Cheap eats abound in this city by the sea – just watch the seagulls in the warmer months, as they are prone to sneak in for a nibble when no one is looking. Who's to blame ‘em? These pesky birds know how good Maine food can be!
For Everybody's Dining Budget
Sure, Maine has its fair share of fine dining
experiences but it is also possible to visit the state and eat delectable (not to mention, cheap) treats. A visit to Maine would not be complete without indulging in a 'Real Italian Sandwich' at Amato's. Amato's, founded in 1902 by Giovanni Amato, is the home of the Italian sandwich, an open-faced sandwich made with fresh veggies, cheese, and your choice of cold cuts. Try the turkey Italian with salt, pepper and oil ($6.79); it's enough for two. Though you'll be dodging the occasional falling oily olive (one always seems to find its way into your lap – just give yourself up to this inevitability), the sandwich is quintessentially Maine (though Amato's has locations in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire, they are few and far-between). The soft Italian bread, mixed with the freshest veggies, was originally made for those "hungry workers on Portland's waterfront” but quickly became an epicurean phenomenon while maintaining its affordability.
Diner Heaven ("Nothin' finah")
Gourmet Magazine referred to Portland's Becky's Diner
as a "piece of diner heaven,” and given the motto of the diner ("Becky's Dinah, Nothin' Finah” – pronounced with a thick Maine accent, of course), it seems the diner's confidence confirms its status. Try the haddock chowder (the large bowl goes for $6.25, the small for $5.25), and, if you fall in love, the recipe is on their website. The whoopie pie ($2.00) is also on the menu, a Maine original. Occasionally referred to as the "BFO” (the "Big Fat Oreo”), this Maine treat gets its name from the excitement of Amish farmers; the story goes that, overwhelmed with joy at finding the dessert in their lunch, they would exclaim, "Whoopie!” You'll be exclaiming the same after dining at Becky's, a Portland staple.
Seafood - Lobster, Chowder, and beyond
If seafood (and chowder especially), is what you're after, Portland is the place to be. At Gilbert's Chowder House
, chowder is the name of the game – bread bowls of clam, fish and corn chowder with chicken go for $7.25, seafood or seafood chili bowls are $8.25. Medium bowls are still filling and completely affordable at $5.50. Gilbert's also has a myriad of seafood entrees and an unbeatable view of the harbor to boot.
Not far from Gilbert's is Portland Lobster Company, known for its lobster rolls (market price). If you're craving lobster but aren't in the mood to pick, poke and crack for meat, try the lobster bisque, a rich and creamy soup made with tender Maine lobster ($7.99). Munching on crispy fried haddock and french fries under the warm Maine sun is priceless – the fish & chips "all you can eat” special on Fridays is not, but it's still cheap at $10.49.
Summer mornings in Maine could very well be the inspiration for the state's tag, "Vacationland.” Though there are many reasons to visit, a stroll through Portland on a July morning is obviously one. Stop by the Porthole Restaurant for a cup of coffee and a bagel, a nice break from your daily seafood diet. Portland's restaurants are vibrating with community; at the Porthole, you can come for breakfast and return for a taste of Portland's nightlife, as local bands are always on the calendar.