ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Best Art Gallery: Portland Museum of Art
It was a year of fineness for Maine’s premier art institution. It began with a powerful six-month dedication to Maine artist and educator Duncan Hewitt and his enigmatic sculptures, showing there is always room for local art on the largest of Maine stages. Add in deep studies of WWI-era painter Georges Braque, “Women Modernists in New York” like Georgia O’Keeffe and Helen Torr, and a fully remodeled cinema in the lower-level, and it’s plain to see why Executive Director Mark Bessire and company aren’t giving this category up soon.
Portland Museum of Art | 7 Congress Sq., Portland | www.portlandmuseum.org | 207.775.6148
Best Hip-Hop Venue: Port City Music Hall
Asylum bit the dust and its replacement venue Aura is still in its infancy, so 2017 is the time for Port City Music Hall to shine as the best venue for hip-hop frenzies. This win’s a little surprising, because it’s not a dedicated venue for local rappers like Flask is, and its small (dare we say elegant?) space doesn’t attract bigger names in the industry like B.O.B. or Waka Flocka. So we can only presume that Port City takes the cake for offering crisp, booming sound quality, decent drink prices, a cozier listening experience, and at least one big hip-hop show a month. Quality over quantity? The reggae tinged rapper Zion I will perform here soon, as well as local legends Shane Reis and Spose.
Port City Music Hall | 504 Congress St., Portland | http://www.portcitymusichall.com/
Best Karaoke Venue: Old Port Tavern
No one else in town seems to understand karaoke. It’s a vital part of the nightlife experience, but the urge to partake can hit at literally any time, like a sudden craving for a hot fudge sundae. There’s no predicting when it'll come. Smartly, OPT has the bases covered, hosting karaoke three nights a week (and something loud enough to sing and dance along to the other four). And you can tell they’re just as proud of you singing your ass off up there as the folks you came with, because they've arranged the outdoor speakers so that they blast your voice onto the cobblestones of the Old Port, echoing through those mysterious Portland nights.
Old Port Tavern | 11 Moulton St., Portland | www.oldporttavern.com | 207.774.0444
Best Maine Author + Best Maine Playwright: Monica Wood
Last year saw more accolades for local scribe Monica Wood, with her latest novel, The One-in-a-Million Boy, published to gleaming reviews after she resurrected it from the dustbin at the urging of her husband. She celebrated its launch with a reading at Portland Stage, where her first play, Papermaker, premiered in 2015 to become the most successful play in the theater's 30-year history. We can only hope Wood is at work on a new story -- and we’ll take it in whatever medium she offers.
Monica Wood | monicawood.com
Best Maine Comedian: Connor McGrath
We have a confession to make. We did the same thing here as we did in Best Author, which was to remove the stranglehold that internationally-famous Stephen King had on the category. Maine/L.A. comedian Bob Marley isn’t quite so popular, of course. And while Marley is certainly active, he doesn’t need this recognition. Besides, Connor McGrath came very close to beating him anyway. So fuck it, we decided. Connor wins. The Portland stand-up artist has done more to advance the scene here, co-hosting the “Worst Day of the Week” series every Monday night at Blue and the Up A Creek monthly show at Banded Horn in Biddeford, plus gigging at Lincolns, Andy’s Old Port Pub, Empire, Bull Feeney’s, and more. A hearty salute to this unpredictable funnyman with an incomparable style.
Connor McGrath | https://www.facebook.com/HAusticspectrum/
Best Maine Filmmaker: Peter and Thomas Campbell/8mufnz
You’ll understand if you were lucky enough to catch 2014’s Crá Croí, the Campbell Brothers’ odd and original film about a man who is visited by a mysterious dancing Irishman every time he falls asleep. Or last year’s Killer Spacemen From Outer Planet X, a 1950s-style low-budget horror film. The duo’s been making irreverent, confident films together for nearly 10 years (that we know of, anyway), though as writers, directors, actors, producers, and musical composers for all their films, we’re sure this creative partnership was forged young.
8mufnz Films | 8mufnz.com
Best Maine Poet: Richard Blanco
It’s true that Richard Blanco is an international star. Before becoming a household name when President Obama selected him to read at his second inauguration, Blanco's story was full and rich. He was conceived in Cuba and emigrated with his family to Spain as an infant before moving to New York City, Miami, Washington D.C., and finally, in 2004, Bethel, Maine. And while most of the country doesn’t necessarily read him as a Maine poet, his choice to come here was a conscious one, and his presence here, including his capacities as an educator in Northern parts of the state, is strong enough for Mainers to call him their own.
Richard Blanco | http://richard-blanco.com
Best Non-Gallery Art Space: Gallery 49 at Oxbow Blending & Bottling
With most of the Portland art world consolidated in the Old Port or the West End, it’s been nice to have this dark, cavernous hangout step up its exhibition game the last couple years, showing sculptors like Richard Keen and Sam Gilbert, mural painters like Tessa Green O’Brien, and colorful designers like Andrew Scripter and Jimmy Viera. Curated by the muralist and assemblage artist Will Sears, this place nabbed an aesthetic far quicker than most boutique galleries do. We raise a glass.
Gallery 49 at Oxbow Blending & Bottling | 49 Washington Ave., Portland | http://oxbowbeer.com/tasting-rooms/portland-blending-bottling/gallery-49/
Best Open Mic: Out of the Blue (Blue)
It’s a simple gambit. Take one of the finest, comfiest rooms in the city, a room that’s exceptionally hard to leave, and throw an open mic. Each artist performing gets 10 minutes to play their material before an unknown guest judge, who picks a winner based on playing ability, songwriting, vocal performance, audience reaction, and stage presence (not to be overlooked). It works. According to our readers, that was the most successful, beloved open mic model in the state when Blue had it going a bit ago. Will it return? Who knows.
Blue, 650 Congress St., Portland | http://www.portcityblue.com/
Best Photographer: Molly Haley
Maybe the most distinct, unfakeable element to Molly Haley’s photography is her level of access. She’s a committed, respectful traveler with a knack for building trust and comfort in her subjects. Simply put, it’s easy to look natural around Haley, maybe even to glow a little. An incredible listener and a Telling Room facilitator for many years, Haley’s work documenting New Mainers for the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, or the students in Portland Adult Education has helped bring focus, visibility, and grace to Maine’s changing demographics.
Molly Haley | http://mollyhaley.com
Best Rock Venue: State Theatre
No surprises here. Portland just doesn’t have a bigger live music venue in town that doesn’t squander style, accessibility and character. We love the crimson red wall furnishing and old-timey aesthetic. To us, atmosphere matters. But apparently size does too. If we didn’t have a big venue like the State Theatre, far fewer rock juggernauts would consider touring through Portland. (That’s just a hunch.) Big acts to look forward to this summer include Pixies, Twiddle, Ryan Adams, the Punch Brothers, Mastodon, Flogging Molly, John Mulaney, Spoon, and Tegan and Sara.
State Theatre | 609 Congress St., Portland | http://www.statetheatreportland.com/
Best Street Performance Artist: Maine Marimba Ensemble
At their peak, the half dozen or so musicians of the Maine Marimba Ensemble can be found filling the streets with sound during First Friday Art Walks or other festivals. To see them is to be mesmerized. They’re that rare band that plays complex polyrhythmic arrangements that musicians will nerd out about, but are also instantly adored by kids. These dudes -- namely Jacob Wolff, Chris Fletcher, Elliott Heeschen, Kevin Caron, Matt Wasowski, Peter Himmer, Rob Cimitile, and Zebulon Kelley -- have learned how to put on a hell of a show from their time spent in other bands, which is why we were lucky to snag them for our BEST OF PORTLAND party celebrating this very issue.
Maine Marimba Ensemble | www.mainemarimbaensemble.com
Best Tattoo Artist: Phuc Tran, Tsunami Tattoo
To be fully transparent here, Tsunami Tattoo founder and artist Phuc Tran “beat” fellow artist Cyndi Lou by one vote. One. We couldn’t invent a tighter race, and you wouldn’t believe us if we tried. We include that information here because we know they’re a team, and while they both have signature, inimitable styles, this award is proof that the world they’ve created over at Tsunami is a magical one indeed.
Tsunami Tattoo | 21 Pleasant St., Portland | http://www.tsunamitattoo.com
Best Theater Organization: Portland Stage
With greater outreach programs, kids' workshops, and a robust plan to get young folks in the door, Portland Stage is indeed changing with the times (even dropping the clunky “company” from their name). This past year featured standouts like the Barbra Streisand-obsessed Buyer & Cellar (any chance to watch Maine actor Dustin Tucker work is a delight) and String Around My Finger, an original and moving play about loss from Massachusetts playwright Brenda Withers. They’re taking more chances over there, and they’re still the axis around which the Maine theater scene revolves.
Portland Stage | 25A Forest Ave., Portland | https://www.portlandstage.org/
Best Visual Artist: Maia Snow
Born in Russia, the painter and MECA graduate Maia Snow has been making ecstatic, richly colorful abstract oil paintings in Portland for several years now. Over this last one, she’s made work has been on large canvases nearly the length and width of her height, each of them a triumph that combines personal and cultural symbology, intuition, youthful intrigue, and the tension of detail and ambiguity. She’s a star, and at this rate, she’ll soon be one of the most recognizable painters in Maine.
Maia Snow | www.maiasnow.com
Best Bartender: Michelle at the Snug
If Michelle didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent her. The long-running Snug bartender has seen us through some of our most celebratory moments and darkest hours, always there with a beer, a loud smooch, or a snarky comment to put things in perspective. If a major motion picture film were to be made about Portland over the last decade, getting this character right would be a priority. But on the other hand, even if they spent half their budget (Jennifer Garner? Jessica Biel?), we doubt they could pull off the quirks of Michelle’s personality. She’s a singular force, and we’ve lucky to have her. (Moments before we went to press with this issue, news broke that Michelle has in fact left the Snug. We're still wrapping our heads around it.)
The Snug | 223 Congress St., Portland | thesnugpub.com
Best Blog + Best Twitter Personality: Black Girl in Maine (Shay Stewart-Bouley)
It’s true that Shay Stewart-Bouley is one of our columnists (though she hadn’t been from late 2014 to earlier this year). Regardless, there’s no more deserving a writer and activist we can think of for this award, as her powerful, brave treatises on racial justice and dismantling systemic oppression here in the state has poured light on a topic many desperately want to leave in the dark. We applaud Shay for her vulnerability, her accountability, her wit and her charm, and for offering leadership for POC in Maine through this long, slow, and necessary process of rooting out white supremacy.
Black Girl in Maine, by Shay Stewart-Bouley | http://blackgirlinmaine.com/ | @blackgirlinmain
Best Dance Club: Bubba’s Sulky Lounge
The key to having a best dance club is building an environmental feature that’s more ridiculous than anyone could possibly look like while they’re dancing. That’s what Bubba’s has with it’s extravagant, Life Saver-colored dance floor, not to mention all the weird-ass taxidermy and nativity sets going on throughout this Parkside palace. DJ Jon has kept this place warm every weekend for the last 15 years, and everyone’s had a Top-5 Portland night here somewhere in their backstory. Praise be to Bubba.
Bubba’s Sulky Lounge | 92 Portland Ave., Portland | https://www.bubbassulkylounge.com
Best Date Spot: Bramhall Pub
We’ve seen so many Tinder meets, swinger hangs, and smooth-as-fire dates at Bramhall that we’re kind of shocked they haven’t built another room yet. We’re happy they made over their food menu, but it’s the drinks, the warm ochre hue, and the atmosphere that keeps this place magical. It's a no-brainer hangout spot in the winter, but this dark dungeon-y bar is special enough to meet make-out partners in the summer months, too.
Bramhall Pub | 769 Congress Ave., Portland | http://www.bramhallme.com/
Best Golf Course: Riverside Golf Course
We may never have played a game of golf in our lives. But if we ever decide to take it up, we’ll probably visit this 18-hole course before any others. It's won our contest many times! Plus Riverside is city-owned, extremely well-maintained, and seem receptive to newcomers. Isn’t golf supposed to be the best sport to be bad at? We like that the grass here is also really green, which is something we’re sure bigtime golf nerds admire.
Riverside Golf Course, 1158 Riverside St., Portland | http://www.portlandmaine.gov/riverside/riverside.asp
Best Gym: Planet Fitness
Even if the idea of a gym exists in your mind the same way Narnia does (a mythical fantasy land you’ve never set foot in), this win shouldn’t be a shocker. Everyone knows Planet Fitness. Factoring in their cheap monthly price model, friendly staff, four locations in southern Maine, and an insane amount of equipment, and this victory seems obvious. Assuming they stay in business, we're sure Planet Fitness has a shot at being our winner for years to come. Sometimes big corporations are actually better. Or at least decidedly not evil.
Planet Fitness, 145 Marginal Way, Portland | http://www.planetfitness.com/
Best Maine Politician: Angus King
We're sure if this Best Of poll were accessible to voters in the entire state of Maine, this result here would likely play out differently. But here in Portland, people seem to love our Senator Angus King. Our other congressional representatives, most notably Congressman Bruce Poliquin and Senator Susan Collins, have stretched their flimsy definition of moderate to meaningless lengths, made themselves rather scarce, and haven’t inspired much confidence with Portland voters. But King, with a 67 percent approval rating, fortunately stands more firm on issues, and is more accessible to his constituents. Most recently he’s been opposed to the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and the bombing of Syria, and has advocated frequently for environmental sustainability and treating climate change challenges seriously. Portland’s happy about those positions.
Senator Angus King | 383 US-1 Suite 1C, Scarborough | https://www.king.senate.gov/
Best Mechanic: 3G’s Tire and Auto Service
Going to get your vehicle fixed or tuned up is never a fun occasion. But at least the smart technicians here try their best to make the process as quick-n-painless as possible. And, more importantly, they won’t rip you off. These guys know their stuff, and have pulled yuppies who hardly know how to change their oil out of nightmarishly stressful auto repair situations. Talk about unsung heroes! Someone’s got to make sure cars on the road are both safe, functional, and affordable! Portland’s glad to have 3G’s.
3G’s Tire and Auto Service, 200 Veranda St, Portland |http://www.3gstire.com/
Best MMJ Caregiver: Wellness Connection of Maine
Although recreational cannabis is legal in Maine, it’s still very important to have certified medicinal shops with a professionally trained staff. Patients who rely on accurate dosing, specifically curated products, and informed advice on using cannabis against ailments are well served by the high-quality dispensary located stealthily behind the West End restaurant Local 188. You name it and they’ve got the product, from flowers, salves, tinctures, edibles, beverages, honey, and capsules.
Wellness Connection of Maine, 685 Congress St., Portland | http://www.mainewellness.org/
Best Marijuana Edible: Pot and Pan Kitchen
Here at The Phoenix, we love Pot and Pan Kitchen. Why? Well simply put, they make edibles for their patients and caregivers that so far from your gross dorm room brownies, that it's not even funny. Seriously, these delights are so lip-smacking good, you might forget you're eating an edible...well, at least for 30 minutes or so. Because to say that these marijuana treats (everything from cakes, cupcakes, gummies, cookies, and whoopie pies, to name a few) work is an understatement. With accurate dosing and high-quality cannabis tinctures and concentrates present in just about everything, these edibles don't just bring you to where you need to be, but they ignite your taste buds and cure your sweet tooth along the way.
Pot and Pan Kitchen | https://www.facebook.com/potandpankitchen/
Best MMJ Flower Strain: Pineapple Chunk
We know that pineapple is said to induce birth in pregnant women, but we know precious little about Pineapple Chunk, the marijuana flower strain our readers voted as the best available in Maine's newly liberated weed landscape. A cursory Google search reveals it's an indica-leaning hybrid flower that's good on stress, with the only downside being that it's a little specifically heavy on the dry mouth. It's also supposed to taste like, according to one intrepid toker, "tangy skunk, earthy cheese, and sweet pineapple." Everyone's different! Whatever. We're just happy this shit is decriminalized.
Best Pick-Up Spot: Amigo’s
If Amigo’s is your pick-up spot of choice, then hey, you’ve got a type. But strong-ass drinks, the best nachos in town, loud rock ‘n’ roll and a nihilistic patio is enough to put anyone in the mood (well, not anyone, but the right folks), and as the years go by, Amigo’s has notched a certain level of authenticity that other bars can’t touch. And authenticity is a hell of a turn-on.
Amigo’s | 9 Dana St., Portland | 207.772.0772
Best Place to Bring the Kids: Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine
The real world is full of dread and responsibility, plus the ever-present specter of Donald Trump. The best thing you can do for your kids is to bring them to a fairytale land where these things don’t exist, and the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine is your golden ticket. With science installations, weird fascinations, rooms for romping, and one of the most artfully produced kids theaters’ anywhere (seriously, sign your kid up), this place is a treasure.
Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine | 142 Free St., Portland | http://www.kitetails.org/
Best Place to Play Pool: Old Port Billiards
For some reason, when we think of a pool hall, what comes to mind is someplace dark and damp, filled with grizzled old white dudes who smell like cigarettes calling pockets underneath a neon Bud Light sign. Thankfully, Old Port Billiards is nothing like that, or else we wouldn’t be caught dead there. It’s spacious, with six pool tables and five dart boards. Inside, there’s no mustiness. In fact, this place, with its nice carpeting, lighting, and big windows proves that shooting pool can be quite a classy affair! Think old-school New York-styled pool halls and you're on the right track.
Old Port Billiards, 11 Moulton St., Portland | http://oldporttavern.com/old-port-tavern-billiards/billiards-home-page/
Best Soil/Grow Shop: Garbage to Garden
My oh my, how Garbage to Garden has grown. We remember their humble beginnings several years ago when the whole operation was run by a handful of people who wanted to offer Portland’s first trash-to-compost service, but didn’t quite yet have the technical means. Now it seems we see their green trucks everywhere! This services makes it remarkably simple to make at least one aspect of your life environmentally sustainable: organic waste. Just chuck your food scraps in their special bucket and leave it outside with your trash and recycling. They’ll pick it up and, if you opt in, leave you with compost ready for your garden. Sign up for Garbage to Garden and marvel at how much stink and stuff you’ve eliminated from your weekly trash output.
Garbage to Garden, 57 Industrial Way, Portland | https://garbagetogarden.org/
Best TV/Radio Personality: Blake & Eva (Blake & Eva Show - Coast 93.1)
Blake Hayes and Eva Matteson are a package deal. While both of these radio hosts are entertaining enough individually, it’s when they banter back and forth that their funniest moments shine through the dreary monotony of a listener’s morning routine. They build their humor off of each other, and share engaging (albeit ridiculous) personal stories. Portland appreciates it. Many of my friends, who commute into town like me, have made these two jokesters an integral part of their entertainment cycle.
Blake and Eva from Coast 93.1 | http://coast931.com/
Best Yoga Studio: Greener Postures
Some say yoga is best practiced with a clear mind, a clean digestive system, and an empty schedule. Possible, but most of us have those kind of days about three times a year, and I don’t think we’re spending them inside, stretching. Sometimes, you just have to do yoga when you're tired, stressed or down and out, and Greener Postures makes it easy. Since its founders formed this women-owned-and-operated power vinyasa studio seven years ago, they’ve kept Greener Postures a necessity for folks on both sides of the bridge, a place that hundreds swear by as the yoga spot they feel most comfortable.
Greener Postures | 740 Broadway St., South Portland | 65 Gray Rd, West Falmouth | www.greenerposturesyoga.com
Best-Kept Secret - Names of New Yorkers Buying Property in Portland
Yeah, we’d like to chat with these folks too.
FOOD AND DRINK
Best Asian Restaurant: Empire Chinese Kitchen
Portland’s restaurant scene has introduced several new players serving up Asian fare, but longtime favorite Empire has won the most votes. Dishes here are reliably delicious. Some come with a Western twist like Lobster Longevity Noodle, the Kale Noodle, the Chicken and Salt Cod Rice and the BBQ Brioche Buns, which keep things fresh and interesting. When Portlanders want to settle in for some inspired dim sun, they’re usually squeezing in here. Long live the reign of this yummy Empire!
Empire Chinese Kitchen, 575 Congress St., Portland | http://portlandempire.com/kitchen/
Best Bagel Shop: Scratch Baking Co.
Bagels are literally everywhere in Portland. But something about the ones at Scratch, made in stone ovens with Aurora Mills flours and Maine sea salt, make them truly special. It could be the high quality ingredients we just mentioned. It could be something in their water (apparently water quality affects bagel flavor and texture, look it up). Or it could be their special dough fermentation process. Whatever it is, these bagels are clearly a cut above the rest and feature that “bouncy” consistency that made New York bagels so famous.
Scratch Baking Co. | 416 Preble St., Portland | https://www.scratchbakingco.com/
Best Bakery: Standard Baking Company
This year, Standard Baking beat out the Holy Donut, restoring its status as our readers' Best Bakery as it was for so many years (before Holy Donut burst onto the scene). It must be something to do with their impressive variety of offerings, including croissants so buttery and flaky, you’d think you’re in Paris. Every day, the small but passionate team of bakers at Standard handcrafts hundreds of morning delights, like pain au chocolat, brioche, scones, brownies, morning buns, madeleines, and much more.
Standard Baking Company | 75 Commercial St., Portland | http://standardbakingco.com/
Best Bar: The Great Lost Bear
The Great Lost Bear has consistently been a runner-up in many categories of this contest (Best Wings, Best Beer Selection, Best Burger) which speaks to how well-loved they are. They draw far more patrons than just the college students in the area. Portland’s home to countless watering holes, but the Great Lost Bear wins Best Bar this year because of its charming interior (decked wall-to-wall with art, memorabilia, and bizarre Americana), its convenient location just off the peninsula, its immensely satisfying comfort food, and of course, a bar with ample seating and well over 70 taps.
The Great Lost Bear | 540 Forest Ave., Portland | http://www.greatlostbear.com/
Best Barbecue: Salvage BBQ
After extensive research at barbecue joints in the Carolinas, Texas, and elsewhere, Jay Villani and co. of the Local 188/Sonny’s group launched this massive, low-maintenance, family-style barbecue joint and sports bar at the foot of the West End several years ago. Barbecue lovers in the city never looked back. Several other fine options have popped up since, but Salvage still sets the bar. Perfect for watching a Sox game, playing some trivia, or splitting the Cow & Pig tray with a friend you don’t mind fighting with about whose had the most bites.
Salvage BBQ | 919 Congress St., Portland | www.salvagebbq.com
Best Beer Selection: Novare Res Bier Cafe
Tucked away from the main streets is Portland’s “temple of beer,” AKA Novare Res. This win surprises no one, because nobody can compete with their arsenal of libations. With over 400 rotating domestic and international brews, it’s only appropriate that our readers crown Novare Res with the honor of having the best beer selection. Their selection is so staggering, it can actually be quite intimidating! Thankfully, the staff inspire confidence with their on-point suggestions. Have they tried every brew? Of course not! But they sure act like it, and get genuinely excited about beer culture.
Novare Res Bier Cafe, 4 Canal Plaza, Portland | https://www.facebook.com/pg/NovareResBierCafe/reviews/
Best Brewery + Best Maine Beer: Allagash Brewing Company
While dozens of other breweries have shone through the yeasty haze, Allagash remains the pride of Maine beer fans’ drinking life. Yes, that’s largely on the strength of its damn-near-perfect Belgian wheat beer Allagash White, but the Curieux, Saison, Dubbel and Black are each game-changers as well. Their Industrial Way tasting room is notorious for their hospitality and generous samples, and you’re more than welcome to drop in or book a tour from 11 am to 6 pm, seven days a week.
Allagash Brewing Company | 50 Industrial Way, Portland | http://www.allagash.com
Best Brunch: Hot Suppa
Surprise, surprise. Hot Suppa is the perennial favorite for this award. It’s not just due to the law of supply and demand of seats in their smallish confines, but because of the jaw-dropping pleasures to be had tearing into this magnificent brunch. For example: No one tempted this writer to eat corned beef hash before Hot Suppa, which only made it more difficult to choose between that and all their other heavenly, Southern-ly spicy egg options. As testified by the parade of zombified brunch-goers spilling out onto Congress Street as they wait literally hours for seats, Hot Suppa is the spot.
Hot Suppa | 703 Congress St., Portland | http://hotsuppa.com/
Best Burger: Nosh
If a restaurant’s going to serve something as ubiquitous to the lunch experience as an American hamburger, they’ve got to make them creative enough to etch them in Portland’s collective memory. Nosh does just that. They serve burgers that entice the curiosity of newcomers and secure the delight of regulars that want their stomach to take a beating. Forget the traditional sesame bun, some of these burgers are squished between far more interesting (and heavy) foods like fried mac-n-cheese patties, Slab pizzas, or glazed donuts. Crazy enough to work? You bet.
Nosh | 551 Congress St., Portland | http://noshkitchenbar.com/
Best Chef: Masa Miyake, Miyake
We’ve never worked for Masa, but we know a lot of friends who have, and here’s what we know. The dude cares, quite deeply, about the product and experience he’s putting out there. And it shows, as his Miyake restaurant in the Old Port and "Japanese pub" Pai Men Miyake in Longfellow Square are some of the most cherished spots in town. But he also cares about the Miyake family, meaning the crew of workers, servers, ramen artists and sushi-rollers he employs take great pride in what they do. And that's the sort of chef we appreciate around here.
Miyake | 468 Fore St., Portland | Pai Men Miyake, 188 State St., Portland | www.miyakerestaurants.com
Best Chowder: Gilbert’s Chowder House
We New Englanders are adept at judging seafood/clam chowder. So much so, we can tell a good chowder without even tasting it. We just do the “spoon test.” A chowder done right — made heartily with potatoes, chunks of haddock and scallops, and finished with bacon and heavy cream — should easily hold the weight of a spoon upright. The bowls of goodness served at Gilbert’s pass the spoon test. They’re a far cry away from watery chowders devoid of soul, flavor, and substantial pieces of marine creatures.
Gilbert’s Chowder House | 92 Commercial St., Portland |http://www.gilbertschowderhouse.com/
Best Cocktails: Sonny’s
Sonny’s, Portland has loved you ever since J.C. slung his first Jaycito. Now, you’ve got the most sought-after cocktails in the Old Port, a blurry space where the city’s artists can mingle alongside the powdered sons and daughters of bankers, lawyers, and financiers. And the cocktail menu, adventurous as it is, has us all covered.
Sonny’s | 83 Exchange St., Portland | 207.772.7774
Best Coffee Shop/Teahouse: Coffee By Design
Now that the airy Diamond Street location is open and bustling, we can’t imagine CBD ever losing this award. Sure, there are other fine coffee spots in town and we can’t slight them, but CBD packs a ton of local involvement, grant-giving, and community stakeholding (did you know they were a B-Corp?) into their work, and they have since Alan and Mary Allen launched it in 1994. “America Runs on Dunkin’” is another coffee shop’s claim, but we think that’s a little hyperbolic. But Portland really does run on Coffee By Design.
Coffee By Design | 1 Diamond St., 43 Washington Ave., 67 India St., 620 Congress St., Portland | http://www.coffeebydesign.com/
Best Cookie/Cupcake: Two Fat Cats
We must confess that someone in our office developed a slight obsession with this bakery’s pumpkin and maple marshmallow buttercream whoopie pie last autumn. It was their signature comfort food last year! Later they’d discover that essentially everything else offered at Two Fats Cats is just as addicting. They’ve got pies, cupcakes, lemon shortbread, and chocolate cakes that activate surges of endorphins in the brains of consumers. It’s no wonder those two cats are so fat.
Two Fat Cats | 47 India St., Portland | http://twofatcatsbakery.com/
Best Delivery Food + Best Pizza: OTTO Pizza
OTTO the conqueror has taken over this city and changed its pizza tastes for good. There are few finer consolations to grinding through a winter snowstorm than to get a large pie from your nearest OTTO and snarf it with a loved one over Netflix on your couch. Also to their credit, they’ve given each of their Portland locations a distinct warm and folksy vibe, so even if that mashed potato/bacon/scallion pie ever got boring (it doesn’t), we’d still keep coming back just for the hang.
OTTO PIzza | 576 Congress St.; 225 Congress St., 250 Read St., Portland | 125 John Roberts Rd., 159 Cottage Rd., South Portland | www.ottoportland.com
Best Dessert: The Bar of Chocolate
Hidden in plain sight in the deepest part of the Old Port, industry folks are eternally grateful for the Bar of Chocolate. From the cordial, friendly service to the fine selection of wines, they’ve offered us a unique place to hang that’s seemingly immune to the tourist hubbub elsewhere in the area. Owner Sarah Martin made the bold, wise decision to keep the Bar of Chocolate open after neighbors the Wine Bar closed in 2014, and the rewards for the city have been sweet indeed.
Bar of Chocolate | 38 Wharf St., Portland | 207.773.6667
Best Diner: Becky’s Diner
After 23 years in the business, Becky’s Diner is a Portland fixture, drawing both hungry tourists and local regulars to its seaside spot on Hobson’s Wharf. This place serves up no-nonsense American fare including their famous muffins, lobster omelette, and Maine crab and swiss melt. We love how diners can add lobster to almost anything! If you can patiently endure the typically long wait time (we recommend walking down the wharf and observing the local fishermen at work), satisfying, but familiar delights await you.
Becky’s Diner | 390 Commercial St, Portland | http://www.beckysdiner.com/
Best Dive Bar: Ruski’s Tavern
While other, snazzier bars and stores are cropping up in the deep West End, Ruski’s Tavern remains the neighborhood’s beating heart. They serve up unbeatable chicken-fried steak platters, terrific burgers, way-better-than-necessary french fries, and hit-the-spot breakfasts that feel like rewards for waking up in a snowstorm come winter. And the whiskey, oh the whiskey. If this place ever shuts its doors, you know Portland’s truly gone.
Ruski’s Tavern | 212 Danforth St., Portland | 207.774.7607
Best Food Truck: El Corazon
Tacos are best when they’re grab ‘n’ go, and El Corazon has got the most grabbable going. A lunch of three of their Baja Fish Tacos, as you mow them down under the sun in the parking lot behind Brian Boru, is pretty much the most Portland way to experience the noon hour. And isn't that the true work of the food truck? Making a product so good that it democratizes the lunch break so that the white-collars mingle with the punks and tourists and everyone knows each other’s name? Setting up outside Union and Temple Streets, El Corazon has set itself up as the beating heart of the city. They might be right.
El Corazon Food Truck | Union & Temple Sts., Portland | http://www.elcorazonfoodtruck.com/
Best Gluten-Free Options: Bam Bam Bakery
It’s all about approach. While a lot of gluten-free bakers focus on making “alternatives” to standard baked goods, Bevin McNulty set out to make Bam Bam Bakery a spectacle all its own. No implicit shame, no otherness — the sweet-tooth options here are glorious and extravagant, like gems straight off the game board in Candyland. Their Snickers bar is a meal unto itself, and for those of us who tend toward the savory, we’re grateful they’ve added breads, pizzas, and hand pies as well.
Bam Bam Bakery | 267 Commercial St., Portland | http://bambambakery.com
Best Ice-Cream Parlor: Gelato Fiasco
Underneath Gelato Fiasco’s shiny display case sit heaps of brightly colored gelato and sorbetto in flavors so widely creative and tantalizing, choosing just one becomes a daunting task. From blood orange, and cookie therapy, to maple pear, and hot honey vanilla, the selection is impressive and displayed in eye-pleasing waves that almost beckon you to try them all. And with a nice staff offering free samples, you almost can. In fact we recommend you do it. And do it soon before the real fiasco begins: throngs of tourists packing this highly buzzed about spot.
Gelato Fiasco | 425 Fore St, Portland |http://www.gelatofiasco.com/
Best International Market: Veranda Asian Market
Most local chefs know that the key to their ingenuity is knowing what to look for in international markets, and Veranda, with its aisles overflowing with unique tastes from the world over, is a primary destination. Of course, savvy stay-at-home cooks know all this too, even if they’re not saying so. But even if you’re dropping in for some frozen dumplings and bizarre candy, Veranda’s worth a look.
Veranda Asian Market | 695 Forest Ave., Portland | http://verandaasianmarket.com/
Best International Restaurant: Veranda Noodle Bar
All you need during the winter is one bowl of this perfectly steamy noodle soup (three or four stars, please), and whatever congestive foods you might have consumed earlier that week will be magically blanched from your system. At least, that’s how restorative and fortifying it feels to eat at Veranda Noodle Bar, again voted the best international restaurant in town. Start with the Phá», and work your way through the whole damn menu.
Veranda Noodle Bar | 245 Commercial St., 14 Veranda St., Portland | http://verandanoodlebar.com/
Best Irish Pub: Bull Feeney’s
You know what, lads and lassies? Portland needs a place like Bull Feeney's! Two beer-sticky floors, a wealth of fine taps, fine Irish songwriters, gut-busting comedians, and TVs where you need them. It's dark in there, but there's a slice of realness that counters the tourist-forward vibes of the rest of the Old Port. (It's also a great respite during the chaos of the Old Port Fest.) Also, no small feat, we trust them when on those days we're ready to drink seriously. We also commend Bull Feeney’s for cooking mean steaks, embracing rowdiness, and snatching enough votes away from the other Irish bars in the city. Maybe it all came down to their Irish Stew...
Bull Feeney’s | 375 Fore St., Portland | http://www.bullfeeneys.com/
Best Italian Restaurant: Paciarino
To truly appreciate an authentic Italian meal, we recommend slowing down the pace. Be patient, your pasta will arrive. And when it does, don’t defile the experience with the gluttonous, carb-crazed attitude you’d might unleash at home on the couch. Instead, look at it and say “Ciao Bella!” You’re in an austere, but noticeably fancy restaurant that calls for some cultural refinement. Paciarino’s atmosphere and menu urges you to savor every sensation and consider the weight of culture behind its savory flavors. Sip the wine. Try to imagine where the grapes in it came from. As you go for the appetizer remark on how people have been dipping crusty bread into oil and herbs for thousands of years and nobody’s gotten tired of it — in fact that marriage is will probably go down in culinary history’s greatest hits. Eat slower and the rustic flavors present in the restaurant’s mouth-watering ravioli, lasagna, and tagliolini dishes, will stay on your palate longer, and reveal the simple magic of soul-nourishing Italian cuisine.
Paciarino | 470 Fore St, Portland | http://www.paciarino.com/
Best Late Night Restaurant + Best Waitstaff/Service: Boda
It helps that their kitchen is lightning fast, but the service over at this always-packed Thai restaurant is delivered with just the right pinch of grace, wit, and familiarity. It’s hard to believe there were minor trickles of outrage when Boda first opened and disallowed takeout, but the city has definitely caught up now. (Besides, you can’t pack those quail eggs in a box, dude.) Boda’s the best meal you can get at midnight, and arguably the same can be said at dusk, too. They’re no strangers to these awards, and we hope they never leave.
Boda | 671 Congress St., Portland | 207.347.7557
Best Latin American Restaurant: Taco Trio
Whatever gods stepped in to return Taco Trio, and its owner Manuel Pena, back to full health after a three-month hiatus this winter, let us praise them. We hope for many more years from the finest Mexican restaurant in Greater Portland, and while the short-lived Forest Avenue location is no more, their cantina in Knightville, with its massive burritos, traditional Yucatan desserts, and refreshing horchatas, has more than enough to keep Mainers full.
Taco Trio | 119 Ocean St., South Portland | http://taco-trio.com
Best Lobster Roll + Best Patio/Outdoor Bar: Portland Lobster Company
Of all the weird-looking marine creatures out there, society and culture have anointed the lobster, a brown ocean bug filled with goop and sweet red meat, to the status of delicacy. We dine on the crustacean fairly cheaply here in Maine, where the waters are (still) a hotspot for finding the damn things. Maine’s also home to people that are really good at catching them, boiling them, and stuffing them between buttery pieces of bread. (Can we all agree that the lobster roll is the easiest, laziest, and tastiest way to eat lobster?) And while many in Maine make the lobster roll, according to our readers, no one does it better than the Portland Lobster Company. While you tear into New England’s favorite crustacean and gaze out to a beautiful yet melancholic view, ponder a disturbing thought: the ocean is dying. Ocean acidification exacerbated by climate change is severely endangering many marine species, and our children may see a world where lobster is only reserved for the super rich. We apologize for getting distracted; right now, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying affordable seafood, and the wonderful view of Portland’s working waterfront. For now, anyway…
Portland Lobster Company | 180 Commercial St., Portland | http://www.portlandlobstercompany.com/
Best Neighborhood Store: Rosemont Market
Rosemont doesn’t have everything. But they have enough to keep your kitchen, and thus your life, feeling full. It’s the produce that keeps them essential, though the meats and fish (Brighton location only) make them invaluable during the summer months, when there just may be a barbecue or cookout every other night.
Rosemont Market | 580 Brighton Ave., 88 Congress St., 5 Commercial St., 40 Pine St., 1350 Riverside St., Portland | 96 Main St., Yarmouth | http://rosemontmarket.com/
Best New Restaurant: Woodford Food & Beverage
Woodford Food & Beverage was just so impressive out of the gate that we knew they’d be a fixture. Those mussels! Those fries! More than a year in, they look like they’ve never left. But on the inside, they’re constantly tweaking their menu to better accommodate the many diverse tastes of their neighbors at this pivotal Portland intersection. With a low-key atmosphere and several incredible dishes (not to mention a knockout burger), Woodford F&B cleared the tough Portland foodie standards with ease.
Woodford Food & Beverage | 660 Forest Ave., Portland | http://www.woodfordfb.com/
Best Sandwich/Wrap: Po’ Boys & Pickles
Sometimes what’s most delicious is a sloppy onslaught of carbs and animal proteins. They may get messy, but we crave these sandwiches overflowing with fried oyster and shrimp, or creole sausage and slow cooked roast beef, drenched with greasy goodness. There’s BBQ pulled pork too, and you’re damn right you can have an extra sauce. This sensual food experience is packed with big New Orleans flavor, that’s almost a rarity this far north of the swamps. Chasing the spice and stuff-your-face pleasures of Po’ Boys & Pickles may be the only reason you ever need to venture to the nightmare that is outer Forest Avenue.
Po’ Boys & Pickles | 1124 Forest Ave., Portland | http://www.poboysandpickles.com/
Best Seafood Restaurant: Eventide Oyster Co.
Portland’s a seafood mecca and competition was stiff for this one. But hey, if you offer exceptional seafood like Eventide Oyster Co. does, word gets around. Writers from all around the country are basically contractually bound to slap this on their Portland travel listicle. And once you nab a James Beard Award nomination, even people that haven’t visited Eventide begin to talk about how amazing it is. Offering a menu with raw, cold, and hot options like oysters on the half shell, cured salmon, and lobster stew, Eventide always proves to be a worthwhile splurge.
Eventide Oyster Co. | 86 Middle St., Portland | http://www.eventideoysterco.com/
Best Soup: Kamasouptra
Is it possible to have a bad experience at Kamasouptra? We don’t think so. Think about it. You always know exactly what to expect from its seasonally rotating menu of hearty soups. And have you noticed when you want a soup, you really want a soup, and nothing else quite satisfies you until you wrap your hands around a bowl. Also, a warm roll of bread never disappoints! Their locally sourced list of hot veggie smoothies includes these favorites: maple butternut squash, white bean and kale, sweet potato corn chowder, and curried root vegetable and lentil. Now that summer’s almost on our doorstep, we think it’s time to appreciate the positive impact these soups for the soul have had on what was more or less a miserable winter.
Kamasouptra | Portland Public Market House | http://kamasouptra.com/
Best Splurge: Fore Street
Do restaurants that hide the price on their menu and require reservations intimidate people earning a modest income? They shouldn’t. Life’s nasty, brutish, and short, so why not treat yourself to a three-course meal of superb quality. We may just be thinking like Epicureans but is a life spent worrying about the future even a life worth living? Focus on the present. Live in the moment! That’s what the new-age people and the hipsters have finally agreed on, right? Focus on amazing food and don’t sweat the bill at the end. If the thought of spending two to three times as much as you normally would on dinner seems too ostentatious and/or stressful to you, just remind yourself that you're just a speck of matter on a wet rock floating in an expanding void and everything’s just a social construct. Follow your heart to Fore Street, and dine like royalty.
Fore Street | 288 Fore St., Portland | http://www.forestreet.biz/
Best Sports Bar + Best Wings: Binga’s Stadium
Binga’s Stadium has so many places where you can watch the big game. You know, the one with the ball and the players and the goal base. Kick back, order some wings, and watch one group of players try to score points while also stopping the other group of players from scoring. Cheer on with other fans as your team’s number becomes higher than the other team's final number. Sports are fun! Wing-eating is just the right accompaniment for this activity. You can tell a lot about a person by their heat tolerance and how they take their wings at Binga’s. The sports bar has almost as many sauces as there are personalities of humans! We’ve found that people that order BBQ-sauced wings with no heat tend to be boring, while the honey-mustard means a person’s stuck in their ways. Thai Chillis sauce signifies a hint of a party animal, and Buffalo Bacon sauce suggests loyalty. People that order the Hot Mango or the Spicy Redneck sauce tend to be risk takers, while those that choose the Chernobyl have gone off the deep end. And the people that smother their wings in peanut butter and jelly (yes, that’s an option)? Well, they’re not to be trusted.
Binga’s Sports Bar | 77 Free St, Portland |http://www.bingasstadium.com /
Best Steak: The Grill Room
Grilling up quality cuts of meat like spice-rubbed skirt steak, horseradish rib-eye, spicy broccoli sirloin and lobster brandy filet mignon the cooks and chefs at the Grill Room have created a carnivore’s paradise. Order a steak medium-rare, because it’s been awhile since you’ve felt blood between your teeth, and make sure to pair it with one of the numerous zesty sauce options. And to think that we humans have been blessed with the “urban steakhouse,” for only a tiny fraction of our existence. Aren’t we lucky to have copious amounts of expertly cooked animal flesh at our disposal without ever having to pick up a spear or light a fire?
The Grill Room | 84 Exchange St., Portland | http://www.thegrillroomandbar.com/
Best Sushi: Yosaku
According to our readers, nobody serves up higher quality, tastier sushi in Portland than Yosaku. Try these edible works of art for yourself, and realize there’s nobody playing a stronger hand in the game of raw fish. But listen, before you go, take heed; don’t be that typical Westerner that restricts themselves to the California or Philly roll and then brag later about how refined your palate is. Be mildly adventurous. Use the chopsticks. Never mix the wasabi and soy sauce. And order the sea urchin and shut up!
Yosaku | 1 Danforth St., Portland | https://yosakumaine.com/
Best Tasting Room: Bissell Brothers Brewing Company
First, they exploded onto the scene with their Substance Ale, which essentially took over Portland with a tsunami of suds. Since then the brewers over at Bissell Brothers have concocted over 14 other brews, each with a badass name and their own unique, powerful flavors. These guys are passionate about beer, and you can almost taste it. The only place you’re going to be able to easily sample energetic beers like the Baby Genius, the Angle With Filthy Souls, and Evermore is at this new, up and coming tasting room. No joke, it’s where the cool kids hang out and geek out over artisanal brew.
Bissell Brothers Brewing Company | 4 Thompson’s Point, Portland | http://www.bissellbrothers.com/
Best Vegetarian Restaurant: Green Elephant
We’ve asked this before, but unfortunately, in this meat-obsessed society, it’s worth printing again. Who needs chicken and pork when you have the Green Elephant? Seriously, even hardcore carnivores would hardly notice these stir frys and noodle dishes are vegetarian because they floor you with full-bodied flavor, hints of coconut, and downright heartiness. The spices once traded on the Silk Road a thousand years ago still carry an immense amount of culinary gravitas today. As do the food traditions from China, India, Malaysia, and Thailand. Honestly, how bland would the food world be without those influences?
The Green Elephant | 608 Congress St., Portland | http://greenelephantmaine.com/
Best Wine List: MJ’s Wine Bar
You could take a trip around the world through wine at this stylish and totally not snobby/pretentious wine bar. And with most starting at just $5 a glass, you probably should. But if you’re just using wine to impress a date, and simply want to be seen in one of Portland’s hippest spots, then you could just low key order a beer; they’ve got plenty of bottles of that too.
MJ’s Wine Bar | 1 City Center, Portland | http://www.onecitywines.com/
Best Arts & Crafts Supplies: Artist & Craftsman Supply
There are evil corporations, and then there are good companies. Artist & Craftsman Supply is most certainly the latter. Since the last time The Phoenix ran the Best Of Portland, this fine art supply store has become 100 percent employee-owned. And they didn’t even use the dark forces to do it. These are hardworking people who know what it is to be an artist in need of a particular item to bring the imagined into the real, and they act like it. Go get your paint.
Artist & Craftsman Supply | 540 Deering Ave, Portland | http://www.artistcraftsman.com/
Best Bank/Credit Union: Bangor Savings Bank
Speaking of businesses that haven’t fallen into the greed trap, Bangor Savings is one of those banks where you and the teller are both people, with names, backgrounds, and anecdotes to laugh about while you conduct your business. If you wouldn’t mind a cup of coffee either, don’t worry, you don’t have to bring your own. If you’re not with them already, we suggest a switch. You’ll thank yourself.
Bangor Savings Bank | 180 Middle St, Portland | http://www.bangor.com/
Best Bookstore: Longfellow Books
Here’s the news from this comfortable, friendly, expert-staffed bookstore: Every First Friday, these bibliophiles host a Community Night, a simple gathering of all of us who feel that the policies of the current administration go against this country’s true principles. This is from their explanation: “We refuse to silently allow policies to be put in place that marginalize segments of our society for the sake of a nationalistic foreign and domestic policy.” Do you think the big and nonsensical bookstores have that kind of calm courage? Longfellow Books does.
Longfellow Books | 1 Monument Way, Portland | http://www.longfellowbooks.com/
Best CD/Record Store: Bull Moose
What can you say about Bull Moose? Walk in, and you’re swimming in a sea of music, movies, toys, books, games, all the stuff you love that says so much about your character. If you don’t like someone’s stuff, you’re not about to embark on a long or meaningful relationship. Bull Moose understands this, and wants to make sure that you own the exact, unique accoutrements that will say, “This is who I am. No apologies.”
Bull Moose | 151 Middle St., Portland | http://www.bullmoose.com/
Best Clothing (Men): Portland Dry Goods
Let’s face it, Portland is a fashion-forward community. Just by people-watching on Congress Street on a summer’s day, you can determine what the season’s top clothing trends are. It’s one aspect of New York City that we don’t really mind seeping up into Maine. And if you’re flush, Portland Dry Goods will provide men’s clothing that puts you, as a mindful guy, right in it. With flair. Go check them out.
Portland Dry Goods | 235 Commercial St, Portland | https://portlanddrygoods.com/
Best Clothing (Women) + Best Thrift/Consignment Shop: Material Objects
For the ladies, including others who identify as female or feminine, Material Objects is the Portland staple for vintage and contemporary clothing. (Of course, they have men's stuff too.) The selection is ever-changing, hand picked, and more than fairly priced. This is the kind of place where you go in just to look, and find something that becomes your favorite article of clothing for years to come. Sneak in and poke around; success is virtually guaranteed.
Material Objects | 500 Congress St #1, Portland | https://www.facebook.com/materialobjectsme/
Best Erotic Gifts: Nomia
Sex. They say it sells. And many establishments sell it in a crass, pandering manner. Nomia, however, is the opposite. They offer, instead of pushing. They educate, instead of perpetuating ignorance. They support, instead of abandoning. Everybody has their own individual, unique desires, and the women at Nomia work hard to help you discover and enhance yours. Bring your partner. Say it’s a lark. Open a conversation. “Honey, you know what I always kind of thought about?” You’ll be in the right place.
Nomia | 24 Exchange St #215, Portland | http://www.nomiaboutique.com/
Best Furniture Store + Best Vintage/Antiques Store: Portland Flea-for-All
There are two kinds of shopping: The kind where you know what you need and where to get it and don’t have time for too many distractions, and the kind you do at a place like Portland Flea-for-All. That is, the kind where you’re not looking for a particular furniture item, but shopping for shopping’s sake, hoping you’ll find something great. Here, you most likely will. They have all the appeal of the kind of flea market you drive down the road looking for the sign for, in a downtown location. Grab a few bucks and stop by. That end table or settee will just jump into the back of your SUV.
Portland Flea-for-All | 585 Congress St, Portland | http://portlandfleaforall.com/
Best Haircut: O2 Salon
Nobody wants to appear vain. Many of us can be heard saying, “I don’t care how I look. I basically just roll out of bed.” But the truth is, we want to look appealing to each other, and, deeper truth, each of us puts work toward that goal. To the extent that caring for your hair and hairstyle is a part of that work, don’t spend too much time researching salons. O2’s motto is ‘We love hair,” and they prove it with every cut and color. You will feel just plain hot.
O2 Salon | 605 Congress St, Portland | http://www.o2salonmaine.com/
Best Head Shop: The Blazin’ Ace
People have been known to drive for hours with Portland as their destination, with the sole purpose for their trip being to visit the Blazin’ Ace. You don’t develop that kind of devoted following without an amazing inventory, fair prices, knowledgeable and friendly and helpful staff, and chill-as-the-night-breeze atmosphere, all of which these guys have managed to develop. Glass from them is especially recommended.
The Blazin’ Ace | 432 Fore St, Portland | http://www.blazinace.com/
Best Jewelry Store: D. Cole Jewelers
Try walking into a national-chain jewelry store with a hasty 3 a.m. sketch and saying, “I dreamt I saw this around my lover’s neck last night. I have to have it.” They’ll probably cast a furtive glance toward the security guy before putting on a vapid expression and very nicely telling you to go to hell. You don’t want that. You want D. Cole’s ability to say, “Yes, we’ll email you a few drawings by the end of the day,” along with the tasteful beauty of their regular selection.
D. Cole Jewelers | 10 Exchange St, Portland | https://www.dcolejewelers.com/
Best Musical Instrument Store: Buckdancer’s Choice
Guitar guys. Buckdancer’s Choice is where you find them. These dudes have been around forever, and they’ll set you up, if you’re willing to put in the time, dedication, work, and love, with an instrument that suits you. Because a guitar (or bass, or mandolin, or ukelele) is not just something you own. It is a way of life. Like the man says, you’ve got to know what key you’re playing in. Start here.
Buckdancer’s Choice | 248 St. John St, Portland | http://www.buckdancers.com/
Best Pet Supply Store: Planet Dog
Planet Dog is the Portland hub for dog lovers, end of story. From their Halloween doggie costume contest to their frequent adoption events sponsored by local shelters, to their retail floor that is reminiscent of an F.A.O. Schwarz for dogs, among many other well-engineered cogs in a canine-devoted wheel, they are your destination when you have your pet in mind (or in the back seat). And the people? They share your affinity for the illustrious four-legged, and they love it when you stop in.
Planet Dog | 211 Marginal Way, Portland | http://www.planetdog.com/Company-Store
Best Place to Get Pampered: Soakology
You’re trudging, nearly unconscious from stress and exhaustion, through an endless desert. Each step is more soul-crushing than the last. What’s that up ahead? Another of your addled brain’s mirages? No, it’s an oasis. It’s Soakology. Hallelujah! Go in and partake of the limb massages, foot soaks, aromatherapy, teas both exotic and ordinary, and the calming, nigh-life-saving atmosphere created by these purveyors of the chill. That last hundred miles of Sahara? You got this.
Soakology | 511 Congress St, Portland | http://www.soakology.com/
Best Shoe Store: Fleet Feet
For running and walking, Fleet Feet espouses a philosophy of complete fitness. Mark that word. This company’s ‘Complete Fit’ refers to both the proper fit of your shoes, and the kind of fit you will be, if you join their educational programs and sponsored races, going out on your own all the while and keeping your body in motion. Buy your shoes here, and worries about blisters, pinching and premature deterioration of your footwear will all be a thing of the past.
Fleet Feet | 309 Marginal Way, Portland | http://www.fleetfeetmainerunning.com/
Best Sporting/Outdoor Goods Store: L.L.Bean
From the time Leon Leonwood Bean invented his waterproof boot to prevent his hunting trips from being invaded by wet socks, L.L. Bean has been the top source (ask any Mainer) for outdoor gear, nationwide, bar none. As time has gone on, they have only improved. Whatever your pursuit, they have clothes to fit. And in case you need a few pointers on your hunting, fishing, kayaking, hiking, camping or any other ‘ing’ you can do outside, take a look at their classes and clinics. This store is the whole kit and caboodle.
L.L. Bean | 95 Main St, Freeport | https://www.llbean.com/
Best Wine/Beer/Liquor Store: RSVP
If alcohol is a part of your life, you’ll always want to try kinds you haven’t had before. Even longtime favorites fall by the wayside eventually, in favor of something that suits a more mature you. Maybe that’s what you’re in the market for. Or maybe you just got a rec from a friend, and you happen to be in the Woodford’s Corner area. You know where you’re going to end up: RSVP Discount Beverage. Because no matter what it is, it’s not a matter of whether they have it. It’s just a matter of where in the store it is.
RSVP | 887 Forest Ave, Portland | https://www.rsvpdiscountbeverage.com/