The smile sets in the moment I step in.

The first signs of a well-designed new operation on Congress Street are the massive windows that form the wall on the left. There’s a patio for outdoor seating, but there are also open windows and doors, creating a hopping scene that’s maybe more San Diego than Portland.

Bartender and co-owner Matt Moran extends a hearty handshake and a warm smile. It’s a long space — three pretty-penny flatscreens hang from beautiful, old New England brick, and the seating ends abruptly at the deli sandwich board.

Not only are there abundant options, there are strange twists and turns and new takes in almost every ingredient list. Take the Pig Belly Reuben (roast pork belly, cheddar, caramelized onions and Russian dressing on grilled rye, $10.50) or the Local One (grilled, marinated and pickled vegetables, goat cheese, tomato, greens and romesca sauce on white, $9).

Moran’s busy behind the bar, however, and so is Nosh. Moran directs me to chef and co-owner Jason Loring, who, like so many successful restaurateurs, has simple intentions for his new baby: “We just always wanted a laid-back bar with great beers, reliable food and a place to check the scores.”

Distilled to that, Nosh is thriving, and has been making believers out of old White Heart faithful since January.

The beers are especially alluring. When I ask about the tap list, worthy of a brew curator, Loring admits to a rich craft beer pedigree. For some time, he worked hand-in-hand with Eric Michaud, getting Novare Res to the beer temple of Portland status it holds today. Loring is proud of his Novare Res experience, and why shouldn’t he be? Nosh is like Novare Res’ burger-and-fries arm, catering to those who like to mix hearty, well-prepared foods with their strong ales.

One ear-catching carryover is great music. Nosh is serving up live, anthemic Bob Marley, causing me to liven myself up. On a night when the great Talib Kweli is passing through our little Port-town, Loring mentions there might be some indie hip-hop coming through the speakers on the late night.

Nosh has benefited from Port City Music Hall and other local venues emptying their hungry and thirsty guests out onto Congress Street. That’s when it’s time for the new king of the hill for beer, burgers and fries to exhort Portlanders to come in and taste what all the fuss is about.

 

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.