The Best Cafés and Coffee Shops in Portland, Maine

Tandem Coffee and Bakery | © Bex Walton / Flickr
Tandem Coffee and Bakery | © Bex Walton / Flickr
Photo of Christopher Crosby
9 December 2017

Searching for coffee in Portland, Maine? You’re in luck. The abundance of cafés and coffee roasters makes the city a java nerd’s dream. Sit for an espresso or grab a small bite from the craft on-site bakeries and kitchen. Ready? Here are a few of our favorites.

Bard

Cafe, Coffee Shop, Tea , American, $$$
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Bard Coffee
Bard Coffee | Courtesy of Bard Coffee
Bard was one of the first shops to sell single-origin, pour over coffee roasted on-site. This Old Port favorite has a laid-back but cool vibe, reminiscent of college towns with an artisan flair. For all the jargon, Bard’s baristas are Mainers (or want to be) at heart and cover their coffee neediness with good, old-fashioned friendliness.

Coffee By Design

Cafe, Coffee Shop, Tea , American, $$$
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If there’s such a thing as an old guard in Portland’s coffee world, Coffee By Design could be it. Started more than 22 years ago, the roaster has become a city mainstay, selling single-origin coffees and blends responsibly sourced from around the world. Now with several locations across Portland, the friendly (and affordable) shop sells just about the best cup of joe in town.

Arabica Coffee

Cafe, Coffee Shop, Tea , Pastries, American
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Plenty of coffee shops roast their own beans; few do it with as much style as Arabica. With two locations, the coffee shop has grown from its humble origins into in a spacious brick warehouse overlooking the city’s docks and an intimate downtown nook. Arabica offers a casual but intimate atmosphere, complete with a fireplace and scrumptious café-common eats, such as quiche and baked goods.

Ohno Cafe

Cafe, Sandwich Shop, Fast Food, American, Vegetarian
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Size doesn’t matter at this West End favorite—not when breakfast is served all day, and the sandwiches (oh, the sandwiches) vary from crispy crab cake to mango-bourbon pulled pork. They serve coffee from the local who’s who of roasters and have a thumping take-out selection of beer and wine. Ohno? Oh, yeah.

Tandem Coffee Roasters

Cafe, Bakery, Pastry Shop, Pastries, Tea , Vegetarian, Healthy, American, $$$
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Tandem Coffee Roasters
Tandem Coffee Roasters | Courtesy of Tandem Coffee Roasters

The husband-and-wife duo behind this coffee shop moved around the country before making Portland their home. Tandem opened in a cozy East Bayside brick building in 2012, only to expand a few years later into an old laundromat. Those obsessed with espresso can choose from a bevy of single-origin selections, and the bakery puts out tender, flaky pastries worthy of a stop in their own right.

Speckled Ax

Cafe, Coffee Shop, American, Tea , Vegetarian, $$$
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Pouring Coffee at Speckled Ax
Pouring Coffee at Speckled Ax | Courtesy of Speckled Ax

Don’t let the bearded, lumberjack look here fool you: Speckled Ax is no gimmick. This Congress Street coffee shop revolutionized coffee in Portland a few years ago by roasting organic coffee beans in a wood-fired Italian machine. Dual-chambered vac pots line the counter ready to serve java nerds an exquisite cup of brew of single-origin, responsibly sourced coffee.

Hilltop Coffee

Cafe, Coffee Shop, Tea , Fast Food, American, Vegetarian
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For years, residents of Munjoy Hill, the easternmost neighborhood on Portland’s peninsula, have flocked here for that cup of coffee on their way to work. Recently, Hilltop moved into a new, spacious but cozy location that has room to spread out and work or talk intimately over caffeine. With tasty baked goods, crafty baristas, and reasonable prices, this place will be around for years to come.

Crooked Mile

Cafe, Tea , American, Vegetarian, Healthy
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“Come hungry, leave less so.” That promise has kept this downtown mainstay open and operating since 2003. Breakfast doesn’t throw any curveballs, and the café’s latte game (“The Nutty Englishman” and “Snickerdoodle” being the more popular offerings) is exceptional.

Omi’s Coffee Shop

Cafe, American, Coffee
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This quiet coffee shop tucked into the first floor of an expansive historical building is a hidden gem. Located on the edge of the peninsula overlooking the ocean and the Casco Bay Bridge, Omi’s has the feeling of a refuge. Its chalkboard-painted tables, bright colors and oversized polka dot pillows will inspire your inner writer, while the good coffee brewed fresh will keep you working (or not) all day long.

Coffee ME Up

Cafe, Pastry Shop, Coffee Shop, Tea , American, French, Pastries
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Coffee ME Up, a newer coffee shop on the corner of the East End and Bayside neighborhoods, serves a mouthwatering array of baked goods (think French pastries and then let your imagination wander), unheralded savory sandwiches, and, of course, coffee. The java has garnered accolades from the local press as much for its taste and sustaining effects as the shop’s absurdly good foam art, which on any given day might draw inspiration from Jackson Pollock or comic book sketches.