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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: November 12, 2014

Dining Guide: 5 reliable, inexpensive Portland favorites for burgers and beer

With all the hoopla surrounding the city’s trendy farm-to-table restaurants and cocktail bars, it’s comforting to know that there are still places where you can get a well-made, reasonably priced burger and a beer.

Written by: Susan Axelrod

For full listings and more restaurants, see our searchable Restaurant & Bar Guide.

The Great Lost Bear

Bar Manager Mike Dickson pours a draft at The Great Lost Bear. Press Herald file photo

Bar Manager Mike Dickson pours a draft at The Great Lost Bear. Press Herald file photo

540 Forest Ave., Portland | 772-0300 | | $$
A Portland institution since 1979, the GLB is known for its burgers and beer selection, with 65 beer taps, many pouring Maine microbrews. As you might expect, the menu features a large variety of appetizers and bar munchies, from jalapeno poppers and super nachos to a half-dozen kinds of Buffalo wings. Extensive dinner and lunch menus include salads, vegetarian entrees, seafood, chicken, sandwiches and more than a dozen specialty burgers. The 1/2-pound basic burger with fries is $9.99; a cheeseburger is $10.99.

Little Tap House

Bartender Lily Sund pulls a draft at Little Tap House. Press Herald file photo

Bartender Lily Sund pulls a draft at Little Tap House. Press Herald file photo

106 High St., Portland | 518-9283 | | $$$
A popular spot in Portland’s West End, Little Tap House pays homage to an era when neighborhood taverns courted the pleasure seekers of good food and drink. The interior décor is rustic with wine barrel tables in the bar area and simple wooden tables elsewhere, with plenty of space for mingling. The 14 taps feature local beers and the menu focuses on upscale versions of comfort food, including the Tap House Burger: local beef ground in-house with aioli, greens, pickled onion, tomato and fries for $14. A cheeseburger is $1 more.


Burgers wait for pick up by the bartender at Ruski's. Press Herald file photo

Burgers wait for pick up by the bartender at Ruski’s. Press Herald file photo

212 Danforth St., Portland | 774-7604 | No website | $
Established in 1892, Ruski’s may appear to be the classic dive bar, but it’s really not so much dive-y as it is home-y. Lacking both pretention and any sense of bar brawl disorder, the mood is one of friendliness and respect, whether you’ve been coming here for decades or just stumbled upon this West End corner pub for the first time. Breakfast is served all day and there are 12 beers on tap. What may be the best cheap burger in town is just $4.95 with chips and a pickle. A cheeseburger is $5.50.

Congress Bar & Grill


Congress Bar & Grill. Press Herald file photo

617 Congress St., Portland | 828-9944 | | $$$
This laid-back neighborhood favorite is sure to be busy before or after any performance at the State Theatre, which is just a few doors away. Red walls and low lighting make the mood cozy and warm; for a snug place to tuck into on a chilly night, snag one of the few booths. The menu ranges from the expected pub classics such as fish and chips, to more unusual offerings, such as a lamb kabob. The local-beef cheeseburger is $9; fries are an extra $2.


LFK in Longfellow Square. Press Herald file photo

LFK in Longfellow Square. Press Herald file photo

188 State St., Portland | 899-3277 | No website | $$$
The atmosphere at this newer gastropub is oddball in the best way, with typewriters and literary ephemera part of the quirky decor. Look for Portland’s creative types in the mix (i.e. plenty of tattoos, plaid flannel shirts and lumberjack beards), but out-of-town visitors and even children (in the earlier hours) will feel like they belong. The menu features comfort-style fare with a contemporary twist, such as the excellent mac & cheese and the LFK burger, served on a Rosemont Market pretzel bun with garlic mayo, your choice of cheese, a pickle and a side of potato salad (the restaurant does not serve fries) for $13.

Key to prices

The approximate cost of two dinner entrees (not including appetizers, drinks, tax and gratuity).
$ – $15 and under
$$ – $16 to $25
$$$ – $26 to $45
$$$$ – $46 and up

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