Visiting Portland to celebrate a special occasion and want to go out for a nice meal? Here are our top picks for a date night dinner during your stay.
01. // FORE STREET
Located a block from the waterfront in Old Port, Fore Street is well known as one of the original fine dining restaurants of Portland. The restaurant re-opened for indoor dining on June 24 and is reservation only at the moment. A large wood-burning oven, grill and turnspit is visible from most tables in the restaurant and the hardwood and apple wood fires in each flavor the seafood, meats, game, and vegetables on the menu. Don’t miss the mussels roasted in almond-garlic butter when they’re available.
02. // SCALES
Tucked away on one of the wharves in Old Port, Scales is known for their local seafood, raw bar, wine & New England comfort classics. Scales is now accepting reservations for dining inside, out on their patio and at the bar beginning at 4pm daily. On the menu you’ll find New England signatures like steamer clams and warm buttered lobster rolls as well as some dishes with a twist like their fried squid & cherry peppers with smoked jalapeno aioli and their halibut ceviche with roasted pineapple hot sauce.
03. // THE SHOP
One of the best places to go in Portland to get your oyster fix. The Shop from Island Creek Oysters offers outdoor seating where you can enjoy oysters from all over the state accompanied by meticulously sourced caviar and delicious bottles of Pét-Nat. We love that it’s a casual way to have quite a fancy meal. Add on some tinned fish and conservas from Spain and get ready for a relaxing evening of great seafood and people watching right on Washington Avenue.
04. // CHAVAL
Right around the corner from The Francis, Chaval serves French and Spanish influenced cuisine alongside delicious craft cocktails. Co-owner and pastry chef Ilma Lopez also has a reputation for inventive and incredible desserts to finish off your meal. The Spanish sundae is a favorite: smoky serrano ice cream served with chocolate cake, pork-fat caramel and vanilla and black pepper whipped cream. At the moment Chaval is offering curbside pickup (which you can always take back to your hotel room to enjoy!) and they’ve opened up their patio for outdoor dining as well.
05. // SOLO ITALIANO
Executive chef Paolo Laboa won both the 2003 Best Young Chef in Italy and the 2008 Pesto World Championship award and is unsurprisingly very well known for his Mandilli al Vero Pesto Genovese (handkerchief pasta tossed with authentic Genovese basil pesto). But there’s plenty of other dishes on the menu that will catch your eye. The menu highlights local produce and seafood and changes daily to reflect that. Solo Italiano is now offering in-house or patio dining plus curbside take-out Wednesday through Sunday.
06. // IZAKAYA MINATO
Located over on Washington Ave, Izakaya Minato brings classic neighborhood izakaya dining to Portland’s East End. The restaurant is now offering outdoor seating in addition to their to go options. Their new bento boxes for take away are a great option to bring to a picnic on the Eastern Prom or grab an outside table and enjoy sashimi selected by the chef and broiled local oysters with miso custard & ponzu, washed down with a local craft beer.
07. // CENTRAL PROVISIONS
Located right in Old Port, Central Provisions has really leaned into their new outdoor space with a patio menu featuring tiki cocktails and a tropical fruit sundae. Their dishes have always been a little eclectic and it’s encouraging to see that’s still the case – grab some Maine lobster tempura with an Indian goat curry wrap and a side of foie gras musubi. And if you can’t get a spot outside, take away is still an option for now.
08. // VIA VECCHIA
Brand new to the Portland dining scene, Via Vecchia is serving Italian inspired small plates in a historic brick and ivy covered building in Old Port. Combining the best of Maine and Italy, you’ll find dishes like lobster gnocchi with Maine lobster tail and claw, peas and saffron cream and bucatini with Maine littleneck clams, Bangs Island mussels, lemon zest and bottarga. They are also quickly building a reputation for their expertly made cocktails.
09. // HONEY PAW
Honey Paw is a little more on the casual side, offering hand-made noodle dishes, twists on banh mi and inventive soft serve options. Their menu celebrates the best New England has to offer paired with inspiration from South East Asia, China and beyond. Honey Paw is currently offering patio dining, take out and delivery. Visit their Instagram to find out how to join their waitlist remotely and avoid having to cue up outside.