From the outside, The Treehouse doesn’t seem like much. A simple façade and sign signify the bar and restaurant from the sidewalk in Portland’s Deering Center. But walking in, you are transported.
The ambiance is like no bar I’ve experienced. Upstairs is dark and cozy, with several secluded lounge areas to embrace quiet conversation. Branches, limbs and the warm glow of strategically strung lights illuminate the dark areas in an enchanted, twinkling luminescence. There is also a communal area with a traditional, though small, bar, which was packed with people chatting and laughing for a post-work drink on a recent evening. But it’s through the back door, on the patio, where the magic lies. However, it shuts down once people stop sitting out there, usually around November, so you may not have much time, or any.
In the back patio dining area, you feel as though you’re suspended in a structure built by your grandfather in your backyard climbing tree — hence, the name. Branches stretch and curve around and above you like a canopy, and as the sun was setting, its radiant orange was replaced with the warm glow of strung lights.
It was beautiful. It was magical. It made me feel like I was 5 and living a fairy tale come true. (And if you haven’t learned by now how nostalgic and dramatic I can be, well, now you know.)
The cocktail list piqued my interest with its fresh ingredients and seemingly creative concoctions. I ordered the Brass Monkey ($11) which said it was made with Stoli Salted Caramel Vodka, espresso, Baileys Irish Cream and a salted caramel rim. My first sipped lacked the richness I had been hoping for. It was neither as salty or sweet as I imagined it would be and most of the flavor came from the Baileys. It also didn’t arrive with that salted caramel rim, and when I asked about it, I was told that they did away with it because it made the glass sticky and instead sprinkle it into the drink. If this is true, I couldn’t taste it at all. I believe the drink would have been improved by the salted caramel rim complimenting each sip with much-needed flavor.
My husband ordered the Stowaway ($9) which had Effen Blood Orange Vodka, raspberry puree, lime juice and soda water. Again, a bit underwhelming. Not a bad drink, but also not particularly mind-blowingly good. It was fruity and refreshing, but it could have been any generic fruity cocktail I’ve had many of places. The Effen Blood Orange Vodka didn’t linger enough on the tongue and seemed to battle the raspberry puree for flavor, rather than compliment it.
The wine list was an eclectic selection of mostly new wines from 2013 to 2015 (with a couple exceptions from 2008 and 2012) and offered a wide variety of regions and grapes. Perfect for finding just the right pairing with your meal and something for every palate.
On a whim, we also decided to order the ravioli crisps ($9). Wow. Each bite was incredible (though not actually crispy). The raviolis were in a crème fraiche and lemon sauce with sautéed shallots, garlic, spinach and toasted walnuts. So, while my Brass Monkey cocktail may have been missing that decadence I had hoped for, the ravioli crisps certainly made up for it.
All in all, The Treehouse is a lovely experience that’s worth the visit, even if it’s only for the magical ambiance and devilishly delicious raviolis. Trade your cocktail menu for the wine list, and you’ll be set for a lovely evening.
WHERE: 484 Stevens Ave., Portland
PHONE: (207) 874-0706
HOURS: 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday
AMENITIES: Outdoor (magical) dining, vegetarian and gluten-free options, full bar (beer, wine, and cocktails)
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No
BOTTOM LINE: A great place to go for whimsical ambiance; get there soon before the weather chills too much to enjoy that patio.