The Coolest Small Cities in America

GQ praises Portland as one of the coolest!

Want a real break? Forget the hassle of getting in and out of America’s metropolises—with their $400 hotel rooms and mobbed tourist attractions. Instead, hit these miniopolises, where top-notch food comes straight from the farm and your third round is on the house. Here are nineteen reasons to downsize your next vacation
Yes, Fore Street is one of America’s best restaurants, but skip the dining room for a dozen oysters at the bar—where the barmen greet you as if it were your private club—and wash them down with an iced Maine vodka or a microbrew.
You’re a three-minute walk from the happy-hour crowd at J’s Oyster, which offers a harbor view, bargain Guinness pints, oysters for $7 per half dozen, and Christmas lights that never come down.
Five blocks north is Bresca, a quiet eighteen-seat restaurant with a menu seemingly composed by someone who traveled through France, Italy, and Spain and then came back to Portland to think about it. Take the peekytoe crab enveloped by a cucumber bisque and topped with asparagus, egg, and sturgeon—Maine ingredients rearranged with a sort of Catalonian sensibility. The cheese-plate offering is a single cheese that demands your full attention; the suggested wine pairings are just as deft, as if you needed a reminder that you’re in good hands.

It’s a forty-minute ferry ride to Diamond Cove—the kind of island where George H. W. Bush pulls up on his cigarette boat. The lobster roll from the Diamond Cove General Store involves an entire lobster, steamed to order. Crisscross the island on footpaths (no cars are allowed) and, at low tide, trek across a sandbar to Little Diamond Island to catch the ferry back.—Alexander Chee

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