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  • Kate Bispham

My Favorite Restaurants in Portland, Maine

I’ve lived in Portland, Maine since 2013 and am so grateful to have so many amazing restaurants right in my home city. Today I’m sharing a few of my favorites to inspire your tastebuds!

All of these restaurants are made possible by the many hard-working hospitality workers and creative chefs that also call the Portland area their home. I’m recognizing them first and foremost at the start of this piece because not only is their line of work demanding, but here in Portland they also have to deal with a lack of affordable housing and public transportation.

If you visit here in Portland, make sure to tip well and thank any hospitality workers you come into contact with - they’re a big part of making your time here top notch!

How to choose the right spot for you

Follow the map & follow the foodies!

We have over 400 restaurants in Portland. Yes, you read that right! So asking a local for recommendations can be hard as we all have our favorites. That’s why I’m sharing mine below. However, I also think there are some great ways to narrow down the place that will suit you and the experience you’re looking for the best.

Use this method to narrow down your choices:

1. Head to Google maps and look up “restaurants”, then zoom to the area you’re looking to dine in and hit “search this area”.

2. Then click on “more filters” and add yours for: open hours/days, pricing, customer rating, and even cuisine or vibe (i.e. kid friendly, takeout, vegetarian).

3. Now peruse through what spots fall into your parameters and check out their menus to see where your tastebuds point you.

4. Check availability! A high number of dinner restaurants take reservations and if they do, I recommend making one.

Fun fact… if you’re looking for brunch, we have a great range of options. However, only a few take reservations! The ones I know of are Sinful Kitchen, The Danforth, Maker’s Gallery, and Eighteen95. Don’t wait until you’re hungry to try to get a table, head there in advance, in case there is a wait.

Check out these great local creators and businesses for restaurant ideas & more! EatingPortlandAlive PortlandEatsMe

207 Foodie Mrs.GeeFreeLiving

Morgan.Brockington EatDrinkLucky


Portland Food Map

FoodTruckAlico (app to find food trucks)

PortlandOldPort Now, on to my own personal favorite dining spots in Portland, Maine… These are the right spots for me, which I'd recommend to anyone! Solo Italiano My family knows just where my birthday dinner will be annually. My friends know how much I love their pesto. And I know my order without even needing to look at the menu. Even though I have my favorite dishes, I also recommend anything Chef Paolo Laboa and his team cook up, because you truly cannot go wrong! The staff at Solo Italiano are wonderful and will help with making the right decision for you, including wine pairings.

Reservations: Highly recommended Outdoor dining: Yes, some limited tables out front

Parking: metered street parking, and a few overpriced lots nearby Pricing: $$$ Website | Instagram Chaval Owners Chef Damian and Chef Ilma will wow you with their French and Spanish-inspired cuisine. They also opened up a sister restaurant, Ugly Duckling, in the same neighborhood recently. It is a great spot for pastries and breakfast sandwiches! Head to Chaval for either tapas style or hearty dinner courses. If the weather is nice, try to sit outdoors on their brick patio to enjoy a breeze and the beautiful mural! You may get a chance to walk through the kitchen if you do and see the team hard at work making magic happen.

Reservations: Highly recommended Outdoor dining: Yes

Parking: free, on the street or in their small lot Pricing: $$$

Website | Instagram Isa Bistro Owners Chef Isaul and Sommelier Suzie Perez are so kind and oh so talented! Their menu speaks for itself and your taste buds won’t mind reading every chapter. If you happen to be seated at the bar you can watch Chef Isaul and his kitchen team beautifully preparing and plating your meal. While I don’t personally eat eggplant, I’ve heard from so many people that the eggplant lasagna is a favorite when they dine at Isa. I love to see all of the unique, seasonal, ingredient combinations that fill the menu here myself!

Reservations: Highly recommended Outdoor dining: Yes

Parking: free, on the street Pricing: $$

Website | Instagram The Knotted Apron This spot is right in my backyard and I am so lucky! Chef Ryan and Kate have put together something special at this great off-peninsula location. A small menu yes, but always filled with gems. I also think their cocktail selection needs a shout-out because there are always creative combinations, including for their mocktails! If you happen to be stuck at home or your local accommodations, they also have delivery via the Carhop app!

Reservations: Highly recommended Outdoor dining: Yes

Parking: free, on the street Pricing: $$

Website | Instagram Leeward One of the most celebrated new restaurants in Portland is Leeward. Sometimes PR folks drum a spot up without enough to back it. But in Leeward’s case, the votes are in and it is a yes from me! I affectionately refer to their focaccia as “foot long focaccia” because of how it is served. Don’t skip the fancy balsamic add on, it’s worth it. Known for their house made pasta dishes, they typically have one or two non-pasta mains on the menu nightly as well. Just make sure you save room for a delectable dessert too!

Reservations: Highly recommended, but the bar is saved for walk-ins Outdoor dining: No (they have had an outdoor patio the last few summers due to the pandemic, but it doesn’t appear to be installed for 2023)

Parking: metered street parking, as well as some nearby paid lots Pricing: $$

Website | Instagram

Twelve One experience and I’m hooked! Sommelier Jenn Forge has put together an absolutely fantastic wine and beverage list for all - including a dealcoholized sparkling rosé. Head Chef Colin and Chef de Cuisine Hannah create immaculate dishes with their crew in the open kitchen. You can even book a spot for an immersive experience at the chef’s table to watch them at work. Their outdoor bar patio is open for walk-ins this summer and is such a gorgeous location. Take a walk on the trail up to the Eastern Promenade and finish with a glass pour? Sounds good to me!

Reservations: Highly recommended Indoor dining: Yes Outdoor dining: Yes, and they’ve just opened their bar patio as well

Parking: A few street spots on Thames or $5/hour at lot next door Pricing: $$$$

Website | Instagram

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