A few weeks ago the hubs and I escaped for our first weekend away since kids. Hallelujah! We spent a day exploring Portland, Maine – or as I like to call it, Brooklyn North. There are some seriously cool shops and amazing restaurants packed into this little city, not to mention the quaint cobblestone side streets (incredibly slippery in winter, FYI) and stunning views of Casco Bay. I kept thinking how much the kids would love to visit even though we were supposed to be off-duty! It’s such a unique place. The wharfs in the old, still-working port are fascinating, and there’s a strong arts culture that has fun events year round. For older kids and adults, there’s an incredible music scene – Lake Street Dive was in town that weekend for a sold-out show. I was admittedly surprised at how much the city has going on and wished we had more time to explore. Note – it’s not a definitive city guide, just our picks from shops and food we found when wandering around. Think mashed potato donuts (oh, yes), a gorgeous kid’s boutique, Scandinavian heaven and lots more. Let’s go!
Cool Shops in Portland, Maine
We had a nice (well, 30s) winter day on our visit and it’s such a walkable city, so we snagged a parking spot and headed out. There are plenty of cool and quirky little hipster-friendly stores, including multiple record stores, tons of good thrifting and awesome indie designers. The first shop we ventured into, Portland Trading Company, had an entire section dedicated to facial hair grooming. And the most dapper, friendly proprietor you could ever wish.
Kazeem Lawal @ Portland Trading Co., via Huffpost
But also gorgeous fragrances from hard to find brands, minimalist-cool utilitarian stationery, these Pia Wallen cross trays that I’d use to corral dresser-top clutter now, and for serving drinks outside when it’s warmer. They also have a proprietary line of very soft flannel shirts. Don’t miss the unique, indie-designed jewelry and accessories or amazing vintage Maine finds.
As we rounded the corner in the city center, my husband saw a sign with all of the Scandinavian flags and off he went. As it turns out, it was one of my favorite stores we stumbled upon. Simply Scandinavian was floor-to-ceiling full of the best stuff from Nordic countries. The main level is clothing and shoes – Helly Hansen, Dale of Norway sweaters, the coziest Glerups Danish felted wool slippers and warm woolen things for everyone, even the tiniest bebe piggies.
The lower level has Swedish soaps and beauty items, food and home goods. And the little loft area? It’s a cozy wonderland of Scandi-babian goods. Behold:
The holy trinity of the Stokke crib, Bjorn and Tripp-Trapp highchair. We picked up a cute beginner cup for our toddler and a wooden Christmas ornament for big sister. While we’re looking at kid’s stuff, I’d be remiss not to mention Little. It’s arguably the cutest kids boutique I’ve ever come across. Check out this amazing play tent and colorful kids’ clothes from mini rodini, bobo choses and all the cool brands babies in Brookyn know. (I’m dying over this swimsuit’s cuteness)
They also had an outstanding selection of off-the-radar kids’ books and bold graphic designed activity books for older kids.
While I was getting my shop on, hubs was happily browsing one of Portland’s many independent bookstores – the booksellers are always so interesting to talk to and full of good recommendations.
Yummy Treats in Portland, Maine
All that walking and shopping is hungry work, so we ducked into a few spots for pick-me-ups. Portland definitely isn’t lacking in the food department. First up, I wanted to try Standard Baking Co. since I saw them on a TV show touring the best small bakeries and the owners and staff were so passionate about what they do. I wish I could convey to you how amazing it smelled when we walked into the rustic little storefront. Words fail me. I give you this:
We split a cinnamon bun and that tasty-looking fontina asiago pizza you see above. I was tempted to stockpile those french rolls, too, but had to exercise a little restraint. Except not really. Afternoon snack was donuts made with mashed potatoes at Holy Donut. (Don’t look at me like that. It’s vacation!)
We weren’t the only ones who had that idea, the line was still out the door around 3pm. These were so tasty but in no way light – definitely needed to walk around some more to get over feeling like we swallowed a lead ball. After all that super clean snacking we ended up eating really late at a little French bistro called Petite Jacqueline. Incredibly nice bartender that knows his wine and good steak frites. Next time I’d love to try Duckfat for more clean eating. Their cool trick is frying lots of stuff in duck fat, including their famous fries and brussels sprouts, which my kids would definitely not hate. If you go, make a reservation well in advance; even on a Sunday night in the middle of February they were booked solid. (It probably doesn’t help Tina Fey and Andrew Zimmern are fans).
So that was our quick and delicious day in Portland, ME and we’re already dreaming about the next trip.
Have you been? If you have any recommendations for shopping and eating, I’m all ears!