Monday, March 10, 2014
Dan and Noah Talmatch had plenty of reasons for creating The North Point, the wine bar which opened at 35 Silver St. in Portland last week.
They felt there was a need for a space where conversation trumped whatever was playing on a TV screen. The New York natives also wanted to collaborate on a brotherly project together after the death of their younger sibling Ezra last year. After 20 years of living in Norway, Dan wanted to get back to the States, where Noah was happy to trade the hustle of New York City for a cozy, friendly place in Portland.
Whatever the reason, just a few days into their careers as Portland bar owners, the collaboration looks to be a good one. The space is dim but inviting with cushioned bench seating around the perimeter and a "Welcome friends" sign at the door. The wall decor is highlighted by artwork created by Ezra. The tables and stools are uniquely hand-crafted and a curious look around the place reveals angels, roosters and other interesting conversation pieces.
"It fills a niche we didn't think was being fully filled," Dan said during happy hour on Friday as customers began steadily streaming in. The brothers see it as an "adult" lounge without a single TV, where there's music and conversation in a warm, cozy, homey space.
According to Noah, one customer described The North Point this way: "It's like getting into a really nice glass of scotch - it's envelopes you, it gives you a hug and it makes you feel warm."
The brothers do a pretty good job of that as well, greeting almost every customer that enters and saying good night to as many as they can before they make it to the door.
"Customers feel they're being very well taken care if," Dan said.
On Friday, the space was filled by 6:30 p.m. with customers enjoying wines, draft beers (including several locals) and The North Point's hand-made cocktails. Only top-shelf spirits are used along with fresh-squeezed fruit juices and house-made sour mix. The cocktail menu includes a Classic Old Fashioned ($9), a Perfect Rob Roy ($10) and The Absolute Best Bloody Mary in the Whole Wide World ($9.25). The wine list is cleverly printed on wine bottles that sit atop the tables and bar.
Dan and Noah built most everything inside the space that formerly housed Options Hair Salon and they insist you'll be hard pressed to find any right angles in the place. Noah had been part of several bars in New York and says this is his sixth and last. People in Portland, he said, like to stop and chat for a while. "It's helped me regain my passion for this business," he said.
Noah describes the menu as comfort food with French influences. Chef Joel McGarvey offers a menu of small plates like bruschetta, pates, a hot sausage tasting ($13.50) and mini meatloaf cupcakes ($12) made from pork, beef and veal and topped with whipped potatoes and gravy. There is also a menu of hot-pressed breads featuring naan and pitas.
"You don't have to commit to a full meal," Noah said. "With small plates you can walk out of here for $20."
And when you do walk out of The North Point you'll likely be sent off with thanks and well wishes from one of the owners.
Karen Beaudoin is an online editor for Maine Today Media and contributes two blogs to the company's websites.
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