How often do you head just 45 minutes north to our "big sister city," Portland, Maine? Don't you think it's a fabulous city??

Portland has a special place in my heart. I cherish memories of stopping there for a bike ride and dinner with my family before heading north for a summer vacation in Maine. I attended college an hour north of Portland and this city acted as a great escape from rural college life. My brother lives on Munjoy Hill in downtown Portland, so frequent trips are necessary in my mind!

Here's a round up of my downtown Portland favorites...

LUNCH

Otto: I'm a pizza addict...(I'll admit it!) and Otto whips up some of the best slices this city has to offer! The crust is on the thinner side, the toppings and pairings are unique (My favorite is butternut squash topped with ricotta dollops, and cranberries!) and the atmosphere is just plain cool - think old fashioned pianos as booths and Edison light bulbs...

Duckfat: A right of passage when you get to Portland is this iconic place. Who agrees? Duckfat is TINY and you will most likely incur a line, even at 3:00 pm. Let me just say, it's ALWAYS worth it!!! Duckfat serves up scrumptious paninis, thick duckfat-infused french fries with a variety of gourmet sauces (including my fave, truffle ketchup). If you can't already tell, I'm pretty into this place. 

DINNER

Even Tide Oyster: A hip, happenin' and very 'urban Maine' restaurant that serves tasty oysters and seafood in a small, bustling environment! Their brother restaurant, HUGO'S, is next door and has received high accolades both locally and nationally. 

Fore Street Grill: A rustic, upscale restaurant in the Old Port. The food here is farm-to-table style and foods are prepared with a thoughtful focus on local ingredients. The candle-lit tables and chickens roasting in the open kitchen make for a memorable dining experience. 

Paciarino: Fresh made pasta, butter yellow walls, and a cozy environment make you feel like you're at a local restaurant in an Italian neighborhood. 

BEVERAGES

Bard Coffee: Bard is my favorite coffee shop in Portland - a new-wave, hipster coffee shop in the heart of downtown Portland that attracts a lot of cool, artsy folk who turn this place into their offices. 

Arabica Coffee Company: The Commercial Street Arabica location is set on a quiet street but is big and bustling inside. They make maple lattes which are incredible!

Tandem Coffee Roasters: A delicious, new-wave coffee roaster that is taking New England by storm! See Alternative Portland HERE!

Portland Hunt and Alpine Club: The ideal spot for a beverage. This place serves up creative craft cocktails and Scandinavian snacks, like seasoned popcorn, which is out of this world! The location is convenient for a drop-by with friends before or after dinner and the modern, hipster style is top notch cool. I'm obsessed. 

SWEETS

Standard Banking Co. Here's another stop I make every single time I go to Portland. Standard is everything but standard and has been awarded one of the best bakeries in the country. I can definitely see why. The quality, tastes, and French style here are unparalleled. My favorites are the brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and raisin pecan bread - so buttery and rich. YUM!!!

Gelato Fiasco: This is quite possibly the very best gelato I've ever tasted. I can't get enough! Creative combinations that are chock-full of flavor! And...you can get as many flavors as you want! I like the Caramel Sea Salt gelato and Dark Chocolate Noir sorbetto best; do you have a favorite?

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SHOP

Judith: A modern-chic clothing store that sells top of the line contemporary brands for women. I am inspired by Judith's bright space and artsy aesthetic and think it's definitely worth a visit!

K. Colette: A truly beautiful home shop in the heart of Portland's old port. If you're looking for quality bedding, fragrant soaps, French tea towels, or unique dinnerware, K. Colette is THE place to go. As soon as you step foot in K.Colette, you'll probably want to move in! 

Akari: A fancy looking space with prices that won't break the bank. Akari is a clothing and beauty store that provides spa services in the back. The upstairs is available for private parties and it is absolutely STUNNING! 

Folly 101: Yet another chic home shop with coastal flare and an emphasis on entertaining essentials! 

Blanche and Mimi: Vintage meets chic at this tasteful Portland shop. Think antiques, linens, French soaps, and the sweetest baby clothes around...

Portland Dry Goods: If I were to give this Commercial Street shop a label, it would be "upscale rugged." It is very 'Maine', meaning, that when you look around, you're sure to spot a lot of flannel, wool, and knitwear. Nice leather shoes, products for men and women, and brands such as Canada Goose and Barbour to give you a bit of an idea and price point:). 

Angela Adams: A beautiful design shop showcasing the works of local (and extremely talented) textile artist Angela Adams! The color and design that is ubiquitous here is breath-taking and the historic building this company just moved into is a sight to be seen! See Angela's mod-style area rugs, furniture, and bedding up close and personal! If you appreciate intricate design, this shop is definitely worth a visit! 

STAY

The Danforth Inn: A very charming boutique hotel in Portland's West End neighborhood. It's a Relais and Chateaux property so you can expect exceptional service here. Luxurious, simple, laid-back.  (Read more about the West End HERE). 

The Portland Press Hotel: A newcomer to the Portland hotel scene, The Portland Press Hotel is downright cool. Way back when, this building was home to the Portland Press Herald and the hotel carries the history through today where you will see printing press and typewriter accents throughout. 

When in Portland, I love strolling through the Old Port and taking bike rides along the Eastern Promenade. I enjoy exploring new streets, going to First Friday Art Walks, and taking boat rides in the summer!

Places on my list to try...

Central Provisions, Street and Co., Vignola Cinq Terre, Portland General Store, and Urban Dwellings! Have you been?

What are your favorite places in the Old Port? 

 

A L T E R N A T I V E    P O R T L A N D    M A I N E ...

I love taking day trips to our hip, “big sister” city, Portland, Maine, what about you? I’ve been lucky to frequent this Maine hub, often visiting the bustling, popular area of the Old Port. Today’s itinerary is a little different - we’re exploring some neighborhoods like Portland’s West End, Munjoy Hill, Bayside and South Portland….are you ready??

WEST END

I’m kind of obsessed with the West End section of Portland, “maine”-ly for the historic New England architecture that reminds me of Boston’s Beacon Hill or NYC’s West Village; not as chic, but I think the abundance of brownstones gives off a similar vibe…anyone else? The West End neighborhood is home to shops, restaurants, and businesses that nestle into the area’s original surroundings, making it unique in today’s city. In the summer, lush greenery takes over the brick-lined streets. Humans and cars are few making this secluded section of town perfect for strolling about and admiring for hours.

Tandem Coffee Roasters, Portland’s newest craft coffee company, sells their gourmet grounds to coffee houses across the east coast; we get to enjoy their fuel at Lil’s Café and the Black Birch in Kittery! Tandem pleases tastebuds at their coffee shop + bakery in the West End that dishes out breakfast foods and coffee in a classy, renovated gas station. If you’re into free parking and light, bright spaces that embrace the craft culture, this is the place for you! Across the street from the West End location is Sawyer Company, a chic floral shop. Tandem’s Bayside location is petite and provides a similar vibe and treats. This hidden spot is also serves as their roastery and headquarters, where you can see where all of the coffee magic happens!

Across the street from the Portland Museum of Art is the small, design-based shop, More and Co. It is tucked into an old building and is the birthplace of the “i MA g INE” logo. (A hip celebration of the state of Maine - I have a hunch it’s going to go viral:). At More & Co. you will find artfully curated doodads for your home and closet, and be inspired by the design-duo who own, create and curate this tiny, tasteful storefront.

Is this a turn-of-the-century home or a coffee shop? You might wonder this before settling in at Omi's Coffee Shop. This tucked-away retreat is set on the first floor of what looks like a home-turned-coffee shop, decorated with comfortable arm chairs, colorful artwork, and lamps scattered throughout- a great pace to meet someone, chat, or do work! The coffee was tasty and unique, I’m talking “Lavender” and “Beekeeper Maine Honey” Lattes…delish! And can we talk about the free parking?? I just stumbled upon this place one day so, I guess getting lost has its perks (coffee pun!).

If you’re craving picnic items or a sandwich on the run, Aurora Provisions is the place to go! A sweet little neighborhood spot that serves up gourmet foods in a casual, European-esque setting. Right next door is the fabulous restaurant Ciaola's, which is a favorite in my family. The italian food is superb and you can tell - this is where the locals gather.

South Street Linen is a local shop selling Maine-made, high-quality clothes created with, you guessed it - linen! Three Portland women began this tasteful, artfully-focused shop that has lured in travelers and fashionistas from across the country. The quality here is unparalleled.

EAST END:

Home to Munjoy Hill and stunning views of Casco Bay, the East End is a more residential area with predominantly historic, wooden homes covering the hill. In this section of the city, you’ll find tremendous restaurants - my favorites being Blue Spoon, and OTTO pizza. There are beautiful walking and bike paths along the water (called the Eastern Promenade or Eastern “Prom” if you want to sound like a local:). On top of the hill is a spacious grassy park with breathtaking water views - perfect for a picnic, playing frisbee, or taking a nap in the sun! 

BAYSIDE:

Portland's Bayside area is nestled between the highway and the Old Port. It has an industrial, up and coming vibe and is home to many local headquarters like popular coffee house, Coffee by Design. It is also home to Rising Tide Brewery and Maine Craft Distilling which are located side by side in an unexpected alcove. You can visit, taste, and tour at both - a unique and  educational activity! 

SOUTH PORTLAND:

One of my favorite artisan pizza places of all time, OTTO, has an outpost in the residential area of South Portland. It is set in a modernized gas station and couldn’t get much cooler!

The famous “Portland Head Light” is here too! It bears a strong resemblance to the Nubble Light in York, Maine. As you might expect, the views here are STUNNING! 

Scratch Baking Co. is a drool-worthy bakery/coffee shop/ picnic stop in South Portland. It is extremely tricky to navigate (maybe that’s just me;) but the quality of food is absolutely worth a drive just south of Portland. Sit outside or take food to go! If all you can think about is their famous bagels, make sure you’re in line at the crack of dawn, they sell out like hot cakes! 

Do you have some favorite places in the “Alternative” areas of Portland? Comment below!

Here’s to exploring and taking the the road less traveled! 

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