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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: April 23, 2015

Dining Guide: 5 neighborhood bars in Portland

Portland has more places to drink than ever, including urbane spaces dedicated to craft cocktails, wine bars and brewpubs. But, there are still bars where the mixers come from a soda gun and the menu runs to pizza, burgers and wings — neighborhood joints where the regulars have favorite bar stools and newcomers get a warm welcome.

Written by: Susan Axelrod

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

Ruski’s Tavern

Burgers at Ruski's

Burgers at Ruski’s. Press Herald file photo

212 Danforth St. | 207-774-7604 | 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 pretension 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.

Howie’s Pub

Owner Howie Chadbourne at Howie's Press Herald file photo

Owner Howie Chadbourne at Howie’s. Press Herald file photo

501 Washington Ave. | 207-347-7107 | | $$
You’ve probably passed Howie’s without noticing it; it’s tucked alongside the off-ramp to Washington Avenue from I-295 North. But owner Howie Chadbourne hopes you’ll find his cozy, friendly place; he updates the bar’s Facebook page daily to entice newcomers to join the regular crowd. Tuesdays are Trivia Nights with cash prizes (note that Howie’s is cash-only; there’s an ATM inside) and Happy Hour is longer than most: 4 – 7 p.m. Monday – Friday. The bar has 10 beer taps, at least half devoted to local brews, and there’s a full food menu of pub favorites.

Samuel’s Bar and Grill

Samuel's on Forest Avenue Press Herald file photo

Samuel’s on Forest Avenue. Press Herald file photo

1160 Forest Ave. | 207-797-6924 | | $$
Named for its owner Sam Minervino, Samuel’s is a popular watering hole and casual restaurant serving no-frills pub fare with a super-friendly vibe. They’re famous for chicken wings and rightly so. Pizzas are good, as are a list of daily lunch and dinner specials. Don’t miss, for instance, the chicken tostada with chili verde – a half-foot-high pile of chips, dips and chicken. Friday is prime rib night for $12.99; Saturdays get six domestic beers and 10 wings for $15.95 from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and two-for-one dinners for $12.99 from 5 to 9 p.m.

Rosie’s Restaurant & Pub

Rosie's Restaurant & Pub Press Herald file photo

Rosie’s Restaurant & Pub. Press Herald file photo

330 Fore St. | 207-772-5656 | | $$
In the middle of the increasingly trendy Old Port, Rosie’s remains a congenial outpost for regulars seeking pub food, well-made cocktails and beer in an un-fancy atmosphere. Over the years, it has won several best burger in Portland awards, and their burgers still rank high. Other good menu options are the fried chicken and the generous sandwich baskets, such as the BLT with pastrami. Pizzas, calzones and chili are also popular. There are 15 draft beers, draft cider and nightly specials.

Mama’s CrowBar

Owner Tricia Pryce Henley at Mama's CrowBar

Owner Tricia Pryce Henley at Mama’s CrowBar

443 Hendricks Hill Rd., Southport | 207-633-6666 |  | $
A tiny, quirky institution on Munjoy Hill, Mama’s CrowBar serves only beer and takes payment only in cash. The “Karmic Beers” chalkboard lists the names of people who have had drinks bought for them by friends — regulars check the board as soon as they come in. A 1932 Wurlitzer piano doubles as a table for four. There are board games, cards and Jukebox Piano nights on Tuesdays, when $1 will get you any song you ask for (if the pianoman knows it). Food is limited to Little Lads popcorn. If you haven’t been and are curious, don’t wait; owner Trisha Pryce Henley plans to close the bar in October when her lease runs out.

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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