Thursday, 7:00pm: Bar Lola
After a day of travel, we spent our first evening at this little eatery in the up-and-coming area of Mujoy Hill on Portland’s east side, within view of the 19th-century Portland Observatory. Bar Lola is a labor of love for husband-wife team, Guy and Stella Hernandez. He mans the stoves, she’s out front making sure everyone’s happy, and pouring copious amounts of wine. The menu here is meant to be enjoyed in a tasting-menu fashion, so if you’re hungry, get ready for a five-course extravaganza, though nibbling one or two is just fine too. We sampled a diverse array of delicacies including pork belly confit with spicy slaw, a toasted baguette and duck liver mousse; Maine mussels with summer ale, blistered tomatoes and salsa verde; and a salted chocolate tart with espresso mousse. Good thing we had the walk home to digest!
100 Congress St., Portland, ME 04101, (207) 775-5652
Friday, 8:30am: Arabica Coffee Co.
We started our day bright and early with a piping hot cup of freshly brewed coffee and a toasted bagel with cream cheese from the smiling folks at this cult café downtown before dashing to the port to catch the…
2 Free St., Portland ME 04101, (207) 879-0792
9:30am: Casco Bay Lines Ferry to Peaks Island for honey
We decided to take advantage of the gorgeous fall weather to venture out into the island-specked harbor and took the ferry to residential Peaks Island. We snagged a bike at Brad and Wyatt’s Island Bike Service and went for a quick pedal around the small island, stopping here and there for photos of the harbor, and to buy local honey at an unmanned stand on a deserted beach. After another brief stop at the Civil War Museum, we took the ferry back to town for lunch.
1:30pm: Duck Fat
Duck Fat anchors a little block of Middle Street, about a ten-minute walk from the ferries. We gobbled their panini with bacon, creamy Fern Hill Farm goat cheese, and local tomatoes, and, of course, we had an order of their hand-cut Belgian duck fat fries with sides of truffle ketchup and Thai chili mayo. Perfect for washing down with a glass mead made from wildflower honey by Maine Mead Works. They’re also known for their milkshakes made with Gelato Fiasco from Brunswick, Maine, but we skipped dessert because we wanted to go across the street for a sweet treat at…
43 Middle St., Portland, ME 04101, (207) 774-8080
2:30pm: Two Fat Cats Bakery
What it lacks in grandiosity, it makes up for in pure, sweet, delicious charm. Definitely try one of the famous whoopee pies, which are kind of like gigantic, primordial forebears to Oreos.
47 India St., Portland, ME 04101, (207) 347-5144
3:30pm: Vervacious Fancy Foods
We couldn’t resist popping into this “Travel-Inspired” fancy foods store to pick up a jar of their chocolate balsamic vinegar and a tin of star anise salt to give to friends as presents.
227 Commercial St., Portland, ME 04101, (207) 221-3590
6:00pm: Novare Res Bier Café
We had a little time to kill before dinner, and it was on our way, and we were a little thirsty, and…well, we just wanted to sample an Allagash White in its native habitat, so we stopped by this hipster biergarten for a tall, frosty glass of beer, and cozied up in a booth near the bar before choosing from the selection of dozens of hard-to-find lagers and ales from all over the world.
4 Canal Plaza, Portland, ME 04101, (207) 761-2437
8:00pm: Five Fifty-Five
For dinner on our second night in Portland, we decided to go to one of the city’s most lauded restaurants, husband-wife team Steve and Michelle Corry’s gourmet Five Fifty-Five. His resumé lists stints as a brewmaster and in the kitchen at Domaine Chandon. Hers includes time at The French Kitchen. After eating there, we could see why. Even little bar bites like the fried olives stuffed with blue cheese packed a flavorful punch. The New England oysters were fresh and briny with a tangy mignonette, while main courses included perfectly cooked lamb chops with a pine nut-arugula romesco, and a perennial favorite: lobster mac and cheese.
555 Congress St., Portland, ME 04101, (207) 761-0555
10:30pm: A Nightcap at Grace
We decided to end our gluttonous journey by having cocktails in a church. Located in the former Chestnut Street Church right off Congress Street, Grace has a restaurant on the ground floor with a huge 35-seat circular bar taking up much of the middle, and then a second bar on the wrap-around balcony on the second floor. The old building just got a $2 million renovation, and still has 27 stained-glass windows, though these days you’ll likely be craning your neck to check out the crowd of 20-something, upwardly mobile Mainers instead as they enjoy church-themed specialty cocktails like the Fallen Angel with beet, tarragon and cucumber-infused vodka sweetened with simple syrup; and the Confession with Holy Tea infused simple syrup, Knob Creek bourbon and a lemon twist. Amen.
15 Chestnut St., Portland, ME 04101, (207) 828-4422