Portland, Maine has an exciting night-life scene boasting many bars, late-night restaurants, and a few dance clubs. With so many options, it can be overwhelming to decide where to spend a Friday or Saturday night out. Thankfully, there’s a spot for every kind of atmosphere, drink, or food you’re craving. Here are the best bars in Portland, Maine, by category!
P.S. There are no breweries on this list. But, if that’s more your style, check out my other article The Best Breweries in Portland!
Best Bars for Specific Drinks in Portland, Maine
Margarita: Taco Escobarr
Address: 548 Congress Street
If you’re looking for a quality and flavorful margarita, look no further. Taco Escobarr makes their own house-made liquor infusions with flavors like Orange Mango and Strawberry Habanero. They have similar flavored margaritas that will keep your taste buds happy and wanting more. While the drinks are certainly worth the money, beware that the food is good, but a little pricey for the portions.
Whiskey: Independent Ice Co.
Address: 52 Wharf Street
This upscale whiskey bar has an entire library of whiskeys for you to sip on and admire behind the bar. You can find really expensive specialty bottles, as well as your run-of-the-mill regular rye, bourbon, and scotch. Independent Ice Co. has some excellent crafted cocktails available if you’re more into mixers, as well as some delicious bourbon sangria (YUM). Non-whiskey drinkers are welcome to indulge in beer, wine, coffee, and tea, as well as some light snacks and desserts.
Wine: MJ’s Wine Bar
Address: 1 City Center
The name says it all with this one. MJ’s Wine Bar serves expertly curated quality wines from around the world. Sit outside on their nice patio near downtown when the weather is nice, or cozy up inside in the winter at the beautiful, classy bartop. They host informative classes, wine tastings, live music, and serve brunch every Sunday morning.
Beer (not a brewery): Novare Res Bier Cafe
Address: 4 Canal Plaza, Suite 1
This hidden beer cafe has 33 taps and over 400 bottled varieties of beer, along with wine and other spirits. Novare Res is in a renovated historic brick basement with several rooms and a huge outdoor deck. There’s something for everyone on the drink menu, and you’re sure to find a new brew to try and love.
Best Cocktails: East Ender
Address: 47 Middle Street
This category is by no means definitive – I’m sure there are many other bars I haven’t been to that have delicious cocktails. However, the East Ender certainly knows what they’re doing with they’re specialty crafted libations. My boyfriend and I had a delicious honey and gin drink (I can’t remember the name of it!), and they had a long list of other yummy sounding concoctions. On top of it, they have happy hour every Monday – Saturday from 3:30 – 5:30 (that’s right, Saturday)!
Dessert Drinks: The Bar of Chocolate
Address: 38 Wharf Street
Chocolate-lovers take note – this place is heaven. Bring your sweet tooth to The Bar of Chocolate and you will not be disappointed. This is the spot for flavored martinis – peanut butter, pomegranate, espresso, key lime pie, german chocolate, the list goes on. Of course they have real dessert too! Don’t miss out on their delicious cakes, creme brulee, pie, cheesecakes, mousse, and tarts. And… it gets better with happy hour every Monday – Friday from 4-6pm.
If you’re interested in dinner before dessert (or heck, even if you do it backwards), check here for my restaurant recommendations in Portland.
Best Bars for a Specific Atmosphere in Portland, Maine
Address: Treasure hunt!
You’ll have a great time at this classic speakeasy… if you can find the entrance. Figuring out how to get in is half the fun, the fact that all of the drinks are only $5 is the other half. The low-lit atmosphere with couches and chairs will make you feel like you’re really back in the prohibition era. Don’t forget to bring some dough though, as the bar is cash-only. There is an ATM nearby, but I suggest avoiding the fee and crowd by stopping at the bank ahead of time.
Best Live Music: Blue
Address: 650A Congress Street
Blue hosts live music every day (except Monday, they’re closed). There is no cover charge, however there is a minimum purchase of at least one item per person. They also pass around a donation basket in which all proceeds go to the musicians. This is less of a bar with music, and more of a music venue with a bar – it feels like a concert. Catch everything from jazz to bluegrass to electro-funk and Irish music. They keep an updated calendar of musicians on their website.
Theme Bar: Maps
Address: 64 Market Street
To the untrained eye, this establishment doesn’t look like much – a hole in the wall bar in an old brick basement. But to those who know Maps, it’s so much more. The walls and ceilings are covered in vintage maps, they play rockin’ music on their record player, and they have grilled cheese – could it get any better? They do not serve liquor, but have a good selection of wine and beer, along with some refined coffee drinks. Maps is definitely my favorite bar in Portland.
Best Outdoor Bar: Regency Hotel Garden Cafe
Address: 20 Milk Street
During the summer, this is the cutest outdoor area to grab a drink. Stop here to catch up with the girls over cocktails or enjoy a romantic drink with your significant other after dinner downtown. The Garden Cafe is an outdoor escape from the city while right in the middle of it.
Best Irish Pub: Ri Ra
Address: 72 Commercial Street
Ri Ra is a classic Irish pub located right in the heart of Commercial Street in Portland. Catch football (soccer) and rugby games whenever they’re on in the side bar room – they frequently have watch parties. They host live music on the second floor every weekend, and serve classic Irish dishes. Grab a Guinness and get a little rowdy this weekend at Ri Ra.
Best Local Bar: Dock Fore
Address: 336 Fore Street
There are several local dive bars scattered throughout the popular and hipster downtown. Dock Fore hides under an unassuming canopy that attracts locals after a long day of work. They have happy hour specials Monday – Friday that feature a different beer every day, along with awesome weekend specials as well. This is a great place to escape the tourists and get cheap beer and drinks.
Dive Bar: DTL
Address: 606 Congress Street
DTL is your haven away from people (namely, tourists). Be there from 5-7 for the best happy hour in town, and prepare to have your low expectations exceeded – by far. This is a great spot to pregame for nearby concerts, or to grab a couple drinks before your dinner reservation. It’s not air conditioned, but the drinks are cold, and that’s all that matters.