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Portland's restaurant scene excites with global influence on native Maine cuisine



Portland’s historical origins as a major commercial shipping center have greatly influenced its diverse restaurant scene. City eateries feature a wealth of global influences ranging from Hispanic to Asian and other cultures. The quality of the food is also exceptional. Many of the city’s restaurants have been established by highly distinguished and accomplished chefs with years of experience both within and outside of Portland. What’s more, these gourmet purveyors are passionate about their craft, eager to explore and develop new taste sensations and culinary experiences. Their adventurousness in mixing spices, herbs and flavorings to create one-of-a-kind dishes for diners to enjoy has won them dedicated followings throughout the city and beyond. The result are restaurants that have their own unique takes on the dining experience.  These range from high end restaurants such as Street and Company, with its emphasis on expertly prepared seafood, to the New American Comfort Food of The Front Room with its signature grilled hangar steak and Five Fifty Five with its one of a kind truffled lobster mac and cheese. Other standouts include Caiola’s with its upscale homage to the neighborhood eatery; Fore Street which works wonders with local foods from the sea and farms; Hugo’s with its old world charm and dedication to food that is tasty and well presented; Cinque Terre which is expertly carrying on the exquisite cuisine of northern Italy; and Natasha’s with its fun and funky infusions of Latin and Asian flavorings with Maine foods.  It’s here for you to enjoy.


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The Flatbread Company
Photo courtesy of Flatbread Company


With locations throughout New England, the Flatbread Company specializes in wood-fired organic pizza that is both tasty and healthy. This establishment prides itself on using organic ingredients whenever possible and goes to great lengths to choose pizza-makings � everything from cheese to meats to sauces � that are fresh and delicious. The Portland location has the added bonus of being situated right by the edge of Casco Bay. Diners can enjoy remarkable views of sailing ships and other bay activities. The atmosphere within the Portland location is relaxing and comfortable with plenty of friendly conversation. Diners enjoy savoring the many pizza varieties available from the extensive menu while enjoying views of the adjoining coast.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to sample the luncheon specials.

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Katahdin
Photo courtesy of Katahdin


Katahdin is a popular spot for the arts and culture crowd. The atmosphere is busy, high energy, and fun. Loud conversations and laughter are common throughout this popular eatery. The cuisine is a hodge podge of different tastes and sensations � perfect for those not satisfied with ordinary fare. Favorites include fresh squid salad with lime, sea salt and cracked pepper; rib-eye steak with fingerling potato gratin and asparagus; pork rib chop with sweet potato, mustard greens and ginger jam; and Pacific salmon with morels, fennel butter, and fava bean puree. Cocktails are available and there is a small but decent selection offerings of wine.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to sample Katahdin's small but impressive selection of wines.

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Natasha's Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Natasha's


Natasha's delightfully combines Maine foods and infuses them with delicious Latin and Asian flavorings. The atmosphere is fun and friendly as diners explore the global fusion influences that abound throughout this establishment's menu. Highlights include chipotle-flecked mussels; a pad Thai inspired main course featuring wok-fried vegetables and flavorful and spicy meats with mint, cilantro, fried banana, peanuts and pineapple; or chai-spiced tuna with bamboo rice. Lunch is a great time to enjoy these creative inspirations with friends with wraps, fish tacos, noodle dishes, salads and sandwiches on the menu. Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday. Look for occasional specials which are offered from time to time.

Local Expert tip: Look for great discounts on brunch specials.

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Cinque Terre
Photo courtesy of Cinque Terre


Cinque Terre offers a delightful, fresh twist on the Italian dining experience with its focus on northern Italian cuisine with its rich, creamy white sauces and fresh meats. The restaurant tirelessly seeks out the freshest ingredients from local food suppliers as the essence of its recipes. The atmosphere within the restaurant itself is relaxed, comfortable and welcoming. Diners are allowed to savor and enjoy the handmade pastas, expertly cut high grade meats, and fresh seafood offered by this distinctive establishment. Afterwards, enjoy housemade desserts including gelatos. Menu offerings include Capesante featuring pan seared Maine scallops, parsnip puree, brussel sprouts, pancetta, and balsamic caper aioli; Merluzzo with pan roasted cod, white beans, tomato and rosemary fondutta, swiss chard and black olive butter; and Anatra featuring roasted duck leg, Italian faro, saut� kale, and duck liver mousse crostini.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to indulge in the dessert menu for tempting sweets.

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Five Fifty Five
Photo courtesy of Five Fifty Five


Five Fifty Five's owners, Steve and Michelle Corry, bring a wealth of culinary and restaurant experience to their Portland eatery and it shows. Their expertise and passion have created one of the most distinctive and highly acclaimed restaurants in the city. Their establishment's atmosphere is comfortable and inviting, their menu features locally sourced food that is delicious and prepared simply but attractively, and the service is polite and professional. Menu standouts include truffled lobster mac and cheese, three-day marinated hanger steak, and savory lemon goat cheese-panna cotta. Desserts are equally tantalizing and include pumpkin brown betty and chocolate maple torte.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to sample the dessert offerings - some of the best in town!

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Fore Street Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Fore Street


Fore Street has become one of the most celebrated eateries on the northern New England restaurant scene. Simplicity is key here. Chef Sam Hayward focuses on local, organic ingredients to bring forth the best out of his recipes. The menu changes on a nightly basis with cooks working in an open kitchen set-up carefully tending to a wood-fired brick oven and grill. Main dish highlights include wood-oven roasted mussels, grilled and marinated hangar steak, and turnspit-roasted chicken and pork loin. During the winter and summer, Fore Street indulges in the bounty available from area farmers and fisherman to work their wonders with lamb, lobster, scallops and local fish.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to check out the nightly dinner specials.

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Hugo's
Photo courtesy of Hugo's


Hugo's nicely balances the high expectations of date night dining with the casual flair of relaxed, late night cuisine. Located at the edge of Portland's beloved Old Port District, Hugo's features deep, rich wood tones, wrought iron railings and fresh floral arrangements. It all adds up to an intimate, laid back atmosphere ideal for savoring this eatery's wonderfully diverse menu while enjoying friendly dinner conversation. It's pressed cork bar serves up some of the most creative cocktails in town. Hugo's menu spans a wide range of cuisines and cultures. Standouts include yellow fin tuna nicoise, Atlantic fluke ceviche, poached soft shell Maine lobster, beef brisket burger, and poached Gulf of Maine cod. All offerings are prepared with careful precision, bringing out the best natural flavors in each dish.

Local Expert tip: Drink specials are a nice feature of this intimate eatery

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The Front Room


Long a fixture in Portland's East End neighborhood, the Front Room Restaurant and Bar overlooks city's scenic Eastern Promenade. This cozy establishment, which has become a favorite gathering spot for locals and visitors alike, claims that it specializes in New American Comfort Food. The menu reflects this cuisine focus with dishes that present simple, bold flavors prepared expertly with local ingredients. Meals often start with one of The Front Room's signature appetizers such as grilled asparagus with poached egg, pepper olive relish and shaved pecorino cheese or Maine-raised chicken liver pate with pistachios, pickled vegetable salad and crostini. Hearty main dishes include cedar-planked salmon, grilled hangar steak, Casco Bay scallops, and pan roasted local pork chop.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to check out the local scenery - perfect for intimate dining.

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Street and Company
Photo courtesy of Street and Company


Street and Company focuses on the fresh and simple when it comes to their winning formula for success. Their extensive offerings of supremely fresh seafood feature simple ingredients cooked to perfection. The result are dishes that bring out tantalizing and satisfying natural flavors for diners. This restaurant is especially savvy with Mediterranean recipes, a natural complement for fish, with its emphasis on garlic, olive oil, basil and oregano ingredients. A typical meal may start out with appetizer specialties such as grilled, fresh sardines with olive tapenade or roasted, organic sweet potato with goat cheese, pomegranate and apple cider. Main dish highlights include grilled lobster on linguine, butter and garlic; blackened swordfish, or broiled Atlantic char. No matter what your choice, Street and Company raises the artistry of seafood cooking to new levels of taste.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to check out the nightly dinner specials for great dining deals.

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Tasty Thai
Photo courtesy of Tasty Thai


Located in a non-descript shopping area near Route 1 in Kittery is a restaurant serving up some of the best Thai cuisine on the Southern Maine Seacoast: Tasty Thai. The star of this show is the food. Each dish is prepared with authentic, fresh ingredients. Each mouthful is full of rich, savory flavors featuring artfully blended spices and herbs. The Pad Thai, a Thai cuisine staple, features hearty noodles with a tantalizing mixture of chopped peanuts, scallions, herbs and chopped eggs. Similar attention and is evident in other menu offerings including Red Curry with chicken, bamboo shoots, mixed vegetables, Thai basil all simmered in coconut milk; and Pad Cashew Nuts with pork, cashew nuts, pineapple, mixed vegetables brought together in an appetizing spicy Thai brown sauce. Most dishes are prepared by Tasty Thai's co-owner, Nok Raynard, from homemade recipes. Even appetizers such as steamed vegetable dumplings, delicately wrapped in hand-tied dough, are evidence of Raynard's focus on cooking perfection.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to visit Tasty Thai's website for a listing of their daily in-house specials.

Read more about Tasty Thai →


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