Before The North Point moved to town, Silver Street was a lesser-known thoroughfare between Fore and Middle Streets in Portland’s Old Port. While the Regency Hotel crops up on the left as you walk from the water and the Crooked Mile, a popular breakfast and lunch cafe, stands at one corner, The North Point seems to have attracted new life to this otherwise deserted road by implementing a few tricks of the trade.
The first of these devices is the music that plays from outdoor speakers nearly all day long. It’s not the annoying kind of music neighbors would complain about (we don’t think), but rather the variety of tunes that might have you wondering, “Where’s that music coming from? Let’s go check it out.”
The subliminal messaging continues as you proceed closer. For example, a kitschy umbrella table with four orange chairs signals to passers-by: We’re open! Seats are available. And just when you think you’ve been convinced, a scrappy chalkboard sets the final tone with a daily quip. Most recently, charming sayings by Dr. Seuss have been spotted, and even North Point originals, such as, “We are seriously considering changing our name to ‘The Gym’ so that our customers can say they are going to the gym after work.”
Owners and brothers, Dan and Noah Talmatch aren’t new to the restaurant game. Born and raised in New York City and with over 30 years of industry experience, it’s safe to say these ideas for attracting people to their bar on a relatively quiet side street came from a deep understanding of bar-going clientele.
They knew it would take more than just a sandwich board or Facebook posts (although North Point’s Facebook page has an impressive following and daily updates) to draw attention.
And their smart tactics don’t stop at the door. Dan and Noah have created a cavernous, yet cozy atmosphere that’s open for business seven days a week by 11 a.m. or noon and stays open until 1 a.m., except for Sunday when they close at 11 p.m. Another perk is that the kitchen stays open late – 12 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 10 p.m. the rest of the week – and the food is quite good.
They’ve become known for their signature “stuffed flatbreads” (paninis), but also offer an array of cheeses and meats, soups, salads and other light fare.
Happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday offers $4 glasses of wine and $3 draft beers (10 available). Monday night at North Point might also be one of the best deals in town: all bottles of wine (a list of 23) are half off from 6 p.m. until midnight. And Tuesday is $5 mojito night.
Last year, just a few months after the bar opened, Down East Magazine selected North Point as the Editors’ Pick for best cocktail bar. The cocktail list is classic, while robust, and there are a number of signatures thrown in. If what you want isn’t on the list, they’ll make it for you.
Weekends are busy at North Point and given the nightly drink specials, weeknights can also be quite full. They don’t take reservations, but Dan, who often plays the role of gracious host and manager, always seems to find a way to fit you in.
The two brothers aren’t even close to quitting, either. They’re in the process of renovating the space next to the Corner Room on Exchange Street and plan to open a steakhouse called Timber within the next month or two. Unlike the North Point, whose capacity is just under 50 people, Timber will seat closer to 70 and will play up the brothers’ knack for quality food.
Before Timber opens, head to North Point to get a taste for what these brothers have created.
Claire Jeffers is a Portland freelance writer.