Portland Hubs in the Winter Months | Blogs
Monetarily speaking, things have been a bit tight this winter. I know I share this in common with many other Portlanders, and for that matter the rest of the country, and, the world. I have to admit, there has not been a lot of room for “extras”. I am specifically speaking of luxurious items, and although I do consider myself carefree and in no need of excessive things, from time to time it lightens the load. For me, extravagant these days consists of a happy hour, a haircut, or a new pair of leg warmers to wear out on a Friday night. Those unnecessary articles are sometimes what I base my happiness on when I am unhappy, although they have no power to define me. They serve the purpose of a Band Aid. I’d be just as pleased to invest in a new jar of Cornichons (French pickles in vinegar that cost nearly an arm and a leg) and eat them while writing about how much I do not need extras in my life. Ah, the irony, if I had a jar now, I’d make it last for weeks.
Walking the narrow gauge of no-room-for-extras, I am a 26-year-old part-time student, lifetime learner, full-time worker, and a hopeless romantic who is single. I do not have time nor money to go out and perch myself at a bar to await my prince charming to rescue me from the bowels of this Maine winter. So instead, I save myself. I go where I know, regardless of how much money I have, and whether or not I bought my new leg warmers, I will have a good time. Let’s face it, if I did bunk out at the bar in my Sunday best awaiting a man in this state of winter, in this state we love so much called Maine, I’d be buried in that dress. Known as the girl who never left that bar and died at that bar, that winter of 2012.
Realistically right now, how much room do we have for the addendums? If not very much, then you may appreciate a few of my favorite little “extras”. These are places in Portland I visit that do not throw me over the financial suicide cliff, and always guarantee a good time. Do not be deceived! These are only a few.
When I picture myself with wet feet in the middle of winter after coming inside from a raging blizzard, but I am warm, tired, and happy, I’m sitting at the horseshoe-shaped bar at J’s Oyster. I am sharing a small conversation with a weathered fisherman sitting on my left who I have had many conversations with in the past, although we meet for the first time, every time. He tells me some of the same jokes and throws a few new ones into the mix, and although I can never remember them when I leave J’s, I laugh every time. The drinks are poured tall and the Shipyard flows. If you have ten extra dollars in your pocket and feel like splurging financially and calorically, you must try the lobster stew. Be sure to ask for it extra hot.
I think of the dark den of Ruski’s on Danforth Street where time is infinite. It is another place to get cozy on a cold winter night, or to seek recovery on a wintry morning. The sweet ladies who work behind the bar wear high-waisted jeans and striped turtlenecks, and they make fabulous Bloody Mary’s. On a Sunday night you’ve the benefit to listen to a string quartet or something more of a blue grass feel (for free!), and the genre usually differs. I find the Jukebox and Dartboard to be fun when I meet friends for drinks and there is no band. Ruski’s is a staple if you have stayed out late for drinks on a Friday or Saturday night. Saturday morning you find yourself waking up on a friends couch, starving, and wearing the same little black dress you told yourself you would not wear in this weather unless you had the appropriate undergarments (Long Johns, hello!). At this point in the morning there is no good in milling over what your actions were the night before, so you hop in the car with your friends and head to Ruski’s for some repentance found in a Bloody Mary and a “Hangover Special” for $6.95.
Dock Fore on Fore Street is a key constituent because they have many deals on a daily basis for the broken wallet, and even an occasional, affordable, yet traditional shot of the Doctor (aka Dr. McGuillicuddy’s). It is a great place to congregate with friends, listen to music and watch sports. They take many forms of payment such as credit cards ($10 minimum!), cash, and even coins. A few weeks ago I took a bag of coins I earned waiting tables and brought them to Dock Fore to watch a football game. I politely asked the Bartendress if she didn’t mind my quarters. She had no qualms with the notion, and all of the sudden I realized I could pump quarters like steroids into the Jukebox as well. After spending a lengthy, indecisive time searching for songs, I returned to the bar to have noticed my little black bag of coins was missing. A friend of a friend had taken my coins, to later tell me, “act normal in public” and hid them in the men’s bathroom on top of the radiator to “teach me a lesson” about “appropriate” forms of payment. Being financially burdened I did not care, and having no immediate way out of the circumstance I was determined to get those coins back. I called Dock Fore the next day, and asked them if they would not mind checking where the friend of a friend supposed he had left them. A gentle man promptly called me back to let me know they’d found my little sack of coins, and would keep them for me until I picked them up. When I went in at 3 p.m. yesterday, a kind soul setting up the bar searched through a dingy cardboard box of missing belongings and retrieved my little black sack. (If you have ever had anything go missing there, I am sure it survives in this box.) His face scrunched and he looked at me and asked, “What kind of a friend would hide this on you?” Very interesting question, I thought. I smiled and thanked him for keeping what most likely cumulated to thirty-dollars.
J’s Oyster Bar, Ruski’s, and Dock Fore are just a few select places I like to frequent in these winter months. They are full of good people, staff and otherwise. If you do not come to Portland very often and do not have tons of friends living in the area, these places are highly welcoming and perfect for you. No need for a ton of money to buy sophisticated drinks or look super sassy. Come as you are! If you appreciate a good band, a Jukebox, or a deal on a drink then it’s a steal every time. You may not meet your prince charming, although I can guarantee you will enjoy yourself and you will meet some very kind fellow Mainers. See you there.