The 10 Best Bars In Portland, Maine
photo courtesy the Thirsty Pig
The largest city in the U.S. state of Maine, Portland has much to offer with its most visited areas being the historic Old Port and the Arts District. After seeing the sights, kick back with a beer, cozy up to a cocktail, or wind down with a glass of wine at one of these bars.
flickr.com - Ri Ra Irish Pub
With interiors salvaged and restored straight from the old country of Ireland, Rí Rá Irish Pub & Restaurant takes you to another place and time. With two levels and three distinct areas, guests can choose to cozy up to the back bar and counter complete with an old pot belly stove. Alternatively, settle into the Victorian-style lounge area, or sit upstairs to a meal of traditional pub fare with water front views. In addition to an ambiance of authentic charm, Rí Rá Irish Pub hosts nightly events like Tuesday trivia. It also has live music that varies with anything from 80s and hip hop to country and rock. Like any good bar, Rí Rá’s happy hour offers drink discounts from a menu brimming with cocktails, whiskeys, beers, and wines. Whether you just want to come and enjoy the old world ambiance with a bite and a beer or you prefer the livelier late night experience of music and trivia, Rí Rá Irish Pub & Restaurant is an upscale spot sure to please.
In the spirit of bringing people together to conceive of a better future, Novare Res translates from Latin, meaning ‘to start a revolution.’ This Bier Café exists with a mission to support the small craft movement all over the world, striving to find the best beers ‘legally available’ in the state of Maine. The owners of Novare Res have carefully created this space. They have taken inspiration from some of their favorite bars, restaurants, and brewpubs around the world with places like Britain, Germany, and Belgium. They continue to travel around the United States in search of the best brews. Though Novare Res is beer-focused, the cafe is a family-friendly environment. Enjoy a menu of snacks and small plates like Bavarian pretzel and crab Rangoon grilled cheese, or choose an entrée from a selection of things like a pumpkin coconut curry bowl or the bratwurst plate. Novare Res Bier Café offers a menu like no other and a rotating, international list of drafts & bottles perfect for the beer enthusiast.
Since 1988 with its humble beginnings as a small brew pub in Portland’s Old Port, Gritty McDuff’s has grown to become the brew pub of choice for local Mainers and travelers alike. Existing at the forefront of the brewing renaissance in Maine, Gritty’s has become well-known for creating fine, handcrafted ales and traditional pub fare. Located right in the heart of the historic district, Gritty McDuff’s is a prime place to take a break from the sight-seeing with some fine grub and beer. Enjoy a creative menu of starters, soups and salads, sandwiches and burgers. Entrees include shepherd’s pie, pub mac and cheese, ale-braised kielbasa, and fried Maine shrimp. Gritty’s also hosts occasional live music as well as trivia and Friday happy hour specials. With its down-to-earth digs and cozy pub atmosphere, Gritty McDuff’s is a great place to kick back after a long day.
photo courtesy the Thirsty Pig
The Thirsty Pig is a trendy nightly hangout spot that pairs their house-made sausages with the best Maine beer they can find. Order at the counter from a menu of dogs and links always served on a toasted bun. The choice of toppings range from barbecue sauce, sweet relish, hot sauce, and caramelized onion to sauerkraut, brown mustard, feta, and cheddar. The Thirsty Pig’s sausage links even include worldly flavors like the Hot Italian, Thai chili, Caribbean chicken, Greek chicken, and chicken satay. Pair these with any fine brew and you have got yourself one satisfying meal. In addition to the mouthwatering sausage selection, The Thirsty Pig hosts regular live music, an open mic night, and happy hour every weekday from 4pm to 6pm with a special on Allagash White & Shipyard.
Central Provisions is situated in a historic brick building. It serves up a selection of small plates, about a dozen creative cocktails and several dozen wines. A handful of local beer options are on tap as well. Its name pays tribute to the building itself. This building was once used by the East India Trading Company to store provisions like cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpeter, tea, and opium. Located right on the wharf, this made unloading goods easy for ships until the building eventually housed a wine and bitters shop, a barrel top and burlap bags. Finally, it became the home of E. Cory who sold local blacksmiths and wood workers tools and materials. Keeping with history, the decor of the place mirrors the previous usages of the building. It serves some of the best food and cocktails in Portland. Choose from drinks like the Corpse Reviver, Glass Slipper, or the Lion’s Tail made with gunpowder rye, pimento dram, fresh squeezed lime, and angostura bitters. Or, opt for one of the temperance cocktails for a non-alcoholic pick. Pair any one of these with the extensive lunch or small bites menu, and you will be coming back with to Central Provisions for more.
photo courtesy the North Point
The North Point is a casual hangout spot with an exposed-brick setting offering specialty cocktails and a selection of 23 wines. Pair these with a menu of meat, cheese, flatbreads and crepes. Sit on their outdoor patio and enjoy a refreshing Mango Peach-a-tini or D’anju Pear Martini, made with Absolut pear vodka, d’anju pear puree, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Another favorite cocktail is the Maine Wild Blueberry mixed with vodka, fresh Maine blueberry puree, and lemonade. Pair any one of these with a BBQ pulled pork flatbread—tender, slow-cooked pork with creamy coleslaw, fresh mozzarella, and blueberry BBQ sauce. Or, choose the Maine Mushroom, stuffed with caramelized portabella mushrooms, truffle oil, feta, mozzarella, roasted shallots, and sun-dried Maine blueberries. With a comfortable atmosphere and good old-fashioned service, The North Point offers a perfect place for incredible cocktails, savory bites, and pleasant conversation.
The Snug is a homey brick-walled pub serving up your run-of-the-mill brews for people who want a good strong drink and the company of award-winnings bartenders. With Irish leanings, The Snug is a no nonsense kind of place with a menu of items you could list in less than a minute. There is a selection of cereal and brunch cocktails for breakfast. Meanwhile, there’s tomato basil soup and toasted cheese sandwich for lunch. Also on offer are the hot pretzel or cheese and tomato Irish quesadilla, and a handful of M&Ms for dessert. But the real draw of this place is the company—reviewers rave about the personality of the staff and the great service that makes them feel right at home. Stop in for a solid drink or creative cocktail. Stay awhile, and you are sure to leave with an amusing tale to tell.
flickr.com - Great Lost Bear
Great Lost Bear
Established in 1979, the Great Lost Bear has become a longtime hub for beer enthusiasts with more than 70 brews on tap and weekly microbrewery events. It also has a broad food menu of just about anything you would want to pair with a good beer. Try anything from barbecue dishes and burgers to cheesesteaks and open melt sandwiches, tortilla roll ups and burritos to a sizable list of nachos and wings. Every Thursday the Great Lost Bear also showcases a craft brewery, a style of beer, or hosts a battle between rivals. Breweries that have introduced their beers at the Bear include Allagash, Rising Tide, Sheepscot, Marshall Wharf, Foundation, Banded Horn, Baxter Brewing and the Maine Beer Company. With a lively staff behind the scenes, some members of the Bear’s crew have even been featured as characters in a mystery series by writer John Connolly.
540 Forest Ave, Portland, ME, USA + 1 207 772 0300
First established in 1961, Bubba’s Sulky Lounge has become one of the hottest spots in the city of Portland for night life entertainment, from salsa to rock ‘n roll. The lounge houses two bars and two dance floors. One of these lights up to the beat of disco—a popular attraction for the Friday night 80s dance DJ. The main bar and three cozy fireplaces are set up at Bubba’s center surrounded by antiques and other miscellaneous paraphernalia. A local born and bred, Bubba himself is a graduate of Portland High School and veteran of the Marine Corp. His bar has been around for so long that Bubba is sometimes even referred to as the ‘Mayor of Portland Street’. The 60s era vibe with its vintage decor has not changed since it opened. Bubba’s Sulky Lounge caters to the crowd looking for funky night and some wild clientele. If you come dressed in 80s attire, the cover charge is waived. Be sure to bring cash here as Bubba’s does not accept credit cards.
photo courtesy MJ's Wine Bar
MJ’s Wine Bar is a place that moves away from the uptight stuffiness of your typical wine bar. Instead, it strives for a ‘hangout in the living room with a bottle’ kind of atmosphere. The idea is to enjoy the company and connect over a glass of wine. MJ’s offers a casual place to play a record off the shelf, kick back on the couch and relax. You can smell the many fragrance jars, or peruse the map on the wine wall and pick out the places you have been to. You might prefer to cozy up in a corner by yourself or meet new friends at MJ’s community table. There is always a seat open and a fun staff committed to human connection and beverage education. MJ’s offers a menu of sparkling, red, white, and dessert wines. There is also a list of beers and food options (cheese plates, nuts, olives, and chocolates). These are rotated frequently to keep up with a fresh experience each time you visit.