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Fun bar with good apps in Portland?

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We are planning to go out for drinks and apps on a Saturday and are looking for some ideas. The menu at East Ender sounds perfect, but some of the reviews are making me have second thoughts so I'm trying to get some additional recommendations.

Any thoughts on places to hang out for a couple of hours with drinks and good apps? Also, any feedback on East Ender?

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  1. The Cantina next to El Rayo would a good choice!

    1. I like the East Ender although I live here and fit it in as a change up from the many other options in town. A real nice burger, tasty apps and a good beer/cocktail selection. If you just look in the window you would think it very small but there's a lot of room with a bigger bar upstairs and a pretty nice vibe but... I don't think of it as a destination stop if you were going to hit only one or two places. Eventide is just across the street with much better food (with corresponding higher prices) and good beer/cocktails but a totally different vibe - not as warm and inviting.
      The new "IT" place in town is probably Infiniti, brought to you by the same folks that gave us Nuvare Res. Only been once and tried a couple of apps but they were very good. They should have their deck (water views) open as soon as the temps allow. Our new wine bar, The North Point, is a cool spot with an interesting menu though small enough that you might feel a bit claustrophobic after a couple of hours.
      Actually, one could go on and on... yes, The Cantina. Staying in the Old Port, you could add Nuvare Res, The Corner Room or Grill Room, Sonnys, The Salt Exchange, Spread, Cinque Terra, the bar at Street and Co, Zapoteca, etc, etc. All worthy.
      If you want to head over to the Arts District, you can go through the entire menu at Boda (refined Thai Street food, small plates - not open in the afternoon if that's your time frame) in a couple of hours - this might be my first choice. A small but good bar scene as well. My newest favorite bite in town is their oysters - with Thai chili sauce, cilantro, and fried shallot for just a little crunch - yum. Good luck choosing!

      1. The East Ender is fine--but it wouldn't be my first choice, either, especially if I was only hitting one place. For drinks and apps I'd choose Sonny's, Boda, LFK, or Eventide. Grace is also a good choice if you have a lot of people because it's larger than most of the other Portland places.

        I like Infiniti (although the name makes me feel like I'm sending you to a strip club), particularly the cocktails which are really, really good; and the physical space is dark and atmospheric and comfortable to hang out in, but I think the kitchen is still finding its footing as they've just opened--

        1 Reply
        1. re: sultanaboudreau

          "I like Infiniti (although the name makes me feel like I'm sending you to a strip club),"
          I always feel that way about Spread.

        2. Thanks for the great suggestions! I'll be busy tonight looking over menus and reviews.

          We were planning to hit Novare Res for a couple of drinks at some point. My wife isn't impressed by beer, so I thought we might pop in for a pre or post dinner drink at some point. Only up for a couple of nights, but I want to try some Maine beers I can't get in Boston like Oxbow. We were also planning to hit Eventide for lunch, since it gets such great reviews.

          1. Boda and Local 188 are my choices plus they are feet within one another. I would try to sit at the bar for both but you will need to get there early as it gets packed quick.

            Sonnys can be ge GREAT if you have the right bartender (and ruin your whole experience if you get the wrong one, namely the woman with blond hair and glasses who never smiles).

            1. Just following up on our trip. We started the night with drinks at Novare Res. The place was slammed pretty early, so we grabbed a drink at the bar and headed outside. My beer was pretty strong and I wanted to last through the night, so we decided to grab some food.

              We wondered up the street to Sonny's and scored seats at the bar. More drinks and a few apps to share. I remember the warm smash beet salad with goat cheese being very good. The salt cod fritter were tasty too, but I love all things salt cod. Reminds me of childhood. Tried the lobster rangoons. Not bad, but probably a waste of money and calories since there is not much too them.

              We decided to move on and eventually ended back at our original planned spot the East Ender. By this time, I was many drinks in and wanted something more substantial. I ordered the burger. Forget what the wife got. I have to say, this was one very tasty burger. Great crusty sear and good fries.

              Never made it to Eventide for lunch. We grabbed lobster rolls on Commercial St. during a walk. Maybe next time. I did drink a bunch of Oxbow Farmhouse which I really enjoyed. Also had a fantastic lunch at Duck Fat and a very good dinner at Fore St. My wife still talks about her sandwich at Duck Fat. It's nice when a place lives up to their hype.