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September 27, 2012

Sixty-nine taps feature mostly craft beers: Great Lost Bear, Portland

I can remember the day I introduced my cousin to The Great Lost Bear in Portland. I wasn't of legal age to drink yet, but I loved the food and the vibe of the place. He, being a few years older than me, would surely love the beer.

We grabbed a table in the dining room and when the waitress came to our table, he asked, "What do you have for beers on tap?"

Continue reading "Sixty-nine taps feature mostly craft beers: Great Lost Bear, Portland"
Posted by Emma Bouthillette at 12:15 PM

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September 20, 2012

People love The Snug because it feels like home: The Snug, Portland

From what I've heard over the years, people either love or hate The Snug.

Located at Washington Avenue and Congress Street about halfway up Munjoy Hill in Portland, it's become a neighborhood bar for East Enders. Those who love it do because it feels like home. For those who don't, I guess they just don't understand the charm of this little bar.

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When I was a student at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in fall 2007, a number of my classmates called The Snug home after long days of writing, developing and printing photos or editing audio. I never had the chance to join them then, nor had I thought about checking out The Snug since.

That changed when I met a friend there on a recent Saturday night for drinks and catching up with each other.

The nice thing about The Snug is that if you live on the East End, it's within walking distance. If you don't, it's easier to find parking than at some place in the Old Port. I pulled into a spot just out front and bellied up to the bar with my friend.

The taps are front and center so you have no question about what is available for your brew pleasure. My friend ordered the TurboDog beer brewed in Louisiana -- a pint will run you $4. Disappointed to see they didn't have Pumpkinhead or another pumpkin-esque brew, I decided to go for Crown Royale and ginger ale. That was a stiff drink for $6.50.

There's no formal drink menu at The Snug. It seems that beer is the beverage of choice for most patrons. However, there's a fully stocked bar, and the bartenders are willing to make whatever you'd like.

A group of college buddies, now in their mid-30s, took over the corner of the bar next to us. We noticed one of them leave and return a few minutes later with a pizza box from Otto's next door. This made my friend hungry. She asked to try one of the bar's $3 "big hot pretzels" advertised on a chalkboard behind the bar. Sadly, there were none available at the time.

"You can go get a slice next door if you want," the bartender said, adding they have no problem if people do that throughout the night.

For people who didn't instantly fall in love with The Snug, it may be because they don't know how to embrace snarky humor. Between the bathroom doors at the back of the bar, a sign reads, "Only ONE person at a time in the restroom. ANYONE caught violating this policy will be barred from The Snug indefinitely," followed in small print by, "Don't make Michelle open a can of whoop-(butt)."

I didn't get to meet Michelle the night I was there, but she seems to be The Snug's legendary bartender. She was also probably the bartender responsible for putting up the snarky sign telling folks not to ask her to turn on, change or turn up the small television behind the bar, because she likely wouldn't do it.

Hitting up The Snug in groups is great, because there are cozy booths lining the wall opposite the bar that will encase your party.

And despite the witty signs, old photos of the owner's family hung throughout the bar can help you see The Snug has family values.

Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.

Posted by Emma Bouthillette at 03:42 PM

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September 13, 2012

For unique drinks, literary touch, book a visit: LFK, Portland

"The nerves sit ceremonious, like tombs ..."

From where I sat at LFK's arched bar, that was all I could read of the typewriter keys along the bar's length that spell out an Emily Dickinson poem. Rather than disrupt others sipping drinks at the bar on a recent night, I read the rest of the poem printed full-length on the back of the food menu.

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That poem is just one of the many things you'll find at LFK that aptly pays homage to literary types. Short for Longfellow Fellowship of Knights, LFK overlooks Portland's Longfellow Square and the statue of Henry himself. You'll spot a number of typewriters -- some functional, others for decoration -- around the bar once you enter. And it's hard to miss books stacked on shelves for your reading pleasure.

When I walked into LFK, I thought it was like a bar meeting a coffee house. Instead of a television hung over the taps for the sports enthusiast, there were rather large tables at which patrons could gather and share discourse. And the tall stools along the length of the bar were cozy. It seemed more fitting to grab a drink and read a book than to cheer on your favorite football team.

When I stopped in, there had been a "tap takeover" by Victory. Another such takeover is scheduled for Oct. 10, which will feature beers from Sixpoint Brewing. Normally, the bar has about a dozen brews on tap, and more offerings in cans and bottles. There is also a list of red and white wines, but I'd recommend taking a peek at the eclectic drink menu.

I'm sure that if you'd ask for a Cosmo, the bartenders at LFK could make one. However, the drink menu features unique mixes for $9 apiece with names such as "The Introduction," which is a mix of Tangueray, Aperol, lemon and bitters served straight up.

I was going to try the bar's namesake drink -- a bourbon mix with Old Granddad, orange and apple juices, and ginger beer -- but wasn't sure I'd like it.

Instead, I opted for "L-Squared," made with Maine Mead Works Lavender Mead, lemonade and a splash of soda. It was hands-down one of the most refreshing drinks I've had, and was perfect for the warm late-summer's eve.

Thanks to a Living Social deal I bought earlier this summer, I had some more money to spend at LFK. Another drink would have been tempting, but I wanted to be able to get home safely so I ordered some dinner.

As unique as the drink menu is, so are LFK's food offerings. Most dishes cost $9 or less, and are yummy combinations that can make your mouth water. One that caught my eye was the "Ham & Brie." It was a hearty sandwich of ham and Brie cheese served on a baguette with a side of potato salad and a pickle.

I'll be honest and say the thick slices of ham served in this beastly sandwich surprised me. At the same time, I was disappointed that the sandwich itself wasn't grilled or warmed somehow. When I ordered it, I was expecting a fancy take on a grilled cheese, and it turned out to be a fancy cold ham and cheese sandwich -- still delicious, just not what I thought when I ordered it.

All in all, though, I thought LFK was a funky little addition to Portland's bar scene, and one I'll add to my roster of drinking places.

Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.

Posted by Emma Bouthillette at 10:28 AM

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