Posted: November 10, 2016
Portland’s neighborhood hot spots
Written by: Leslie Bridgers
Up Next: Which Portland neighborhood should you live in?
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
HAVE A BITE: OhNo Cafe at the corner of Brackett and Gray streets is a true neighborhood establishment. It’s home to to-die-for breakfast sandwiches, including one made with grilled hanger steak, Vermont cheddar and egg on a bagel. You’ll also say “Oh, yes” to the OhNo lunch offerings, and you can grab beer and wine to go.
GRAB A DRINK: Ruski’s Tavern at the intersection of Danforth and Clark streets is the kind of joint known for a colorful cast of regulars, unpretentious beer and booze and a gut-filling brunch situation.
BUY A GIFT: Swing through Aurora Provisions on Pine Street en route to your next dinner party and pick up any number of fancy-pants pastries designed to dazzle.
GO ON A STROLL: Paths, pine trees, historic mansions, water views — the Western Promenade has it all.
BE ENTERTAINED: One Longfellow Square on State and Congress streets is a true listening room with a penchant for singer-songwriters but also has a wide range of other acts on its busy schedule.
DON’T MISS: Although technically on the fringe of the West End, Victoria Mansion at the corner of Park and Danforth streets is very old and very cool. Tour it year round but especially during the holidays when it’s decked out to the nines.
Derek Davis/Staff Photographer
ParksideHAVE A BITE: On Congress Street as it descends toward St. John, Flores Restaurant is not easy to find. The sign out front is missing, and there’s no lettering on the door to indicate that it serves food. Word of mouth does the trick. This authentic Salvadoran restaurant is a favorite spot of the co-working community of Peleton Labs just up the hill and is well regarded among folks in the neighborhood for its burritos, taquitos and tamales. What it lacks in decor it makes up for in authenticity.
GRAB A DRINK: Further down Congress Street, Pizza Villa has been a favorite bar for a large crowd of regulars for a half-century. Half a pizza counter, half a bar, it’s known for its cheap beer, good service and unpretentious atmosphere.
BUY A GIFT: Sawyer & Co., 737 Congress St., was voted the best florist in Portland because of its designs. This place has been saving men’s butts for more than 100 years.
GO ON A STROLL: The shady Deering Oaks Park is a nice summer escape, and kids seem to like the water play area. It’s home to a summer Shakespeare series, and the Saturday morning farmers market. If an ice stroll is more your style, skates are available for rent at the Portland Ice Arena.
BE ENTERTAINED: Salvage BBQ at 919 Congress St. has some fine barbecue, and the kitchen is open relatively late, until 10 p.m. There’s live music most Friday and Saturday nights. This weekend, it’s the Cajun Aces on Friday and King Memphis on Saturday. If sports are more your style, Hadlock Field, home of the Sea Dogs, is good for baseball, and the Portland Expo, home of the Red Claws, is good for basketball.
DON’T MISS: The Holy Donut on Park Avenue has gotten national attention for its Maine potato doughnuts. Made from scratch, they’re the best in Portland, hands down.
Jill Brady/Staff Photographer
HAVE A BITE:Most days, you can find a food truck hanging out in the parking lot of Rising Tide Brewing Co. on Fox Street. The rotating cast includes Mami, El Corazon, Salt Box Cafe and Muthah Truckah.
GRAB A DRINK: Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., serves up kombucha and cider in its big but cozy tasting room.
BUY A GIFT: A hub of beverage makers, between Tandem Roasters and Coffee By Design, Rising Tide and Lone Pine brewers and Maine Craft Distilling, there’s something to satisfy anyone’s taste.
GO ON A STROLL: Bayside Trail is a biking and walking path that cuts through the heart of the district and connects to the Back Cove and Eastern Prom trails.
BE ENTERTAINED:Mayo Street Arts is one of the city's little-known treasures. Housed in a former church at 10 Mayo St., this funky venue hosts music, comedy, and puppet shows — lots of puppet shows.
DON’T MISS: A mosaic mural is currently being created on the back wall of Coffee By Design using the technique of Senegalese glass painting as well as donated materials such as pottery and tile pieces.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
HAVE A BITE: Blue Spoon sits on top of Munjoy Hill, but it’s still something of a hidden gem. Those in the know go for Wine Time specials (4:30-6 p.m.) or Saturday brunch (it’s closed Sunday). The tiny restaurant might not have the name recognition of some of its downtown counterparts, but its neighbors have no problem with that.
GRAB A DRINK: At the corner of Congress Street and Washington Avenue, The Snug and its famously foulmouthed bartender draw drinkers from across the peninsula and beyond, but East End residents proudly claim it — and her — as their own, making a pastime out of pulling up a barstool and watching unsuspecting patrons feel the (mostly feigned) wrath of Michelle.
BUY A GIFT: The strip of storefronts at the bottom of the Hill gives a Main Street feel to this section of Congress with antiques, hair salons, used books and a yarn shop. Among them is Ferdinand, a quirky studio and store filled with unique handmade greeting cards, printed T-shirts and vintage wares — the perfectly place to shop for the hipster in your life.
GO ON A STROLL: The Eastern Prom is a trail, a park and a beach all rolled into one. While it attracts plenty of people from all over, neighborhood residents never tire of the prom, either. How could you, when you can do anything from joining a pickup basketball game to burying your feet in the sand?
BE ENTERTAINED: Located in a former church, St. Lawrence Arts is best known as the home of Good Theater and for its Nutcracker Burlesque show, but it gets rented out by other small theater companies and musical acts. The 110-seat venue blends in with the neighborhood but there’s often something happening behind its doors.
DON’T MISS: The path that cuts through a small park on North Street leads to what may be the best view of the city. Picnic benches overlooking the peninsula and Back Bay are visited by canoodling couples and rowdy teens alike, but tourists have yet to take over this special spot.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
HAVE A BITE: Pat’s Meat Market and Groceria Cafe on Stevens Avenue is a classic, old-school meat market and a neighborhood landmark, serving sandwiches and soups at lunch. You can get them to go or sit near the windows in the little dining area and watch the neighborhood walk by.
GRAB A DRINK: Next door to Pat’s is another neighborhood favorite, Siano’s. Although it’s a full Italian restaurant and pizzeria, it’s also got a big bar and a weeknight happy hour from 3-6 p.m., when draft beers and house wines are $1 off.
BUY A GIFT: Where does one find good pepparkakor these days? At Simply Scandinavian Foods at 469 Stevens Ave., you’ll find the Swedish spice cookies mentioned above, plus all manner of packaged baked goods, candies, coffee and condiments from Scandinavia. Also, caviar in squeeze tubes.
GO ON A STROLL: Baxter Woods is 30 acres of pine trees and trails, a forested oasis separating two very busy avenues, Stevens and Forest. You can walk or bike, or just stop and smell the pines.
BE ENTERTAINED: Woodfords Congregational Church on Woodford Street, near the neighborhood’s edge, is home to the Portland Conservatory of Music and hosts of a variety of live music acts. The Dimensions in Jazz series has upcoming shows Nov. 18 and Dec. 3.
DON’T MISS: In Evergreen Cemetery at 672 Stevens Ave., you can hear the stories of Portland on the friends of the cemetery’s themed tours of this massive, park-like graveyard. Some recent tours included a Civil War theme, one on famous artists and artisans and another on “notable women.”
TAKE OUR QUIZ TO SEE WHICH ‘HOOD YOU SHOULD LIVE IN