South Portland, Cape Elizabeth + Scarborough
1 | The Cheese Iron
Contrary to popular belief, a cheese iron is a tool that allows a wheel of cheese to be inspected for quality without having to cut into it. Up until recently, I had always assumed it was an instrument of torture, designed to savagely beat those who publicly professed a dislike of cheese. We learn something new every day, and you can continue down this path of enlightenment by visiting one of New England’s finest cheese shops. Great coffee, sandwiches, wine, and other life essentials are found in abundance here as well, but there’s nothing wrong with just filling up on cheese either.
200 Route 1 | Scarborough 207.883.4057
2 | Scratch Baking Co.
Requiring no toasting, the freshly baked, perfect-as-is bagels from Scratch have the power to transform me into one of my very least favorite things: an excitable child. This child knows no limits when it comes to slathering herbed cream cheese onto his bagel with reckless abandon. With no grown-ups around to tell him what to do, he routinely helps himself to Deep South Coconut Cake for supper. He is freakishly old in appearance, allowing him to purchase several bottles of excellent wine without hassle or proof of age.
416 Preble St. | South Portland 207.799.0668
3 | Aroma
Nothing complements a delightful afternoon of shopping at the Maine Mall like some of the most authentic Indian cuisine that Maine has to offer. Standouts here include masala dosa, a thin rice crepe filled with potatoes and onions, and the goat kurma simmered with cashews, almonds, and light cream. When I emerge from the restroom between courses bedecked in my new clothes from XXI Forever, the friendly staff is clearly impressed, though a bit unsettled by my impromptu fashion show.
200 Gorham Rd. | South Portland | 207.512.2200
4 | The Local Buzz
I couldn’t imagine a more entertainingly appropriate name for a place that specializes in both coffee and wine. Sometimes I get so excited by consuming massive amounts of these two things at once that I feel like my heart and head are going to explode and I simultaneously want to laugh and cry. Luckily, they’ve got food for me to nibble on while I wait for an ambulance to come and take me away.
327 Ocean House Rd. | Cape Elizabeth | 207.541.9024
5 | The Lobster Shack at Two Lights
There’s nothing more invigorating than shoveling some of the best lobster rolls and clam cakes you will ever eat into your mouth…while fending off hoards of hungry seagulls that are trying to steal these delicacies from you. After emptying a Budweiser tall boy and hurling it at the winged beasts in one last desperate attempt to defend yourself, you can make a beeline for the icy cold Atlantic waters, where your frantic flailing and splashing about in the pounding waves will confuse your attackers, forcing them to switch targets.
225 Two Lights Rd. | Cape Elizabeth | 207.799.1677
6 | 158 Pickett Street Cafe
Whenever I’m asked to describe the kind of food that Josh Potocki creates, I often use the term “unapologetically delicious.” This concept is beautifully illustrated each time I bite into one of 158’s breakfast sandwiches: a sesame bagel piled high with eggs, thick bacon, cheese slices, chives, and chili-garlic cream cheese. Even for one such as myself who is prone to unabated decadence, it feels kind of wrong, but that doesn’t stop me from savoring every perfect bite.
158 Benjamin W. Pickett St. South Portland | 207.799.8998
7 | Verbena
Each time I visit my butterfly garden, I am invigorated by the scent of the verbena plants, which inspire an intense craving for delicious sandwiches and dark espresso. It’s a complete coincidence that I can satisfy all of these needs at Verbena. While there, I also purchase some wine and beer to enjoy with my butterflies, who make excellent company because they never insist that I share.
103 Ocean St. | South Portland 207.767.2011
8 | Taco Trio
Even if you like to play by the rules, I recommend throwing caution to the wind and ordering four tacos, not the three suggested by its name. The ideal order: one fish, one carnitas, and two al pastor tacos accompanied by a pile of chips and guacamole on the side. You might assume that each taco should get only one kind of hot sauce, despite the fact that eight house-made varieties are offered. Once again, you should throw off the shackles of convention in a display of bold culinary bravado and get all eight.
119 Ocean St. | South Portland 207.767.9055
9 | Joe’s Boathouse
In my experience, a restaurant with a deck overlooking the water is always busy. Even if the menu options were limited to live scorpions and shards of glass, my guess is that people would still pack the place and love every minute of it. This being said, the staff at Joe’s go out of their way to serve utterly delicious, scorpion-free Maine fare in a relaxing setting with views of beautiful boats you’ll never be able to afford.
1 Spring Point Dr. | South Portland | 207.741.2780
10 | The Meat House
If you plan on investing in a mammoth hunk of dry-aged prime meat, you had best know how to prepare it, lest you waste your hard-earned (or easily inherited) money. It doesn’t matter how good a steak is if you intend to cook it to medium-well oblivion, smother it in A1 Steak Sauce, and wash it down with Two-Buck Chuck. But if you’re humble enough to ask for help, the trained professionals at the Meat House can give you the expert guidance and tender mothering you may need to get it right.
450 Payne Rd. | Scarborough 207.883.8102
11 | Q Street Diner
My confidence in the quality of Q Street’s diner-style fare was cemented on one particular visit, when—in a hangover-induced fit of confusion—I ordered “spaghetti soup” off the specials board. After the waitress left the table, I began to question my choice. “What the hell is spaghetti soup?” I asked myself. “And why on Earth did I order it?” It turned out to be, like all of their made-from-scratch soups, absolutely delicious. Ever since that fateful moment, I simply assume that, if Q Street makes it, it must be pretty damn good.
9 Q St. | South Portland 207.767.0299