Today’s Portland, ME City Guide Update comes to us from Sarah Lapine, the owner and lead designer of , a unique floral design studio based in Portland, Maine. A native of the state and lover of all things Maine, Sarah has over a decade of experience as a flower grower and a degree in sustainable agriculture. When not in her studio playing with flowers, Sarah can be found cooking, knitting, running, gardening and exploring the great state of Maine. Today she shares some of the best, most delicious, and absolutely scenic areas of this coastal town. Thank you for taking us on this tour, Sarah! —Stephanie
Read the full guide after the jump!
photos by Sarah Lapine
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– It is no secret that the people of Portland love food. They even love the raw ingredients, the more local the better. With farmers coming into the city year round, there is always access to locally grown produce, locally raised meat, as well as locally processed cheese, honey, syrup and even herbal tinctures. There are twice weekly markets in the summer, one in Monument Square and the other in Deering Oaks Park, as well as an indoor winter market in East Bayside. There are also a handful of smaller summer markets throughout the city that are run by local non-profit. Check their website for days, times and locations.
– Cozy coffee shop and roastery. Lovely decor. Excellent coffee. All around pleasing to the senses. On Mondays and Tuesdays the food truck is parked in the lot. Cafe Crepe flips up a variety of sweet and savory crepes, all of which can be made gluten free.
– Fiber arts studio with an amazing calendar of workshops such as pattern making, screen printing and knitting. Equipment and studios are also available to rent in this amazingly creative and light-filled space. AGOS is a gem!
– If kombucha is your thing or if you’re just curious about the fizzy wonder beverage, stop in here for a tasting. UFF products, including their amazing hard cider, are sold at many local retailers and served in restaurants throughout the peninsula, but I advise you to make time for a visit to the mother ship. The building that houses UFF is also home to many other local food producers, as well as the winter farmers’ market. It’s a hub for good food, good drink and good people.
– You really could (and probably should) drink your way through East Bayside. There are so many great beverages being produced and sold in this corner of Portland. If you can’t hit them all, definitely make time for a visit to Maine Craft Distilling. They offer their own take on gin, vodka, whiskey and rum, as well as some other specialties. My favorite is the Chesuncook Botanical Spirit. You can taste the carrot. I like that.
– My husband started and is the director of this uber-local non-profit, so it has a special place in my heart. Family ties aside, there’s a lot to love about this organization. Anchored by an urban farm and community garden nestled in this gritty neighborhood, Cultivating Community works with many local schools to set-up and maintain gardens, runs summer internship programs for area teens, delivers fresh produce to low-income seniors, helps new Americans start farms, and manages the city’s community gardens. As you make your way through the city, be sure to check out the Boyd Street Urban Farm.
– A former church is now home to this dynamic and diverse organization. Live music, puppetry, dance and visual art are just some of the things you’ll find here. After school programs are offered for neighborhood youth, and the basement houses several art studios.
– Eclectic would be an understated way to describe this Bayside institution. By far the best place to go dancing! Every Saturday is 80s night. Show up dressed in 80s attire and get in free. Check their website for other special events and theme nights.
– Breakfast and lunch served daily in a funky building (inside and out). Expect a line on a beautiful summer day. It’s worth the wait!
– A local pharmacy that offers traditional medications, as well as many natural options. The staff are fantastic! If you go in with a question, you are sure to get thoughtful advice.
– Top notch bar food and an excellent drink menu. Live music every weekend. Bocce, skeeball and, of course, bowling. When it opened a few years ago, Bayside Bowl filled a void in the entertainment scene on the Portland peninsula, and it has been busy busy busy ever since. Plan to spend some time waiting for a lane on a winter weekend; fortunately, there is lots to keep you occupied while you wait.
– Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, this gem is two floors of vintage goodness. The first floor is divided into space for individual vendors, a mix of craftspeople and vintage/antique dealers, while the second floor is one big room of furniture, home goods, bikes and more. A food truck or two are often parked outside. I love stopping here on a weekend morning to check out the ever-changing inventory and grab a bite to eat.
– Great selection of local veggies, meats and cheeses, as well as wine and assorted grocery items. This is just one of the Rosemont markets in Portland. The flagship market is in the Rosemont neighborhood, just a few miles from the East End (but not on the peninsula), and the waterfront now also boasts its very own Rosemont. This small chain of local markets truly represents the essence of Portland. Funky and wholesome and all about Maine, Rosemont is the real deal.
– It is cold in Maine. We knit. A lot. And this shop has everything you could need to keep your needles clicking away through the long winter. The amazing pattern selection (many from Maine’s own ) and equally impressive collection of yarn is sure to inspire. You can also stop in for some help with a project in progress. They’re good like that!
– Beautiful studio. Amazing instructors. The best setting I’ve found to practice yoga.
– Lunch and dinner served daily. Brunch on Saturdays. This small restaurant on the hill is the best for seasonally inspired dining. Great atmosphere. Great people. Great food.
– This shop is so much fun! From unique vintage items to handcrafted treasures and lots of neat stuff for kids, this store is full of wonderful finds. One of my first stops when looking for the perfect gift.
– Definitely the coziest place in Portland to get a drink. One side of this small bar is made up of little alcoves. When you’re tucked away in one of these nooks, you can have a real conversation or play a game while in a busy bar. This is definitely my favorite place to go out for a drink in the winter.
– A great place for a special dinner. My family does a lot of celebrating here. The back patio is a magical place to dine in the summer, while the front of the restaurant offers comfort and warmth in cooler weather. The beautiful wine cellar can be reserved for larger parties. And the food is divine!
– Cozy, colorful coffee shop in a really cool building. Overlooking the Casco Bay Bridge and the city of South Portland, Omi’s is a great place to stop for a refreshment as you stroll the West End.
– I must admit that the name kept me away for awhile, but once I finally made it through the door and had my first Hot Suppa brunch, I was hooked. Breakfast and lunch are served 7 days a week; dinner Tuesday-Saturday. The food is really good! And it’s unlike any other eatery on the peninsula. If you go for dinner, get the BBQ shrimp. It’s amazing!
– When I first moved to Portland, my go-to Thai take-out restaurant occupied this location, and I was devastated when it closed; however, I could not be more pleased with what now stands here. The food is still Thai, but it’s different in a really, really good way. Fantastic cocktails, too!
– The rooms in this historic West End inn are all named after writers. You can explore the land of Longfellow while staying in a room named after him. That’s pretty cool!
– I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth, but this funky donut shop (conveniently located around the corner from my house) has turned me into a donut fiend! I’m seriously obsessed with the gluten-free cinnamon sugar donut that is offered daily. Last summer, I stopped in to get donuts for my family on my way home from a run. I was short $.50 and the owner happily offered me a loan because she recognized me as a regular. This little anecdote highlights the generosity and all-around awesomeness of this shop, as well as my addiction to their donuts. If you go, be prepared to go back over and over and over again.
– New on the scene and super cool. The Mercury Inn is a lodging option unlike any other in Portland. The rooms are light filled and decorated flawlessly. I don’t often covet the decor of an inn or b&b, but I would be happy to have everything at the Mercury Inn transported to my own home. The proprietors Tim and Jacob serve breakfasts made from local ingredients and work hard to ensure that the inn has a small carbon footprint. Sounds to me like a business worth supporting!
– There isn’t a bad seat in this ballpark that is home to the Sea Dogs baseball team, double-A affiliate of New England’s beloved Red Sox. And you really can’t beat the ticket price. General admission is just $8 and reserved seating isn’t much more. For hours of classic summer fun, it’s the best deal in town!
– Order at the counter. Find a seat at a picnic table. And wait for your tray of BBQ to arrive. Casual ambience. Delicious food that is definitely worth the mess. You’ll be glad that your meal comes with wet-naps.
– The best french fries ever. That is really all you need to know. Just go there!
– Owner Kazeem Lawal curates an impeccable collection of menswear and accessories, both new and vintage. He also has a selection of unique publications, housewares and gifts.
– In the heart of the Old Port, this beautiful brick building was constructed in 1895 to house the Maine National Guard. The Armory Lounge, located on the ground floor of the building and open to the public, is a really cool place to go for a drink. It’s unlike any other spot on the peninsula. The hotel itself offers gorgeous rooms, many with excellent views of the waterfront and/or the Old Port.
– A guide to Portland would not be complete without a shout-out to this landmark. In a time when the once ubiquitous video store is hard to come by and anyone under the age of 18 would barely recognize a DVD, it is remarkable that this store still exists. And yet it does. For that I am grateful!
– HUGE beer selection. Secluded outdoor patio for summer sipping. Darts, too! A great place to go with a group.
– Tucked away on a side street in the Old Port. Charming and rustic. An excellent choice for lunch or evening drinks.
– Regardless of season, you can’t visit Portland and not head out to explore the islands. Peaks Island is technically a neighborhood of Portland; many residents and students commute to the mainland each day. While the ferry goes to several of the Casco Bay Islands, all incredibly beautiful, Peaks offers the most in terms of dining and activities; however you really can’t go wrong with a visit to any of the islands. If it’s too cold for island exploration, at least take a boat ride.
– Sister coffee shops on opposite ends of the Old Port. Crema is larger and has a view of the water. Arabica is closer to shops and galleries. Both are fantastic!
– Full of friendly, book-loving people and, of course, a great selection of books and magazines! I dare you to leave empty handed!
– This is not your typical Chinese restaurant. You will not find baby corn or mysterious sauces at this Congress Street establishment. Instead, you will experience some of the most amazing food (Chinese or otherwise) ever! I recently ate here with a friend who has travelled throughout Asia, and it didn’t take her long to declare that this was the most authentic and delicious Chinese food that she’s eaten stateside. Go when you’re really hungry; you will want everything on the menu!
– Often overlooked for some of the newer, more talked about restaurants in this food city, the Green Elephant serves delicious Asian inspired food, all of it vegetarian.
– Art in its many forms can be found here. Film, music, sculpture, literature, dance…this organization offers it all! SPACE also works with local schools to provide field trips and programming for students.
– This brick oven pizza parlor has now expanded to include restaurants in the East End and South Portland, but the original location is still my favorite. Stop in for a slice to-go or sit down for a pie. Unique toppings and excellent crust.
– There’s so much I could say about the good folks of More & Co. Creative, inspiring, fun and kind, this is their vibe and it’s what you’ll feel when you walk in the door of the shop and studio on High Street.
– Free every Friday night. Amazing exhibits and an excellent permanent collection. Take in every floor of art then peruse the carefully curated gift shop and have a bite to eat in the cafe operated by , another Portland staple.
Notable Locals –
Samuel James – Well known in Portland, Samuel is now gaining recognition throughout the world for his acoustic guitar and vocals.
Sam Hayward – James Beard award winning chef and owner of Fore Street, one of the East Coast’s premiere restaurants. An early adopter of and advocate for local foods, Sam has been a leader in the farm-to-table movement. He’s also a really nice guy.
Lincoln Peirce – Author of the Big Nate comic strip and books.
Angela Adams – Textile designer.
Joan Benoit Samuelson – Winner of first women’s Olympic marathon. Fixture in the Southern Maine road racing scene.
John Naylor & Molly Thompson – The husband and wife team who started and operate the Rosemont Markets.
Greta Rybus – Photojournalist extraordinaire!