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Portland, Maine

lobster dinner portland lobster company maineAccording to the Maine Restaurant Association, Portland is home to more than 200 restaurants. Although many restaurants are within the downtown area, some good ones are located on the outskirts and are worth the trek. Seafood is a staple, with lobster being the star. Almost every restaurant features a "lobster roll," which is basically fresh-picked meat from the lobster brushed with sweet butter and served on a toasted roll with mayonnaise. Other traditional dishes include whole lobster boiled or steamed under seaweed at a seaside lobster bake.

For a truly Portland seafood experience, head to the Portland Lobster Company, specializing in you-know-what -- lobster. Big appetites can order the Downeast Feast, which includes lobster, steamers (Maine steamed clams), corn on the cob, coleslaw and baked potato or fries.

Situated in a converted car ferry on the Portland waterfront, Dimillo's on the Water offers fresh seafood with an Italian flair. Choose from items like the lobster roll, fried Maine shrimp and the Maine crab club, plus a number of traditional Italian dishes such as chicken parmigiana. While you dine, you can watch the sights and sounds of Portland Harbor from the outside decks or enjoy the water views from every window in the dining room.

Serving American comfort food made from local ingredients, the Front Room offers classics such as the Reuben sandwich, slow-cooked barbecue brisket or biscuits and gravy. The cozy restaurant boasts warm woodwork and lots of windows overlooking the scenic Eastern Promenade.

How to Find the Best Local Restaurants

Eat where the locals eat at Becky's On Hobson's Wharf. Here you'll see a mix of waterfront workers sitting at the long counter, elbow-to-elbow with tourists in the know. This diner-style restaurant serves generous breakfasts made from local ingredients, such as their French toast cooked with fresh-baked Italian bread. And the vast lunch menu includes items ranging from the ubiquitous lobster roll to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or peanut butter and bacon!), along with typical diner fare such as all-day breakfasts and burgers.

Duckfat is a European-style fry and sandwich shop with reasonable prices. Their Belgian fries are cooked in duck fat for a unique flavor and served in a paper cone, and the milkshakes are made from locally produced ice cream.

For an exciting gastronomical experience, 555 offers a brunch menu that is far from just bacon and eggs. Try the "traitor's eggs" -- poached eggs served with lobster meat and a lemony hollandaise sauce. The Maine Restaurant Association named owner/chef Steve Corry the 2011 Chef of the Year.

Combine sophistication, a garden setting and artfully presented meals, and you have Eve's at the Garden. Located in the Portland Harbor Hotel, the restaurant offers seating outside in the courtyard by the fountain or inside the contemporary dining room. Menu items include lobster ravioli with butternut squash and grilled quail with fig and honey.

In Casco Bay, the Inn on Peaks Island is owned by the Shipyard Brewery and its pub offers views of the Portland skyline. Choose from menu selections such as burgers, wraps or the signature Buffalo-fried Maine shrimp -- beer-battered shrimp served with a blue cheese dip and a spicy Buffalo sauce.

On the rocky shores of Cape Elizabeth, adjacent to the famous Portland Head Light, sits the Lobster Shack at Two Lights. Enjoy the inexpensive yet fresh menu selections at picnic tables that overlook the surf, or eat inside the dining room, which features simple furnishings and large picture windows.

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