Every summer, Portland inevitably sees a handful of new restaurants open their doors for the first time. From piles of fried clams to a unique little island oasis right off the city’s coastline, this year brings plenty of worthy additions to the local dining scene. Not sure where to start? Here are five new establishments to check out this summer — all deserving of your dollars.   

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Clam & oyster tacos at Bob's Clam Hut

Bob’s Clam Hut

As if there wasn’t already enough eating and drinking to partake in on inner Washington Ave., fried whole-belly clams are now a daily addition to the block’s collective menu of available dining options. Bob’s Clam Hut has been going strong in Kittery since the 1956, so there’s reason to assume their brand new Portland location will turn out to be a success. With patio dining and an extensive menu of fried oceanic delights — and a few non-“shacky” items you might not expect — it’s the perfect spot to soak up the summer sun without leaving the peninsula.   

Lio

Cara Stadler (Chef-owner of Portland’s Bao Bao and Brunswick’s Tao Yuan) quietly opened her third area venture, Lio, just a handful of weeks ago, and early reports have been overwhelmingly positive. Eschewing the influence of Chinese flavors that dominates the menus of her other two restaurants, Lio is Stadler’s first foray into European cuisine, with a heavy focus on wine and food pairings. The wine list itself is impressive to say the least, and the space alone — cavernous and decidedly metropolitan — is enough to warrant an initial visit.

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Sautéed Lacinato Kale at Lio

Poke Pop

Poke has finally arrived in Portland, providing residents and tourists alike yet another vehicle for getting their seafood fix. The Hawaiian staple — a bowled-up assortment of marinated chunks of raw fish, rice and vegetables — serves as the main attraction at Poke Pop, located at 658 Congress Street. Tiny and rife with modern design elements, the shop could easily fit into the upscale-ish “fast-casual” format dominating larger cities at the moment. New to poke? Go all-in with the chirashi and meet your new lunch addiction.      

Locally Sauced

Yet another entry in the saga of Portland food trucks metamorphosing into brick and mortars, burrito and hot sauce purveyor Locally Sauced has found a permanent home on Thompson’s Point. With an eclectic menu combining Tex-Mex staples and barbequed meats under one roof, the fare at Locally Sauced is tailor-fit for soaking up a few hazy beers after a visit to Bissell Brothers Brewing Company (located right next door). A word of advice: you might want to pencil in a nap for afterward.        

Crown Jewel

A visit to Great Diamond Island has long been one of the better “staycation” afternoons that Casco Bay has to offer, and stepping off the ferry just got a whole lot tastier. Bright, airy and tropical without bordering on kitsch, Crown Jewel accurately bills itself as an “island escape,” which is exactly what it feels like. Grab a house collins and settle into a dozen grilled or raw oysters — you won’t find a better way to take in a warm summer evening in Maine.  

 

Erik Neilson is a writer, musician and passionate foodhead based in Portland, ME.

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