7 Reasons to Love Portland, Maine
Written December 2021
Traveled November 2021
For my birthday, Justin surprised me with a weekend getaway to Portland, Maine! Being that we are both foodies and enjoy craft drinks (coffee, beer, cocktails, all the things lol), this was the perfect trip for us! While we could get to Portland in a day from Boston, we wanted to get away from the city for a few days. With only two days in Portland, we experienced some of the best food and drinks, plus got a little touch of nature.
Whether we return for another weekend getaway or just a day trip (to get a beer at Allagash), I know it won’t be long before we return to Portland, Maine!
If you’ve ever considered traveling to Portland but haven’t yet, here are SEVEN reasons to prep your belly and mind for the awesomeness that is Portland.
Our first stop in Portland was COFFEE. Located in downtown Portland, Bard Coffee‘s walk up window was open and serving FRESH, delicious coffee. I got a Pumpkin Spice latte that is made in-house and was, without a doubt, the best pumpkin spice coffee I’ve had. The gentleman taking our order was so pleasant and happy to share his recommendations. Though the wait was a little long for a Saturday morning cup of coffee, it was WORTH IT.
You’ll soon notice everything in Portland, Maine is simply… WORTH it (:
Belgian Beers on Tap
Belgian beers have a unique quality to them. Having a long history that dates back to 1000 A.D., Belgian monks have been perfecting the art of brewing beer for centuries. There are so many different styles of Belgian beers, including abbey ales, dubels, tripels, quads… and I’ll drink ’em all! I really have Justin to thank for getting me into this style. Having lived in the Pacific Northwest for a few years, I drank a LOT of IPAs. However, the yeast in Belgian beers is what makes them unique. Instead of using varieties of hops as in IPAs, Belgian beer focuses on adding fruits, herbs, and spices to change the beer flavors. This makes them complex in flavor, but incredibly drinkable.
We found TONS of Belgian beers on tap at Novare Res Bier Cafe. They even had different style glasses for each beer. Win, win, win.
Allagash Brewing Company
Literally, without a doubt, Allagash is 100% my new fav brewery. Why?! Every beer we tried, I enjoyed. Justin is super into Belgian-style beers and this brewery is serving them up like it’s no big deal, but really… it IS.
So what makes Allagash so special, then? Everything. Literally. The owner, Rob, created its flagship beer “Allagash White” when witbiers were not popular in the United States. Having been captivated by the clove and citrus notes in the yeast of a Belgian witbier, Rob decided to try his hand at brewing it when he started Allagash. Stories told by staff at Allagash admit that Rob would order his own beer, Allagash White, from local sites to keep it on tap because it wasn’t frequently ordered. Over time, it has grown in popularity (of course) and Allagash White is now a staple craft beer. You can read more about Rob’s journey in creating Allagash White on the brewery’s blog HERE!
Beyond Allagash White, there’s LOT more to this brewery. As we worked through the beer menu, we were impressed with each sip. Our favorites: A barrel-aged quad brewed with Amarone must (Justin’s favorite wine from Italy!!), Foliage Report (dubbel ale), Great Woods (dark wheat beer), Along the Way (25th anniversary beer; barrel-aged blend of wild ales), and Coolship Cerise!
We were fortunate enough to chat with one of the staff members who showed us Allagash’s Coolship (Dutch/Flemish koelschip), which is a 15-barrel steel pan used to cool beer and expose it to naturally occurring yeast that flows through the stained glassed windows of the wooden shed. The coolship shed was built in 2007 and is the FIRST one in the United States!
The process of brewing using the coolship is complex, allowing for spontaneous fermentation. After boiling wort and adding aged hops, the steaming liquid is poured into the coolship’s steel pan and left overnight with the stained glassed windows open. With the untreated wood and outdoor aromas (including cherry orchards!), the flavors come together in unique ways. It is then transferred to a fermentation tank for ONE year, then French oak barrels for more aging. Pretty wild, huh?! Yes, indeed. Allagash calls them their “wild ales.” As we sipped on the Cooship Cerise during this special tour, we were entirely convinced Allagash is the best brewery.
Learn more about the coolship from Allagash:
Not going to lie, I was not excited about lobstah rolls. I’ve never had one and the idea of cold lobster on a sandwich didn’t really entice me. It made my mouth water in the “I might vomit” kind of way by just thinking about a lobster roll. However, with a little research and encouragement from Justin, I let go of my fear and the idea of a lobstahh roll started making my mouth water in a little better way.
I’m so glad I decided to buckle up and just try a lobster roll already. It was a bucket list item I was going to remove because of fear. And I don’t live in fear.
So… behold… my first lobster roll experience. This is 1000000% something you cannot skip if you’re ever in Portland, Maine. And if you’re going to get one, go to Highroller Lobster Co. because THEY CREATE LOBSTER MAGIC.
We ordered fresh oysters, lobster grilled cheese with pineapple mayo, lobster bisque, and a lobster roll with garlic mayo!
The Holiest Donuts
I’m not a big donut gal, but if there’s a local, hip donut shoppe, you betcha I’m going to check it out! My favorite donut battle was in Portland, Oregon, so I figured I’d give its East Coast twin a go.
Made with fresh Maine potatoes, donuts from The Holy Donut are made with local, healthy ingredients. They’re packed with flavor and have a rich, (sorry if you’re sensitive to this word lol) moist texture. Be prepared for some locations to be sold out on the weekends! We had to travel outside Portland to get our donut fixe, but it was WORTH it!
Okay, admittedly, we didn’t get to eat at Duckfat. However, we could not because they were closed due to equipment failure. Justin has experienced the poutine at Duck Fat before and was most looking forward to enjoying it again, but we will have to return for the famous “Belgian fries topped with locally sourced cheese curd, duck gravy & fresh chives.”
Artisan & Tapas Style Menus
We are not afraid of mixing a variety of flavors during meals, so we often order food to share when we go out for dinner. In planning this weekend’s food adventures, Justin made not one, but TWO dinner reservations for Saturday night! Both restaurants served the most artisan, unique flavor pairings I’ve yet to experience again. We ordered small plates at each restaurant to get a feel for each menu, embracing the burst of flavors.
We ate at EVO and Central Provisions and I have been dreaming of our meals ever since. We were engulfed in the flavor of the moment, so I neglected to get photos of our meals… but allow me to paint a picture for ya.
Chef Matt Ginn of EVO has won the title of Food Network’s Chopped Champion three times, which speaks to the bold, unique flavors packed in every dish at this Mediterranean style restaurant. Walking into EVO is like entering a unique, sophisticated, and intimate theater. There is mezzanine seating, which allows for peering into the streets of Portland through the second-story glass windows. On the entry level, there is kitchen-side seating (called the Chef’s Counter) which allows guests to interact with chefs as they create artisan meals, or street window seating. When we arrived at EVO, our table was not yet ready, so the hostess provided us with bubbles and a biriyani dip on the house as we waited. The menu changes daily to feature meat, fish, and produce sourced from local farms. Everything we ate made our palates go “WOAH.” We hope to sit next to the kitchen next time!
Central Provisions is a small plates restaurant that offers seasonal menu choices. The interior is rustic, with the feel of a friend’s basement – approachable, yet fun. Most of the foods seemed to have a combination of Latin and Asian inspiration. Unfortunately, we were not a huge fan of the margarita or sriracha beef salad… however, everything else we tried was incredible!