In Portland and its surrounding towns, “turnover” seems to be the restaurant word of the year. Not the fruit-filled baked good (although that probably also deserves a celebration), but flux and change in the world of restaurants, diners, cafes, bars and food shops. Case in point: In this third edition of the area’s Best 75, more than 20% of the entries have changed since our 2023 update. Some beloved businesses shut their doors forever — Helm, for instance, which I sadly pulled from this list days before it was published — others faltered in the late/post-pandemic environment and a few were simply edged out by talented newcomers. Unfortunately, selecting only 75 out of hundreds also means leaving out many deserving bars, restaurants and food businesses. It never gets easier.

You may notice that the Top 10 shortlist has also evolved over the past year — in some ways more than the extended list. A few evergreen legends continue to cling tightly to a place in the best-of-the-best category, while others have nudged and jostled their way to the top (including one rookie that didn’t even exist when I compiled last year’s list). Very little about metropolitan Portland’s dining scene remains static, and I hope this list reflects that frustrating, yet beautiful mutability.

View map of restaurants

Businesses are listed in alphabetical order. Given labor shortages and lingering impacts of the pandemic, please check before visiting any of the businesses in this guide as hours and menus may change. Want to find Asian restaurants in our Top 10 that have happy hour? Choose all 3 buttons to get your results.

  • Banh Appetit

    It has some competition these days, but this unassuming Cumberland Avenue shop continues to serve some of the area’s best banh mi sandwiches and pho. The classic Thit Nguoi cold-cut sandwich is a standout, as is Nem Nuong, spicy grilled Vietnamese sausage on a crusty baguette.

    171 Cumberland Ave.
    (207) 613-9399
    TAGS: Lunch, dinner, takeout, Asian
  • Bar Futo

    Chef Ian Driscoll’s skewer-centric Japanese-inspired menu blends yakitori classics like tare-dunked tsukune (chicken meatball) and king oyster mushrooms with garlic scapes with inviting izakaya dishes and an outstanding beverage menu (including several non-alcoholic cocktails). An order of the kakigori, a colossal shaved-snow mountain drizzled in syrup, is obligatory. Read the review. 

    425 Fore St.
    (207) 956-7373
    TAGS: Cocktailbar, Dinner, Happyhour, Asian, Reservations, Takeout, Top
  • Bard Coffee

    Nowhere in town does the staff know more about their pourovers and espresso drinks than at this inclusive, contemporary Old Port cafe. The staff includes a few competitive-league cuppers and brewers. When the weather allows, you can order from the takeout window and sip your drink on a bench in Tommy’s Park.

    185 Middle St.
    (207) 899-4788
    TAGS: coffeeshop
  • Bistro Leluco

    This South Portland newcomer didn’t need time to find itself. It started life with a sustainable concept (literally): independently sourced New England ingredients enlisted to produce a largely traditional menu of French and Italian bistro classics. Wines, cocktails and intelligent service are also top-notch here. Read the review. 

    347 Cottage Rd.
    South Portland
    (207) 536-1690
    TAGS: Dinner, reservations, takeout, Mediterranean
  • Bite Into Maine

    In 2023, there were three Bites Into Maine (including the legendary food truck that parks next to the scenic Portland Head Light from May until October). This year: There are four, now that a new brick-and-mortar location at 31 Diamond St. in East Bayside offers the company’s signature house-picked lobster on buttery, griddled buns. Order online or in-person. Read the review.

    Commissary: 185 Route 1 #2
    Food truck: Fort Williams Park
    Cape Elizabeth
    At Allagash Brewing Co.
    50 Industrial Way
    31 Diamond St. Portland
    (207) 289-6142
    TAGS: Lunch, dinner, takeout, seafood, outdoors
  • BLVL/Belleville

    When its Munjoy Hill kitchen proved too small to keep up with demand for its laminated, mostly French pastries — think croissants, pains aux raisin and sticky kouign-amanns — Belleville opened a second location, a (more) spacious, to-go storefront on Forest Avenue where staff serve breakfast pastries like fabulous morning buns. If you want pizza though, you’ll have to visit the original shop.

    1 North St.
    767 Forest Ave.
    (207) 536-7463
    TAGS: Coffeeshop, bakery, takeout, pizza
  • Blyth & Burrows

    Oil-rubbed brass ceiling tiles and oil lamps lend Blyth & Burrows a certain maximalist, Victorian-inspired charm that extends to its ever-changing menu of sophisticated, well-composed cocktails. Unusual cocktail ingredients like fenugreek, spinach, marjoram and arrack signpost the bar’s ambitions, but the proof (sometimes overproof) is in the sipping. If you’re on a bar crawl, B&B is a mandatory stop.

    26 Exchange St.
    (207) 613-9070
    TAGS: Cocktailbar
  • Bread & Friends

    Delayed by the pandemic, it took a few extra years for Bread & Friends’ founders to open their retail bakery shop and cafe, but the wait was worth it. This team of San Francisco transplants with New England roots make gorgeous viennoiserie (guava kouign-amann anyone?) and rustic sourdough loaves. Year-round, the sunny cafe serves brunch, and once the weather warms up again, they’ll restart dinner-service: both indoors and out.

    505 Fore St.
    (207) 536-4399
    TAGS: Coffeeshop, bakery, breakfast, brunch, lunch, takeout, outdoors, dinner
  • Broken Arrow

    Lyle and Holly Aker’s seasonal, modern-American restaurant had a rough go of it in 2023, with the loss of much of its original team. But this quirkily designed, Americana-themed Arts District hangout didn’t take long to come back to full strength, serving their famously messy double smashburger and even managing to pull off a theme night of scallop poke and Lambrusco for good measure. Read the review.

    545 Congress St.
    (207) 808-8938
    TAGS: Cocktailbar, dinner, reservations, happy hour, takeout
  • Cafe Louis

    Chef/owner Evan Richardson knows he’s onto something special with his always-lively South Portland hotspot. I know because he opened a second location (Costa Media) in Camden this year. But don’t forget the original. Cafe Louis continues to deliver enormously appealing Costa Rican and Caribbean cuisine and cocktails in a space no larger than a starter apartment. And somehow, friendly, efficient servers make the room feel expansive and most of all, welcoming. Read the review.

    173 Ocean St.
    South Portland
    (207) 536-0169
    TAGS: Top10, cocktailbar, brunch, lunch, dinner, takeout, reservations, Latin, outdoors
  • Central Provisions

    When Portlanders talk about restaurants that changed the city’s dining scene, they frequently (i.e. almost always) mention Central Provisions, Paige and Chris Gould’s moody, rambling small plates restaurant in the heart of the Old Port. Seasonality and local sourcing are part of the charm of what locals often call CP, but just as crucial is the Goulds’ hiring acumen. Line cooks here include some of the best in the country, many of whom use CP as a springboard for later success after leaving their mark on Portland in the form of crispy duck tongues with hoisin and radish, or waffles with foie gras butter and candied bacon. Read the review.

    414 Fore St.
    (207) 805-1085
    TAGS: Top10, cocktailbar, brunch, lunch, dinner, reservations, outdoors
  • Chaval

    Incorporating local products into their half-Iberian, half-Gallic menu, chef Damian Sansonetti and pastry chef Ilma Lopez reimagine Maine as the westernmost member state of the European Union. With sherry on tap and an inventive cocktail menu, Chaval is an ideal spot to spend a leisurely evening out. Desserts are unmissable. Read the review. 

    58 Pine St.
    (207) 772-1110
    TAGS: Cocktailbar, dinner, takeout, reservations, Mediterranean, outdoors
  • The Clam Bar

    Earning points for its well-executed menu of Maine fry-shack classics and Latin-inflected seafood dishes (think: crunchy, tangy tuna crudo tostadas), as well as its urban renewal work in turning a dilapidated building on a neglected stretch of Commercial Street into an attractive clam-focused “campus,” The Clam Bar deserves all the attention it gets. Read the review. 

    199 W. Commercial St.
    (207) 805-1763
    TAGS: Cocktailbar, lunch, dinner, takeout, seafood, Latin, outdoors
  • Cong Tu Bot

    Rebooted from scratch in early 2023 after a few years of irregular, pandemic-era operation, chef Vien Dobui’s Vietnamese comfort food restaurant is hitting its stride once again. Old favorites like spicy, sweet-and-savory hu tieu xao (pan-fried broad noodles) and goi bop cai (cabbage salad) remind diners why Dobui was a James Beard Award finalist in 2020 and 2022. Newer dishes like shrimp sliders and phenomenal littleneck clam congee with herbaceous rau raum will keep them coming back to see how Cong Tu Bot evolves. Read the review.

    57 Washington Ave.
    (207) 221-8022
    TAGS: dinner, takeout, reservations, Asian, outdoors
  • Crispy Gai

    Looking for spice and heat? Head to Exchange Street in the Old Port, where you’ll find Thai-inspired takes on fried chicken, umami-suffused noodles and fragrant cocktails. Crispy Gai is also a weekend brunch destination, serving dishes (tom-yum-spiced French fries and satay sandwiches) that might remind you of a Southeast Asian riff on dim sum.

    90 Exchange St.
    (207) 536-1017
    TAGS: Brunch, lunch, dinner, takeout, Asian, cocktailbar
  • Crown Jewel

    Now embarking on its seventh season serving craveable summer classics like burgers, deviled eggs, buttered lobster tails with poblano sauce and plenty of tropical-themed cocktails, Crown Jewel remains a summertime dining destination. Hop a ferry for a romantic journey out to Great Diamond Island and enjoy a boozy Crown Jewel Punch on the porch or inside the swanky former blacksmith’s shop. Read the review. Note: Crown Jewel is seasonal. See website for hours and dates of operation.

    255 Diamond Ave.
    Great Diamond Island
    (207) 766-3000
    TAGS: reservations, takeout, lunch, dinner, outdoors
  • David’s 388

    For me, there’s no higher compliment than to say that I believe chef/owner David Turin really understands how to run a traditional bistro. His menu at David’s 388 showcases hearty, mostly European-inspired dishes like duck breasts, burgers, salads and steaks, while never giving in to cheffy pretension. Turin gets the appeal of bistro cooking, he knows how to do it expertly, and I’ll keep coming back as long as the Negroamaro keeps flowing. Read the review. 

    388 Cottage Road
    South Portland
    (207) 347-7388
    TAGS: dinner, reservations
  • Duckfat

    It’s time to take back Duckfat. Nearly 20 years after it opened, James Beard Award winner Rob Evans’s cozy, comfort-food-focused restaurant remains one of the best-known and most popular restaurants with tourists (especially in the summer). But crowd-averse locals poo-poo this spot to their own detriment. Duckfat built its reputation on golden, Belgian-style fries (made with Maine potatoes), gelato-based milkshakes, tart house-made sodas (like effervescent cherry phosphate) and gravy-dribbled poutine. But paninis (try the Thanksgiving-reminiscent turkey version) and salads like a duck-breast-topped Caesar round out a formerly too-heavy menu. Go mid-week at lunchtime or after 8 p.m. for easy access to one of the few, no-res tables.

    43 Middle St.
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, outdoors
  • Elda

    Once the lone holder of two spots in this list’s Top 10, chef/owner Bowman Brown closed his casual cafe, Jackrabbit, this January. Fortunately for Mainers, his fine-dining juggernaut, Elda, lives on in its elegant Pepperell Mill digs. It’s hard to overstate Brown’s tremendous skill and creativity at marrying Scandinavian, Maine and Japanese inspirations in his soignee prix-fixe menu at Elda, a special-occasion restaurant if there ever was one. Suffice it to say that, while Elda is expensive, it remains one of the very best restaurants in New England. Read the review. 

    14 Main St.
    (207) 602-0359
    TAGS: Top10, dinner, reservations
  • Eventide

    During tourist season, snagging a table at tiny Eventide becomes an extreme sport. But those lines snake around the block for good reason. Big Tree Hospitality Group’s swashbuckling reinvention of the coastal seafood shack is appealing from start to finish, especially the fresh, local oysters from the raw bar, fried seafood sandwiches served on steamed bao-style buns and cocktails that range from bright to savory. It’s hard to admit, but Eventide really is worth the wait. Read the review. 

    86 Middle St.
    (207) 774-8538
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, reservations, seafood, outdoors
  • Evo

    Nearly every wall of chef Matt Ginn’s restaurant is made of glass. I always thought this design choice was intended to give diners a view of the Fore Street crowds. But maybe it’s also to give gawking pedestrians an opportunity to see what’s on Ginn’s artfully composed plates (especially summer salads blooming with herbs and edible petals). Dishes at Evo are framed as explorations of an evocative, Maine-meets-the-Mediterranean theme…and they taste as good as they look.

    443 Fore St.
    (207) 358-7830
    TAGS: dinner, takeout, reservations, happyhour, Mediterranean
  • Fish & Whistle

    When you pair one of the area’s most talented pastry chefs (Kate Hamm, Leeward) with an equally talented seafood chef (Jason Eckerson, Eventide), you get a culinary supergroup that just so happens to perform exclusively in the key of (sustainably sourced) fish-and-chips and dense, velvety soft-serve ice cream. A Biddeford highlight. Read the review.

    299 Main St.
    (207) 571-4520
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, seafood
  • Fore Street

    Since it opened more than a quarter-century ago, Fore Street has earned well-deserved local and national praise, like a James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Northeast award for chef-emeritus Sam Hayward back in 2004. But the farm-to-table restaurant never quits, never stops incorporating locally sourced (sometimes even foraged) ingredients, never stops placing a premium on its cooks (and I mean every one of its cooks, from the line to the pass) maintaining focus on technique and quality. What a marathon! Read the review. 

    288 Fore St.
    (207) 775-2717
    TAGS: Top10, dinner, reservations
  • Friends & Family

    Think of this Arts District restaurant as a wine bar, a snack shop, a speakeasy or a pizzeria — it makes no difference. You’ll be happy regardless. Friends & Family’s vibe is casual and friendly, and that goes double for Monday evening pizza nights, where the restaurant’s naturally leavened, thick-crusted Grandma slices are joined by thin-crusted round pies. Choose any bottle from the panoramic wall-of-wine to go with dinner, and maybe an extra to take home as well. Read the review.

    593 Congress St.
    (207) 536-4022
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, pizza
  • The Garrison

    Chef Christian Hayes has eased us all into unwavering acceptance of The Garrison’s quirkiness. That’s quite a feat, and one that makes his seasonal, upscale New American restaurant unique among its peers. I’ve called it a punk sensibility, but perhaps that pulls focus from Hayes’ imaginative palate. These days, he’s vibing with five spice in ice cream and dusted onto cashews strewn over incredibly tender braised pork belly; harissa tomato sauce with preserved lemon and meatballs — you get the picture. Read the review. 

    81 Bridge St.
    (207) 847-0566
    TAGS: Top10, dinner, reservations
  • Gross Confection Bar

    Someone needs to start a GoFundMe campaign to buy chef/owner Brant Dadaleares a neon sign, or perhaps a high-lumen signal beacon to let people know that Gross Confection Bar is there. What began as a clever idea to serve individually portioned sweets and dessert boards (plus sugar-friendly cocktails) to diners has become something of a beloved after-dinner institution in Portland. Visitors rarely find it on their own, but locals all seem to know it (and love it). Don’t wait for a Mainer to take you there, though. Your order of caramelized banana mousse is waiting. Read the review. 

    57 Exchange St.
    (207) 956-7208
    TAGS: bakery, cocktailbar
  • Highroller Lobster Co.

    At this double-wide storefront space kitted out in lurid ’80s red, white and black, you’ll find some of the region’s most creative seafood dishes. Lobster and crab rolls are the main focus, but they’re given a new, offbeat sensibility with accompanying sauces that range from lobster ghee to charred pineapple mayo. Read the review.

    104 Exchange St.
    (207) 536-1623
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, seafood
  • The Honey Paw

    Technically a noodle bar, with mostly walk-in seating, The Honey Paw’s best dishes often involve no noodles at all: charred cabbage with fermented soy, rare beef salad with smoked oyster mayonnaise, and super crunchy wings. And did I mention the seasonal homemade soft-serve?

    78 Middle St.
    (207) 774-8538
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, reservations, Asian
  • Il Leone

    You can get there from here, but you’ll need to take a ferry to Peaks Island where for a few warm months each year, this fully outdoor Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant becomes one of the region’s finest pizzerias. Naturally leavened dough, high quality toppings and a team committed to learning and improving during the off-season make Il Leone a seasonal must-visit. Read the review. Note: Il Leone is seasonal. See website for hours and dates of operation.

    2 Garden Place
    Peaks Island (Portland)
    (207) 370-1471
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takout, pizza, outdoors
  • Indy’s Sandwich

    While the Tam & Cam, a banh mi in panini’s clothing, gets all the attention at this cute, cozy South Portland sandwich shop, other sandwiches deserve your consideration, especially the traditional Cubano and the warming Kai Kata, a spicy, Asian-inspired breakfast sandwich. Japanese curry bowls are also a real draw here. Order ahead to avoid the lines.

    744 Main St.
    South Portland
    (207) 747-4082
    TAGS: breakfast, lunch, takeout
  • Isa

    Here’s an insider tip: When people ask me where to take visitors for lunch, I almost always recommend Isa Bistro. The dining room is sharp, yet unassuming, with classic touches like black-and-white-tiled floors and lacquered window frames, but that’s only half of my reasoning. The rest comes down to the winning pairing of general manager and sommelier Suzie Perez’s smart wine choices with chef Isaul Perez’s rock-steady cooking, as well as the effortless way he introduces Latin elements into a mostly traditional European bistro menu. As ever, a complete gem.

    79 Portland St.
    (207) 808-8533
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, reservations, takeout, outdoors
  • Izakaya Minato

    For fans of izakaya dining, it doesn’t get much better than Washington Avenue’s Izakaya Minato, especially diners on a budget, for whom the affordable $42 omakaze menu of family-style plates represents one of the best bargains in town. Order a bottle or carafe of sake and pick out your own vintage sake cup: an intimate touch that helps make this quaint, rambling little restaurant feel like home. Read the review. 

    54 Washington Ave.
    (207) 613-9939
    TAGS: dinner, reservations, Asian, outdoors
  • The Jewel Box

    Equal parts Victorian parlor and Weimar boudoir, Nan’l Meiklejohn’s bar is a funky, elegant setting in which to sip frequently ingenious cocktails. Drinks on the constantly changing menu lean toward strong spirits and herbal, bittersweet concoctions, with half-sized drinks available if you don’t feel like getting (even more) tipsy.

    644 Congress St.
    (207) 747-5384
    TAGS: cocktailbar
  • Leeward

    Housemade pasta, a vast (mostly European) wine list featuring bottles you’ll find nowhere else and open-hearted service are only part of Leeward’s charm. Add ’70s, boho eclecticism and a spacious dining room (i.e. scoring a table is easier than it should be), and it becomes clear why Leeward has turned into a national media darling. Read the review.

    85 Free St.
    (207) 808-8623
    TAGS: dinner, reservations, Italian
  • Little Pig

    Co-chefs Piyathida and Michael MacDonnell aren’t afraid of much. Flavor? No way. Rockets of lime leaf and galangal explode in every bite of their grilled Lao sausage, and that’s just one of the star dishes on this tiny, Thai-ish restaurant’s succinct menu. How about a tricky brick-and-mortar space with no indoor seating? The MacDonnells remain undaunted, serving takeout year-round, with an option to nosh on their attractive graveled patio when the sun is out. An absolute must-try. Read the review. 

    722B Congress St.
    (207) 536-0099
    TAGS: Top10, lunch, dinner, takeout, Asian, outdoors
  • Local 188

    Most people know Local 188 for its brunch. And that’s OK. Every weekend it’s open, the restaurant’s eclectic, bohemian dining room is filled to capacity with groggy patrons sipping coffee and Bloody Marys (not always together) and devouring plate after plate of eggs, which Local 188 serves eight different ways. The Spanish-themed dinner menu is less successful, but Local’s bustling bar is always hopping. Read the review.

    685 Congress St.
    (207) 761-7909
    TAGS: dinner, brunch, reservations, Mediterranean
  • Magnus on Water

    Biddeford’s Magnus on Water is a quirky little mystery that hides out at the tail-end of Biddeford’s commercial district. Cocktails here are exceptional, and the restaurant’s new menu of Peruvian-inspired, comfort-food small plates mesh especially well with one another. Read the review. 

    12 Water St.
    (207) 494-9052
    TAGS: cocktailbar, dinner, reservations, Latin, outdoors
  • Mami

    Chef Austin Miller never seems to stop updating his menu of Japanese street-food and izakaya classics like indulgent bacon okonomiyaki, takoyaki and smoky yakisoba. Sourcing matters here, and in dishes like a Maine pollock katsu sandwich or tare-glazed confit local chicken over rice, it makes the difference between OK and oishii (Japanese for delicious). Read the review.

    339 Fore St.
    (207) 536-4702
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, Asian
  • Mitr

    I’d eat just about anything in a dining room as lovely as Mitr Ping Yang Thai Kitchen’s. Dark wood flooring, saturated green-toned walls and caramel leather banquettes — you’d never guess from the opulent interior that you were in a converted single-story home in bustling Libbytown. Fortunately, food at Mitr is also a winner, especially crisp Hat Yai chicken and aromatic jaew sauce. Read the review. 

    1281 Congress St.
    (207) 536-1672
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, Asian
  • Monte’s Fine Foods

    Owner and chef Steve Quattrucci’s Washington Avenue spot, half-market, half-Roman pizzeria, is the kind of place that would be mobbed from open to close if it were in a bigger city. Fortunately for you, Portland leaves some breathing room for visitors to sample the superlative pinsa pies that range from traditional Margherita to wickedly tasty soppressata with hot honey (and, if you’re lucky enough to read this in the late summer, an heirloom tomato pizza worthy of a picnic in nearby Payson Park).

    788 Washington Ave.
    (207) 613-9873
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, pizza, outdoors
  • Mr. Tuna

    Mr. Tuna started as chef/owner Jordan Rubin’s nickname, but his eponymous restaurant’s reputation has outgrown him. There are worse things, especially for an entrepreneurial type who has two other restaurants on this list (Crispy Gai and Bar Futo). As always, Rubin’s conical, Maine-inspired temaki are superb, as are his inside-out uramaki, sashimi and side dishes like Japanese potato salad and refreshing sunomono seaweed-and-cucumber salad. Be sure to check the restaurant’s website, as Mr. Tuna will be moving to a new home on Middle St. later this year. Read the review. 

    28 Monument Square (in the Public Market House)
    (207) 805-1240
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, seafood, Asian
    Mr. Tuna
  • Night Moves Bakery

    It’s been a long road for Night Moves Bread and its owner/head baker, Kerry Hanney. Since she began selling her loaves wholesale and at popup stalls nearly six years ago, her loyal customers have been clamoring for her to open a shop, one where she’d sell the full range of her rustic, mahogany sourdough breads, all made from sustainably sourced grains that she mills into flour herself. In her waterfront South Portland digs, she has space for a few pastries and beverages, to boot.

    695 Broadway
    South Portland
    (207) 805-1011
    TAGS: bakery, takeout, pizza
  • Norimoto Bakery

    James Beard Award finalist pastry chef Atsuko Fujimoto has a knack for understatement. Follow her Instagram feed, and you’ll see photos of that day’s small-batch offerings, along with a few terse, often slyly hilarious comments about the weather or current events. Social media skills aside, the real story at Norimoto continues to be Fujimoto’s phenomenal baked goods, treats that draw inspiration from European traditions and techniques, fine-tuned to allow for an occasional Japanese-inspired element. Where else can you find a chocolate-and-caramel pecan tart alongside miso butter cinnamon rolls and airy, sweet loaves of shokupan (Japanese milk bread)?

    469 Stevens Ave.
    TAGS: Top10, bakery, takeout
  • Nura

    Don’t let its origins as a food truck fool you, Nura is one of the area’s best spots for Levantine cooking, especially smooth, garlicky hummus that is the restaurant’s signature dish. If that’s not enough, there’s also crisp, Kermit-green falafel (served as a platter or sandwich), spiced fries that were born to be dunked in garlicky toum, and coriander-and-cumin-fragrant chicken shawarma. Anyone for lunch? Read the review.

    1 Monument Way
    (207) 536-0065
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout
  • Other Side Diner

    Modeled after a classic Greek diner, this cozy, welcoming East Deering restaurant ought to be known for its beautifully conceived toasted sandwiches, riffs on eggs benedict, as well as its simple, yet perfectly executed omelets. There’s no better place to finish a walk around Back Cove than here. Read the review.

    500 Washington Ave.
    (207) 772-0002
    TAGS: breakfast, lunch, takeout
  • Pai Men Miyake

    Generous bowls of ramen, especially brothless Tokyo Abura and Hakodate-style shio ramen, are Pai Men Miyake’s signature dish. But don’t neglect the rest of the menu: Some of the area’s best appetizers and snacks live here, including minty, fish-sauce-dressed Brussels sprouts; steamed, gochujang-drizzled pork buns; or my personal favorite: broiled, Kewpie-mayo-dressed crab hamayaki. Read the review. 

    188 State St.
    (207) 541-9204
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, Asian
  • Palace Diner

    If I told you that quite possibly the best diner in the country occupies a 15-seat space, just off the main drag in Biddeford, would you believe me? In 2014, co-owners Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell kitted out a tiny, 1927 railroad dining car and immediately started making food that brought together high-quality ingredients and a captivating faithfulness to short-order tradition. Visit for breakfast or lunch (no dinner service) on a weekday to avoid waits that can extend beyond the two-hour mark.

    18 Franklin St.
    (207) 284-0015
    TAGS: breakfast, lunch, takeout
    Palace Diner
  • Paper Tiger

    Whimsical and welcoming, Paper Tiger serves some of the area’s most creative cocktails (like a hot toddy reimagined as a bergamot, ginger and Earl Grey sipper). The restaurant also serves a well-chosen selection of comforting dishes inspired by late-night Chinese restaurants. Read the review. 

    425 Fore St.
    (207) 613-9823
    TAGS: cocktailbar, happyhour, lunch, brunch, dinner, Asian
    Paper Tiger
  • Papi

    You won’t find another restaurant like Papi anywhere outside of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. It starts with decor, which reads as equal parts rum bar and Beaux Arts salon, and continues with a food menu comprising nostalgic, “Diasporican” dishes like sweet, cheesy sorullo fritters and a brilliant, savory Manchego flan. But co-founder LyAnn Sanabria’s cocktail menu is the high point: extraordinary in its range of flavors and superlative in execution. Read the review. 

    18 Exchange St.
    (207) 808-8008
    TAGS: cocktailbar, dinner, reservations, Latin
  • Peng’s Pizza Pies

    Deeply blistered pies with sauces and fillings pushed right up to the very edge — that’s the house style at chef Chris Daniels’ new Biddeford pizzeria. You won’t go wrong with any of the gorgeous red-sauced pies, but don’t miss out on the Thai/Italian white pie with pickled Fresno chiles, Pecorino and crushed pistachios. It’s a revelation. Read the review. 

    128 Main St.
    (207) 494-7450
    TAGS: dinner, pizza, takeout
    Peng's Pizza Pies
  • Pho Co. Variety

    Slow-burning successes are rare among Maine restaurants these days, but that’s precisely what Westbrook’s Pho Co. Variety represents. With more room than their long-departed Portland Public Market space offered, owners Chau Du and Hoang Nguyen have ironed out all the kinks in their mostly Vietnamese menu. These days, the couple make top-tier banh mi (especially the Nem, a savory, spicy sausage sandwich) and bun thit nuong (cool vermicelli with sticky, caramelized pork).

    158 Spring St.
    (207) 409-5822
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, Asian
    Pho Co. Variety
  • Portland Hunt + Alpine Club

    With its Nordic-inspired interior and a warm-weather patio facing Post Office Park, Portland Hunt + Alpine Club remains one of Portland’s most inviting spots for a high-octane beverage, savory snack, or in the winter months, gooey raclette. Hunt + Alpine Club was among the first local bars to offer non-alcoholic mixed drinks (like the sweet-spicy NA Bonecrusher, a drink potent enough to make you forget it’s missing the mezcal found in its boozy counterpart), making this an inclusive spot for a nightcap.

    75 Market St.
    (207) 747-4754
    TAGS: cocktailbar, outdoors
    Hunt alpine
  • Quanto Basta

    Chef/owner Betsy English has been baking sourdough pizza for Portlanders for years. Once exclusively from the back of her converted Morris Minor food truck, and now from her hygge, yet spare East End restaurant. Individually portioned, Quanto Basta’s deeply blistered pies feature seasonal flavors and are engineered to match well with the restaurant’s well-priced list of Italian wines. Snag a bag of English’s extraordinary hazelnut granola on your way out; you won’t regret it. Read the review. 

    249 Congress St.
    TAGS: Top10, dinner, pizza, takeout
    Quanto Basta
  • Rose Foods

    Jewish deli standbys like crisp, golden-fried latkes; matzo ball soup and fat pastrami sandwiches (on rye, naturally) are as much of a draw as chef/owner Chad Conley’s open-crumb sourdough bagels and creative bagel sandwiches, including new options like the overloaded Ollie Orso, a bagel sandwich filled to bursting with creamy salmon salad, dill and pickled shallot. Read the review. 

    428 Forest Ave.
    (207) 835-0991
    TAGS: breakfast, brunch, lunch, takeout
    Rose Foods
  • Rover Bagel

    Still takeout-only, with orders collected from the bakery’s Pepperell Mill space, Rover sells deeply blistered, generously proportioned bagels and out-of-this-world sandwiches like the bacon-and-honey-filled Shift Meal, as well as more straightforward classic pairings. If you’re a fan of char and caramelization, head to Biddeford, stat.

    10 W. Point Lane, Suite 10-204
    (207) 710-6248
    TAGS: bakery, breakfast, lunch, takeout
    Rover Bagel
  • Scales

    With wharf views on two sides plus outdoor seating at the back, Scales is snazzy place to sit and watch the working waterfront in action. The shellfish-exuberant menu, which showcases locally sourced seafood (some of which arrives to the docks just outside) has only improved over the past four years. Don’t miss the fried belly clams and Jonah crab fritters. Read the review.

    Maine Wharf at 68 Commercial St.
    (207) 805-0444
    TAGS: dinner, seafood, reservations
  • Schulte & Herr

    Unpretentious and cozy, this tiny Bayside bistro serves homey, comforting German food like tangy cucumber salad, bratwurst with sauerkraut and some of the most exquisitely fried schnitzel on the East Coast. Schulte & Herr’s business is also counter-cyclical, so if you’re trying to avoid summertime crowds, this is an ideal destination. Read the review.

    349 Cumberland Ave.
    (207) 773-1997
    TAGS: dinner, reservations
  • Scratch Baking Co.

    Locals know Scratch for its bagels (which sell out in nanoseconds every weekend morning), but the sweets bakery, full-service espresso bar and sandwich counter, expanded a couple of years ago, seem to draw crowds throughout the day, every day. If you visit, don’t skip the blondies and brownies.

    416 Preble St.
    South Portland
    (207) 799-0668
    TAGS: bakery, breakfast, lunch, takeout
  • Sichuan Kitchen

    Owner Qi Shen’s menu of sinus-clearing, tongue-numbing dishes is a delightful departure from the tired crab-rangoon-and-egg-roll menus at many New England Chinese restaurants. Subtler dishes here are also excellent, especially the frilly cloud-ear mushroom salad appetizer and buttery-tasting wok-sauteed cabbage. Read the review.

    612 Congress St.
    (207) 536-7226
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, Asian
    Sichuan Kitchen
  • Smalls

    Awash in vibrant color and speckled with amorphous, Matisse-esque blobs, Smalls is part market, part coffee shop and part wine bar. It’s also a little off-the beaten-path, at the bottom of a hill in the West End, but don’t let that deter you. Coffee, sandwiches and soups are all terrific here, as is a slice of Instagram-worthy cake from Victoria Nam of Siblings Bakery (available weekends only).

    28 Brackett St.
    TAGS: cocktailbar, breakfast, lunch, dinner, happyhour
  • SoPo Seafood & Raw Bar

    SoPo Seafood’s biggest coup might be its division of labor. Rather than append a restaurant onto a seafood market (or vice versa), SoPo treats both businesses as equals. As a result, diners feel well cared-for by knowledgeable staff who sometimes also double as fishmongers in the same space. Shellfish are served plain or doctored — try both. And if The Marshall, a Nauti Pearl oyster with creme fraiche, hackleback caviar and a splash of gin is on the menu as the OOTD (oyster of the day), order it. Scratch that: Order three. Read the review. 

    171 Ocean St.
    South Portland
    (877) 282-7676
    TAGS: seafood, lunch, dinner
  • Speckled Ax

    Third Wave coffee roasters Speckled Ax are particular about their beans and their brewing. Inside their original tawny-walled cafe‚ on Congress Street, you’ll encounter enough glassware to outfit a laboratory, including pourover vessels and Japanese-style siphon percolators. At its second shop on the fast-developing waterfront, Speckled Ax inhabits even more of its secret-scientist-identity, delivering excellent coffee and a view of the harbor.

    567 Congress St.
    (207) 660-333318 Thames St.
    TAGS: coffeeshop, takeout
    Speckled Ax
  • Standard Baking Co.

    Standard Baking Company can see its 30th anniversary cresting over the horizon, but owner and baker Alison Pray is not about to slow down now. From her Commercial Street space, she supplies dozens of local businesses (including upstairs neighbor, Fore Street) with crusty baguettes, airy miche loaves and frangipane tarts. This European bakery is a genuine Maine classic.

    75 Commercial St.
    (207) 773-2112
    TAGS: bakery, takeout, outdoors
  • Tandem Coffee/ Tandem Coffee & Bakery

    Apart from serving an intensely smoky roast of coffee that has garnered national recognition for founders and Blue Bottle Coffee alums Kathleen and Will Pratt, Tandem sells some of the area’s best pastries. Baker Briana Holt’s short-crusted fruit pies, miso-glazed scones and gooey, softball-sized sticky buns are three Portland foods I never want to do without.

    Cafe & Roastery (aka Little Tandem):
    122 Anderson St.
    207-889-0235Coffee and Bakery:
    742 Congress St.
    TAGS: bakery, breakfast, breakfast, lunch, coffeeshop, takeout, outdoors
  • Terlingua

    It’s hard to imagine, but Terlingua, a Tex-Mex and Southwestern BBQ joint named for a Texan ghost town, is now one of Washington Avenue’s longest-tenured restaurants. After a spiffy renovation, owners Melanie and Pliny Reynolds turned the front portion of the space into an attractive, well-stocked market. The rear of the restaurant and the patio remain terrific spots for a tequila-based cocktail and a house-smoked brisket taco. Watch for the couple’s upcoming West End brunch spot, Ocotillo, later in 2024.

    52 Washington Ave.
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, reservations, outdoors
  • Thai Esaan

    It’s back! After a kitchen fire destroyed their Forest Avenue restaurant, chef Siwaporn Roberts and her son, owner Ben Boonseng, took almost two years to reopen their celebrated Northeast Thai restaurant. The pair took over the buttoned-up former home of Back Bay Grill and toned down the formality of the space, creating a 30-seat dining room that works beautifully for their menu of intense, deeply comforting dishes. Khao mun gai (deceptively simple-looking chicken with rice) is a knockout here, just as it was before. Read the review. 

    65 Portland St.
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, takeout, Asian
    Thai Esaan
  • Thoroughfare

    What’s not to love about small-scale, locally sourced updates on fast food classics that are every bit as decadent as the originals? The Filayo surpasses any other American-cheese-topped haddock fillet you’ve ever tasted, and the smash burgers (even the vegan Impossible Smash) are a triumph.

    367 Main St.
    TAGS: breakfast, lunch, dinner, takeout, outdoors
  • Tipo

    Airy and contemporary with a bar wallpapered in overlapping license plates from around the country, Tipo is the secret getaway for Portlanders who want to escape the throngs of tourists on the peninsula without settling for a second-tier meal. Brick-oven pizzas, roasted vegetables and house-made rye cavatelli are evergreen winners. Read the review. 

    182 Ocean Ave.
    TAGS: dinner, takeout, reservations, Italian, pizza, outdoors
  • Twelve

    Perhaps the city’s highest profile debut in a decade, Twelve made plenty of waves when it opened in the painstakingly rebuilt Portland Company building in mid-2022. As it has settled into its identity as a destination for an expensive date or a special occasion meal, Twelve has grown more confident in its strengths and has wisely reframed the menu as a collaboration between Colin Wyatt (Eleven Madison Park) and pastry chef Georgia Macon (Tartine). Six of one, a half-dozen of the other for the win. Read the review. 

    115 Thames St.
    TAGS: dinner, reservations
  • Ugly Duckling

    Chef Ilma Lopez has wowed Mainers with her pastry skills over and over again. It should come as absolutely no surprise therefore that Ugly Duckling, a bakeshop & luncheonette showcasing her remarkable ability to bake choux pastry, crumbly trocaderos and dozens of varieties of English muffins, would make it to this list. And it’s not just English muffins: Ugly Duckling gets some savory inspiration from co-owner and chef Damian Sansonetti, who adds components like kimchi and cola-brined roast beef, or fried haddock and shredded iceberg lettuce to those muffins, producing some epic sandwich collabs.

    264 Danforth St.
    TAGS: cocktailbar, bakery, breakfast, lunch, brunch, takeout
    Ugly Duckling
  • Wayside Tavern

    Wayside Tavern was always bound to be an under-the-radar restaurant. Tucked into an annex of the historic Francis Hotel on the fringes of the West End, this 40-seater hides in plain sight. Owners Siobhan and Michael Sindoni don’t seem to mind, as they share five nights a week with a tiny cohort of guests, spooling out endless glasses of wine and cocktails, as well as large-and-small-format plates like gribiche-sauced battered cod cheeks, bacon-strewn cabbage salad, and grass-fed steak with funky, peppery bone marrow sauce. Don’t miss Wayside Tavern, especially if you’re feeling homesick and hungry. Read the review. 

    747 Congress St.
    TAGS: Top10, cocktailbar, dinner, reservations
    Wayside Tavern
  • The Well

    It is hard not to be won over by the enchantingly recursive concept of a farm-to-table restaurant located on the farm itself. Dinner at The Well takes the form of either a plated, five-course tasting menu or (for parties of six or more diners seated in private gazebos) a more rustic family-style meal. Both options are fantastic and make use of the farm’s own produce as well as local meats and seafoods. Read the review. Note: The Well at Jordan’s Farm is seasonal. See website for hours and dates of operation.

    21 Wells Road
    Cape Elizabeth
    TAGS: dinner, reservations, outdoors
    The Well
  • Wilson County BBQ

    Tangy, fiery Eastern North Carolina-style pulled pork is the highlight of the menu at this lively Bayside joint. Come for the BBQ, but stay for crisp-fried hushpuppies, shrimp po-boy sandwiches, nuclear-grade hot chicken and comforting sides, including the best chicken-and-pork Brunswick Stew you’ll find north of the Mason-Dixon. Read the review.

    82 Hanover St.
    TAGS: lunch, dinner, brunch, takeout, outdoors
    Wilson County BBQ
  • Woodford F&B

    Few restaurants do bistro-style comfort food and cocktails as well as Woodford Food & Beverage does. Chef Courtney Loreg prepares some of New England’s best brasserie-style dishes here, especially anything braised, like her smoky lamb shank entree. Fennel-spiced fries and tart, mustard-forward deviled eggs are also perennial winners on a menu that features no losers. Read the review.

    660 Forest Ave.
    TAGS: cocktailbar, dinner, brunch, takeout, reservations, outdoors
    Woodford F&B
  • ZUbakery

    Plan ahead by checking baker Barak Olin’s website for his weekly baking schedule, because this “micro-boulangerie” is a limited-run affair. Once he sells out of the levains, baguettes and rustic sourdough loaves he bakes from Wednesday to Saturday each week, they’re gone, and there’s nothing “in the back” in this teensy West End shop, apart from the mill Olins uses to grind his own whole-grain flour. Bonus: Try to arrive around 1 p.m. for superb focaccia.

    1 Clark St.
    TAGS: bakery, takeout, pizza

Andrew Ross has written about food and dining in New York and the United Kingdom. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is the recipient of seven recent Critic’s Awards from the Maine Press Association. Contact him at: Twitter: @AndrewRossME


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