When I grew up in Maine, downtown Portland was just a bunch of empty warehouses – not exactly a destination spot. Like many cities, it’s encountered a giant resurgence over the years. In fact, Portland has the highest number of restaurants per person in the U.S., prompting Bon Appetit magazine to name it the restaurant city of the year. Portland is the smallest city to ever receive that honor.
“From the butteriest croissants to outstanding pho, it’s never been a better time to hit up Portland, Maine,” Bon Appetit editor at large Andrew Knowlton wrote in his review of the seaport town in southern Maine.
Stop right there. I’m not about buttery croissants. Tempting as they may be, they are certainly filled with gluten. However, I’m excited to tell you that Portland is also home to many wonderful restaurants that offer gluten free options and at least two bakeries that are gluten free.
That was enough to send me to Portland in search of these bakeries, having heard about them from people all over the Northeast. The Holy Donut, a donut shop (with three locations) makes all its donuts from Maine potatoes. They’ve been in business since 2012 and now make two million donuts a year.
Its reputation is legendary. In fact, these donuts might just be the holy grail of donuts. Certainly, you could get that idea from the line of people weaving out the door and down the street on a warm summer day waiting their turn to buy Holy Donuts. While some donuts contain gluten, the gluten-free choices are vast and made in a dedicated fryer first thing in the morning.
Holy Donut does have a disclaimer: We offer gluten free donuts, but we are not a certified gluten free facility! We do our best to keep gf ingredients separate and we do prep and cook with separate gluten-free designated equipment. But eat at your own risk.
Feeling like Holy Donut was taking a lot of precautions, I ventured in. The gluten-free choices were separated from the other donuts in racks at the top of the display. I settled for a chocolate coconut and a maple. These gems were cakey and flavorful.
By the time I stood in line at about 2 p.m., they were out of chocolate sea salt, one of the most popular flavors. In fact, they were about to run out of gluten-free choices or I would have gotten half a dozen.
According to the blackboard, other gluten-free flavors include strawberry, old fashioned, cinnamon, and glazed. Locations are: 7 Exchange St, Portland , 194 Park Avenue, Portland, and 398 Route 1 Scarborough.
Each store closes daily when the last donut is sold, so plan your visit accordingly to avoid disappointment.
The next day, I stopped at Bam Bam Bakery at 267 Commercial Street. The bright, lively spot is spacious with bakery and kitchen in the back, expansive cases of mouth-watering baked goods and several tables overlooking the water for those who want to dine in. I ordered a breakfast sandwich (scrambled eggs and ham on gluten-free bread) and sat down to eat while I pondered my next course. Would it be a whoopee pie, a lusciously decorated cupcake, or a blueberry muffin? I loaded up and grabbed a container of turkey chili for lunch.
Bam Bam offers take out and eat in meals as well – vegetarian or meat pizza by the slice, meat or vegetarian single serve items such as Shepherd’s Pie (dairy free), Tamale Pie (vegan), Lasagna (meat or veggie), baked Mac & Cheese and chicken potpies. Lunch items change every day, a draw for locals looking for good food that meets special diet requirements.
I would have stayed all day, but my budget was tapped, my stomach was full, and I had afternoon appointments. Alas, I made a promise to myself that I would return soon. It’s worth more than one visit and there’s no need to worry about cross contamination here. This is a dedicated, gluten-free facility.
If Portland, Maine, is on your itinerary, be sure to visit both of these unique gluten-free spots.