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:
- There are way more than 19 great bars in Portland
- 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!
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.
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!
5. 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.
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
35 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Please leave your own 19 Best bars in the comments!