An Insider’s Guide To Portland

As a Maine native, the last place I expected to end up when applying to colleges was my home state. I grew up in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, which is a small town outside of Portland. In high school, I took Portland for granted. I thought of it as a small city with nothing to offer except for overpriced lobster rolls. I dreamed of going to school across the country in warm and sunny Los Angeles. However, as the year continued on, I began to explore Portland and appreciate all it has to offer. I began to look forward to days spent in the Old Port with my friends and ultimately decided to stay closer to home when May rolled around. Now, when my friends from college text me asking for food recommendations, shops to visit, etc, I reply back with pride. Only an hour from campus, Portland is a must. Here’s all of my favorite spots!

 

Health and Wellness

Jibe Cycling Studio

This studio opened last spring and I have been addicted ever since. Jibe offers rhythmic cycling that incorporates choreography. The workout focuses on upper body, legs, and core. The instructors are inspiring (my favorites are Tori, Joanna, and Sara), the music and theme rides are upbeat and engaging, and the studio is spotless. They offer lockers, showers, free spin shoes for the class, cute apparel from trustworthy brands, and did I mention student discounts?! The workout is amazing and you’ll leave feeling empowered. A Jibe Ride is only 45 minutes, and an Epic Ride is 90 if you’re up for a challenge.

20 Free Street, Portland, ME https://www.jibecyclingstudio.com

 

[courtesy of Katie Zajkowski]

 

Nine Stones Spa

Nine Stones is the perfect place to decompress. The spa offers various massages, facials, nail services, and waxes and tints. Recently redone, the spa is calming and clean. The locker room has a sauna for you to warm up before or after your treatment. My favorite is the Classic 60, which is a 60-minute massage catered towards your needs. This spa is definitely worth a visit after midterms week, or if you just feel like treating yourself!

185 Fore Street, Portland, ME https://www.ninestonesspa.com/

 

House of J Henry

Although there are places in Waterville to get your hair done, J Henry is worth the trek! Located next to Jibe, this hair salon does it all. If you ever need a haircut, color, or blowout, this is the place to go! The prices are reasonable, the staff is friendly and professional and they always play the best music. They have plenty of products available too! From dreamy balayage, highlights, and eyebrows (Michael is the best!) this salon is one of Portland’s best. I see Alex for my color and Travis for my cut. Plus, if you say you were referred by me, you’ll get $20 off your visit!

24 Free Street, Portland, ME https://www.houseofjhenry.com

 

[courtesy of Katie Zajkowski]

 

H&E Paint Bar

Personally, I have tried nearly every nail salon in Waterville (even Walmart) and I didn't love any of the manicures. This fall, my mom and I discovered H&E Paint Bar. There are two locations, and both are phenomenal. The salons are spotless, they don’t reuse files and buffers between clients, and they have so many options to choose from. I’ll never visit another nail salon again!

15 Middle Street OR 6 City Center #106, Portland, ME https://www.hepaintbar.com

[courtesy of Katie Zajkowski]

 

Food

Blake Orchard

If you’re a fan of all things smoothie, you’ve probably heard of Blake Orchard. This underground juicery boasts the most amazing smoothie bowls—and homemade honey roasted peanut butter, which you must get as a topping! The bowls are filling and a little pricey, but everything is fresh and it’s so delicious. Plus, they also have smoothies, coffees and other hot drinks, and soup! My favorite is the Summer Bowl (with extra peanut butter of course).

19 Exchange Street, Portland, ME https://www.blakeorchardjuicery.com/menu-2

 

[courtesy of Katie Zajkowski]

 

LB Kitchen

I first came across LB Kitchen towards the end of my senior year of high school and was shocked I hadn’t been sooner. They offer lunch and breakfast (hence “LB”) but with a unique twist. Items on the menu are all fresh and sourced locally, and traditional dishes have a twist to them. The food is quick—you order at the counter, grab a number, sit down, and it’s out in 5-10 minutes! Their salads are large, the sandwiches are tall, and their acai bowls are to die for. The setting is cozy and intimate. I always order the LB Sandwich with a fried egg!

249 Congress Street, Portland, ME https://www.lbkitchenportlandme.com

 

[courtesy of Katie Zajkowski]

 

Eventide

Although a little more upscale, if you’re looking to try some of the best seafood Portland has to offer, come here. They offer amazing oysters, but I think the best item on the menu is the Eventide Brown Butter Lobster Roll. It’s a unique twist to the otherwise mayo-doused lobster roll that Maine is noted for. Servers are friendly, food is fast, and the setting is social and bubbly. Arrive early because it does get busy!

86 Middle Street, Portland, ME https://www.eventideoysterco.com/portland

 

Paciarino

This restaurant is my absolute favorite. Paciarino is a small restaurant that has the best Italian dishes. All of their pasta and sauce is homemade. The plates are reasonably priced ($15-22) and the portions are large. My go-to is the Ravioli Spinaci Alla Bolognese, and it’s the best ravioli I’ve ever had. They offer lots of bread, wine, pasta, and fantastic tiramisu. Be sure to call ahead on a weekend because it can get busy.

470 Fore Street, Portland, ME www.paciarino.com

 

Other Notable Cuisine: Try Duckfat or Central Provisions for unique bites, Mikaye or Fuji for Japanese, Portland Lobster Co for quick seafood, and for dessert you can’t miss Dean’s Sweets.

 

Shops

Zane

While this store is more high-end, I always follow the quality over quantity rule when it comes to fashion. Zane offers trendy yet beautiful pieces—think silk blouses, quality jeans, soft sweaters, snakeskin booties, and more! The designers they carry include GRLFRND Denim, MOTHER Denim, Solid and Striped, Soludos, and so much more. Be sure to pop in, even if it’s just to browse!

41 Exchange Street, Portland, ME https://www.shopzane.com

 

Bliss

Finding a quality pair of jeans was impossible for me growing up. My legs are extremely long, but my curves are small. My friend’s mom introduced me to Bliss and the rest is history. While Bliss is also on the expensive side, having one quality pair of jeans that fits perfectly boosts my confidence (and comfort level) by 1000. Bliss also has jewelry, clothing, and Frye boots, but they are most noted for their denim bar. Brands in store include Citizens of Humanity, J. Brand, AG, Frame, Paige Premium Denim, Joe’s Jeans, and lots more.

58 Exchange Street, Portland, ME https://www.blissboutiques.com

 

Sights

Portland Headlight

Shameless hometown plug here, but if you make the trip to Portland and do one thing that’s touristy, you should check out the headlight. It’s about 10 minutes from the Old Port. Entrance to the park is free and there are stunning cliff walks surrounding the headlight, plus old forts used during war. I mean, come on!

Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth, ME https://portlandheadlight.com

 

[courtesy of Katie Zajkowski]