Let the fun begin.

Not that your summer hasn’t been fun already. But your Maine fun quotient is about to go way up, now that the results of our expanded Readers’ Choice poll are in.

The 25th annual edition of the poll asked people to pick their favorites in 50 wide-ranging categories pertaining to fun, food and frolic in Maine: From ice cream, coffee shops, fried clams and lobster rolls, to amusement parks, beaches, record stores and historic sites.

People from all over Maine responded, filling out ballots in print and online. We counted the votes and compiled the results, listing the top three vote-getters in each category.

These results can serve as a great resource for summer fun. It’s basically a summer guide written by Mainers, a reference for advice on what to do and where to go.

And many of the categories — such as best date night restaurant, best pizza or best brew pub — can provide you with helpful information all year long.

The results might steer you to places you’ve never thought about before. The winner for best ice cream, for instance, was The Gelato Fiasco in Brunswick. Maybe you’ve never thought about gelato when looking for an ice cream fix. But maybe you should.

Or maybe you didn’t know you could get a quick slice of pizza from a cart down by the Maine State Pier in Portland. But now that Eric’s Pizza Express has won the best food cart category, you know where to go.

Or perhaps you didn’t know there were restaurants that specialized in hot dogs around here. But now you know, because Chicago Dogs in Scarborough won for best hot dog.

To get the full list of results, including contact information for each winner, turn to Page C8.

And have fun.

2011 READERS’ CHOICE POLL RESULTS 

BEST TAKE-OUT RESTAURANT

Portland Pie Co.

51 York St., Portland (Scarborough and Westbrook locations as well)

772-1231; portlandpie.com

There’s something about the crust at Portland Pie Co. that makes it the perfect take-out pizza. It just doesn’t get soggy. Stays nice and firm. Try the beer crust if you dare.

Second Place: Buttered Biscuit, South Portland

Honorable Mention (TIE): — Amato’s, various locations; Silly’s, Portland 

BEST DINE-IN RESTAURANT

Fore Street

288 Fore St., Portland

775-2717; forestreet.biz

For the past 15 years, Fore Street has been gaining national accolades and lots of customers for its cuisine and emphasis on local foods. The wood-burning oven visible from the tables and the funky brick decor are attractions as well.

Second Place: Portland Pie Co., Portland, Scarborough and Westbrook

Honorable Mention: Silly’s, Portland 

BEST DATE NIGHT RESTAURANT

Fore Street

288 Fore St., Portland

775-2717; forestreet.biz

Read the description above. Plus, you can take a short walk to the waterfront after dinner for a romantic moonlight stroll.

Second Place: DiMillo’s, Portland

Honorable Mention: Five Fifty-Five, Portland 

BEST OUTDOOR DINING

The Lobster Shack at Two Lights

225 Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth

799-1677; lobstershacktwolights.com

You sit at a picnic table just feet from some of the most picturesque rocky shoreline in the whole state. One word of caution about the seagulls — never, ever, leave your food unattended.

Second Place: Silly’s, Portland

Honorable Mention: Flatbread, Portland 

BEST ICE CREAM SHOP

The Gelato Fiasco

74 Maine St., Brunswick

607-4002; gelatofiasco.com

A gelato place wins best ice cream? It makes sense, though, because it tastes like ice cream and cools like ice cream. If you’ve never tried it, Gelato Fiasco also sells its sweet treats at many local stores, including many Hannaford supermarkets.

Second Place: Beal’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, various locations

Honorable Mention: Red’s Dairy Freeze, South Portland 

BEST COFFEE SHOP

Coffee By Design

620 Congress St., 67 India St. and 43 Washington Ave., Portland; in L.L. Bean, Freeport

879-2233, ext. 202; coffeebydesign.com

Started by a local couple who appreciate good coffee, Coffee By Design is in some ways an educational center. You can learn about coffees from around the world from the staff while enjoying the brew.

Second Place: Dunkin’ Donuts

Honorable Mention: Starbucks 

BEST BAKERY

Standard Baking Co.

75 Commercial St., Portland

773-2112; forestreet.biz

Part of the Fore Street group of restaurants, Standard Baking has been the standard for high-quality baked goods around here for more than a decade. You must try the sticky buns.

Second Place: Scratch Baking Co., South Portland

Honorable Mention: Two Fat Cats, Portland 

BEST RESTAURANT FOR VEGETARIANS/VEGANS

Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro

608 Congress St., Portland

347-3111; greenelephantmaine.com

Even folks who say they are meat lovers can appreciate the flavors at this place, from the coconut soup to the Thai basil fried rice.

Second Place: Silly’s, Portland

Honorable Mention: Pepperclub, Portland 

BEST FOOD CART

Eric’s Pizza Express

Commercial Street near the Maine State Pier, Portland

facebook.com/EricsPizzaExpress

Eric Hughes, then 21, opened his Eric’s Pizza Express last summer, and has quickly earned a following. Slices of pizza, from a cart, by the water. What’s not to like?

Second Place: Mark’s Hot Dogs, Portland

Honorable Mention: TIE — Don’s Lunch, Westbrook; Danny’s on the Mall, Brunswick 

BEST PIZZA

Otto

576 Congress St. and 225 Congress St., Portland

773-7099; 358-7870; ottoportland.com

Mashed potato, bacon and scallion. Sounds a little strange, but you just have to try it. This innovative pizza place has gotten rave reviews, and has been featured on cable TV food shows.

Second Place: Portland Pie Co., Portland, Scarborough and Westbrook

Honorable Mention: Flatbread, Portland

BEST FRIED CLAMS

Ken’s Place

207 Pine Point Road, Scarborough

883-6611

Everyone seems to have their favorite seafood spot among the several near Pine Point, but Ken’s is certainly a local institution, started in 1927. It serves burgers and hot dogs too.

Second Place: Susan’s Fish- N-Chips, Portland

Honorable Mention: The Lobster Shack at Two Lights, Cape Elizabeth 

 

BEST WHOLE LOBSTER — TIE

Portland Lobster Company

180 Commercial St., Portland

775-2112; portlandlobstercompany.com

This is a great place for a steamed lobster dinner outside, right smack dab in the middle of Portland’s working waterfront. Plus, a great live music series provides pleasant sounds while you dine.

DiMillo’s, Portland

25 Long Wharf, Portland

772-2216; dimillos.com

Some places boast a happy hour near the water. This one is actually ON the water, as in floating — DiMillo’s is on a former car ferry.

Second Place: Bayley’s, Scarborough

Honorable Mention: None 

BEST LOBSTER ROLL

The Lobster Shack at Two Lights

225 Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth

799-1677; lobstershacktwolights.com

A simple, elegant lobster roll, with mayonnaise on the side. Plus, the view makes everything taste exceptional.

Second Place: Susan’s Fish-N-Chips, Portland

Honorable Mention: Bayley’s, Scarborough 

BEST BARBECUE

Buck’s Naked BBQ

568 Route 1, Freeport and 4 Turning Leaf Dr., Windham

865-0600; 893-0600; bucksnaked-bbq.com

Barbecue with an edge. Buck’s two locations both host “bike nights” for motorcycle enthusiasts, and the Freeport location has a “juke joint” with Saturday night dance parties. And the meats are slow smoked for up to 13 hours!

Second Place: Beale Street Barbeque, Bath and formerly South Portland

Honorable Mention: Norm’s, Portland

BEST BAGEL

Mister Bagel

Various locations

misterbagel.com

Started in Portland in 1977 by transplanted New Yorkers Rick and Gail Hartglass, Mister Bagel now has locations throughout southern Maine, so it’s never too hard to find one.

Second Place: Scratch Baking Co., South Portland

Honorable Mention: The Works Bakery Cafe, Portland 

BEST HOT DOG

Chicago Dogs

285 U.S. Route 1, Scarborough

510-6363; www.chicagodogsofmaine.com

The signature “Chicago Dog” at this place has tomato, pickle, mustard, bright green relish, peppers and celery salt among its ingredients. There are lots of other dog options as well.

Second Place: Mark’s Hot Dogs, Portland

Honorable Mention: Wasses, Rockland and Belfast 

BEST BREAKFAST OR BRUNCH

Garofalo’s Restaurant at The Higgins Beach Inn

34 Ocean Ave., Scarborough

883-6684; higginsbeachinn.com

Brunch on the beach — what could be better? Breakfast ranges from the McHiggins Egg Sandwich to a Lobster Benedict and Eggs Chesterfield (poached eggs on English muffin with smoked salmon and dilled hollandaise sauce).

Second Place: Bintliff’s, Portland and Ogunquit

Honorable Mention: Becky’s Diner, Portland 

BEST BAR

Novare Res Bier Cafe

4 Canal Plaza, Portland

761-2437; ovareresbiercafe.com

This is a beer aficionado’s dream, with 25 rotating taps, two hand pumps and hundreds of kinds of bottled beer. It’s a little tricky to find: go down lower Exchange Street and look for the alley at the Key Bank sign.

Second Place: The Great Lost Bear, Portland

Honorable Mention (TIE): — Ri Ra, Portland, and Gritty McDuff’s, Portland, Freeport and Auburn 

BEST SPORTS BAR

Rivalries Sports Pub and Grill

10 Cotton St., Portland

774-6044; rivalriesportland.com

This place has a great location for a sports bar — just a one-minute walk to the Cumberland County Civic Center. It also has 30 HD big-screen TVs.

Second Place: Binga’s Stadium, Portland

Honorable Mention: Fore Play, Portland 

BEST HAPPY HOUR

DiMillo’s

25 Long Wharf, Portland

772-2216; dimillos.com

A full bar, with a wide selection of beer, wine and cocktails. Add a floating restaurant on the waterfront, and you’ve got yourself all sorts of happiness.

Second Place: Porthole, Portland

Honorable Mention: Margaritas, Portland, Auburn, Augusta and Orono

BEST BREW PUB

Gritty McDuff’s

396 Fore St., Portland (Freeport and Auburn locations as well)

772-2739; grittys.com

This brew pub has been making fine beer since 1988, when most of us had never heard the term “brew pub.” Gritty’s is also known for its “mug club,” where members get their own personal mug for a membership fee.

Second Place: Sebago Brewing Company, various locations

Honorable Mention: Sea Dog Brewing Company, South Portland, Bangor and Topsham 

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE — INDOOR

State Theatre

609 Congress St., Portland

956-6000; statetheatreportland.com

This 1929 movie palace had been shuttered for more than four years before re-opening last October. Since then, the place has been booking a full schedule of top-name acts, from Elvis Costello and The Pixies to Lily Tomlin and Buddy Guy.

Second Place: Merrill Auditorium, Portland

Honorable Mention: Port City Music Hall, Portland 

BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE — OUTDOOR

L.L. Bean Discovery Park

95 Main St., Freeport

(877) 755-2326; llbean.com/shop/retailStores/summerInThePark

L.L. Bean hosts a great concert series every summer in Discovery Park, and it’s free! Rickie Lee Jones and America are among the acts still set to perform this summer.

Second Place: Maine State Pier, Portland

Honorable Mention: Monument Square, Portland 

BEST KARAOKE/OPEN MIC — TIE

Old Port Tavern

11 Moulton St., Portland

774-0444; oldporttavern.com

All karaoke, all the time. Well, not all the time, but Sunday through Thursday anyway. With DJ Don Corman and DJ Mike Mahoney.

Sea Dog Brewing Company

Various locations

seadogbrewing.com

A wide assortment of beer selections might make the karaoke sound even better. It couldn’t hurt.

Second Place: Asylum, Portland

Honorable Mention: None 

BEST MOVIE THEATER

Nickelodeon

1 Temple St., Portland

772-9751; patriotcinemas.com/nickelodeon.html

In this day and age, there’s something very cool about being able to see first-run films right downtown. They have a good selection of art-house films as well.

Second Place: Cinemagic, Westbrook

Honorable Mention: Cinemagic, Saco 

BEST DRIVE-IN

Saco Drive-In

969 Portland Road, Saco

284-1016

This venerable drive-in on Route 1 is run by a group of University of Southern Maine business students. Talk about a “reel” world education.

Second Place: Prides Corner Drive-In, Westbrook

Honorable Mention: Bridgton Twin Drive-In, Bridgton 

BEST PERFORMANCE ARTS THEATER

Maine State Music Theatre

Pickard Theatre, 1 Bath Road, Brunswick

725-8769; msmt.org

This theater traces its roots to the 1950s and the Brunswick Summer Playhouse. As Maine State Music Theatre, it puts on some of the greatest musicals of all time every year.

Second Place: Portland Stage, Portland

Honorable Mention: Merrill Auditorium, Portland 

BEST LIGHTHOUSE

Portland Head Light

1000 Shore Road, Cape Elizabeth

799-2661; portlandheadlight.com

The first time you see Portland Head Light, you say, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen this before.” Its image is on postcards, calendars and all manner of trinkets. Basically, when photographers want a picture of the perfect lighthouse, this is where they go.

Second Place: Two Lights, Cape Elizabeth

Honorable Mention: Bug Light, South Portland 

BEST SUMMER FESTIVAL

Yarmouth Clam Festival

clamfestival.com

Over the past 46 years, this event has grown into one of Maine’s signature summer moments. There’s the parade, the clam shucking contest and the Diaper Derby. Oh yeah, and of course, boat-loads of clams to eat.

Second Place: Old Port Festival, Portland

Honorable Mention: Maine Lobster Festival, Rockland

BEST BOWLING ALLEY

Bayside Bowl

58 Alder St., Portland

791-2695; baysidebowl.com

This bowling alley has become the hip place in Portland during the past couple of years. Yes, there’s bowling, but there’s also a bar, pub food and a live music space. So you really never have to leave.

Second Place: Yankee Lanes, Portland

Honorable Mention: Big 20 Bowling Center, Scarborough 

BEST AMUSEMENT PARK

Funtown Splashtown USA

774 Portland Road (U.S. Route 1), Saco

284-5139; funtownusa.com

Two parks in one — a traditional amusement park and a water park. Hard to beat that combo. Plus, it has one of the best radio jingles ever.

Second Place: Palace Playland, Old Orchard Beach

Honorable Mention: Aquaboggan, Saco 

BEST MUSEUM

Portland Museum of Art

7 Congress Square, Portland

775-6148; portlandmuseum.org

The Portland Museum of Art is consistently rated one of the best art museums around, and it’s a big tourist draw as well. Check out the John Marin show on display through Oct. 10.

Second Place: Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, Portland

Honorable Mention: Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland 

BEST ART GALLERY

Portland Museum of Art

7 Congress Square, Portland

775-6148; portlandmuseum.org

A great place to see art is a great place to see art. No matter what you call it.

Second Place (TIE): Greenhut Galleries, Portland; Space Gallery, Portland

Honorable Mention: None 

BEST BOOKSTORE

Borders

430 Gorham Road, South Portland

If you like Borders, you’d better hurry — it’s going out of business. For years, Borders was the “go-to” store for people looking for books and music. Lucky for Maine, there are great independent bookstores around to fill the void.

Second Place: Longfellow Books, Portland

Honorable Mention: Nonesuch Books and Cards, South Portland and Biddeford

BEST DOG-FRIENDLY PARK

Fort Williams Park

1000 Shore Road, Cape Elizabeth

799-4151; tinyurl.com/fortwilliams

Amazingly, this is a town-run park. It’s one of the most scenic places in Maine, with a gorgeous rocky coastline, old military buildings, sprawling lawns and Portland Head Light.

Second Place (TIE): Willard Beach, South Portland; Eastern Promenade, Portland; Deering Oaks, Portland

Honorable Mention: None 

BEST BOUTIQUE OR CLOTHING STORE

Restless Threads

345 North Street, Saco

391-9339

This store promotes “fun, fashionable” clothing and accessories at an affordable price.

Second Place: Material Objects, Portland

Honorable Mention (TIE): Mexicali Blues, various locations; Sashay’s, Falmouth 

BEST NAIL SALON

Head Games Salon for Hair & Body

116 Free St., Portland

773-8393; headgameshair.com

This popular salon offers a wide range of services for hair and health, including a “deep sea clay scalp treatment” or a foot soak and massage.

Second Place: Lucinda’s Day Spa, Cumberland and Scarborough

Honorable Mention: Akari, Portland 

BEST DAY SPA

Lucinda’s Day Spa

263 Route 1, Cumberland Foreside; 311 Beech Ridge Road, Scarborough

829-3100, ext. 2; lucindasdayspa.com

Two locations. So whether you are north or south of Portland, if you need a spa day, you’re not far from getting one.

Second Place: Head Games Salon for Hair & Body, Portland

Honorable Mention (TIE): Nine Stones, Portland; Akari, Portland 

BEST HAIR SALON

Head Games Salon for Hair & Body

116 Free St., Portland

773-8393; headgameshair.com

Try the “Liscio Crystal Blowout.” The website says it’s better and safer than a Brazilian blow out. For those of you who speak hair.

Second Place: Akari, Portland

Honorable Mention (TIE): Bei Capelli, Scarborough; Mensroom, Portland 

BEST TATTOO PARLOR

Sanctuary Tattoo & Art Gallery

31 Forest Ave, Portland

828-8866; sanctuarytattoo.com

The Sanctuary folks are artistic and straight shooters. They’ll tell you, yes, it does hurt, and no, we won’t give you a tattoo if you’re not 18.

Second Place: Tsunami Tattoo, Portland

Honorable Mention: Pins & Needles, Portland 

BEST BEACH

Pine Point Beach

Pine Point Road and East Grand Avenue, Scarborough

pinepointbeach.com; visitmaine.net/beaches.htm

This is basically the much quieter stretch of beach north of Old Orchard Beach. It’s a great place for families to stay, because it’s quiet, but also very close to the excitement of OOB.

Second Place: Higgins Beach, Scarborough

Honorable Mention: Popham Beach, Phippsburg 

BEST BEACH-SIDE RESTAURANT

Joseph’s By the Sea

55 West Grand Ave., Old Orchard Beach

934-5044; josephsbythesea.com

A “casual elegance” restaurant overlooking the ocean. Serves breakfast and dinner.

Second Place: The Lobster Shack at Two Lights, Cape Elizabeth

Honorable Mention: Garofalo’s Restaurant at Higgins Beach Inn, Scarborough 

BEST HOTEL OR RESORT

Samoset Resort

220 Warrenton St., Rockport

594-2511; samosetresort.com

On the water between Camden and Rockland, this resort has a spectacular location. And it’s close to lots of great sightseeing and day-trip opportunities.

Second Place: Nonantum Resort, Kennebunkport

Honorable Mention: Inn By The Sea, Cape Elizabeth 

BEST GOLF COURSE

Belgrade Lakes Golf Club

46 Clubhouse Drive, Belgrade Lakes

495-4653; belgradelakesgolf.com

Even if you don’t like golf (and who doesn’t like golf?), playing this course in the beautiful Belgrade Lakes area is a worthwhile experience.

Second Place (TIE): Samoset Resort, Rockland; Portland Country Club, Falmouth

Honorable Mention: None 

BEST BED & BREAKFAST

Higgins Beach Inn

34 Ocean Ave., Scarborough

883-6684; higginsbeachinn.com

It’s only seven miles south of Portland, but at this quaint old inn, you feel like you’re a lot farther away. It also has a great restaurant, Garofalo’s.

Second Place: Hartwell House, Ogunquit

Honorable Mention: Berry Manor Inn, Rockland 

BEST LAND TOUR

Downeast Duck Adventures

94 Commercial St., Portland

774-3825; (800) 979-3370; downeastducktours.com

See Portland by land AND by sea with this amphibious vehicle tour. If you’ve never been in a bus as it drives straight into the water, you ought to try it. It’s a blast.

Second Place: Portland Trolley Tour, Portland

Honorable Mention: All Aboard Trolley, Rockland 

BEST BOAT TOUR

Casco Bay Lines

56 Commercial St., Portland

774-7871; cascobaylines.com

Casco Bay Lines is the transit system for the Casco Bay islands. It does offer lots of cruises, some with music. But sometimes, just the short commuter’s hop to Peaks Island is enough to satisfy your cruising needs.

Second Place: Downeast Duck Adventures, Portland

Honorable Mention: Lucky Catch Cruises, Portland 

BEST CHARTER FISHING TOUR

Lucky Catch Cruises

170 Commercial St., Portland

761-0941; luckycatch.com

On the Lucky Catch, they haul lobster traps, letting passengers help and explaining every step they take. They also have private charters.

Second Place: Bailey Island, Harpswell

Honorable Mention: Super Fly, Warren 

BEST RECORD STORE

Bull Moose

Various locations

bullmoose.com

Bull Moose has grown to be Maine’s best-known music store company. And on the national scene, it’s a player too, helping to start the national event known as Record Store Day.

Second Place (TIE): Strawberries, South Portland; Bill O’Neil’s House of Rock N Roll, Saco

Honorable Mention: None 

BEST PARK OR HISTORIC SITE

Fort Williams Park

1000 Shore Road, Cape Elizabeth

799-4151; tinyurl.com/fortwilliams

You want history? This park was a military post, beginning in 1899, with lots of buildings and batteries still in place. Plus, the park houses Portland Head Light, first lit in 1791.

Second Place: Two Lights, Cape Elizabeth

Honorable Mention: Acadia National Park, Mt. Desert Island 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com