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The 19 Best Bars in Portland, Maine

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MJ's Wine Bar Portland Maine

You can't make a list of Portland's best bars without breaking some hearts

Mainers are some of the heaviest drinkers in the US, so it's no surprise that we love our bars. In compiling this list of The 19 Best Bars in Portland, I've discovered two things:

  1. There are way more than 19 great bars in Portland
  2. No two Portlanders will ever agree on which 19 are the ultimate best

This list, however, is pretty definitive.  It includes a variety of beer snob / craft cocktail establishments, as well as sticky-floored domestic brew joints, and it avoids the obvious tourist spots. (Not that they're bad, they're just obvious.)

The bars are grouped according to location, so the list itself (1-19) isn't really intended as a ranking. (Although Novare is not not my favorite.)

All images are from the 19 Oaks Instagram feed, which you should check out and follow! 

Old Port

1. Novare Res Bier Cafe´

4 Canal Plaza | novareresbiercafe.com

So many factors combine to make this bar great: The large outdoor space, the convenient-yet-mysterious location, the difficult-to-pronounce name (locals call it "no-VAR-ay"), the casual, casklike interior, the familial and totally expert staff, and, oh yes, the extensive beer selection. Go often.

 

 2. Sonny's

83 Exchange St. | sonnysportland.com

Sonny's has a cocktail called 99 Problems. 

Anyone needing more information can find it on their website. 

 

3. J's Oyster

5 Portland Pier | Facebook

People call J's Oyster a dive bar, but it's diviest on the exterior (which features a nice deck area kinda in the parking lot). Inside it's classic and unpretentious, like a grandfather. Serious seafood is served here. Excellent for discrete drinks and conversation. 

 

4. The Porthole 

20 Custom House Wharf | portholemaine.com

Now, this place is divey. It gets super dive points for its awesome entrance on Custom House Wharf. Skip the inside and head out to the deck. Plastic cups, crushed ice, boats. Bring your dog. And a sun hat. 

Note: Website says new management, plus Boone's has set up camp next door, so this post might need an update. Stay tuned!

 

Thirsty Pig Portland Maine5. The Thirsty Pig 

37 Exchange St. | thirstypigportland.com

The Pig has a lot going for it: Fun staff, a back deck, a stash of toys, good merch (pink is the t-shirt color of choice) and crazy homemade sausages and hot dogs. Plus the have serious happy hour specials—if you like Shipyard. 

 

6. Central Provisions

414 Fore St. | central-provisions.com

Tiny and tucked away (right next to 19 Oaks HQ—check the bar entrance on Dana St.), Central Provisions offers exquisite small plates and thoroughly considered craft cocktails, wine and beer. Husband-and-wife owners. Fantastic old two-story interior. Go there. 

 

7. In'Finiti 

250 Commercial Street infinitimaine.com 

The name is annoying, but In'Finity is ambitious and spirited. It offers totally local food, beer and booze—can't get this stuff anywhere else! Plus it has grand distilling machines on display and a calm water respite out back. (If you need more incentive, it's owned by the same people as Novare.)

 

8. The North Point

north_point35 Silver St. | northpointportland.com

Cosy and eclectic, the North Point has great homemade sangria and their kitchen is open late (by Portland standards—10 pm Sun-Tues and midnight Wed-Sat.) They're also known for having a good weekday happy hour with quality wines and draughts. 

 

 

Monument Square 

9. Shay's 

18 Monument Sq. | shaysgrillpub.com

Shay's has the best people-watching in Portland if you can get a seat outside. They also offer great mojitos on the cheap. Inside is a great place to watch the Sox (with bumpin' A/C). Sadly, Shay's closes early (10 on the weekends), so don't get too comfortable.

 

10. MJ's Wine Bar

One City Center | onecitywines.com

MJ's is relaxed and welcoming, offers piano-bar type entertainment, and has an interactive smelling wall that will educate you about your wine. Excellent spot for a drink before or after the movies. Also, check out the amenities in the bathroom. Woah. 

 

Congress Square

11. Downtown Lounge

606 Congress St. | downtownloungeportland.com

Gritty and loud, with cute tattooed bartenders and strong drinks, DTL is Portland's ultimate dive hangout. The place has been strained by extra traffic from State Theatre, but it remains a must-stop on your bar hop. 

 

12. Little Tap House

106 High St. | littletaphouse.com

Who's sick of the phrase "farm to table"? But Little Tap House infuses the concept with so much love it's hard to resist. From the sweetly floral outdoor space (that they whipped up out of nothing!) to the carefully polished wood interior, LTH aims to delight. Excellent food, cocktail brunches. Secret Beer Society. Go. 

 

Longfellow Square

 13. LFK

188A State St. | Facebook

A lot of Portlanders were sad when Cunningham Books folded and a bar took its place. But you could hardly find a more bookish bar. Aside from its thematic interior, LFK is known for superior bar food, late-night burger deals and wall-to-wall hipsters. Gotta go. 

 

14. Local 188  

685 Congress St. | local188.com

Owned by the same folks as Sonny's, Local 188 does interiors right, managing to be elegant and homey at once. Their cocktail menu is dangerous and the inventive food menu constantly changes. Monday nights usually feature local bands with diehard followers. Fun. 

 

15. Blackstone's

6 Pine St. | blackstones.com

This is one of the diviest gay bars I've been to—and yes, I've been to a bunch. Blackstone's is "Maine's oldest gay neighborhood bar, " emphasis on neighborhood. The average patron looks like a fisherman, and probably is a fisherman. Much of its real estate is taken up by a pool table, and they have an impressive R-rated vanity license plate collection on the wall. Decent beer for $3.50 a pint. Good guys behind the bar. Go there. 

 

East End

16. Mama's Crowbar

189 Congress St. | Facebook

Cash only. Beer only. More specifically, American craft beer only. What's not to love? 

 

17. The Snug

223 Congress St. | thesnugpub.com

The Snug is the East End's local. No pretention, nice people, excellent bartenders. Some really great party booths make it a good choice for a group of friends. Otherwise do crosswords at the bar.  

 

Elsewhere

18. Great Lost Bear

540 Forest Ave. | greatlostbear.com

GLB is Portland's most highly decorated bar, consistently being named Best Of Something and placing high on national and international beer bar lists. Not much can entice me to drink off the peninsula, but GLB is the place. Huge menu too. Staff is top-notch. Excellent place to bring out-of-town visitors who do things like stress about parking. Go!

 

19. Bubba's Sulky Lounge

92 Portland St. | bubbassulkylounge.com

19 Oaks is a varied crew, and some of us like to get funky on Bubba's 80s dancefloor. Others of us will vote for anything with "sulky" in the name. You? 

Honorable Mention 

Nosh, Brian Boru, Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, Bayside Bowl, Grace.

Please leave your own 19 Best bars in the comments! 

 

Topics: Maine

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