Organizing a pub crawl has become popular for birthday bashes. Recently, a large group of friends and I donned purple attire (to be easily identifiable, but there was a theme to it, too) and hit the Old Port for my friend Jeff’s 29th birthday.

But before getting into the heart of the Old Port, I suggested a bar few had heard of and one slightly off the beaten path.

Tucked away on Hampshire Street is the small bar known as Sangillo’s Tavern. Had I realized how small it was, I probably wouldn’t have corralled more than 20 people there. The bar, which had quite a few people already sipping off Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, became packed when our crew entered.

The single bartender on duty systematically checked identification of everyone who bellied up to the bar, and doled out drinks as they were ordered. With only canned and bottled beers available, some took a tip from the people already there and grabbed a can of PBR. Some opted for mixed drinks.

Those sipping cocktails all agreed they were poured with a generous hand. And we also agreed, you can’t beat the price at Sangillo’s — you can get a can of PBR and a Cape Cod cocktail for $6.

Like I mentioned, the bar itself is pretty small. From the front door to the back of the bar is a narrow aisle. On the right as you walk in is the bar itself, low and lined with stools.

Hanging above the bar, stained glass Schlitz lamps make up some of the bar’s lighting. On the left are pub tables and stools. Each pub table had a plastic Halloween pumpkin with a few pieces of candy left to enjoy.

Regular customers may have been annoyed by the sudden invasion of their bar, but they didn’t make it obvious. Unlike some neighborhood bars that give you the once-over judgmental look as soon as you walk in, Sangillo’s folks seemed more curious about this giant group dressed in purple.

One group of locals called it their favorite bar in Portland. They appreciated the small space, the neighborhood feel and the no-nonsense attitude of the bartender. They confirmed the drink of choice at Sangillo’s is PBR, but the Sombrero special — Allen’s Coffee Brandy and milk — is also a popular pick.

As far as entertainment is concerned, Sangillo’s has a digital jukebox. Customers were putting in dollars and picking out some classic oldies from 40 to 50 years ago. An older couple danced to the music at the end of the bar, taking up a small square of available space.

Amid all the mix, my friend Teila made a pick — Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Just as her song came on, we decided it was time for our next destination. Stay tuned for part two of this pub crawl in next week’s Bar Guide. 

Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.