Graduation! Portland 3 nights, Boston “wow” lunch

Good morning! My daughter’s getting her MS midweek in May from Northeastern, ceremony on campus Wednesday morning 5/10. We plan to fly into Portland ME and meet her on Saturday May 6, spend a few days touring around up there, then take the train back down Tuesday evening. We’d love a fabulous lunch post-ceremony in Boston before flying home on the 10th.

First request: something fabulous for lunch on Wednesday May 10 in Boston. Could be great view (contessa worth the $$?, Cafe du Midi worth traveling to?? etc) or great meal we’ll remember. Doesn’t need to be high end nor is money the main issue….just want a relatively sure thing. John Cusack with boombox optional. I think I’ll need to reserve far in advance though this isn’t the main NU graduation which is at the Garden.

Next, Portland “musts.” We will likely be staying in Old Port area at something connected to Marriott. Will rent a car (won’t have time to get to Acadia but I’ve read Boothbay Harbor could be a nice day trip) but don’t want to drive to every meal. I’m told Portland’s thing is scones. And popovers. And lobster rolls (pre-lobster season?). Dives/local-patronized welcome.

So please hit me with your suggestions for a memorable half-week in early May. Appreciate it all, thanks!


Portland: we visited summer 2021 on the way back to Boston from Acadia, and stayed at the Residence Inn - which might be where you will be? We had good meals at OTTO (
and Duckfat ( For Duckfat, the lines were insanely long and we finally had success queueing up at 10:25am for when they opened for lunch at 11, so plan accordingly! And the Holy Donut ( is a must…


IMO, no; the food is above average, but nothing more. It is a very nice setting for a special occasion though and Boston has limited sure thing lunch options for such a meal. You might take a look at Alcove and Row 34.

There are several Portland threads if you search. We recently had another great meal at Chaval and it continues to be one of my favorite restaurants in all of New England.


I love Holy Donuts BUT they have a very short shelf life. Get em fresh and you’ll love them – not so fresh and they are bad gut bombs.


BBH is any easy trip from Portland! Most places should be open by mid-May. You will go right past Red’s in Wiscasset f you go to BBH so eyeball the line and if the weather is nice I think it’s a must for the lob roll. Pro tips for Red’s: While someone is waiting in line someone else should go across the street to TREATS for outstanding baked goods. Back at Red’s and speaking of baked goods, get the blueberry cake with fresh whipped cream for dessert!
Now back in the car to BBH. On the left as you head down 27 you’ll see Karen’s Hideaway, a funky little spot with great lobster and crab rolls. Further down 27 in Boothbay (a separate town from BBH) is Bet’s Fish Fry. One portion of the great fish and chips will suffice for two people. Also in Boothbay is the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, which should be ablaze with color in Mid May.

Finally in BBH. Shannon’s Unshelled near the footbridge has superb lob rolls. For a nice cozy dinner, check out the Thistle Inn.


You guys are awesome, I really appreciate it!


I would also seriously consider heading south from Portland about 20 minutes to Maine’s latest food hot spot, the small city of Biddeford. Palace Diner alone is worth the trip, but there are apparently many other new spots that can easily make for a day of superior eating.


+1 on Chaval in Portland, as @uni suggested. That’s on my husband’s and my list of our all-time Portland faves. Chaval has an uncovered enclosed patio that we’ve enjoyed in the warm weather.

I’ll add more later (I have a banged up shoulder that is demanding rest) but if you are staying in one of the Marriott properties in the Old Port, another must for us is a walk to Standard Baking Company for a pastry and Speckled Ax for a cappuccino.

Check out our breakfast yesterday: prosciutto and Asiago croissants and a pain au chocolat. While the other breakfast pastries at Standard are outstanding, items made with croissant dough are always on our wish list. We brought our treats back to our hotel room because snow was falling.


SBC is a superb bakery – we love the fougasse, the chocolate cookies made with rye flour, the tarts, financiers, sables, olive bread and much more. Other great bakeries (I am talking outstanding) are Scratch in South Portland (for the bagels alone but everything is great), Belleville on Munjoy Hill (laminated pastry and pizza), and Boulangerie down in Kennebunk (similar to SBC in terms of offerings and quality). Maine is a great spot for baked goods!


One more must (for us): Miccucci Grocery on India Street. This is where Sicilian Slab pizza was invented. The creator left in a dispute and opened Slab (and sadly died last year), but he trained his minions well and amazingly the Slabs at Miccucci’s are as good if not better than before. This is amazing pizza!

Other spots of note. If you want to try a whoopie pie, Two Fat Cats is the place, but for us their best item is their fruit pies. For an incredible breakfast sandwich (almost up to Palace Diner levels), try Tandem Coffee on Congress Street.


Yes! I need to stop typing now but am too tempted so I have to add Frosty’s Doughnuts in Brunswick—classic doughnuts done right—and Rover Bagel in Biddeford. Rover’s wood-fired bagels have that smokiness and chewiness going on.

Of course, one would be quite unlikely to get to all these places on the same trip because that would involve a lot of driving. I always like to have my list of ideas handy though.


Looking forward to trying Rover this summer!

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That bagel haunts my dreams.



Love this!
I want to mildly disagree regarding Contessa not being worth it. If what you want is wow atmosphere and wonderful service, I think it fits the bill. Our meal there was excellent. Not new, exciting earth shattering flavors, but really delicious and we felt an excellent value. If cutting edge food that will blow your tastebuds off is your first concern, it might not be right, but if the overall experience is paramount, I think you would be well-served at Contessa.


@SueFH Wondering if your daughter has some ideas in her adopted city (don’t know where y’all are from)? As a grad student, perhaps she’s more sophisticated than an undergrad. If she’s leaving town, are there restaurants that she will dearly miss or wants to try on someone else’s dime?


Interesting thought, she is staying so nothing she will miss. She’s way less interested in food than I am so she usually defers to my research lol!

Now that my husband is gluten free you guys are KILLING me with all the bakeries! We will probably try everywhere you’ve suggested and split/taste lots of things.

Disposing of food before finishing it goes against every fiber in my body but we’ve learned that we’ve gotta do it or we eat way too much. I recently lost weight after surgery and much as I want to eat EVERY damn thing mentioned in this thread, I’m trying very hard to portion control. We will make it work. Thanks too for the travel tips, I’m getting really excited!


PS gotta throw Congdon’s in Wells into the classic donut mix too! And of course it’s right near the Maine Diner where you can get all sorts of classic Maine food. (And if you’re lucky they will have grapenut custard too!)


Now that you shared more about your family’s preferences and needs, Portland Food Map is a wonderful resource you might want to check out. We visit Portland a few times a year so I have found the content very useful.

Also I’ll be back here to offer up more ideas when my aching shoulder is less dang cranky and I can do more typing.


In Portland: Leeward, Tandem, Belleville (AMAZING bakery - I think way better than SBC), gelato fiasco… I’m trying TwelveMaine soon and will report back.


Twelve blew us away. If you can’t score a rez, go early and grab a spot saved for walk-ins.