemade heirloom corn tortillas or fried brown rice cooked with peekytoe crab, husk cherries, and aji amarillo.

The word "tavern" might make you think of a dark and rowdy pub with tired people in need of a heavy drink. And even though Wayside Tavern is snug and dim, this restaurant in a boutique hotel in a historic Portland building is a far cry from what we described in our first sentence. There’s a simple neon sign outside, and a green glowing interior with a fireplace for amped-up coziness inside. The staff is always friendly, and everything on their menu is expertly made and comforting—including pastas, beer-battered cod cheeks, and an eggplant terrine with housemade mozzarella. Wayside is good for dinner with friends, a celebratory Sunday lunch, or just a regular Monday night.

We live for mornings with a coffee and pastry at Ugly Duckling, a bakeshop and luncheonette in Portland’s West End neighborhood. Stay awhile at their horseshoe counter to chat with the barista while you wait for a breakfast sandwich that comes on a homemade buttermilk English muffin. Or, stop on your way out of town to take one of their eclairs, Venezuelan cachitos, or constantly rotating flavors of trocaderos with you. And if you’re looking for something to enjoy later, there is a case stocked with individual “cakes in a jar” and portioned cookie doughs. You know, for those moments when you want a sweet treat to remind you of the vacation good times, but you’re actually at home in sweatpants.


When you’re in Portland, there are two things you have to do: theorize about Stephen King’s childhood and attempt to eat your body weight in lobster and oysters. For the latter, head to Eventide Oyster Company, which serves some of the best seafood in the city. This small oyster bar near the East End carries 20 different types of bivalves, along with one of the best lobster rolls in town, which is served with brown butter in a steamed bun rather than the typical hot dog bun. 

Other dishes have twists with a similar spirit: the lobster stew involves green curry and the bluefin tuna tartare comes doused in nước chấm. This should be your first stop in town—there’s always a wait, but it’ll be worth it once you’re sitting outside with a cocktail in front of you.

Island Creek Oysters harvests some of the world’s best oysters, supplying restaurants all over the country. Instead of scouring menus to find them, though, just stop by The Shop, where they sell a selection to the lucky people of Portland. It’s the perfect spot for an afternoon snack of a couple dozen oysters and a bottle of wine.

Yosaku has stood the test of time to become a Portland classic with homestyle Japanese food that ranges from sushi to soba and teppanyaki. Fishmongers bring their freshest product to the sushi chefs here where the local catch becomes lobster sashimi or scallops on the half-shell served on little wooden boats. Lunch specials like their sushi combinations and ever-changing daily bento boxes are also great, but what makes this place special is their large, outdoor patio with lots of space for big parties to enjoy their manicured Japanese garden. You’ll probably need a reservation for their indoor dining room, which is separated into a sushi bar and both traditional Japanese and Western-style seating.

If you’re celebrating a special birthday, or just enjoy a quick glass of champagne and some oysters as much as we do, then Scales should definitely be on your shortlist of dinner reservations when visiting. In a town where seafood is on the menu nearly everywhere, this place sets itself apart by keeping things elegant and simple with New England classics like homemade bread, fish and chips, and a stunning dessert list that features Indian pudding, frozen custard, and a butterscotch sundae. Between the great service, airy dining room, and beautiful waterfront views, Scales is one of the best places to start thinking about booking your next trip to Portland, or maybe just never leaving.

J’s Oyster feels right out of a nautical urban legend where ship captains rushed over for seafood and pints of beer after docking at the pier. It’s a tiny, U-shaped restaurant right on the water that’s perpetually packed with regulars slurping down oysters, so come by early for lunch before it gets too busy. Start with some steamed clams or jumbo scallops, and make sure you get one of the lobster rolls piled high with hunks of meat dropped off at your table with a “here you go, hon.” This spot feels like one of the only old-school places left in town, and you’ll leave so charmed that you’ll want to come back for a big bowl of clam chowder tomorrow. 


Housed in what was once a men’s department store in downtown Portland, Leeward is a pasta-centric restaurant where, like a good suit, everything is tailor-made. Almost the entire menu is prepared and baked in-house, whether that’s the focaccia and crackers, fresh pappardelle that’s filled with slowly braised beef cheeks, or the sorbetto and gelato for dessert. The dining room is spacious and warm, making it the perfect place for a special occasion.

There are almost as many breweries in Portland as there are Subarus, and once you’ve spent the afternoon drinking beer at a few of them, head to Izakaya Minato to recharge with some Japanese food. This menu at this spot on Washington Ave. covers a lot of ground, with things like sashimi, fried chicken, and udon, along with a wide variety of sake. It’s a great place to split a lot of food with a group, but everyone should get their own uni spoon, which comes with sea urchin and a raw quail egg and might be the best single bite in town.

Twenty years ago, Portland wasn’t the eating destination that it is today, but then Fore Street opened and that all changed. This was one of the first places in town to really focus on using local everything, and today, it’s still one of the city’s most popular restaurants. Eating here feels like you’re at a dinner party in a house you could never afford, with a large open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant and plenty of exposed wood to constantly remind you that you’re in Maine. All of the food is roasted or grilled over the large hearth that’s impossible to miss and will probably make you want to go camping afterward.


The tagline at this all-day cafe is “Smalls is good,” and while short and mildly cocky, it’s a fitting description. The space is, well, small but filled to the brim with items like local food products, fancy gifts, and beauty products to peruse at any hour. Shop for candles or handmade caramels while you wait on a turmeric latte or a steamed egg sandwich. It’s a great place for breakfast or a snack during the daytime but equally as lovely for a cocktail or glass of wine later in the day. Pastries and grab-and-go sandwiches, like jam and butter on a baguette, are always on the docket, while freshly shucked oysters, tartines, and salads round out the dinner menu.

Walking around downtown Portland, you’ll likely experience two things: lots of lobster paraphernalia and the incredible smell of fried chicken coming from Crispy Gai. Step inside the rosy-lit dining room or park yourself at their outdoor counter and enjoy a spread of punchy Thai dishes like papaya salad, noodle dishes, and fried chicken in many forms. They’ve got wings with lots of choices of seasoning, extra crispy thighs and drums, and a crispy waterfall chicken that’s served tossed in mint and toasted rice powder. The shareable plates and laid-back service make this a great place for a fun dinner with friends or a late-evening snack to wrap up the night.

Công Tử Bột has gone through various changes inside their pink walls, but their newest iteration feels like a shiny new beginning. Inspired by the Vietnamese quán nhậu (think: izakaya or gastropub), Công Tử Bột focuses on small plates with natural wines, local beer, and cocktails ideal for drinking, snacking, and sharing. You’ll find plates of local Bangs Island mussels in coconut tamarind sauce or Maine mushrooms with puffed rice in a fiery red-eye sauce, while specials like the Fall River Sandwich—a slab of wok-fried lo mein heaped onto white bread with broiled cheese —are fun takes on Asian American classics.

Whatever you order, it’s pretty impossible to have a bad time here: there’s the lush lighting, upbeat R&B that seems to change at the whim of the bartender, and brightly-colored decor that’s always giving warm weather vibes.

Duckfat could do really well in places like Brooklyn, Austin, or the other Portland—it’s small, casual, and constantly full of people named Winona or Elias. But Portland, Maine is the one that’s lucky enough to actually have it. They serve very good and very not-light food like poutine with duck gravy, brisket sandwiches, and milkshakes for brunch, lunch, and dinner.

Come right when they open for brunch and prepare to sit on their covered patio near a stranger who is talking loudly about seeing his ex at a Patriots game. Or avoid the accidental eavesdropping altogether and grab your hand-cut, Belgian-style fries to go so you can eat at the picnic tables across the way for a view of Portland’s working waterfront.

Onggi is a specialty fermentation shop and food counter in an airy space in East Bayside. Come for a great-but-quick lunch or midafternoon pick-me-up via one of their brown sugar iced coffees and fermentation-forward snacks like gimbap or kimchi hand pies. With a friendly and knowledgeable staff who are keen to talk about all things fermentation, it’s also just an interesting store to just pop in for a shopping trip to browse ceramic fermentation crocks, specialty kombuchas, and starters of all kinds to take back home with you.


It would be extremely wise of you to stay at a hotel or Airbnb near one of Tandem’s two locations (we’re partial to the Congress Ave. one). That way, you don’t have to waste time before you stand in line for what will be a magical, caffeine- and pastry-filled morning. You can even skip the line by ordering online for pickup at a separate window and take a seat on their covered benches to enjoy Portland’s best coffee shop each morning.

But Tandem really is more than that—it’s also home to some of the best pastries we’ve ever eaten. This is the place to fill your table with biscuits, icing-covered morning buns the size of your head, and several slices of pie, and decide that there is no better way to do breakfast. Especially since you have a place nearby to take a nap afterward.

A Southern kitchen and bar, Hot Suppa is always there when you need it—whether you had a late night of brewery hopping in Bayside or have a big day of walking around the Old Port ahead of you. Just make sure to follow their number one rule found in the entryway: Be nice or leave! Fill up on French-style rolled omelets, corned beef hash, and buttermilk waffles for breakfast, or the fried green tomato BLT at lunch. Or do your own thing as the restaurant has a long list of vegan and gluten-free sides, all of which can be enjoyed under their covered and heated patio for chilly Maine mornings.

Walking up to the Rose Foods window is like stepping up to an elaborate Wes Anderson film set. But don’t let all the window dressing distract you—the housemade bagels and deli classics like pastrami on rye, whitefish salad, and the chopped liver are truly excellent. Stop here to refuel before a woodsy hike (it’s conveniently located just off the highway) or before a photo-op with the perfectly preserved sixteen-foot-tall boot at the L.L. Bean flagship store.

A bakery housed in a historic storefront at the top of Munjoy Hill, Belleville focuses on laminated pastry and thick slabs of margherita, pepperoni, and vegetarian pizzas. We like to grab a coffee and one of their flaky cardamom buns or croissants and head a few blocks up to the Eastern Promenade overlooking the ocean. Or, you can soak up the sunlight in their bright cafe that’s across the street from a lighthouse.

Norimoto Bakery, in the quiet Deering Center neighborhood just off the main peninsula, sells “European pastries with Japanese sensibility,” which in practice means you’ll see miso caramel millionaire’s bars, red bean-filled baked goods, and more twists on all kinds of sweet things. Their fresh and warm onigiri rice balls make for a perfect breakfast or light lunch, especially if you need something to snack on.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad