Bars and restaurants come and go; others endure.
For 11 years, The Front Room on Munjoy Hill has stomached its share of changes in the now trendy neighborhood of Portland: new competition, rising costs, new regulars, old regulars annoyed at new regulars.
Of Harding Lee Smith’s four “Rooms” restaurants, The Front Room is the only one not in the Old Port.
Asher Boisvert has managed the bar for the last five years and says that the environment is constantly changing.
“It’s a sports bar, it’s a tourist bar, it’s a regulars bar. It’s definitely a restaurant first,” he said.
The Front Room is open seven days a week, with breakfast starting at 8 a.m. The weekend brunch crowd is an entirely different scene with mostly neighbors and late-night partiers in need of a dense breakfast.
“We sell a boatload of mimosas and bloody Marys,” Boisvert said.
The cocktail list at The Front Room typically changes every December and June, and patrons can expect to see a few house favorites year-round.
This summer features a house Painkiller with coconut milk cooked down with house spices; a tiki-style drink called Comfortably Numb, made with a fennel syrup, peppercorns and Malbec, and Faulty Towers, a take on a gin & tonic made with a syrup that is reduced with dozens of oranges and spices. Each costs $10.
On summer evenings, The Front Room’s three sidewalk tables are almost always occupied with folks in for happy hour or an early dinner. The makeshift patio offers a great vantage point for people-watching and even a sliver of an ocean view. Happy hour runs from 4-6 p.m., but Boisvert admits he’s not a bartender who keeps a strict eye on the clock. The special include $2 house wines, $3 Shipyard drafts and $5 cocktails, which change daily.
“The bar is defined by the neighborhood. Depending on the night and the crowd, we could be watching the Sox, we could be talking politics, movies, philosophy. But there’s always banter,” Boisvert said.
Whether they’re stopping in for a drink and an appetizer or a hearty meal, The Front Room has secured a loyal following over the last decade. Changes in the neighborhood will most certainly continue, but The Front Room will likely stick around.
WHERE: 73 Congress St., Portland
HOURS: Bar open 8 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily. Brunch 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. Dinner 5-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday.
AMENITIES: Outdoor seating, TV, open kitchen, happy hour drink specials
PARKING: Street parking
BOTTOM LINE: The Front Room offers a cozy bar scene with outdoor seating on the sidewalk on Congress Street in the Munjoy Hill neighborhood. Creative cocktails, wines by the glass and bottle, six local beers on tap and 15 more beers by the bottle. Crowds range from morning business patrons to afternoon happy hour seekers. Weekends are busy for brunch.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes