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Overrated Restaurants in Portland, Maine

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Portland, Maine is a definite foodie town – it was named the 2018 Restaurant City of the Year by bon appetit magazine. That being said, there are A LOT of great restaurants in Portland, Maine. If you’re only visiting for a couple days, it’s understandable to feel like you need to make the most of every meal.

From everything I’ve read and heard, there are a few restaurants that always seem to make the “must-eat” list. I’ve tried quite a few of these uber-popular places and didn’t think they lived up to the hype. With so many options, why settle for okay when you can find something better right around the corner?

Here is my list of overrated restaurants in Portland, Maine, and where to go instead.

Woon Sen Pad Thai at Boda in Portland, Maine
The Woon Sen Pad Thai dish at Boda in Portland, Maine.
Glass noodles, Chinese chive, shallot, salted daikon, bean sprout, and tofu wrapped in a Thai egg omelet.

Don’t go to Eventide Oyster Co., instead try Boda

Eventide has oysters, yes. But it also has long wait times, an overpriced menu, a noisy dining room, and standing/shared tables – none of which I associate with a pleasant dining experience. This trendy spot has been dominating the tourist food scene for years now. However, unless you’re okay with overpaying for small portions of okay food, I would avoid it.

For an alternative trendy restaurant, go to Boda. I know this isn’t a seafood restaurant like Eventide (see the Bait Shed below for that), but it has the same higher-end casual atmosphere. This upscale Thai eatery is delicious, picture-worthy, and will certainly fill you up. I highly recommend the drunken noodles, or the Woon Sen Pad Thai – both are amazing.

I suggest getting there early though, as similar to Eventide, it fills up quickly and you could be left with a long wait at peak dinner time. You can also catch their “Thai-ny Boda” food truck around the city and at Thompson’s Point throughout the summer months. Boda is one of the best restaurants in Portland, Maine – you don’t want to miss out!

Boda “Very Thai” Kitchen and Bar
Address: 671 Congress Street
Website: https://www.bodamaine.com/

Boda "Very THai" Kitchen and Bar - a restaurant in Portland, Maine
source: Portland Press Herald, Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Don’t go to Holy Donut, instead try HiFi or the Cookie Jar

Holy Donut is an absolute sensation at this point. I think it’s all I hear about from visitors, not to mention the locals that are die-hard fans, too. Here’s the low-down though: the donuts are super expensive, and they are dry and crumbly.

The idea of a donut made out of potatoes is certainly intriguing, but honestly not worth the high premium. Also, Holy Donut donuts DO NOT last more than one day – in fact they barely even last one. If you get there at the end of the day, chances are the donuts are already dry.

Instead, I suggest filling your donut craving with a delectable treat from either HiFi or the Cookie Jar. HiFi is conveniently located just a couple streets over from Holy Donut downtown. They have an incredible variety of flavors – my favorite is the s’mores donut. It’s a huge, yummy donut covered in chocolate, crumbled graham crackers, topped with a couple roasted marshmallows. You need it.

HiFi Donuts
Address: 30 City Center
Website: https://hifidonuts.com/

The Cookie Jar is technically in Cape Elizabeth, not Portland. But it is right on the way to the most photographed lighthouse in the US, which also happens to be the most popular tourist destination of the city – Portland Headlight.

The Cookie Jar has a half-off rack where you can find my favorite donut holes on the planet – glazed strawberry. But honestly, anything in this unassuming bakery will satsify your sweet tooth. My boyfriend and I sometimes drive the 40 minutes round-trip just to pick up a bag of half-price donuts or donut holes.

The Cookie Jar Pastry Shop
Address: 554 Shore Road (Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107)
Website: http://www.cookiejarbakers.com/

The Cookie Jar Pastry Shop in Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Source: Twitter

Don’t go to Otto, instead try Leonardo’s Pizza

I consider myself a pizza expert. It’s one of my favorite foods, and I could eat it every single day. Otto Pizza is the most recommended pizza joint in Portland, and it’s a hoppin’ place in the summer with all of the tourists. My opinion on Otto is this: it’s only good if you eat it fresh out of the oven.

If you’re thinking about ordering to-go or grabbing a single slice, I suggest Leonardo’s Pizza instead. It’s just a short drive from downtown, and offers amazing specialty pizzas. They have a “goat cheese honey pie,” a pizza called “roasted maine potato,” and if you’re feeling adventurous try the one called “LA meets Brussels” with brussel sprouts – it’s delicious. You’ll also end your meal feeling much more full, and with leftovers that are better for reheating than from Otto. Leonardo’s is definitely one of my favorite pizza restaurants in Portland, Maine.

Leonardo’s Pizza
Address: 415 Forest Ave
Website: https://leonardosonline.com/

Pro local tip: if you want a great happy hour pizza, try Romeo’s in Scarborough. Get a $10 large 3-topping pizza all day on Sundays!

A pizza being made at Leonardo's Pizza in Portland, Maine.
Source: Leonardo’s

Don’t go to the Lobster Shack, instead try the Bait Shed

After living in Portland for over a year now, I am still on a hunt for the perfect lobster roll. MANY people gave me glowing reviews of the Lobster Shack at Two Lights. Like, they said it’s the best lobster roll in the area. Well, it’s not. The lobster roll is $18 for two bites, and it’s nothing special. The view at the Lobster Shack is incredible, and I can’t speak to any of their other seafood.

The view at the Bait Shed in Scarborough is also incredible, and I can speak to how awesome their food is. Located on a deck that juts out into the Nonesuch River, it is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat on a hot, sunny day. The lobster roll is huge and totally worth the money. When my brother was visiting, he got the Monstah lobster dinner (2.5 lb. minimum) for $40, and it was without a doubt the biggest lobster I have ever seen. I can’t wait to go back and get it for myself! Yum.

The Bait Shed
Address: 9 Avenue Six (Scarborough, ME 04074)
Website: https://www.baitshedrestaurant.com/

Don’t go to Bissell Bros, instead try Foulmouthed Brewing

Obviously, breweries have become a HUGE thing in Portland. Bissell Brothers has captured the beer-drinking hearts of many locals and tourists. I personally did not enjoy my time there. While their beer is alright, the nauseating smell is what really ruined it for me.

I couldn’t spend more than 5 minutes inside, and even when we sat on the patio, every time the door opened, I had to hold my breath. I’m not sure if it was some byproduct of the brewing process, or just the natural smell of the building, but it was not pleasant. Also, watch out for the parking lot. If you’re not carefully monitoring the time your meter expires, you’re bound to get a ticket.

Instead of Bissell Bros, head across the bridge to South Portland and hit up my favorite brewery in the area: Foulmouthed Brewing. Not only is the atmosphere absolutely perfect to hang out, their food and brews are to die for. It’s honestly one of my favorite restaurants in Portland, Maine.

You NEED to try their flavored fries (they’re the best in Portland), and you NEED to try some of their beers. They’re draft list changes constantly, so I can’t even pick a favorite since I haven’t had any more than once. Read more about Foulmouthed and my other favorite breweries in Portland here.

Foulmouthed Brewing
Address: 15 Ocean Street (South Portland, ME 04106)
Website: https://foulmouthedbrewing.com/

A plate of nachos at Foulmouthed Brewing.
A delicious plate of pork nachos at Foulmouthed Brewing.
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Brigette Chandler

Sunday 27th of December 2020

I'm sorry I prefer to say that both brewery have great beer. I wouldn't just pick the one. And for the smell if your a beer lover then you know it is the wort and mash. And Bissell makes a great beer . You might want to read some more about 101 beer before you judge.

Mark C O'Brien

Thursday 1st of October 2020

I agree that going to Eventide in the off season is best due to the wait. I've only been there in May and am going again this October weekend. Let me put this as simply as I can. Eventide is one of the best restaurants in the country, a perfect oyster bar and a seafood restaurant like no other, and I'm from Boston where we have some of the best. I would compare Eventide to Toro here in Boston. The food in insanely good, they don't take reservations. You will wait an hour or more for a table, and it will be totally worth it.

Stefanie

Wednesday 15th of July 2020

I first went to Portland in 2015 and Eventide, Otto, and Holy Donut blew my mind, and should be experienced at least once, not skipped! I do appreciate this post because for my second trip I was hoping to try something new and I was kind of bummed the same spots from 5 years ago seemed to still be the top picks. Thank you for pointing out alternative options!

Daina Grazulis

Monday 20th of July 2020

Looking back at this post, I think I was a little harsh on some of the restaurants haha. I did like Otto and Holy Donut, but think other places are better in the end. I really did not like Eventide at all. I'm glad you found some value in my recommendations!

Lindsey

Tuesday 19th of May 2020

I’ve been going to Maine for almost 4 years now, luckily my closest friend is a local, I agree wholeheartedly with Boda, one of my favorite restaurants and experiences. The quality eggs are amazing, the Brussels are to die for. I agree holy donut is overrated, but I do feel like you have to experience it at least once! I had an Allen’s coffee brandy donut and it was to die for. Way too heavy as I’m not a sweet eater, but I wouldn’t take it back!

Daina Grazulis

Monday 20th of July 2020

I LOVEEEEEE Boda! It's definitely one of my favorite restaurants in town. I think the fresh donuts at Holy Donut are good, but I personally still prefer some other donut shops. Although I will say an Allen's donut sounds uh-mazing!

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