Smack dab in the center of Monument Square, David’s is nestled into one of the most popular areas of Congress Street, and it showed in the crowd. On a random Thursday night, it was packed.
Squeezing past folks waiting on a table for dining, my husband and I made our way to the only two seats left at the bar. It was obvious from the crowd surrounding us that this place is a beloved staple in the community. While most diners out and about downtown this time of year still tend to be tourists, David’s seemed to host mostly locals — a refreshing change. The family at the bar next to us was happily eating, drinking and chatting about the daughter’s upcoming wedding. The table behind us leaned in, smiling, happily telling us they come to David’s every year for their anniversary dinner.
There was a ton to choose from on the diverse cocktail list, but one stood out to me: The Coconut Smash ($9.95). I love — and I mean looooove — coconut-flavored drinks. And with summer slipping through my fingers, I’m clinging to every remnant that I can. The drink was mixed on the rocks with coconut rum, coconut cream, lime and muddled mint and orange, served with a salted rim. It was sweet and creamy, a bit dessert-like for the beginning of the evening, but that’s my fault, not theirs.
The Picante Pina-Mango (also $9.95) came to us with a warning from the bartender: It is spicy. My husband’s eyes lit up. While I enjoy hints of spice, he could have his tongue immersed in hot sauce, bursting into flames and still enjoy his drink and dinner. So that warning? It was right up his alley. Made with pineapple-infused rum, mango puree, lime, cranberry and habanero bitters, we were ready for our sips, equipped with my coconut milk beverage on standby to mellow out any burn. Unfortunately, the drink itself didn’t quite deserve the warning it received. It was tasty with a hint of heat, but certainly not topping any Scoville scale.
Lastly, we tried the steak tartare ($14). Let’s be honest: Eating raw slabs of cow feels dangerous and that might make it even more delicious. I only discovered my love of the steak dish a few years ago while I was in Paris, and it is only at an established restaurant with a trusted chef that I would order it. Chef David Turin certainly has the years and experience under his belt to earn this trust. Though not the prettiest version of steak tartare I’ve ever ordered, his version was delicious with tender, buttery cuts of steak, seasoned with caesar flavorings, capers and truffle, served with a side of chips. If I had one complaint, it would be that I wish the presentation had been better.
Overall, David’s is a wonderful night out and the bar, though a bit cramped and packed with patrons, delivered on a tight menu.
WHERE: 22 Monument Square, Portland
PHONE: (207) 773-4340
HOURS: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday,
happy hour 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday
AMENITIES: Patio seating, central location, happy hour specials, bar seating, table seating, back room for larger groups and private parties
BOTTOM LINE: David’s is a staple in the Portland ecosystem, and it’s hard to imagine the city without it. While the presentation of the food and drinks was a bit lacking, the flavor did not disappoint. And really, isn’t that what’s important?