On a recent evening at Ruski’s Restaurant & Pub in Portland’s West End, the classic rock station was lowered to a near noiseless level, the smell of fried food and grilled burgers wafted from the kitchen, and the beer fridge, brimming with ice cold drinks, seemed to stand at attention, ready for the nightly crowd.
At the bar, a few routine patrons chatted with bartender Dominique Krasow. A nine-year veteran of Ruski’s, Krasow works mostly Tuesdays and Thursdays. She makes younger bartenders – even experienced ones – look like amateurs. When Krasow is working, it’s clear she’s the boss and likely the reason the bar is kept meticulously cleaned and stocked – at least for dive bar standards, anyway – because even the bathrooms are spotless and well-lit.
“It’s funny,” Krasow says to one patron who sips a $2 Miller Lite, “it doesn’t seem busy right now, but it could get busy at any second, which is good.”
Krasow clicks through the channels and eventually finds the Red Sox game, requested by one man who hasn’t yet decided what he wants to drink. Then she hurries around the one-room bar to deliver sizeable plates of fish and chips before she turns to wipe off tables and chairs, and when she returns behind the bar, Krasow double checks the beer fridge – just to make sure it is indeed full.
Friendly, but not severely so, the service at Ruski’s makes you feel like even if the bar were to suddenly become packed, which it hinted at right around eight o’clock, you’d still be waited on with as much ease and grace had you been there with no one else. This feature alone could be why Ruski’s has remained a favorite for as long as it has. The signage out front boasts “est. 1892.”
And this ease-of-attitude – there’s absolutely no pretention or bar brawl disorder – seems to be a bug everyone catches when they step through the door at Ruski’s. There’s a sense of respect whether you’ve been coming here for decades or just stumbled upon this corner pub for the first time.
While not a place to find a craft cocktail, Ruski’s is a fully stocked bar with 12 taps and a number of nightly cheap beer specials, which are available until 1 a.m.
WHERE: 212 Danforth St., Portland
HOURS: 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
SPECIALS: Nightly draught, bottle and can specials that range in price from $2-3.75
AMENITIES: ATM, digital jukebox, dartboard, clean and well-stocked bathrooms, all-day breakfast.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes
BOTTOM LINE: Ruski’s Restaurant & Pub is a Portland mainstay for cheap beer, good pub food and exceptional service. Established in 1892, Ruski’s takes pride in being everyone’s favorite dive bar, but alas, it’s not so much dive-y as it is home-y. Kick back and relax at this humble relic of Portland’s history.