The Portland Files: We Actually Did More Than Eat (but not much)

There were a couple of things weighing on my mind during the month of February. First of all, my engagement ring was huge on me and really needed to be sized, but with local jewelers quoting the price everywhere from $50-$120 and the timeline everywhere from three days to seven, I was very hesitant. Second we still had a lot of things to do to prepare for our wedding, which included getting wedding bands. When Chris realized that the jewelry store where he purchased the ring offered us same day sizing for free AND a discount on wedding bands, we knew we had a few of our problems solved. And since that store is in Portland Maine, it solved another problem- momentary wanderlust.

The view as soon as we got to our room.

The view as soon as we got to our room.

I took a little bit of vacation time, leaving my office at noon on a February Friday. Chris was waiting for me and we were northbound immediately, with the radio tuned in to up to the minute traffic. We cruised over the George Washington Bridge and blasted through Connecticut, stopping briefly for gas and lunch before hauling through New England and pulling into our hotel before dinnertime. We were able to score two nights at the Hilton Garden Inn: Downtown Waterfront using reward points, and paid a bit extra to have a water view. Definitely worth it! The view was beautiful both morning and night. Starving, we barely settled in before hopping across the street for dinner at an Irish pub called Ri Ra.

Ri Ra did not impress me when we first walked in. It looked like a college bar, with mismatched stools, spills on the ground, and bland décor. Luckily the hostess brought us upstairs to the dining room, which was beautiful. Our table was right up against the window and provided a nice view of the boats in the water. A stone fireplace lit up the wall next to us, and gave off a little extra warmth for the snowy, freezing night. Our waiter, a true Irishman, was very friendly too, so the restaurant was starting to redeem itself. The good streak continued when we ordered the spinach artichoke dip as appetizer. Delicious! We were so hungry that we polished off the loaf of bread (which was most likely meant for 3-4 people) and bowl of creamy dip fairly quickly. Our main course was good as well- the mashed potatoes, lamb burger, and fries were all tasty, though the portions seemed a little small. The Guinness Sundae dessert was not small and we enjoyed that immensely. If you think this is where I stop talking about food, think again- we ate at many wonderful restaurants on this short trip, so this is just the beginning!

Good morning, Portland!

Good morning, Portland!

The next morning, we began the day with a wonderful breakfast out (told you I wouldn’t stop talking about food!). Personally, I’m not a huge breakfast person- some farina, an apple, or yogurt is usually enough for me on most days. But on weekends, I do enjoy some home fried potatoes, a fluffy biscuit, or even a waffle or pancakes on rare occasions. Some internet research led us to Hot Suppa!, apparently a Portland staple any time of the day. TripAdvisor ranks it in the top 20 out of all the restaurants in the city and advised us to get there early for breakfast. So at 8:15am we strolled in and were pleased to be seated right away. In barely 20 minutes, the restaurant was full and there were many parties waiting, so our early start definitely paid off. The biscuits and waffles were both delicious, and Chris loved his Maine Maple Latte, a coffee special they serve. We both really enjoyed the atmosphere. The place is pretty small and cozy, with some unique local artwork adorning the walls. It was for sale, and I wish it had been a little bit more affordable. I certainly enjoyed looking at it as I ate my breakfast.

That wall of snow was our view from breakfast.

That wall of snow was our view from breakfast.

After eating we were at Day’s Jewelers just a few minutes after they opened and got straight to work on the actual reason for our visit. Contrary to what this post is going to make it look like, we were there for reasons other than to eat. I dropped my engagement ring off to be sized and we spent some time looking at wedding bands. We each picked one and paid for it, planning to return later to pick up the ring being sized. Next up was a snack and a wander around Smiling Hill Farm. A positively adorable place, they also had some great food. I ordered a cup of delicious vegetable soup while Chris had a serving of homemade ice cream. These two things don’t seem like they would go together, but they actually made a perfect midmorning snack.

Best gravy fries ever!

Best gravy fries ever!

I was very excited about lunch, for two reasons. First of all, we would be meeting up with a close friend from college and her husband, who I haven’t seen since their September wedding. Second, we would be eating at Duckfat, a place that has been touted as having amazing fries, and fries are pretty much my favorite food ever. When we arrived at Duckfat, I was very surprised. I had been expecting a grand establishment based on how people were talking it up, but it is TINY. We put our names on the 45 minute waitlist, and Allie and Mitch joined us shortly after. Thirty minutes absolutely flew as we chatted and caught up, and when our name was called 15 minutes earlier than we expected we were overjoyed. Chris got a panini and some plain fries, while I ordered the poutine without the cheese (so basically gravy fries). It was beyond delicious. It easily made its way onto my list of Best Fries Ever. The gravy was flavorful, but not too salty, and put on in a way so that nothing got too mushy. The plain fries, fried in duck fat, were delicious as well. When Allie ordered some donut holes for dessert, I didn’t think I would have any room for them, but after one taste I found room. An unexpected bright spot was the housemade cherry soda. Allie tried the orange soda and said it was also delicious. So another wonderful meal for this great weekend of eating!

Snowy and cold at the Portland Head Lighthouse.

Snowy and cold at Portland Head Light.

We went back to Allie and Mitch’s house to hang out for a little while and got to meet their adorable kitty and puppy. Then they were driving down to Boston to go to a Bruins game, so Chris and I headed out to Portland Head Light, which looked beautiful in the snow.  It was very cold out by the water, so we pretty much had the run of the place. After wandering around the base, we walked out a bit further along the shore to get some photos. Then we trudged through the snow back to the car and headed for the jewelry store to pick up my engagement ring. Happy with the fit, it was time to hit another restaurant!

Cool taps (with the brewing equipment behind) at Liquid Riot.

Cool taps (with the brewing equipment behind) at Liquid Riot.

Chris had visited the Liquid Riot Bottling Company before when he was in town for work and thought it would be the perfect place for a drink and an appetizer before dinner. I ordered the specialty cocktail, which was an absolutely delicious fruity mojito. We shared a big soft pretzel and admired the bar- there were huge windows behind it that offered guests a view of the microbrewery, in addition to unique looking taps and a contraption that made huge balls of ice for some sort of whiskey drink. With one beer, one mojito, and one pretzel gone, we paid up and went in search of a main course. I was in the mood for Italian (as I often am) and the internet led us to Bruno’s, a bar/dining room located away from the tourist center of the old port. It instantly earned big points for having a huge parking lot, as the snow covered streets and expensive parking garages had been battling us all day long. The wait time for the dining room was 30 minutes, so we nabbed the two last empty seats at the bar and figured we would have a drink while waiting. When the bartender informed us that the bar serves the exact same menu, we canceled our place on the waitlist and got comfortable! Allie had texted me a photo of her view at the Bruins game, so when we saw the game on TV we set to work finding her- and we did! The game was a fun distraction while we were waiting for our food, which arrived quickly and was delicious.

After all that eating, we still had a lovely breakfast out the next morning! Allie and Mitch met us again at The Front Room, where we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. My home fries were just so-so, but the French toast and biscuits were amazing! In the middle of the meal we had sudden cravings for blood orange mimosas… wow. The perfect end to a delicious breakfast!

It was sad to say goodbye to Allie, knowing I may not see her again until my own wedding later this year, but it had been a great weekend of catching up. We had one more food stop before leaving Portland- The Holy Donut, for some treats to eat on the drive home. We ended up getting six donuts total, five of our favorite flavor (chocolate salted) and one of a fancy new flavor with cannoli cream in the middle. The man behind the counter said of it, “lots of people have been unhappy with how unhealthy that donut is. I just ask those people what they are doing in a donut shop.”

Summary of this post: If you are hungry, just go to Portland. Oh, and there is a lighthouse there too.

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