Freaking Out about 1st Portland Trip- Great Seafood, Great Beer- Any Advice on this Itinerary Much Appreciated
NY Chowhounder here heading to Maine tonight. I've been scouring these boards for the past two months trying to figure out our plan but I'm feeling overwhelmed...there are so many great sounding options with such little time!
Short info on us- We are a bit obsessed with beer (okay a LOT obessed with beer) and love fresh seafood. This is my short plan...with many questions.
Hopefully make it out to Portsmouth (traffic willing) by about 8-9 and stop at Portsmouth Brewery and Red hook for some beers. Not sure where we should eat that night...maybe just one of those places? Anything great nearby? Find a hotel room somewhere and crash.
Wake up and hit one store at the outlets really quick, grab a quick bite somewhere (suggestions?) then keep driving past Portland to the Maine Brewing Co. Tasting room by noon. Stay there for about an hour or so sampling their beers on draft and hopefully pick up some bottles to take back with us. Then drive from there to the Allagash Brewing Co. and do a tasting of their drafts and pick up some more bottles. From there we plan to head into Downtown Portland, check into the hotel and ditch the car.
Dinner Friday night- thinking Street & Company early (6ish) followed by a drink at Grace Restuarant just to see the space, then over to Novare Res to camp out and drink everything local and delicious we can.
Saturday- Wake up and explore the town in the AM. Stop at Standard Bakery for a sticky bun and blueberry scone, do a little shopping then head to Eventide right around noon for lunch. Get the Chinese Bun Lobster Roll...if it's too crowded maybe just lunch at Twenty Milk Street in the hotel? Then go back down to Infiniti Distilling for a beer or two or Sebago before heading back to the hotel to get ready for a wedding that night. Possible stop again at Novare Ris late night.
We have brunch reservations with friends at Twenty Milk Street...might cancel. This is the day I'm most confused about. We have so much left we still want to do. A stop at Bier Cellar is a must, maybe followed by a trip to Great Lost Bear for beers then food at Fisherman's Grill. Do you think the wait on a Sunday afternoon will be crazy?
I also keep thinking about Ebenezer Pub up in Lovell...It seems like a long trip up there but the beer looks amazing! Do you guys think it's worth the trip? I would also like to see what Mama's Crow Bar is all about at some point and try out some Oxbow beers since I have yet to experience that brewery.
If we stay in town maybe happy hour at Outlier Eatary then dinner at Eventide/Street & Co. if we missed out on one of those earlier in the trip. At some point I want to fit in Whoopie Pies, the Thirsty Pig, a slab and cannoli at Micucci's and Gritty Mcduff's. Obviously I have a LOT I want to do and am having trouble cutting things out and figuring what works best time wise. Any advice at all would be really helpful. We leave on Monday morning so we don't have a ton of time. Thanks in advance!
Day Three- Breakfast at Standard Baking Company
I woke up like a bolt of lightening our first morning in Portland. I knew Mr. T would be taking advantage of vacation time with an extra long sleep so I didn't think twice about heading out for some early morning treats at Standard Baking Company. It was about 8:45 when I arrived and the line was already out the door. I crossed my fingers the sticky bun and scones were still in stock and lucky for me they were!
The Sticky Bun was all I dreamed it would be...thick and fluffy with a crunchy caramel bottom and swirls of cinnamon, nuts and brown sugar folded into the dough. I would be back for another one of these:)The Blueberry Scone was a complete disappointment- lots of blueberries but too much flour and no crunch. It just kind of fell apart in a mealy, oat mess.
I had been hoping to round out breakfast with an Almond Croissant but they sold out just minutes before my arrival so I subbed in a Financier. I took a bite as I walked back to the hotel and I literally had a family of tourists crash into my back. The buttery, chewy crust and rich melted chocolate was so incredible it stopped me dead in my tracks! I turned to apologize to the group but had such a big smile on my face I think they thought I was a bit crazy. I tucked the Financier in my bag and quickly went on my way...next stop- Lunch!
SBC is awesome. I'd love to walk in there one day and just say, "I'll take one of everything, please."
Scones and also muffins are the main exhibit in my "regression to the cake" theory of commercial baking. It's almost impossible to find a good, crunchy scone these days. They are all like cake. Same for muffins.
If you're ever looking for something savory at SBC, try the olive bread/rolls. Really good!
re: Bob W
I've been eating tomato sandwiches on olive bread this week (but its from Scratch bakery)--!
Scone is really the wrong word for the blueberry oat thingies at Standard Baking-- I've seen a food blogger called them drop biscuits--They kind of taste like fat Newfoundland-style oatcakes, but with a huge amount of half and half added to rich up the batter.
I've made them at home a bunch of times for brunches--they're definitely a polarizing breakfast pastry--people either love them or hate them. I like them split in half & toasted, with marmalade--
But if I'm shopping at Standard I usually have an almond croissant. And a bag of chocolate sables--they're so good.
We woke up day two of our trip and quickly walked around the city of Portsmouth before hopping back in the car. We had a LOT to accomplish so it was a bright and early start for our ride up to Freeport and Maine Beer Company.
The Freeport Tasting Room was located in a cute old motel space off the main drag. It was much smaller than I had imagined, with a homey neighborhood feel just perfect for escaping a rainy day.
I love just about everything Maine puts out so I went for a flight of beers including two that are brewery only releases. Everything was fabulous, the beer was super fresh and I loved the sleek serving tray and rounded glassware.
They had a bunch of board games out for people to play and a small assortment of local food options including this delicious Cheddar Pretzel that was still warm from the oven.
The tasting room looked out onto the brewing floor where some work was being done. I honestly could have stayed there all day sipping beer and watching the rain outside, but one can't live on beer and pretzel alone. I needed to start cramming in the lobster rolls, so it was up to Jameson Tavern.
Apparently everyone who was shopping at L.L. Bean across the street decided to come here for lunch and it was absolutely packed. We had to wait for a spot to open up and when we finally ate the lobster roll wasn't exactly thrilling. There was a lot of lobster meat but it was totally devoid of flavor...no butter, celery seed, salt...only a tiny smatter of mayo which didn't seem to even help the meat.
Mr. T's Fried Clams were a bit better. They had a nice crunch to the outside although I found the breading to be a bit too much. The best part of our entire lunch ended up being the Clam Chowder. This had wonderful flavor...big pieces of plump clam, no potatoes in sight and a slightly thinner broth than most clam chowders so I left feeling satisfied instead of weighed down. We left Jameson's and decided to make one last detour before heading into Portland at The Lion's Pride, sister pub to one of the best bars in the world Ebenezer.
It was the middle of the afternoon so unfortunately the place was pretty dead. We took a look at the draft list and finally decided just to split a local brew before making the trip to our final beer destination of the day- Allagash Brewing.
Wow-this place was huge compared to Maine Brewing Company and had an incredible sleek, industrial feel to the inside. Both of us got a tasting of beers including their incredible Allagash Curieux and then loaded up the car with FV 13's and an entire crate of the Allagash house brew, available only at the site and really delicious.
Then it was into downtown Portland where we dropped off the car, checked into our hotel and freshened up a bit before heading out again to church.
Yes that's right we went to a church...Grace as a matter a fact. This gorgeous building dates back before the Civil War and when it was no longer in use it was sold and made into an incredible event space as well as a bar and restaurant. The lower floor hosts a round bar with ample seating for dining on the sides.
While the upstairs hosted more private events...small get togethers', weddings, etc. All among the beautiful stained glass windows and incredible wooden archways. It's truly a unique place. I was just about done with all the beer I could consume in one day so I went for one of their specialty cocktails called "The Saint".
Made with a blend of Cold River Blueberry Vodka, Fresh Lemon and Maine Blueberry Soda this was one refreshing and totally Maine inspired drink. We were a little bit whacked out from all the driving the past two days so we never ate a full dinner that night but split an appetizer of Halibut Two Ways...one a zesty halibut ceviche and the other a crispy, warm filet....both insanely delicious.
Then it was off to meet up with the rest of our traveling friends nearby at the Thirsty Pig. We spent the night on their outdoor patio drinking beers and laughing the night away. It was great to finally be in Portland.
Day 1- Portsmouth
Our first trip up to Maine this summer Mr. T and I decided to make it into a beercation complete with stops along the way to check out some of the best breweries and food the coastline has to offer. Our first day was spent mostly in the car, getting stuck in city traffic then stuck again in a terrible storm but finally we made it to our first destination of the trip WHYM.
WHYM is a brand new craft beer bar located outside the city of Portsmouth. The location isn't the greatest...I would be lying if I said Mr. T and I felt completely safe walking up to the front door in the back of an old motor lodge, but once we walked inside the friendly bartender and gorgeous wooden bar made us feel right at home.
WHYM has it's beer menus split into two sections, one half for the local breweries just down the road and one half for other craft beers throughout the world. We wanted to focus on local beers so we both ordered a couple from Blue Lobster Brewing the Kolsch and the Excess. Then it was time for some some food. we hadn't stopped once on the long car ride so we were famished.
Mr. T had their traditional Fish n' Chips with lots of creamy coleslaw and crispy fries perfect for a healthy douse of malt vinegar. I ordered the Cesar Salad complete with salty pancetta swirls and crunchy pretzel croutons...talk about a good salad for some beer drinking.
We ended up staying much longer than planned, talking to the owner Alex and learning more about the Maine brewing scene from him and his friends. Mr. T and I immediately felt at home and this would truly be our neighborhood bar if we lived in Maine. We wanted to stay there all night but our hotel was in downtown Portsmouth so after our food we left and made our way into the city. We checked into our hotel, dropped off our bags and took a walk into town to check out Portsmouth Brewery brewpub. This is one of those places that's always been on my list. They churned out Kate the Great, one of the most sought after Russian Imperial Stouts in existence, so my hopes for the other beers were high.
Unfortunately those hopes were dashed...the brewpub looked like a TGI Friday's and the beer was incredibly boring. We only stayed for one flight before retiring to our room. So WHYM was a amazing and Portsmouth a bust...it's okay we still had a long trip ahead of us filled with lots of food and beer. Tomorrow was going to be a full day. Allagash and Maine Brewing Co. at the top of the list!
I can't thank everyone enough for all of the advice you gave for our trip to Maine. I was hoping to report back much sooner but it's been a little busy since we returned. I've been spending this week as "Maine Week" on my blog but I wanted all of you to see the reviews since you helped so much so I'll try to post them on here as I write. Only finished the first three days so far.
This might help you out in Portland and other areas of Maine: http://maine.eater.com/archives/2013/...
Notable beer places in Portsmouth:
The Portsmouth Brewery - everyone is aware of that one. Beer is still good after Tod Mott moved on. I enjoy the lounge downstairs when there isn't room to sit at the upstairs bar.
Thirsty Moose - huge multitap, but everything I tried seemed pretty fresh - clubby/sports bar feel though.
Flatbread Company - pizza and craftbeer on same street as TM.
Press Room - local worn in bar feel with a small but eclectic selection - always something I want to drink there. Last time was full tulip pours of Stone Enjoy By
WHYM - new kid on the block beer bar on the south side of town
Blue Lobster Brewing co. Rte 1 in Hampton - Bright, clean, newly constructed tasting room in a strip mall. Cleanly brewed (modern) hoppy pale ales and ipa's, nice porters, and a berlinner weisse for the sour heads. Reasonbly priced samples, pricey for take home.
Earth Eagle Brewing tasting room - except for the pricing comments above, sort of the opposite. But right in town, so easy enough to decide for yourself.
Black Birch - Kittery - People rave about the food and well curated beer selection, but I haven't made it over there yet. Probably will now that its more convenient with the bridge open.
When Pigs Fly -also in Kittery up past the outlet stores - pizza and good craft beer
Barley Pub - Dover - some call it the best beer bar in NH. In the past always had rare/aged smuttynose big beers. And the only place I know that carries Paul Davis' beers
Take a deep breath. 1st, resign yourself to the fact that you can't do it all. Looking at your itinerary, I see you've done your homework and I'd be very happy to follow you around.
I'd probably nix 20 Milk (no particular reason other than there are many local flavored places available and the thought of eating in the hotel in the middle of the Old Port just doesn't feel right). If you're staying in the Old Port you should try an early brunch so that you can get over to Portland Lobster Company (this is making my pal gritty happy) no later than noon to snag an outdoor table and enjoy the free music of Lyle Divinsky while drinking a pretty decent selection of local beers. This is one of those paces where the locals and tourists play nicely together in roughly equal numbers - I'm not too fond of their food however.
Not sure how crowded Jameson Tavern in Freeport gets but if you plan on going to LL Bean, then this would be the place to go for your fried clams, otherwise fisherman's grill is the spot.
I don't think I'd hit any one place more than once (exception: Nuvare) as there are so many options.
I like Infiniti for the beer and atmosphere more than the food.
Whoopie Pie has to come from Two Fat Cats.
Eventide can get slammed so maybe think 11:30AM or mid afternoon. The Brown butter lobster roll is small but delicious. Fried oyster bun or just plain old oysters - good rotating beer selection.
Yes to Grace for a drink. Sit upstairs and look down on people. It is a little out of the way and kind of isolated but worth the walk if only for the view.
Wow- Thanks to everyone for the suggestions...I like the idea of outdoor drinking at Portland Lobster Co. and eveyone seems to think the hotel food has nothing to offer so I'm nixing that as well. You guys have been so helpful. I feel MUCH calmer about skipping Ebenezer and Blue Rooster looks like a great late nights eat (that yes should be needed after all of this beer drinking). Thanks for all the help everyone!
Since you seem to be needing some late-night eats, I would check out Blue Rooster Food Co. -- the proprietor is the former exec chef at Bar Boulud in NYC. The menu reminds me of Cochon Butcher in New Orleans, which is a very very good thing.
We will actually be doing a hit and run at Blue Rooster tomorrow night -- can't wait to try it.
re: Bob W
Just wanted to follow up. We made it to Blue Rooster at 12:30 am. Due to the late hour, I just got a Das Boot dog and a small side of fried Brussels Sprouts. Both really good. This place should not be missed.
NB: If you go late at night, be prepared for an abundance of drunks milling about.
Just going to say, don't freak out! There is SO MUCH great food to be had in Portland that you would be hard pressed to find a bad meal. Two things: Caiola's is really good for brunch, but be sure to reserve. Also, go the the bakery at the back of Micucci's for the utterly delicious luna bread (not at lunch, when they bake pizza, which is also delish if you like a thick crust). While you are in the hood, stop at Duckfat. I love the poutine, but just fries with a selection of sauces is good and they make a good vanilla shake!
Don't freak out! You've made some good choices.
A couple thoughts.
You mention eating at your hotel restaurant a couple times. If convenience is the reason you've made this choice, geographically there's no reason to do so--the Regency is smack in the middle of the Old Port, Portland's tourist district, and you'll be surrounded by many of the places you've read about on the forums. The Commercial street area with all the places with outside dining on the water (Infiniti, the Porthole, etc.; as well as Standard Baking/Fore St) ), the Old Port itself (sonny's, thirsty pig, Novare, grittys, etc.) and the Middle St/India St. area (Duckfat, Micucci, Two Fat Cats, Eventide, Hugo's, etc) are very, very nearby.
A couple good brunch places close to your hotel are Sonny's, Vignola/Cinque Terre and the Porthole (more breakfasty--but outside deck dining).
If you're going to be in Freeport for your Maine Beer Co. tastings around about lunchtime you could go to Jamieson's Tavern for lunch and skip having to drive out Forest Ave to the Fisherman's Grill. It's run by the former operator and the food is just as good as it was when he was at FG.
Wow- Jameson's Tavern wasn't even on my radar. I was thinking we might need something to eat between breweries-this is perfect! Then we can take our time getting into Portland a bit more. Is the wait just a bad as Fisherman's can be or a little better? Just want to time it right...maybe around 2:00ish.
You meant Vignola/Cinque Terre, which is in the Old Port. Caiola's brunch is also very good but a longer hike from the Regency. If the OP does want to go to the Longfellow Square area, the brunches at Pai Men Miyake and Local 188 are both outstanding.
And if you (OP) can't get in to Eventide, don't go back to the hotel--go across the street to either Duckfat or the East Ender.
Hopefully a local Portlander can chime in; I'm only there periodically but love Street & Co. I've also heard great things about Hugo's but haven't been yet. Basically I've loved every place I've been to so I think you'll be happy no matter what you do, there is too much competition there for the locals to tolerate blah food. It's pretty amazing.
Separately, you might consider picking up some wild Maine blueberries on your way home. I think your timing will be perfect. I've read about Stewart's Farm; not sure if it'd work with your timing/route but if it does how awesome would that be:
The Stewart’s Farm
Rte 1A in Stockton Springs
Open August 1st until Labor Day from 8 am to sunset.
Pick your own or we’ll pick them for you.
My wife and I liked Surf too when we stayed in town in May. Just got the raw bar (awesome shucking job and good selection of oysters) and some apps but everything was impeccably fresh and well prepared. A couple decent craft beers on tap - I hit up Lagunitas Little Sumpin a couple of times it was so fresh.
And we've always had great meals at Jumpin' Jays.
New for me this summer was Martingdale Wharf, right (near) on the decks in Portsmouth. A really great bar area too.
I'm a big fan of the food at the Brewery, but if you want something a little nicer, then there are a lot of those places in Portsmouth.
If you like a great selection of beer, you could head over the bridge into Kittery (literally) and hit The Black Birch. The food is fab too. Very casual.