12 Unique Restaurants in Maine: Railcar Diners, Waterfront Lobster, and Sichuan Spices

by Jen
Unique Restaurants in Maine
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Are you on the lookout for unusual restaurants in ME? From the rugged coastline to the charming streets of Portland, here are 12 of the best places to eat in Maine.

Let’s talk about something cool – Maine’s food scene. I’ve been around the Pine Tree State, and let me tell you, it’s not all about lobster rolls and clam chowder (though those are pretty great). I’ve found places that are out of this world unique.

Imagine munching on a breakfast that’s been top-notch for over a hundred years, or discovering a spot where sauerkraut gets the VIP treatment. Ever thought you’d find the rich tastes of East Africa in Maine? Well, you can.

I’m excited to guide you through twelve of the most unique places to eat in Maine, where New England’s beauty shines. From Portland’s lively streets to the serene settings of coastal towns, we’re on a mission to find the unexpected and the downright delicious. Excited? You should be!

The top restaurants to visit in Maine right now

Unusual places to eat in ME

Ready to explore Maine’s best eateries? We’ve got everything from seaside lobster shacks to fusion flavors in refurbished diners. Join me on a tour of the quirkiest places to eat in Maine.

Ever thought about savoring authentic Sichuan or enjoying farm-to-table delights in a converted railroad car right here in Portland? Maine’s dining scene has it all, ready for you to discover. Let’s dive into the most unique restaurants in ME.

1. Palace Diner

Heading into Biddeford, you’ll find Palace Diner, a little hidden gem in Maine tucked away just a block from the main street. Picture this: a classic diner vibe, set in a converted railroad car. It’s one of those spots you’ve got to experience at least once.

With only about 12 seats, it feels like you’re part of a secret breakfast club. Getting a seat here is part of the adventure, so maybe plan a little walk around the charming block if there’s a wait.

The food here is hearty, comforting, and exactly what you want from a diner with a twist. Their homemade corned beef hash is legendary, a must-try that will redefine your breakfast standards. I highly recommend trying their fried potatoes, too. They’re just the right amount of crispy.

Try to swing by early or on a weekday if you can. This place is popular for all the right reasons, and you’ll want to snag a seat at this unique restaurant in Maine. And hey, And hey, after indulging in the best breakfast around, why not explore the quaint streets of Biddeford? It’s the perfect way to walk off a hearty meal.

Palace Diner is one of the unique restaurants in Maine.
Discover Palace Diner, a hidden gem with classic diner vibes set in a converted railroad car.

2. Morse’s Sauerkraut

In the heart of Waldoboro’s farm country, Morse’s Sauerkraut might just catch you off guard. From the outside, it’s this unassuming roadside spot that you might pass without a second glance. But trust me, stepping inside is like discovering a hidden gem in Maine’s dining scene. It’s part grocery store, part restaurant, and all charm.

For more than a hundred years, Morse’s has been crafting their own sauerkraut and pickles. The dining space is cozy, with just five tables. It’s an intimate dining experience that feels both exclusive and welcoming.

I had the bratwurst with sauerkraut and a Reuben sandwich, and let me tell you, they knocked it out of the park. The flavors are bold, authentic, and downright delicious. If you think the meal sounds good, wait until you see the deli. It’s packed with an impressive variety of meats and cheeses, tempting you to take a piece of Morse’s home.

One of the coolest places to eat in Maine, Morse’s Sauerkraut is a must-visit for a unique dining experience. After your meal, the surrounding farm country offers a peaceful backdrop for a relaxing walk. It’s an eatery that proves some of the best food in Maine comes from the most unexpected places.

Morse's Sauerkraut is a hidden gem blending grocery store and restaurant charm in Maine's dining scene.
Morse’s Sauerkraut is a hidden gem blending grocery store and restaurant charm in Maine’s dining scene.

3. Red Sea Restaurant

If you’re wandering through Portland and craving something different, check out Red Sea Restaurant. This cozy spot is your gateway to the vibrant flavors of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. If you’re new to these tastes, trust me, you’re in for a treat.

The real deal here is their sampler platters. Perfect for sharing, these platters are a foodie’s dream. They allow you to dive into a variety of dishes without having to pick just one. There are plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans, too.

Now, onto the star of the show: the injera. Made with quality teff flour, it’s a unique, spongy bread that’s just waiting to scoop up all those delicious stews. My top picks? You can’t go wrong with the Hamli for greens, the sambusas are a must-try, and the meat sampler is simply amazing.

I took some friends here last summer, and it was a fantastic experience. Sharing these flavors not only makes the meal more enjoyable but also kicks off great conversations. Red Sea Restaurant is one of those fun places to eat in Maine that you’ll find yourself recommending to everyone you know.

Red Sea Restaurant offers a cozy gateway to vibrant Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine.
Red Sea Restaurant offers a cozy gateway to vibrant Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. | Image Source: https://www.yelp.com/

4. Izakaya Minato

When friends ask me where to eat in Portland, I always recommend Izakaya Minato. It’s this cozy Japanese spot that’s all about those comfort vibes with small plates and killer cocktails. A quick tip: it’s on the smaller side, so showing up right at 5pm when they open is your golden ticket to avoid a long wait.

For an unforgettable dining experience, you absolutely must try their Omakase. It’s a chef’s selection of 5-7 dishes, each more surprising and delicious than the last. Having tasted my way through various Omakase menus, I can confidently say Izakaya Minato’s offering is a cut above the rest.

If you’re into sake, you’re going to be in heaven. They’ve got a selection that’ll have you sipping and nodding in approval all evening.

Without a doubt, Izakaya Minato is one of the best restaurants in Maine. It’s a little slice of Japan, right here in Portland. Check it out!

Try Izakaya Minato for cozy Japanese vibes, small plates, and great cocktails—arrive at 5 pm to avoid waits.
Try Izakaya Minato for cozy Japanese vibes, small plates, and great cocktails—arrive at 5 pm to avoid waits. | Image Source: https://www.izakayaminato.com/

5. Hot Suppa

Let me tell you about a spot that’s a game-changer for southern food lovers right here in Portland. Hot Suppa is the place that has mastered the art of bringing the south to the north. It’s this cozy, unassuming spot that is one of the best places to eat in Maine if you’re craving that comfort food fix.

The vibe is fun, vibrant, and welcoming. As soon as you walk in, you’re greeted by the friendliest staff, which sets the tone for a fantastic meal. The decor is just as colorful and cheerful as the plates they serve.

Now, onto the star of the show – the food. Their hot crispy chicken Benedict is something I still dream about. It’s the perfect combination of comfort and kick. And if you’re a fan of shrimp and grits, prepare to be blown away. Hot Suppa serves it up just right, with the kind of flavor that keeps you coming back for more.

In a city known for its food scene, Hot Suppa stands out as one of the coolest restaurants in Maine. Believe me, it’s worth every bit of hype. Make sure to drop by early to snag a spot; it’s a small place with a big reputation.

Hot Suppa is one of the unique restaurants in Maine.
Hot Suppa is a game-changer for southern food lovers, mastering the art of bringing southern comfort to the north.

6. Bandaloop

If you’re ever in Arundel and find yourself craving some cozy vibes with a side of seriously good eats, Bandaloop is your go-to. This place has an ambiance that feels like a warm hug, thanks to its rustic charm, large exposed beams, and a fireplace that’s the heart of the room.

Bandaloop is all about organic, with a menu that’s as friendly to vegetarians as it is to meat lovers. If you’re in the mood for a perfectly cooked sirloin, savory pork, or diving into the vibrant world of vegetarian and vegan dishes, they’ve got you covered.

I went for the salmon with togarashi roasted sweet potato, and it was a match made in heaven. The dessert was the highlight for me, though. Seriously, try the vegan peanut butter cheesecake. It’s the kind of dessert you’ll be dreaming about for days.

As one of Maine’s best restaurants, getting a table can be a bit of a mission during peak times. A little planning goes a long way here. I recommend booking ahead if you can.

Bandaloop offers cozy vibes and seriously good eats with rustic charm and a heartwarming fireplace.
Bandaloop offers cozy vibes and seriously good eats with rustic charm and a heartwarming fireplace.

7. Laan-Xang Cafe

Ever craved a dish so authentic you could swear you were dining oceans away from home? That’s the magic of Laan-Xang Cafe in Belfast, right by the waterfront. One of the most fun restaurants in Maine, this spot serves up traditional Laotian and Thai dishes that will transport your taste buds.

I went for the sai ghock and larb, and let me tell you, perfection is an understatement. But the real standout? The sausage. Honestly, it might just be the best I’ve ever had. The owner shared that her mother comes over from Laos to hand-make the sausage. How’s that for authentic?

The cafe offers outdoor seating with quaint views of Belfast harbor. If you’re planning a visit, a stroll along the waterfront afterward is the perfect way to digest.

Laan-Xang Cafe offers authentic Laotian and Thai dishes that transport your taste buds.
Laan-Xang Cafe offers authentic Laotian and Thai dishes that transport your taste buds.

8. Big G’s Deli

Big G’s Deli in Winslow is a game-changer in the sandwich world. Picture being handed a sandwich so hefty, you almost need a game plan to tackle it. Their homemade bread, thick and delicious, sets the stage for what’s easily the best sandwich experience around. Dive into a Reuben here and you’ll understand why folks rave about it.

If you find yourself at Big G’s, remember this friendly advice: opting for half a sandwich is more than enough unless you’re incredibly hungry. These sandwiches are massive, crafted from their own giant loaves that promise to challenge even the biggest appetites.

Big G’s is your go-to when hunger strikes hard. After tackling one of their legendary sandwiches, you’ll see why it’s renowned as one of the best eateries in Maine.

Big G's Deli in Winslow elevates sandwiches with homemade bread, making classics like the Reuben legendary.
Big G’s Deli elevates sandwiches with homemade bread, making classics like the Reuben legendary. | Image Source: https://big-g-s-deli.com/

9. The Highroller Lobster Co.

Looking for the best lobster rolls in Maine? You’ve got to check out The Highroller Lobster Co. in Portland. This place delivers with a lobster roll that’s all about fresh flavors and quality. You get this amazing brioche bun that’s just the right amount of toasted, filled with the freshest lobster meat, and it’s the kind of meal you’ll tell stories about.

The real fun begins when you dive into their sauce selection. With an array to choose from, you get to be the artist of your lobster roll masterpiece. I opted for drawn butter on mine—a classic choice that packed a wallop of flavor.

While there’s cozy seating inside, I chose to enjoy my meal by the waterfront. It’s a great way to tick off two of the best places to visit in Portland in one go. Ending it with a stroll by the water? Perfect chill finish to a tasty adventure.

The Highroller Lobster Co. is one of the unique restaurants in Maine.
For top lobster rolls, visit The Highroller Lobster Co.—fresh, quality, and on toasted brioche buns.

10. Sichuan Kitchen

Craving a spice kick? Portland’s Sichuan Kitchen is where it’s at. Their Zhong dumplings pack a punch with a spicy, slick sauce, and if you’re all about that heat, the Mao Pao Tofu will not disappoint. It’s hands-down the best I’ve found outside of China.

For my friends who favor plant-based eating, there’s a dedicated menu just for you. It’s easily my top pick for an adventurous eat-out.

Heads up, this spot’s a favorite for locals and visitors alike. Snagging a table can be a bit of a sport, so making a reservation is a smart move. This place is one of my favorite places to eat in Portland, and I’m certain you’ll love it too.

For a spicy fix, try Sichuan Kitchen for fiery Zhong dumplings and Mao Pao Tofu—arguably the best outside of China.
For a spicy fix, try Sichuan Kitchen for fiery Zhong dumplings and Mao Pao Tofu—arguably the best outside of China.

11. The Honey Paw

My recent visit to The Honey Paw in Portland was a highlight I can’t stop talking about. The place dazzles with its unique honeycomb-themed decor, creating an inviting atmosphere right off the bat.

I tried the Khao Soi, which was delicious. This dish features smoked lamb mingled with coconut curry and mustard greens, all brought together by the unexpected crunch of crispy noodles.

Alongside, I enjoyed a sake shot and ginger kombucha, which were perfect accompaniments to the meal. But the star of the show had to be the ginger butter honey soft serve. It’s a dessert that made the entire meal unforgettable.

Sharing this, I hope you’re tempted to experience The Honey Paw for yourself. From my experience, I’d say it’s one of the best restaurants on the East Coast.

At The Honey Paw, the unique honeycomb-themed decor creates an inviting atmosphere that's unforgettable.
At The Honey Paw, the unique honeycomb-themed decor creates an inviting atmosphere that’s unforgettable.

12. Five Islands Lobster Co.

Last up on our list of unique Maine restaurants is Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown. Open during the summer months, this place is a local secret, far from the usual tourist trails. Sitting right on the water’s edge, I got to watch as lobsters were freshly plucked from the ocean below. It doesn’t get more authentic than that!

Choosing from the menu was a challenge. I wished for a moment I could double my appetite to try it all. I finally went for the full lobster, pleasantly surprised by its affordability compared to other spots along the coast. And let me tell you, enjoying that lobster with the ocean stretching out in front of me was an experience I won’t forget.

If you’re looking to enjoy lobster in one of Maine’s most beautiful places, look no further than Five Islands Lobster Co. Just a tip: get there early to snag the best spot by the water. Trust me, it’s worth it for the views and the vibe.

Five Islands Lobster Co. is one of the unique restaurants in Maine.
Five Islands Lobster Co.: Authentic waterfront dining with fresh lobsters, away from tourists.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the quirkiest restaurants in Maine

Are you searching for more information about where to eat in Maine? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about Maine’s most unique restaurants.

What food is Maine famous for?

Maine is famous for its lobster, which you simply can’t miss when visiting. It’s fresh, flavorful, and served up in countless delicious ways, from lobster rolls to steamed pots.

Is Portland a foodie city?

Yes, Portland is definitely a foodie city. It’s packed with innovative restaurants, cozy cafes, and bustling food markets that cater to every taste and preference, making it one of the top places to live and visit in Maine.

Harbor Fish Market in Portland, Maine
Harbor Fish Market in Portland, Maine

What is the best month to visit Maine?

The best month to visit Maine is September when the summer crowds have thinned, the weather is still warm, and the fall foliage begins to show its colors.

What type of seafood is Maine famous for?

Besides lobster, Maine is famous for its clams, oysters, and scallops, offering seafood lovers a fresh and tasty experience straight from the Atlantic, making it one of the best places to visit on the East Coast.

The top restaurants in Maine for all types of travelers
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