Going to Howie’s Pub on a recent Saturday night was a lesson in not judging a book by its cover.
Going to bars and writing about it is a very subjective process. Sometimes, I ask people beforehand if they’ve ever been to a certain place. Of the people I surveyed this time around, no one had heard of Howie’s in Portland.
Judging by its location, I can understand why.
I came off the Washington Avenue exit with my eyes peeled for the pub, which my handy GPS told me would be on the right. I completely missed it, only to discover on retracing my tracks why. Howie’s Pub is tucked pretty much alongside the off ramp for the Interstate 295 exit. Unless you’re stopped at the light glancing to your right, you’d likely miss it too.
Once my friend and I found on-street parking and walked up to the bar, we had really started to wonder what we’d find.
When I opened the door, there was a group of friends laughing and chatting while they took turns tossing darts at one of two dartboards mounted on the wall.
“I guess you’ve got to be careful coming through the door,” I said to one of them, since the line for throwing darts is pretty much right in front of the entrance.
The pub is well lit with a series of booths and tables to the right and the bar running nearly the length of the room to the left. It was pretty quiet for a Saturday night, but the bartender said Friday had been hopping.
Because it’s kind of tucked away on Washington Avenue, the pub attracts a lot of neighborhood residents and regulars, she said. Her friendly demeanor was welcoming, and she had a good rapport with the customers who bellied up to the bar while I was there.
Howie’s has six beers on tap, featuring one beer of the month for $3. It already had Gritty’s Christmas tapped for this month’s special. Pabst Blue Ribbon is always $2 if you’re looking for a real deal. It’s also a gluten- free-friendly bar with drinks such as Woodchuck Hard Cider for $3.25 and gluten-free pizza.
Drink specials rotate on a weekly basis. While I was there, the drink was Southern Comfort and orange juice. I’ve never heard of that combination before, and I’ll take their word that it’s tasty.
Be sure to bring cash money to the bar, though. That’s all they accept for payment. Conveniently, there’s an ATM located at the front of the pub in case you forget.
While I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I ventured outside the popular Old Port bar area of Portland, I’m glad I gave Howie’s a shot. It’s a fun little place if you’re looking to venture from the Old Port crowds.
Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.