After Mama’s CrowBar shuttered last fall, it was difficult for the Munjoy Hill community of Portland to think of what would fill the void.
Loved by many, CrowBar offered more than just craft beer and music and poetry nights. This tiny, underground space succeeded in creating a safe dwelling for anyone to enjoy. In place of TVs, there were board games and magnetic poetry. Mismatched furniture and string lights kept it unpretentious and simple.
A month ago, Munjoy Hill Tavern opened in its place, owned by Stanley Dobson, whose brother owns the building.
There are some obvious renovations upon walking in. The bar is now on the opposite side of the room with a beer and wine cellar directly behind it. There are three flat screen TVs, one at each end of the bar and a third that faces a handful of high-top tables. There’s wooden flooring in place of tiles and a ceiling with newfangled molding and wooden beams. The eclectic furniture of CrowBar has been replaced by uniform stools and tables.
Munjoy Hill Tavern is almost unrecognizable from CrowBar, but here’s the thing: It hasn’t been turned into office space or a fancy apartment or a vegan cupcake cafe. It’s still a cash-only bar. The service is friendly and accommodating. There’s boozy house-made sangria on special from 4 to 6 p.m., $2 Budweiser drafts and food, such as pizza with your choice of toppings, French fries, chicken tenders and mozzarella and tomato skewers. There are corn hole boards setup out back (where they expect a patio to be finished this season), and the place is open at noon daily until 11 p.m., except on Fridays and Saturdays, when it closes at 1 a.m.
The place is a bar, and it’s not all bad. While the three TVs seem a bit excessive for such a small space, Munjoy Hill Tavern is a nice alternative to the Front Room – the only other place on the Hill with a TV – and a seemingly reliable spot for a drink and a cheap bite. There are 30 seats inside with a capacity of about 40 (standing room). On tap you’ll find Allagash, Harpoon, Stoneface, Shipyard, Baxter, Miller Light, Bud and Bud Light. Dobson says he’ll be featuring more craft beer options soon and, while they likely won’t get to CrowBar level, it’s a start.
The tavern’s Facebook page is updated regularly with special events and deals. For example, during Olympic events in which U.S. athletes are participating, the bar is offering $2 Buds.
The beloved Mama’s CrowBar is gone and a chapter has ended; it’s true. While we may never see a place like it on the Hill again, let’s hope Munjoy Hill Tavern maintains what was perhaps the most important aspect of CrowBar –– a safe atmosphere where everyone is welcome.
WHERE: 189 Congress St., Portland
HOURS: Noon to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; noon to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
AMENITIES: ATM, corn hole, TVs, impending patio seating
BOTTOM LINE: Munjoy Hill Tavern has big shoes to fill, but seems to be off to a decent start with several beer selections on tap, Sutter wine, happy hour specials and a small but growing pub menu including French fries, chicken tenders, pizza and other snacks. There are three TVs that dominate the room, but if you’re looking for a place to watch the Olympics or a game, this is a good option. The bar only takes cash, but there’s an ATM inside.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes