The Bar, located across from The Holy Donut on Exchange Street, is easy to miss if you’re not actively looking for it. With no website and no social media presence, it’s hard to get information on – almost as if it’s trying to operate like a speakeasy minus the password and the threat of being raided.
Despite the fact that it had been open for almost three months by the time my friend and I visited, the staff members we talked to were unclear about the hours of operation and the owner’s plans for the future. What they were clear on, however, was how to make a good cocktail, and that’s ultimately what I care about.
At first, my drinking companion and I were confused by what the owner was going for décor-wise. A martini glass logo on the front door implies upscale cocktails, but the overwhelming number of large-screen TVs lining both sides of the room gives off a sports bar feel. The noise level, however, manages to avoid the deafening level at some sports bars. The menu features seven specialty cocktails (including a coconut margarita) ranging from $9.50 to $12, nine wines by the glass ($8 to $12), nine beers on tap ($4 to $7) and 15 bottled and canned beers ($3.50 to $7.50).
It turns out that mixed messages are the goal. As the bartender explained, it’s targeting a specific group: people who love sports and who want to watch the big games, but who prefer cocktails over beer and don’t enjoy typical sports bars. Such individuals do indeed exist and will likely be pleased to discover a hangout designed for them. That said, as long as The Bar remains under the radar screen, I’m not sure how they expect to become the desired viewing spot for big games, many of which start well before The Bar opens. If The Bar sticks with not opening early for such games, then people are going to make plans elsewhere.
The other impediment to the otherwise creative vision was the current lack of food. Trail mix is provided, but anyone with a nut allergy is out of luck, and even the most delicious trail mix won’t be enough to sustain a sports fan throughout a long game, especially when said fan is drinking cocktails instead of beer or wine. Danger. On the good news front, the bartender assured us that the plan is to serve food in the future, once the kitchen is up and running, but didn’t know either a timeline or anything about what kind of food would be served.
Enough about all that – let’s talk about what you’re all here for, the drinks. My friend ordered a $12 French 75; I had the $11 pear blossom martini (Grey Goose La Poire, elderflower, ginger simple syrup, and lemon juice). Both were excellent, but the best part was watching the bartender operate the super-cool glass-chilling machine that blew out fog and changed colors as it rendered our glasses icy cold. If you’ve been wondering what to get me for my birthday, look no further!
WHERE: 8 Exchange St., Portland
PHONE: (207) 899-3333
HOURS: 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday; 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
AMENITIES: Happy hour 4-7 p.m. weekdays, more TV sets than Best Buy, DJ on some weekend evenings, more USB ports than I’ve ever seen in a bar, and did I mention the glass-chilling machine?
BOTTOM LINE: Good spot for sports fans who prefer cocktails over sports bars.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes