On a recent night at LFK in Portland, a young man was making his way through an 800-page Stephen King novel at one end of the bar, while, at the other end, a patron wished aloud for a bra made of pork belly.
Such food-oriented, literary-minded customers are representative of the scene at LFK, which offers craft beers, signature cocktails and wines, along with a smattering of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers and a daily soup — though no pork belly.
For the literary crowd, however, the restaurant pays homage to the space’s former tenant, Cunningham Books, with shelves of used paperbacks, typewriters, a Mark Strand poem above the front entrance and an overall old-fashioned aesthetic that could inspire just about anyone to pen a novel.
The curved bar is lined with about 13 rose-colored seats fit with backs, arm rests and comfortable cushions. There are two communal tables with mismatched chairs, a lounge area and about 10 counter seats at the window overlooking lively Longfellow Square. Outside, there are a handful of two-top tables on the sidewalk.
In the early evening, the crowd is calm and steady, but expect weekend nights to get packed and noisy. Specials include shots of Fireball for $6 and a daily soup, both listed on a chalkboard along with a note about LFK being the “home of the world’s smallest yo-yo,” which was nowhere in sight.
Bar snacks include “Devil’s Eggs” ($5), cauliflower ($7), mac & cheese ($7) and roasted Korean BBQ wings ($9).
The beer list has 12 rotating drafts from in- and out-of-state, as well as a couple of ciders. The drink list is substantial with wines for $6 to $10 a glass and cocktails divided by spirit type, including rum, gin, vodka, tequila, bourbon, “other things” and non-alcoholic drinks. The cheapest, the Pickleback for $5, is a shot of bourbon and pickle juice. The most expensive, the Scorpion Bowl for $22, is made with various rums, amaretto, orange juice, pineapple, passion fruit and bitters and is served in a plastic red bowl with the necessary little umbrellas. The drinks are sublime, made by the hands of folks who understand craft cocktails. Sipping is necessary, as the cocktails are small but mighty strong.
The only disappointing aspect of LFK (other than the undisclosed location of the world’s smallest yo-yo) was a bar snack of house-made tater tots ($4). The small order comes with three dry, flavorless balls of shredded potato that will make you long for the crispy golden original.
Although known as hangout for the city’s creative types, LFK draws a diverse crowd. Earlier in the evening, it’s not uncommon to see young parents with their kids or folks coming in after their shift at the hospital. After nearly four years in business, the staff has dropped its pompous attitude, giving way to more of a neighborhood, all-inclusive vibe. The bartenders are laid-back, but prompt and friendly, and the open, airy feel lends a nice balance to the heaviness of the books and typewriters.
WHERE: 188a State Street, Portland
HOURS: Full menu served Monday through Thursday, 5-11 p.m.; Friday, 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m.; Saturday, 3 p.m.-12:30 a.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.-11 p.m. Brunch served Sunday, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Drinks served until 1 a.m. nightly.
AMENITIES: Typewriters, outdoor seating, lounge seating, communal seating, bar snacks and entrees, comfortable bar stools, books to read
BOTTOM LINE: LFK is a casual neighborhood bar in Longfellow Square that offers craft beers and cocktails, appetizers and mains, and an eclectic mix of writerly relics, such as typewriters, vintage books and poems etched in glass. Paying ode to the space’s former tenant, Cunningham Books, LFK lures a creative crowd that likes reading at the bar, talking about their love of pork belly or both. Drinks are strong, beer is cold.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes