Top bars to visit in Portland

Tips and Guides, Food and Drink, New England, Portland,

Portland, Maine is the most populous city in the state and is a truly wonderful American destination to visit during your travels. From the beautiful and historic Old Port district to the fascinating memorials, monuments, lighthouses, and public parks, there’s plenty to see and do while you’re in town. But as with any city, you will want to know that there are some attractive locations to enjoy a drink and bite to eat. Well, you can relax in knowing that Portland is replete with such establishments, all of which would love to have your patronage. In this article we have put together some highlights of what’s on offer, letting you known about a handful of the very best locations available and what you can expect upon visiting. So, with no further ado, here is our list of the top bars to visit in Portland, Maine.


Gritty's Portland

Image credit: Garrick Hoffman

Serving guests for 30 years, Gritty’s is easily one of the very best bars to visit in Portland and is a popular choice among both locals and travellers. This brew pub is highly regarded for its handcrafted ales and delicious traditional pub menu. Situated on 396 Fore Street, Gritty’s is an ideal location to relax with a beer and some top-notch grub. Gritty’s were kind enough to speak to us about what makes them such a must-visit Portland establishment:

“Gritty’s Portland Brew Pub opened in 1988. It became Maine’s first brew pub since prohibition and a leader in the state’s craft brew revolution. Since then, locals and visitors from around the world have been enjoying our fine, small-batch ales. Gritty’s brews on the premises and serves great pub fare. Gritty’s Portland Brew Pub is the perfect place to experience the ambience of Portland’s Old Port. Our Fore Street location is in the heart of the historic district. Pull up a chair at our copper-topped bar. Strike up a conversation at our beer hall style tables. Take in the street life on the cobblestones of Wharf Street from our patio. We’re open every day and you’re always welcome. Gritty’s has become a Maine institution, garnering many awards for Best Bar, Best Brew Pub and Best Beer. Stop in, have a pint and see where the legend began.”

Regarding their menu and what you can expect to consume during your visit, Gritty’s told us: “Gritty’s Portland Brew Pub features a ‘gastropub’ style menu which is traditional pub food with an upscale and creative twist. Some of our guests’ favourite menu items include the smoked salmon deviled eggs or the Reuben fritters, which are crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, then filled with corned beef, sauerkraut and cream cheese, with house made honey mustard. Many guests also come in for the Gritty Smash Burger or the ever popular Pub Mac ‘n Cheese and Lobster. Of course, we also offer fresh seafood and the ever popular lobster roll!”

The Thirsty Pig

The Thirsty Pig

This trendy Portland spot is the ideal venue for your next drink in the city and is known by locals for its sublime house-made sausages. The menu at The Thirsty Pig is tantalising to say the least, with items such as house-made sausage chilli and a selection of speciality hot dogs that you shouldn’t leave Portland without trying. There’s the Reuben Dog with Swiss cheese, Morse’s kraut and 1000 island dressing; there’s the New Englander – a dog topped with bacon, baked beans, and coleslaw; and appetising propositions such as the Chilli Bomb – a dog topped with their homemade chilli, raw onion, and cheddar cheese.

To further paint the picture for potential patrons, Allison Stevens of the Thirsty Pig told us about what people can expect to enjoy upon visiting: “The Thirsty Pig has become a top destination spot. I think it is because it is just a place that makes people feel relaxed. The employees are always interacting with the customer since it is all counter service. That makes it more personable and the customers always talk about the last time they came in. We make over 200 pounds of sausage a week. Our menu is simple and we do our thing right! House-made links [sausage] and the best Maine Beer around.”

The North Point

The North Point

The casual hangout spot known as The North Point on 35 Silver Street is truly one of Portland’s best-kept secrets, especially when it comes to those visiting from out of town. This warm and friendly drinking and dining experience exhibits zero pretension and as a result is an ideal spot to stop by for those in search of quality cuisine accompanied by first-rate cocktails and a superb wine list. The North Point spoke to us about just what it is that makes them such a special Portland location:

“For starters, it’s off the beaten path! Tourists (and locals) tend to visit the same old places, rarely venturing off to find that hidden gem. The North Point, located on quiet Silver Street, alongside the beautiful Regency Hotel in Portland’s Old Port neighbourhood, is just that sort of gem. Its warm and inviting storefront glows at night, welcoming guests into a friendly place where you feel like everyone knows you and you’ve been there a thousand times before, even on your very first visit. The walls are adorned with an eclectic mix of art and knickknacks - ask Dan about pretty much any piece and he’ll tell you a story! His staff is first rate too, they pay attention and the service is excellent, they make helpful suggestions and offer just the right amount of assistance whether you want lots or none.

The North Point

“Their cocktails are perhaps the best in town, there are ten taps featuring the best local breweries and a great selection of wines by the glass or bottle. The food is delicious - clearly, they’re paying attention to the small details and getting it all right! You need to check this place out, you’d swear you were in New York, or Paris, or Amsterdam! Have to mention: Happy Hour is Monday – Friday at 4-6pm and Sunday 6-10pm, and we’ve got specials most weekdays, like half price wine bottles on Mondays, $6 mojitos on Tuesdays, whiskey specials on Wednesdays, and discounted meat & cheese boards on Thursdays!”

Regarding the specifics of their excellent menu, The North Point told us: “The menu is small, with an eclectic mix like no other restaurant in Portland. There’s a whole page dedicated to cheeses and meats, you build your own cheese board and can expect a beautifully presented feast for the eyes. Not your typical kitchen, there are no steaks or half chickens on the menu. Instead, the ‘Lite Bites’ and ‘Bigger Bites’ comprise a range of smaller dishes, each both simple and delicious. And cocktails, don’t want to forget those! Giant, chilled 10oz martini glasses filled with deliciousness. No pretension here, the bartender doesn’t wave a branch over your drink before serving - just simple ingredients and top-shelf liquors shaken to perfection. You have to try the best-selling cucumber gin martini: the staff muddle cucumbers and fresh basil, then add freshly squeezed lemon juice and lots of Bulldog Gin and serve up a slice of heaven!”

MJ’s Wine Bar

MJ’s Wine Bar

Known as Maine’s premier wine bar, delighting guests with a sumptuous range of delicious wine and beer, as well as delightful cheese and snacks, MJ’s Wine Bar is a Portland establishment that can’t be missed when you’re in town. Located in the centre of the city’s financial district, MJ’s Wine Bar welcomes with open arms guests from all walks of life, from families to young professionals, students and more. With a truly impressive wine menu and some exciting tasting events on offer, wine enthusiasts have a lot to be excited by. Telling us a little more about this great Portland spot, MJ’s Wine Bar’s Mark Ohlson told us:

“We are very interested in telling the story of wine and listening to the stories of people. We are a bar designed to promote human connection and educate people about the intricacies of wine if they are interested but mostly we wanted to use wine to bring people together instead of allowing its mystique and complications to be used to put distance between people. We have been in the dead centre of downtown Portland, Maine for five years now and we are honoured to be on Portland, Maine’s best wine list five years in a row.”

Rí Rá Irish Pub & Restaurant

Rí Rá Irish Pub & Restaurant

Irish pubs are known as being some of the best in the world and if you want to enjoy one of the true delights of the Portland bar scene make sure to stop by Rí Rá Irish Pub & Restaurant. This traditional pub is cosy in atmosphere, charming, and split into three distinct areas across two floors: the shop bar, upstairs bar, and the Victorian bar. For more about this delightful Irish favourite, we were delighted to hear from Rí Rá Irish Pub & Restaurant:

“Situated in the historic Old Port area, Rí Rá is a beautiful pub & restaurant in a magical setting. Our venue overlooks Portland Harbor with floor to ceiling glass windows offering a 360-degree view of the numerous quaint, inhabited islands that are dotted across the bay.

“Ri Rá Irish Pub and Restaurant is a meticulously restored authentic Irish Pub made from materials imported from Ireland. From the wood and nails to the furniture and even the people who built it, we are authentic through and through. We also love local and are proud to serve many local favourites from our craft beer selections that showcase just the right mix of imported Irish beers and regional favourites. Our food menu is comprised of elevated pub grub with a local twist. Come in anytime for a pint, some food and some Irish hospitality. You are always welcome!”

Vena’s Fizz House

Vena’s Fizz House

Image credit: Vena’s Fizz House

The fruit of Johanna & Steve Corman’s labour, Vena’s Fizz House opened its doors to the public in 2013 and has quickly secured itself as an essential stop on any Portland bar tour. Situated in downtown Portland, the bar exudes turn-of-the-century charm, nostalgia for the past, and serves up a variety of memorable beverages that both drinkers and non-drinkers can enjoy. Vena’s Fizz House was on hand to tell us more about their unique menu:

“We are no ordinary bar. We offer as many non-alcoholic drinks as we do alcoholic drinks. Our collection of 200 plus liquid mixers from around the world melds bitters, tonics, shrubs, spirits, and more to create crafted-libations that taste like liquid gold. We pour only the finest ingredients, freshest botanicals, and small-batch bitters.

“We offer well-crafted beverages, with or without spirits by using old-fashioned, healthy, ingredients and tonics that make for refreshing, creative choices, where every element of a drink’s build is thoughtful with presentations that engage the senses, and beverages that are unique — all adding up to a memorable experience.”

The wonderful bars of Portland

There you have it, this was our glimpse into the wonderful world of Portland bars, letting you know about some of the fantastic establishments available and hopefully giving you a few ideas for where to enjoy a drink or two during your time in the city. A cruise and holiday to Portland is a tremendous idea and if you want to explore some of the deals available to take you to this part of the world, head on over to our New England and Canada cruise page.