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.
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
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.
Address: 30 City Center
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Here comes the sun… We are open till we sell out of donuts… This is the flavor of summer, the s’mores… thanks to a great pic by @tastes2totango #hifidonutsportland #HiFi #portlandmaine #Portland #Maine #donut #donuts #donutandcoffee #donutdonutdonut #timetomakethedonuts #? #?☕ #dozens #greenbee #whiteherron #honeyexchange #coffee #latteart #coffeelovers #cafinated #donutexplorers #counterculturecoffee
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)
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.
Address: 415 Forest Ave
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!
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)
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.
Address: 15 Ocean Street (South Portland, ME 04106)