At the junction of Danforth and Pleasant Street, a spot as soon as often called Gorham’s Corner, a stone monument commemorates odd folks who used to stay within the neighbourhood. There’s the shopkeeper, after whom the nook was named, and the native priest “who was often called by the police to halt street fights”. As if to show the purpose, the subsequent identify listed is that of a person who died in a brawl with native toughs, the Connelly Brothers: “His death sparked a riot.”
Some older locals can recall the times when Portland was nonetheless a rough-and-ready port city, with alcohol-fuelled punch-ups downtown and areas you didn’t stroll in after darkish. A change over the previous twenty years means it’s now usually described as probably the greatest US cities to stay in. From the Old Port to a vigorous arts district and up-and-coming bayside areas, this city of 66,000 has incubated a inventive and foodie scene that may maintain its personal in opposition to wherever.
Portland, Maine, map.
Its secret is a deep-rooted group spirit: it’s not sufficient simply to “buy local”, residents wish to know the particular person who’s cooking their meals, brewing their beer, making their garments. Once a key vacation spot on the liberty path that helped African Americans escape slavery within the South – boarding ships to Canada and England, or engaged on the wharves – the city has welcomed immigrants and refugees from Somalia, Kenya, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Maine has lengthy been a summer time vacation spot for vacationing Americans, because of its shoreline, campsites and vary of outside actions however you’ll discover Portlanders out each weekend within the winter, too. Mostly, that’s on their technique to eat, because the restaurant scene is so good. Fishing retains a robust presence and lots of locals nonetheless take their constitutional alongside the jap promenade to the salty odour of the morning catch. See Portland at its greatest by taking a stool at Becky’s diner, the place laptop computer employees and lobstermen drink dollar-coffee facet by facet.
Congress Street, a walkable stretch that connects the Old Port to the west finish of city, is the heartbeat of the humanities district. Halfway alongside it sits the Maine College of Art (Meca), which fuels a vibrant modern artwork scene. As properly as its scholar galleries, it’s home to the Institute of Contemporary Art and the everlasting assortment of Bob Crewe, songwriter and producer for the Four Seasons. “Crewe lived and worked in Portland at the end of his life,” says Kiana Thayer, who moved from Rhode Island to check right here. “It’s because of him that we’re the first art school in America to have a music programme.” The dialog between artwork and music continues a couple of doorways up on the Space Gallery, which presents gigs, occasions and exhibitions.
• 522 Congress Street, meca.edu
Portland Museum of Art
“We’re still a baby city,” says Thayer, “but we’re a very visually driven area.” The museum of artwork exemplifies that: a modestly sized but exceptionally curated overview of American artwork and its influences. For one other perception into how artwork infuses and connects this group, go to studios Bomb Diggity Arts or The Art Department. Both of those not-for-profit organisations present inventive and retail alternatives for native artists and you’ll help the makers instantly by buying a variety of implausible work from prints and crafts to clothes.
• 7 Congress Square, portlandmuseum.org
Wadsworth Longfellow House
Photograph: Oleg Albinsky/Getty Images
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born in Portland in 1807. Back then, his household home sat on acres of farmland and had views all the way in which to the ocean. Today, its neoclassical brick facade sits, preserved, among the many trendy business buildings of Congress Street. Longfellow wrote a few of his most well-known works right here nevertheless it’s his sister, Anne, who’s the actual star of this story. Widowed in her mid-20s, she refused to remarry however spent her power on social tasks, reminiscent of serving to ladies into work. Her legacy consists of the library subsequent to the home that holds the Maine Historical Society’s archives, which additionally tells tales from the town via momentary displays.
• 489 Congress Street, mainehistory.org
Photograph: Portland Press Herald/Getty Images
The once-industrial Bayside space is making an attempt to do regeneration proper: tempering the inflow of delis, bike retailers and pottery and woodworking studios with social enterprises, business incubators and programmes for native youth and low-income residents. It has additionally sparked a preferred craze for bowling for the reason that repurposing of an previous vending-machine warehouse right into a 12-lane alley in 2010. A neighborhood politician opened the place as someplace to deal with his Tuesday evening beer league. Now it’s home to 800 league bowlers each week and even hosts professional occasions. An growth in April 2017 added eight extra lanes (reducing ready occasions). Still, with an eye catching bar and stay music from native bands, it’s not a nasty place to kill time.
• 58 Alder Street, baysidebowl.com
The neon signal within the window of this pinball bar guarantees LIVE NERDS and there’s a lot right here to draw them. Aside from its array of machines, its video games library covers all the pieces from Settlers of Catan to Bananagrams. “I’m super into Rhino Hero right now,” says proprietor Dave Aceto, a self-confessed video games addict. He began Arcadia three years in the past along with his good friend Ben: “We used to play pinball at Coast City Comics, and go out drinking after, so we thought why don’t we combine the two?” Aceto has particular alcohol-free hours on Saturday afternoons for the native children.
• 24 Preble Street, arcadiaportland.com
The Bearded Lady’s Jewelbox
Nathaniel Meiklejohn (the Jewel Box’s pseudonymous bearded girl) has real speakeasy cred. The donations-only cocktail events he held within the basement of his condo have been Portland’s most sought-after invite earlier than he arrange on this unmarked joint on Congress Street. His eclectic model (suppose lumberjack beard and pearls) infuses this place: classic glassware meets old-school hip-hop, a mock-Louis XVI mural and a “voyeuristic” mezzanine that appears down on the bar. The drinks checklist options ever-changing originals at $10 apiece and there’s a half-size choice for these who discover them a bit punchy. A pattern creation, reminiscent of Men in Mascara, may embrace “Cascara-infused mezcal, barolo chinato, aromatised wine, angostura and leather bitters”.
• 644 Congress Street, on Facebook
Oxbow Brewing Company
A technology in the past Munjoy Hill was a spot you didn’t enterprise at evening; now it’s an excellent evening out sampling craft drinks. Oxbow, one of many first of the brand new wave of craft breweries on the town, has a tasting room there. “It’s a good place to visit,” says Sandy Lowden, group chief at graphic design and print store, Publication Studio. “All of its beers are farmhouse style, so have this interesting Belgian yeast flavour to them. Plus, there’s Izakaya Minato opposite, which serves amazing Japanese food.” Also inside staggering distance are Maine Mead Works, creator of HoneyMaker mead, and gin-maker Hardshore Distilling. Duckfat, whose Belgian-style meals and eponymous fries are a neighborhood favorite, is to open a companion restaurant in Oxbow’s car parking zone subsequent 12 months.
• 49 Washington Avenue, oxbowbeer.com
Bolster, Snow & Co
The luxurious boutique Francis Hotel opened in October in a fantastically restored brick mansion within the west finish. In its restaurant is a chef who understands Portland hospitality. “People here don’t want someone shouting and screaming in the kitchen, they want a handshake and a conversation,” says Nicholas Verdisco. He was tempted away from New York by Maine’s blended bounty of farm and fish, which he describes as “almost Mediterranean” and his menu consists of refined seafood, reminiscent of an appetiser of scallop crudo with lime and caviar and strange meat dishes, together with oxtail on-the-bone. Still, it’s his carrots you’ll depart speaking about – fried for dipping, and stacked in a tower alongside a moreish curry, buttermilk and blue cheese sauce.
• Brunch from $10, mains from $19, 747 Congress Street, bolstersnow.com
Local Sprouts Co-operative
If the rough-hewn decor and alfalfa-inspired identify immediate expectations of this cafe, the overheard conversations could properly affirm them: “Did you go to the protest?” asks one buyer. “Which one?” comes the reply. The meals and the ambiance make this a particular place, although. The breakfast and lunch menus provide quite a lot of vegan and gluten-free dishes with an acute eye for native provenance and facet order of social conscience however there’s nothing hair-shirt in regards to the cooking; the signature egg dishes, such because the Sunrise Scramble with pesto, roast mushroom, goast cheese and Heiwa tofu ($9.95), are full of flavour. It’s additionally a busy group hangout that champions social justice causes, from Black Lives Matter to LGBTQ protected areas.
• 649 Congress Street, localsproutscooperative.com
Eventide Oyster Co
Photograph: Pat and Chuck Blackley/Alamy
You can get lobster wherever in Portland – and a two-lobster dinner at The Porthole, the place you possibly can sit subsequent to the lobsterman as he drinks Miller Lights, is available in at below $25. But there’s a cause Eventide Oyster Co has a two-hour wait on weekends. At $16.50, the brown butter lobster roll is hardly an affordable eat nevertheless it’s presumably the meltiest factor you’ll ever have in your mouth. There’s a dozen native oyster varieties and a New England clam bake, and something on the menu goes properly with the Bubbly Mary (aka bloody mary with cava, $10.50). If you’re too hungry to carry out, you possibly can at all times head subsequent door to its sister restaurant, The Honey Paw, for noodles.
• 86 Middle Street, eventideoysterco.com
“Made with real Maine potatoes” doesn’t sound like probably the most lipsmacking commercial for doughnuts. But apparently it’s the mashed potato that makes these creations particularly moist. Leigh Kellis used to make them by hand, 4 at a time, in her personal condo – now she and her crew make two million a 12 months. She has three places to service the keen strains of consumers and her status is constructed on her distinctive flavours, starting from pomegranate to coconut to espresso brandy, and together with seasonal specials (reminiscent of an autumnal pumpkin canoli).
• From $2.32 every or $21.99 for a dozen, 7 Exchange Street, theholydonut.com
With its cabaret-style seating and comfort-food bar snacks, Blue has turn out to be a second lounge for a sure form of Portland music lover. It’s an excellent place to listen to a few of the greatest expertise that Maine can provide and its relaxed ambiance is properly complemented by its baked meatballs, pork sliders and pickled eggs. There’s music virtually each evening of the week: Saturday is jazz evening and, on Wednesdays, it hosts vigorous Irish periods.
• 650 Congress Street, portcityblue.com
One Longfellow Square
Christopher Neal at the moment lives two lives: one as a prepare dinner, the opposite as bassist in dance rock band John Hughes Radio. He loves the number of music his hometown gives: “Portland doesn’t really have a ‘sound’ but you can find everything here, from punk to hip-hop to ambient electronic.” While heavy metallic lovers head to Geno’s rock membership, a rough-and-tumble dive bar, followers of acoustic veer in the direction of One Longfellow Square, an intimate, non-profit venue that hosts a weekly programme of acts starting from folks and jazz to indie and soul.
• 181 State Street, onelongfellowsquare.com
While Portland sustains a formidable array of smaller venues, nationwide touring acts play on the 1,000-plus-capacity State Theatre, which has hosted artists from the Pixies and Steve Earle to Brandi Carlile and Queens of the Stone Age. It additionally hosts the city’s well-known Beatles Night, run by Spencer Albee, who Neal describes as “the guru of Portland’s music scene”. “For 15 years, Spencer has been getting the local musicians together to play an entire Beatles album front to back – and it’s always a great time.”
• 609 Congress Street, statetheatreportland.com
Who to observe
thepresshotel.com/weblog: the stylish lodge within the former HQ of the Portland Press Herald reviews all of the news on one of the best native occasions
hottrashportland.com: an acerbic mixture of genuinely helpful data on native music and movie, punctuated by true-life Portland tales and pop-culture gifs
• The journey was supplied by Visit Maine with lodging on the Portland Harbor Hotel (doubles from $139 room solely). More data at visitportland.com and VisitTheUSA.co.uk