For years, I lived just down the street from Petite Jacqueline’s old location in Longfellow Square. And yet, I never once stopped in, which is truly curious. For starters, Paris is my favorite city to visit. And as much as I love escargot, crepes and the ever-pretentious-sounding “frites,” I love champagne even more.
So, I was elated when I decided to check out Petite Jacqueline’s new location, as of last year, on Market Street. I woke up refreshed and donned my favorite pair of heels and a tan beret (yes, I actually wore a beret), then ventured into the Old Port for some brunch cocktails.
Immediately, I was struck with the beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows. The ambiance inside was bright and clean, and it truly did feel like I was walking into a bistro off a Parisian side street. Decorating the walls are old photographs of who I assume is the restaurant’s namesake. According to its website, Jacqueline is co-owner Michelle Corry’s grandmother who stands at only 4 feet 8 inches tall, and the walls of the restaurant and bar pay homage to her.
The bar was empty, presumably because most patrons come to enjoy their cocktails with their brunch as opposed to having cocktails as their brunch. The lovely high ceilings help mask sound, so there was only a low hum of chatter, making the space inviting and quiet — perfect for sharing an intimate cocktail.
Most of the other patrons on that Saturday morning were vacationing couples and families, along with one large bachelorette party that seemed to be nursing a pretty rough hangover. Sadly, I appeared to be the only one in the French spirit. In an effort to complete my outfit, I greeted the host with an exuberant, “Bonjour, monsieur!” which earned me a good-natured eye roll from my husband. In contrast, and to my delight, the host smiled and gave a rather shy laugh as he said, “Bonjour, madame,” in return. While I much prefer to be considered a ‘mademoiselle,’ than a ‘madame,’ I let that pass and took my seat, happy that the staff had humored my Parisian spirit.
I found our server helpful and friendly, and the brunch cocktail menu was filled with choices that exceeded my expectations beyond the standard mimosa or Bloody Mary options most places offer at brunch. These staples on the menu, though Petite Jacqueline puts its own spin on its mimosa. Called the Executive Mimosa ($12), it’s made with Grey Goose Orange, Peach Schnapps, orange juice and champagne.
The brunch cocktail menu also includes the eatery’s evening cocktails, which are versatile enough to be enjoyed no matter where the sun is sitting overhead. The French Margarita ($11), though not exactly an authentic French beverage, is a fun twist with elderflower liqueur added to the standard tequila, lemon and lime mix. And for the gin lovers out there, The Last Word is a sweet-tart cocktail with green chartreuse, gin, Luxardo and lime ($12). It was a bit too sweet for my tastes, as I prefer to taste the gin itself and bask in the juniper flavor, but The Last Word is the perfect drink for someone who doesn’t love the taste of alcohol.
Amidst all these specialty cocktails, you’ll also find a diverse wine list and several craft beers, including one of my personal favorites on draft, Maine Beer Co.’s Lunch.
Whether you’re looking for a high-end brunch cocktail to kick off your weekend or an after-work drink to unwind (happy hour is Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. with $1.50 oysters starting at 5 p.m.), Petite Jacqueline hits the mark. Though it isn’t the “it” place to be, crowded shoulder-to-shoulder with people, it is the perfect quiet bar, ideal for good conversation. If you’re looking for a low-key ambiance, well-made and creative cocktails, and just the right touch of Parisian bistro to transport you to France, if only for an hour or so, then Petite Jacqueline is just the place for you.
WHAT: Petite Jacqueline
WHERE: 46 Market St., Portland
HOURS: Dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; lunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays; Sunday brunch, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
AMENITIES: Outdoor patio, indoor seating, full menu served at the bar, breakfast, lunch, drinks, dinner, happy hour ($3 wine, $4 draft beer, $5 well cocktails, $6 crepes, $1.50 oysters)
BOTTOM LINE: Now located on one of the busiest streets in the Old Port, Petite Jacqueline offers more than just well-made cocktails and French wines. It’s like taking a step off of the Avenue Des Champs-Elysees and settling in for a quiet, cozy drink with friends. Though a little pretentious at times (and a little pretension never hurt anyone), it’s welcoming with a fantastic happy hour and menu.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No