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Portland Maine 24-hour layover

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I am a flight attendant and have a 24-hour layover in Portland Maine over Labor Day weekend. I will not have a car so am restricted to Portland itself but want to make the most of the time, food-wise. What /where would be recommended?

I'll be arriving around noon so want to run out for a lobster roll first thing. Dinner would be lobster/seafood again. Breakfast the next morning at Becky's?

Thanks for all suggestions - looking forward to the trip!

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  1. What hotel do they put you up in and what's your budget? Also, will you be solo and do you like/mind sitting at the bar? What time for breakfast? as in, are you on the 6:00AM flight out and have to eat at 4:00AM?

    2 Replies
    1. re: bobbert

      Staying downtown Portland at the Holiday Inn so should be close to everything. Prob will have another crew member...and out the next day early afternoon so will have time for lunch (or maybe something to go?)

      1. re: Jetlagged

        Excellent. I asked about the outbound flight for breakfast. Becky's is OK. They do open at 4am and would have been your only option at that hour. At that time you are more likely to eat breakfast with real fishermen. Staying at the Holiday Inn puts you within reach of everything easily. Marcy's (cash only) or Porthole (on the water) for breakfast. Maybe Standard Bakery.
        I'm not fond of Portland Lobster Company for food but very fond of it for beer and music on the deck - the whole place is a deck. For an as basic as it gets lobster, hit up 3 Sons on the wharf next to RI RA by the guy in the ratty lobster suit. It's quite the experience for someone "from away" (that would be you). Good bar eating scenes at all the places named by sultan. I think Portland is best eaten with one other person at the bar in pretty much every restaurant.
        If you have time for Duckfat for lunch, get some fries.
        Eventide, Boda, and Pai Men Miyake are really good for late night.

    2. My BIL is a flight attendant and he always seems to enjoy layovers in Portland! It's a small, laid back little town with lots of great food options.

      I'm guessing you're staying at the airport--Portland's public transpo is pretty abysmal, but it's only a 5-10 minute shuttle/cab ride into the Old Port, which is Portland's tourist district. You'll be able to get some variation on a lobster roll pretty much anywhere this time of year. For a more foodie-ish place I'd recommend Eventide Oyster Co. to get your seafood fix; for more of an enjoyable dive-ish place J's Oyster is a good choice for a lobster roll, some steamers and a local beer (don't bother with the oysters at J's, tho, they're not local and it shows--if you like oysters get some at Eventide).

      For dinner, if you simply want a steamed lobster dinner you can get one at pretty much any of the waterfront places--Gilberts, or just pretty much any restaurant you'll pass on Commercial Street. I'd avoid the Portland Lobster Co., tho, they seem to overcook everything. Another notable seafood places in town is Street & Co., but most of the smaller places peppered throughout the Old Port area have fantastic local seafood. If you're dining solo, Sonny's, Walters, and 555 are my favorite places with good seafood options and great bar staff comfortable with solo barstool diners.

      For breakfast, Becky's is fine--it's pretty basic diner food, but it's location on the waterfront is what's standout about the place. The Porthole is also another place in a great waterfront location with passable breakfast food. Portland is a big brunch town, if you happen to be around at that time of day, and good choices are Caiola, Local 188., or Sculte and Herr.

      Enjoy your layover!

      3 Replies
      1. re: sultanaboudreau

        Everything sultan says...

        1. re: bobbert

          we have very similar taste!

        2. re: sultanaboudreau

          Thanks! We are downtown and I will probably have another crewmember in tow. That said, I always enjoy eating at the bar or counter as there is much more going on there.

        3. You can walk around the Old Port area and enjoy the shops. MDI ice cream on Extension St has unusual flavors. If it's not busy, ask for samples then choose several flavors for the sampler dish. Scoops are small so it's not too much ice cream.

          2 Replies
          1. re: dfrostnh

            I'm guessing you were thwarted by autocorrect! MDI Ice Cream is on Exchange St. I'd recommend Gorgeous Gelato, too, if you're interested in an ice cream treat!

            1. re: sultanaboudreau

              Thanks for the correction. Nope, not auto-correct, brain blip.

          2. Drop in to J's - It's the perfect dive bar with ok to decent food - As Sultan says, it's not foodie-ish at all - but it is fun.

            1. Are reservations necessary at these places or can we just drop in? Also, I heard about the lobster - that they have soft shells (or something like that) this time of year? What does that mean...?

              2 Replies
              1. re: Jetlagged

                of the places I listed; Sonny's, 555, and Street and Co. take reservations--as it's a holiday weekend you may want to reserve a table if you're interested in one of them. Everything else is walk-in service. All but 555 are on opentable.com.

                as for soft vs. hard shell lobsters. The consistency of the shell reflects how recently the lobsters have molted. A lobster that has recently shed its shell will have a softer new one, and the meat inside will be a bit more watery. Some people think a soft shell lobster is sweeter than a hard shell one--I don't really have an opinion on this one. Hard shell lobsters have meat that is a bit firmer with more of a snap. The downside: it can be a bit trickier to crack a hard shell if you're new to lobster dismemberment. My opinion: soft shell shedders are tasty and easy to crack and eat, but I love the texture of a hard shelled lobster and don't mind putting in the extra effort! You will want to wear the plastic bib you're given even if you feel a bit dorky in it tho!

                also, many Mainers (myself included) will tell you that lobster is perfectly fine but our local clams is really where it's at. So treat yourself to a bucket of steamers at some point--

                1. re: sultanaboudreau

                  I'm pretty sure that 555 is on opentable. Try Five Fifty-Five.
                  (I prefer soft shell lobster, lots less work!)

              2. also, if you don't have time to brave the long line at Becky's for breakfast, Marcy's is a diner very near your hotel with good french toast, and Arabica is a coffee shop nearby. Arabica makes all their own baked goods and they're really tasty--

                1 Reply
                1. re: sultanaboudreau

                  definitely agree about Arabica, a very nice stop

                2. Thank you all very much! This is shaping up to be a wonderful Labor Day, even if I have to work. Looking forward to the whole Portland experience!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Jetlagged

                    Had a quick and wonderful visit! Right off the plane - J's Oysters for chowder and lobster roll. Strolling along the waterfront (some schlocky souvenir shops that reminded me of Mendocino CA) It was raining so back to the hotel for a rest. Around 7 walked to Street & Co but the wait was projected at 2 1/2 hours. Had a reservation at 8:00 at 555 so trucked up there and was amazed. Nice to be away from the Old Port tourists and into some seriously imaginative food. Nice little bar area, good cocktails, wonderful service. We sat upstairs and had the most fabulous flavors-melting-together-rich-beyond-belief Lobster Mac & Cheese. Also snails with polenta cakes and something else great that I cannot remember; local Heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad, a steaming pot of mussels and a coffee soufflé. Oh yeah and a nice list of half bottles of wine. The next morning it was breakfast at Becky's (atmosphere better than food - which was decent but just diner food, except the pancakes were amazing) then walked it off around the Eastern promenade. A bit longer than 24 hours there and back on the plane. Thanks so much for the recommendations!

                    Now - seriously - any locals have a recommendation for a realtor? Thinking now of a vacation rental this summer in the Portland area - would love to see more!

                    1. re: Jetlagged

                      I'm glad you enjoyed your quick trip! The tourist shops are such an eyesore...but we really only have to deal with them on parts of Commercial St. and on lower Exchange Street. I don't have any summer rental agent recs, but I'd recommend renting a place in either the water side of the East End (amazing views!) or in the West End--one of the best preserved Victorian neighborhoods in the US.