Trying to travel more in 2020? Here's why Portland, Maine, should be on your list.


When you read "Portland," your mind probably goes straight to the West Coast and its "keep it weird" city in Oregon. But the East Coast Portland deserves your attention, too. With more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the U.S., according to Food & Wine, and an equally bustling restaurant scene—not to mention stunning scenery everywhere you look—Portland, Maine, is a prime travel destination, especially for all you food and drink connoisseurs out there. 

As a Portland local, I pride myself on knowing some of the best places to kick back and enjoy a good meal. Whether you're looking for a classic lobster roll, a perfectly poured beer, or even some Maine barbecue (really!), these are the spots you should hit on your Portland trip. 

For the brunch crowd

First, I'll say this: You can't really go wrong with brunch in Portland. But a couple of my favorite late-morning haunts are Local 188 and The Sinful Kitchen. At Local 188, the kitchen is exposed to the restaurant, so you can sit at the counter and watch the chefs whip up your food, if you wish. I recommend the corned beef hash (hello, house-made hollandaise!) and the winter scramble.

Sinful Kitchen is on the outskirts of Portland, so you'll need to do some planning to get there, but it's so worth the effort. Almost everything on the menu has a gluten-free twin— we're talking pancakes, Fruity Pebble french toast, and a variety of breads. The jackfruit breakfast sandwich is my go-to, and I'm not even vegan.

For general foodies

Everyone is expecting a list of seafood restaurants for Portland. This I know. But I love pizza-focused Flatbread Company. They've reinvented the pizza to include local, organic ingredients as well as gluten- and dairy-free options (and they still find a way to work in the seafood). Since it's impossible to hit all the local breweries, Flatbread has an extensive menu of Maine beers to enjoy with all your carbs. Talk about efficiency. 

As for seafood, Highroller Lobster Co. started as a food truck a few years ago, and as popularity grew for the fresh lobster and crab rolls, it expanded to a permanent, year-round location. Of course, the traditional Maine lobster roll can be had, but you'll find some pretty unique lobster and crab dishes, too. (Lobster grilled cheese or tacos, anyone?)

To the surprise of many, Portland also does barbecue well. Salvage BBQ is the downtown pick, with an open communal dining room equipped with long picnic tables and a sprinkling of 50s dinette tables. If you're willing to drive, Elsmere BBQ and Noble Barbecue are popular neighborhood joints.

For beer lovers

One way to tackle the saturated beer industry in Portland is to think about the breweries as clusters. For example, Lone Pine Brewing, Goodfire Brewing, and Rising Tide Brewing (as well as Urban Farm Fermentory, which specializes in kombucha but also has beer) are within walking distance from one another. On the other side of town, Allagash Brewing, Battery Steele Brewing, Definitive Brewing, and Foundation Brewing are neighbors. Of course there are dozens of others scattered about, but if you're looking for quantity (and you are, aren't you?), this will get you started.

For wine enthusiasts

Cellardoor Winery has a location at Thompson's Point, and it's a perfect spot if you're traveling with family in the winter because there's an ice skating rink next door. There's always something going on at "The Point," as Thompson's Point is called, so check an event calendar prior to your visit. Bissel Brothers Brewery shares this space, too.

Grippy Tannins is a fairly new wine shop in the Old Port. There are frequent tastings, and you can sample any bottle of wine in the store as long as you purchase two glasses. Half-pours are also readily available should you want to try a few from the wine menu (which, because of the generous sampling policy, changes daily).

For café dwellers

In the neighborhood of Deering Center (as well as South Portland), coffee lovers will enjoy Rwanda Bean, a locally owned shop with a sustainably sourced cup of Joe that gives back to farmers in Rwanda.

Closer to downtown, Coffee Me Up is just as much known for its delicious food options as its beverages. Tip: The oat milk latte is out of this world.

Tea drinkers will delight in the serenity that is Dobra Tea, a traditional tea house in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Exchange Street. Take off your shoes and stay a while.

For moments between meals and drinks

Portland isn't just good eats and endless drinks. It's got tons of scenic outdoor areas to explore, too. Pineland Farms and Smiling Hill Farm (in neighboring towns) transform into picturesque locations to go cross country skiing in the winter.

The Eastern Prom is a short, scenic walk along Casco Bay where you can take in some cool, clean air and load up on Insta content. There is a playground on one end, should you have kiddos in tow. Another option for a stroll is the Back Cove Trail, which encircles an estuary basin.

Between the restaurants and breweries are streets upon streets of local shops. Don't leave without stopping into Renys (department story), Mexicali Blues (jewelry shop), Sherman's Books (books and stationary), Cool as a Moose (apparel, gifts, souvenirs), or the Salt Cellar (all-natural salt).