The only empty seat at the Downtown Lounge in Portland on Monday night was at the end of the bar. It had my name on it.
No self-respecting middle-aged guy can take a seat at the bar without ordering a beer, so I called the waitress over and asked about beer options.
She handed over a menu, but before I had a chance to scan it, the dude next to me chimed in (without looking up from his burger), “Long Trail Double Bag. It’s 8 percent alcohol. It’s like drinking two beers in one.”
Actually, the Long Trail Double Bag has an alcohol content of 7.2 percent, but the guy’s larger point was valid: One or two will do ya.
He went on to tell me that every time he drinks a few of them, his girlfriend gets angry. “She hates that beer,” he said. Then, in the interest of accuracy, he added, “She doesn’t hate the beer. She hates me when I drink it.”
I am a big fan of Long Trail, and have been for a long time. He didn’t tell me anything about the beer I didn’t already know. But I appreciated the tip, and expressed my gratitude with a friendly toast when my Double Bag arrived.
And then I turned my attention to food. On this night, with the first frost warning of the year in the air, I desired comfort food, and I knew I had come to the right place. The sign out front is an open invitation for men of appetite to satisfy their gastronomical desires: Wings, Nachos, Burgers, Tacos, Hummus, Salads, Fish & Chips.
One of each, please, but hold the hummus.
Alas, I was not so gluttonous. I ordered a bowl of homemade chicken stew ($5.95) and a plate of spicy wings ($7.95). It was still a ton of food, but seemed reasonable when I placed the order. I felt hungry.
The stew satisfied me. It came with thick hunks of potatoes, celery and carrots, corn kernels and sliced onions, with a slide of garlic bread for dipping. The chicken chunks were massive. It was somewhat zesty, creamy, hot and wholesome, and was something I would strongly recommend and order again.
I liked the chicken wings too. I’m not a big fan of super-spicy wings, and these seemed about right to me. They were crispy and well cooked, and not particularly greasy.
I picked the bones dry and topped them off by downing all the carrots and celery. I had enough blue cheese dressing for all the wings and the veggies. The operative words here are “tangy” and “succulent.” Let’s just say I spent a lot of time licking my fingers.
Next time, I will try some red meat. The Philly cheese steak is one of the best sandwiches in Portland, IMHO, and the classic Reuben looks delicious. A friend always orders the fish and chips when we meet here.
The Downtown Lounge has a friendly, neighborhood feel. It’s long, dark, narrow and full of character. The walls are adorned with old baseball photos, which I appreciate. One wall is lined with booths; the other is fronted by the bar, with a narrow walkway in between.
It was packed early on a Monday evening, owing perhaps to a show at the State Theatre directly across the street that was an hour away. I assumed a lot of folks at the bar were there for a pre-show warm-up.
My new buddy paid his bill and scooted out before I could finish my dinner and beer. He might have been going to the show.
But I presumed he was on his way home to get chewed out by his girlfriend.
The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $10.