There’s no denying the beauty of Portland, Maine. Everywhere you look seems like a picture out of a story book. My first course of action upon arriving in the city was to see a lighthouse. I seriously got my rental car and went directly to find one.
But in the midst of the fishing boats and lighthouses, there are a lot of great things happening in the city’s wine and food scene.
MJ’s is a cool little spot with tons of character in downtown and a fantastic wine selection. Cozy and dimly lit, it has a bar with several stools, some couches, and scattering of larger and smaller tables as well as a piano for live music nights. The outdoor patio offers up a quaint spot for people watching.
The staff are more than happy to help with suggestions for connoisseurs and novices alike. With over 30 wines available by the glass (and tons more by the bottle) and both 3.5oz and 6oz. pours available, wine lovers have the ability to essentially create their own flights or linger over a new favorite. Additionally, the bar employs the Coravin system for higher end wines by the glass. So why not?!
In addition to wine, a nice selection of beer is available as well as a few nibbles including cheese plates, olives, and chocolate. A great spot for wine lovers.
Bar of Chocolate is great as an after dinner spot if you want decadent desserts or dessert wines or both.
The dimly lit interior makes for a romantic evening as well as quiet spot for a small, intimate gathering. The cozy leather chairs and the worn brick walls definitely give the place a nice chill vibe.
With a lengthy selection of Port, Maderia, Sherry, Muscat, Tokaji, Steindorfer (which I’d never heard of) and other dessert wines, chances are you’ll have your sweet tooth satisfied. And while they do dessert wines well, they also have a small, but good global selection of dry wines as well as cocktails (including chocolate martinis) and scotch. A nice, eclectic list without the “usual suspects.” And speaking of unusual offerings, a collection of absinthe drinks is available including one called “Death in the Afternoon.” Proceed with caution. If you’re in the mood for some non-dessert nosh there are handful of snacks for order including cheese, breads, almonds, and cucumber sandwiches, The only minus are the stemless wine glasses which drive me crazy (fingerprints y’all!).
More like a “dive” wine bar, The North Point is one of those places where you can certainly kick back and feel at home.
Dimly lit, with exposed brick and walls covered in artwork, there is no pretentiousness to be had anywhere. They don’t take themselves too seriously (wine list on a bottle anyone?) yet still offer up quality drinks and eats.
The staff is uber friendly and was happy to indulge my rambling (happens sometimes). In addition to a nice selection of wines, they also have a full bar, creative cocktails, as well as ten taps featuring local brews. A menu on the healthier side features meats and cheeses, small plates, and flatbread sandwiches amongst others. I could seriously hang out for hours. My food suggestion? The meat and cheese plate of Belvetino Merlot cheese, smoked duck breast, black truffle salami with mustard, cornichons, toast points, pears, eggs, roasted peppers. Delish!
Bright and cheery during the day and dimly lit and cozy at night, the focus here is on executing a few offerings very well rather than an extensive menu with hits or misses. Sandwiches (paninis), salads, and fries is part of the restaurant’s tag line and that’s essentially what it serves. They are also known for their variety of milkshakes (duckfat shake anyone?) made with local gelato and their craft sodas. As its name implies, these folks like to cook with duck fat. Their Belgian fries to be exact. And while the fries are delicious on their own, a dip in the truffle ketchup or the garlic mayo dipping sauces ups it to divine. They even cook their brussel sprouts in duck fat! But they’re still healthy, right?
Like the food menu, the wine and beer selections are small but with quality options. While I opted for wine (duh!), the beer selection on tap was impressive with lots of local brews. More than that, the wine was quite fairly priced and a perfect complement to the menu.
Just be warned that the place is compact. Tiny. Get there early or late and avoid the popular mealtimes as you’ll have a wait on your hands.
So of course, you must get yourself some Maine Lobster and Boone’s is just the place. The restaurant is literally a boat anchored in the old port and though a bit touristy, it’s well worth stopping in. Whether you sit on one of the multiple outside decks with great views of the water, the inside decks, the bar, or any of the other seating spots, you’re in for a treat.
And while you can certainly get a whole steamed lobster, why not really go for it and get the Snow Island Extreme Lobster Bake which comes with a whole lobster as well as chorizo, new potatoes, steamers, and mussels.
Add in some crisp, fairly priced Chardonnay and all will seem right with the world.
The simply grilled fish (I had the snapper) was also quite tasty and cooked perfectly.
And just as an FYI, Maine produces its fair share of wines. Who knew?!
Worthy Side Trip
If you’re in Portland, a jaunt down to Kennebunkport is absolutely mandatory.
This charming coastal beach town serves up beach fun, unique shopping, sightseeing, and of course lobster rolls. Or is it Lobstah? Ground zero for the deliciousness that is the lobster roll is The Clam Shack. It’s right on the bridge so you can’t miss it.
Each roll is topped with the meat from a one pound lobster. And if you’re indecisive like me, have it with both the butter and mayo. #DontJudgeMe. Just don’t forget to get yourself a side of clam strips which are better than any French fry you could dream of having with this sandwich.
Of course, I’d be remiss to not mention a place or two to get your wine on while in town. The Old Vines Wine Bar is a charming, laid back wine bar with a very nice selection of wines that are sourced with a heavy emphasis on family-run vineyards.
They also offer up a nice selection of local brews as well as creative cocktails. Whether you choose to hang out on the cozy patio with its fire pits or head inside for the cozy lighting and pillows, you will certainly have no problem find something to quench your thirst. And if you’re hungry, not to worry as the menu offers everything from charcuterie to flatbreads to a wide variety of small plates.