Portland, Maine has it all. A beautiful harbor feeds into the Atlantic Ocean, and cobblestone streets of the Old Port wind among funky shops and galleries. Breathtaking views of harbor islands and beautiful architecture compete for one’s attention. Outdoor adventures beckon year-round.
And then there’s the food.
Portland is a locavore mecca. Locally sourced food is the norm in the city’s restaurants, which number in the hundreds. Known as one of the top foodie destinations in America, Portland boasts impossibly fresh seafood delivered daily to the port. Food trucks are everywhere, and local farms and food producers supply a good portion of the city’s food.
My family recently visited Portland on our way from Boston to Nova Scotia. We traveled aboard the Nova Star cruise ship, which departs daily from Portland to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. This ship makes it so easy to get from Boston to Nova Scotia, and the launching point of Portland is just as appealing for a vacation as the other end of the trip in Nova Scotia.
The food choices can be overwhelming if you’re just visiting Portland for a day or two. I can’t possibly cover everything, but here are some of the restaurants that you’ll want to look at when planning your visit.
Bonobo is a casual pizza place featuring locally sourced produce and responsibly raised meats on their pizza. We stopped here for dinner on our way to the Nova Star, and we had a delicious meal. The vegan pizza was fantastic.
Flatbread is one of my family’s favorite pizza restaurants. The Portland restaurant is located right on Casco Bay, and it’s hard to choose among all the locavore toppings. The organic salad is a great complement to a specialty pizza dinner.
Local Sprouts Cooperative offers creative organic food featuring ingredients from Maine farms. Their goal is to improve sustainability by connecting the community with the farmers who grow their food. They offer a cafe and bakery for casual dining.
Portland Lobster Company is a lobster shack right on the waterfront that boasts incredibly fresh seafood. While their menu doesn’t have a locavore focus beyond the seafood, it looks like a good place to visit for a great lobster roll.
Vinland is the first restaurant in America to serve 100 percent local, organic food, and of course it’s in Portland. Everything on the menu is also gluten-free. This restaurant has a strong philosophy of sustainability, and the menu is constantly changing with the seasons.
Hugo’s is located at the top of Portland’s Old Port, and it serves food sourced almost exclusively from Maine. This is a great place to celebrate a special occasion.
Fore Street is the pioneering locavore restaurant in Portland. Its seasonal menu changes daily, and even the desserts are made from scratch using locally sourced ingredients.
Street & Co is part of the Fore Street restaurant family. Its menu focuses on fresh local seafood with a Mediterranean flavor. This restaurant is small and popular, so call ahead for a reservation.
Duckfat is a casual sandwich place featuring fries cooked in – yup, you guessed it – duck fat. Their paninis feature ingredients from local farms, and they make several flavors of mayo using local eggs.
The Grill Room is a nice Old Port restaurant that offers a varied menu including steak, seafood, and pizza. The variety of dishes makes this a good choice if your group can’t agree on one type of food for dinner. The restaurant uses grass fed beef and local, organic meat and produce throughout the menu.
Bakeries and Markets
We were struck by the number of bakeries throughout Portland. It seemed like there was something amazing coming out of an oven around every corner during our visit. There are also several markets in Portland where locally sourced food can be purchased for a picnic or other affordable meal.
Standard Baking Company, owned by the folks who run Fore Street and Street & Co, is a must visit in Old Port. Whether you want a muffin, croissant, or scone for breakfast, you won’t be disappointed by the homemade goodies at this bakery. Their foccacias and baguettes are legendary, too.
Scratch Baking Company in South Portland is a small artisan bakery that uses local flour, eggs, and produce to put together their delicious creations.
Portland Farmers’ Market has been a gathering place to buy local food for nearly 250 years. The market is located in Deering Oaks Park on Saturdays and Monument Square on Wednesdays. Dozens of farms participate in this market every week, selling produce, meat, eggs, cheese, and many other local items.
Rosemont Market and Bakery focuses on good food made with local ingredients. This is a group of neighborhood markets with various locations throughout Portland.
Harbor Fish Market on the waterfront is where the locals go to get their seafood. If you don’t live around here, they’ll even pack and ship lobsters right to your home.
Whole Foods Market is Maine’s only certified organic grocer. The Portland Whole Foods has a unique focus on local food, so it’s a great place to stop for a snack or quick meal while you’re in town.
Bite Into Maine Food Truck is known for the amazing lobster rolls they serve at beautiful Fort Williams Park. From traditional to inventive, they offer a variety of rolls with the freshest lobster meat. Vegetarian sandwiches, sides, and desserts are available as well.
Portland is an amazing place to visit in the winter, too! Check out my post about the perfect winter weekend in Portland for more locavore dining suggestions. And visit my Real Food Travel Gallery for other great family travel destinations that celebrate locally-sourced food.
Disclosure: Our trip on the Nova Star was complimentary. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.