As I walked around Portland, Maine, the aroma of fresh fish, cooked seafood, and other culinary delights that my sense of smell wasn’t yet familiar with wafted in the air. If I wasn’t hungry before, I certainly was as I inhaled my surroundings.
Old Port, Portland’s downtown district is the epitome of a New England port town. Its cobblestone streets are lined with brick buildings that are home to boutiques, bars, and restaurants.
Portland is a mecca for foodies and beer lovers. With a curious appetite like mine, it was right up my alley! Food is always one of the main things I’m focused on exploring when I travel, so I couldn’t pass up joining Maine Foodie Tours on their Old Port Culinary Walking Tour to get a taste of what Portland has to offer.
We started the tour at Vervacious, a locally owned condiment and spice shop inspired by the travels of the owners. They have a variety of balsamics, finishing salts, and spices that range from sweet to spicy and everything in between.
We were treated to lobster macaroni and cheese and were free to choose from a variety of spices and finishing salts to top off our food including a dry rub typically used on meat and an orange-dill finishing salt. As if lobster mac and cheese alone couldn’t get any better, throw some fancy salt on there and I’m the happiest girl in town. We finished off at our first stop with dipping fruit in both chocolate and espresso balsamic. Y-U-M.
This food was so good that I gobbled it down before even thinking to take a photo! Vervacious is such a cute shop, and I just love their motto:
Harbor Fish Market
We walked on toward the waterfront and stopped at Harbor Fish Market, a one-stop-shop for all the fresh seafood you’ll ever need. Mussels, oysters, fish, scallops – you name it, you’ll find it in the market. And lobsters. Lots and lots of big Maine lobsters!
Still going strong for 40 years and counting, Harbor Fish Market is an institution in Portland.
Andy’s Old Port Pub
Named after the owner’s dear friend, Andy’s is the go-to old pub for Portland’s locals. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but I felt completely at home once inside.
The pizza here is unlike what you’d find in Italy. On top of the crust was a base of mashed potatoes topped with cheese and bacon. It doesn’t get better than combining two of my favorites – pizza and mashed potatoes! This pizza was so good. It didn’t hurt that I washed it down with a local craft brew from their extensive beer list!
Serving homemade English-style beer, Gritty’s is another Portland institution. We stopped off to try their original pub-style ale and summer ale. These were accompanied by a tangy lobster taco. I only wish I ate lobster in real life as often as I did on this tour!
We also got a behind the scenes peek into how the beer is made in the brewing room right next to the pub. This is what I love about local businesses – you can see where the product comes from firsthand!
K. Horton Specialty Foods
I like cheese. A LOT. I hope there never comes a day when I might need to eliminate cheese from my diet because I just don’t think I’d be able to survive without it. So I was clearly a happy camper when we stopped at K. Horton Specialty Foods to try some local cheeses.
Horton Specialty Foods doesn’t only have local cheese; there are many international cheeses as well. Yes, I saw you over there, Spanish Manchego!
With liquor bottles craftily shelved in wooden crates behind the bar, Sur-Lie looks like one part speakeasy, one part restaurant. Focusing on “tapas-style” eating, Sur-Lie boasts a menu ranging from “To Settle and Nibble”, “Crisp”, “Pleasant”, and “Bold” items to share.
Our group shared the sweet-pea hummus and fried milk-braised cauliflower – two things I wouldn’t normally choose, but I’m happy to have tried. I’m not a pea person, but that sweet pea hummus hit the spot!
Why I loved this tour
If I can eat my way through a destination and learn about it’s history, I’m all in. Aside from trying out some tasty treats, Chris our guide, taught us some interesting pieces of Portland history, like how a firecracker set off a fire that burned down 1,800 buildings in the city in 1866! So now I understood why all the building were brick instead of wood!
We also saw an old flat-iron building that used to be a bubble gum factory – because who wouldn’t want to learn about that? The random anecdotes Chris included about Portland’s history were so intriguing. Who would have thought such a small city has such a colorful back story!
The coolest thing about this tour was that the business owners took the time to share the stories behind their food, beer, shops, and restaurants. It felt much more personal and it made me appreciate the amazing food and drink even more.
The food, history, and locals we spoke to on this tour made it so fun to be a part of. Next time I’m in Portland, I will absolutely be joining Maine Foodie Tour’s Old Port Lunchtime Lobster Crawl or the Happy 2-Hour Tour to dive even deeper into Portland’s gastronomy!
This post was written in collaboration with Maine Foodie Tours. All opinions and ramblings about my tummy rumblings are my own!