May 3, 2021
Fair warning, there is no lobster in this post. If you are just here for lobster, I have nothing for you. That said, stick around, you won’t be disappointed. Portland is a fantastic little city, and for its size, less than 70,000 residents, it boasts some amazing food. If you live in or are visiting the Boston area, it’s easy to take a day trip to Portland. The way I like to visit though is a quick overnight. Here’s a suggested itinerary for 24 hours in Portland.
Leave Boston in the morning to get to Portland in the early afternoon. The drive is less than two hours if you take Interstate-95. Once you arrive, treat yourself to a drink. Portland has plenty of distilleries and breweries, a number of them clustered together on Washington Avenue, including Maine Craft Distilling. They have a bustling outdoor beer garden with a fun, casual atmosphere, a great place to have a little lunch and enjoy a cocktail. You can try the gin and tonic in a can, but a better choice is a fresh made gin and tonic with Sprigge Aged Gin. If gin isn’t your thing, they also make rum, whiskey, and vodka. While you are enjoying your drink, nibble on excellent french fries, a scotch egg, or fried green tomatoes. Or if you aren’t worried about spoiling your appetite for dinner, grab one of their sandwiches. You will probably also want to pick up a bottle of your favorite spirit to bring home.
If you want a little history before checking into your hotel, stop by the Portland Observatory. It’s just a ten minute walk from the distillery. (Right now it is closed because of COVID, but it should reopen soon) Although it looks like a lighthouse, it was actually used as a signal tower so that people on the docks could prepare for incoming cargo. You can get a guided tour all the way to the top which boasts amazing views of Portland.
At this point, it would be a good time to check into your hotel and freshen up. Or if you are like me, grab a nap before dinner. There are plenty of hotels in Portland, but I have had success with both the Courtyard (pictured below) and the AC Hotel, both part of the Marriott Hotels Group. They are both conveniently located on either end of Old Port.
If you are up for a cocktail before dinner, stop by Blyth & Burrows. It’s located on Exchange Street, along side shops and other restaurants. Grab a seat at their beautiful front bar, and watch the people come and go while sipping on a expertly prepared craft cocktail.
Time for dinner, and there are so many choices in Portland. Among the classic favorites are Fore Street and Eventide Oyster Co. But don’t miss ViA VECCHiA, a modern Italian restaurant in a beautiful Victoria setting. There back room hosts a small bar as well as lounge style seating over two levels. The atmosphere is magnificent with candles throughout out the room, including a giant candelabra covered in dripped wax. There are a few large plates on the menu, but instead focus on the small plates, pizzettes, and pastas. The baccala, served over toast, is a particularly good place to start. You also can’t go wrong with the Central St. pizzette. It is very spicy with pickled peppers, sausage, a whipped ricotta. They have a strong cocktail program and a rotating milk punch, but they also have a nice selection of Italian wine by bottle and the glass.
After dinner, stop by The Independent Ice Co. a whiskey bar with outdoor seating on Wharf St. There you can choose from a gigantic selection of whiskeys from around the world while watching the Portland nightlife. If you aren’t ready to call it quits just yet, go get a late night snack at N to Tail. It’s located on back on Exchange Street, just a few doors away from Blyth & Burrows. The wise choice is Korean Fried Chicken Bao, unbelievably crispy chicken served on four soft asian-style buns in a spicy-sweet Korean sauce.
If you are hungry the next morning, or you just need hair of the dog that bit you, go get some brunch at The Knotted Apron. It is on the other side of Portland, so you will need to drive. Start with the French onion tart or the warm asparagus. Both are expertly prepared with a nod to classic French cuisine, rich and decadent. Then finish off your Portland adventure with duck hash topped with a sunny side duck egg.
There is plenty more to see, do, eat, and drink in Portland. I hope I’ve inspired you to visit. If you do, please let me know! And if there’s something you love about Portland, let me know in the comments. Happy travels!