Fit with two full bars, one upstairs and one downstairs, this is the kind of place where you can find a little bit of everything – a quiet drink with a friend, enough space upstairs to meet a group, or a romantic evening out in a cozy corner.
When East Ender’s front-of-house manager and bartender, Joseph Reynolds, gets an order for Old Ironsides, a new cocktail this season, he delights in regaling his guest with the story of James Dacres, an English Naval captain in the War of 1812. (Reynolds is a cocktail nerd with a background in American history and architecture.) The drink – made with lustau amontillado (sherry) and house made raspberry-mint shrub – is a nod to the supposed wish of the captain to serve the Americans on the USS Constitution (a.k.a. Old Ironsides) their favorite drink, a shrub, once they surrendered. However, as history played out, the Americans sank his ship – cheers to that.
Old Ironsides is one of 10 new drinks ($10-$12) at the East Ender this winter created by bar manager and accomplished boat builder, Ryan Wilmsmeier. The drinks undeniably pay testament to Maine’s growing fondness for unique craft spirits and cocktails, utilizing shrubs (a vinegar-based syrup infused with fruit, herbs or spices), tinctures and bitters, as well as his take on pre-prohibition-style ingredients and recipes. A new customer favorite, the Stinger, is made with camus, crème de menthe, and a vanilla tincture.
East Ender hosts an excellent happy hour Monday through Saturday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., featuring $7 specialty cocktails, $2 Miller High Life, $4 glasses of wine and 13 appetizer options.
While the name is the same, East Ender changed hands earlier this year and is now brought to you by Karl Deuben and Bill Leavy, formerly of the insanely popular SmallAxe food truck. The two-story restaurant went through a number of changes, like a new color scheme inside and out, a new sleek downstairs bar with a more organized and professional bar setup than the previous owners. The food menu is different, too, excelling at creative interpretations of time-honored classics, like the local beef tartare with hash browns and a deviled egg, the pork belly chili-cheese fries, or the lobster saffron risotto with vanilla turnips.
East Ender is still fit with two bars, one downstairs and one upstairs, and the owners plan on keeping both. However, each bar has its own distinct atmosphere – the downstairs bar being more refined, yet casual, while the upstairs bar is bigger and is equipped with a television, and can more easily accommodate a group.
Just five months after Deuben and Leavy took over, Bon Appetit included East Ender in the magazine’s 50 Best New Restaurants in America 2015. But don’t take their word for it – head over to Middle Street this holiday season for a casual bite and a drink at the bar, or romantic dinner in a cozy corner, or a family celebration in the upstairs dining room. This place will not disappoint – East Ender is easily one of Portland’s brightest.
47 Middle St., Portland | 207-879-7669 | eastenderportland.com
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, happy hour 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday
AMENITIES: Two bars, calming atmosphere, terrific service, coat rack, two bathrooms, great views from second floor, people-watching windows, impeccably clean.
PARKING: Spaces in the adjacent lot are available after 6 p.m.
BOTTOM LINE: Brought to you by the owners of the former SmallAxe Food Truck, East Ender is a two-story casual eatery in the eponymous neighborhood of Portland. Fit with two full bars, one upstairs and one downstairs, this is the kind of place where you can find a little bit of everything – a quiet drink with a friend, enough space upstairs to meet a group, or a romantic evening out in a cozy corner. The cocktail list is new for the season and is cleverly crafted with care. Several local brews, as well as Miller High Life, are available on draft. Mocktail menu, and sodas by the bottle and gun.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No easy access