True to its name, Portland, Maine is first and foremost a bustling port. Inseparable from Portland’s character, the harbor is both a blessing and a curse. A kind of tourist attraction in and of itself, the harbor brings literally boatloads of cruise passengers into the city, flooding the all-too-popular souvenir stores that dot the main drag.
At the same time, the harbor brings in some of the best seafood in the world, and alongside the scenic seaside and tucked away among the tourist traps are plenty of crackerjack restaurants, sandwich shops, bakeries and watering holes steeped in the local, unassuming character of Maine. Here, a handful of my favorite food and drink spots from four years as a local and frequent trips back to check out what’s new.
Schulte and Herr
Located a little off the beaten path, Schulte and Herr takes advantage of local ingredients in order to recreate traditional German fare. Quiet and quaint, this restaurant is a reprieve from the tourist-filled diners that speckle the Old Port, making it a great brunch spot. Try ordering their house-cured lox with potato pancakes or one of their daily specials.
Half workshop, half storefront, Brook There epitomizes the term “made in-house.” Famous for her custom, organic lingerie and loungewear line, owner and founder Brook Delorme dislikes the term homemade. “We use machines like everybody else! Our made-to-order model helps us cut down on overstock and waste and allows our customers to design exactly what they want,” says Brook of her line. “People are always surprised to see us in here actually making our clothes.” A must-stop on Wharf Street, Brook There’s lingerie line ranges from $30 to $96.
Scratch Baking Company
Located in South Portland by Willard Beach, Scratch Baking Co. is worth the trip. This hidden gem is a local hot spot with lines often running out the door for their infamous bagels. The bagels, like everything at Scratch, are made in small batches by their talented and tireless crew. With a rotating menu of pastries and breads, there is always something new to try. Some favorites include Sea Salt Bagels, enormous Super Duper Cinnamon Rolls and the Deep South Coconut Cake. This summer, Scratch also opened a deli section with a daily line-up of sandwiches and salads suited perfectly for beach-bound picnics.
Stop in for a pint and a bite at Novare Res, a little beer garden hidden down an alleyway off of one of Portland’s main shopping strips. Featuring an impressive list of more than 300 imported and local beers, this bar also serves up an ever-changing menu driven by local ingredients. With 25 rotating taps, make sure to ask your bartender for seasonal suggestions.
Catch a Piece of Maine
Created in an effort to support local fisherman and increase transparency between the fisherman and the consumer, Catch a Piece of Maine allows visitors and non-visitors alike to take a little piece of Maine home with them, a crustacean win-win. Catch a Piece of Maine offers members the opportunity to become virtual fisherman by adopting a trap and enjoying the benefit from some of their haul no matter where they are in the country. Each member is assigned a Trap ID and a fisherman, so that they can check their trap’s individual lobster inventory for the season. Housed in Portland’s bustling harbor, members are also invited to pick up their catch and see where all of the lobsters come in.