April 25, 2013

Bar Guide: Focus is on atmosphere, drinks at North Point

Wine takes the stage quickly, but beer and cocktails play strong supporting roles.

By EMMA BOUTHILLETTE

I've wanted to check out The North Point since it opened earlier this year. Many people have been talking up "the new wine bar" in Portland, but now that I've been, I can go on record and say it's more than a wine bar.

click image to enlarge

Co-owner and bartender Noah Talmatch pours a cucumber gin martini at The North Point.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

THE NORTH POINT

WHERE: 35 Silver St., Portland

PHONE: 899-3778

WEBSITE: northpointportland.com

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday to Saturday; 3 p.m. to midnight Sunday

PARKING: On street

SPECIALS: Happy hour on weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. includes $4 glass of wine and $3 draft specials. Bottles of wine are half-price Sunday to Tuesday after 6 p.m.

SCENE: A cozy bar where friends, co-workers and families can have a drink, indulge in some small bites and just enjoy each other.

AMENITIES: None

WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: No

The North Point is still within the Old Port, but on a less-trodden street. An easel chalkboard stands in front of the door to advertise the menu and specials. With warm days finally here, the bar had its door propped open on a recent Wednesday night, when I met my friend Jeanee for a drink.

When we arrived about 6 p.m., there were a few tables free and only about five bar seats. We made our way to the back of the bar and grabbed one of those last few seats, where a bartender greeted us in an enthusiastic, friendly manner.

An empty wine bottle displays the wines available by glass and bottle, and the bar's wine stock is prominently featured on shelves behind the bar.

While wine takes the stage quickly, beer and cocktails play strong supporting roles in The North Point's offerings. Ten draft taps are flanked by bottles of liquor, which can be selected for your own cocktail preference or used in one of the signature cocktails ($9.25 to $11).

I had mentally prepared myself for a glass of wine, so I was a bit taken by the wide range of offerings. This made for a harder decision, but I'm OK with that. Jeanee opted for a dirty martini and I stumbled over the menu, finally deciding on an Allagash Black draft beer.

As we sipped our drinks, I enjoyed the Allagash Black while slightly regretting not trying the Cuban Mojito or Fresh Raspberry Mojito. The bartender made a few of those while we were there, and the fresh mint smelled delicious while the cocktails looked amazing.

The North Point is unlike any bar I've been to in the Greater Portland area. It reminds me of a bar I'd see in southern France or maybe in Quebec City, within the old portion of the city. Emphasis is placed on enjoying the experience and each other rather than amenities such as televisions, pool tables or dart boards.

Tables arranged to fit small and large groups have chairs, but also wall-length benches with cushions and comfy pillows. The bar is L-shaped with high stools, which I admit weren't that comfortable.

The decor features fun and antique-looking paintings and posters on the wall, plus various rooster and chicken sculptures above the bar and a cherub above the beer taps.

The North Point's focus is also on quality of what is served and patrons' experiences. The olives on Jeanee's dirty martini were some of the biggest I've ever seen.

Other customers along the bar were enjoying a small bowl of dried roasted edamame beans. Everyone seemed to be having an enjoyable time, chatting, laughing and drinking up after a long day at the office.

The menu is focused on small bites with high-end ingredients. We opted for two cheeses on a plate, that the server recommended, and they were truly delicious, with slices of crusty baguette, granny smith apples and grapes.

Just before we left, we were given complementary mini-chocolate chip cookies for the road. Next to a gift of beer, wine or liquor, a free cookie usually captures my heart.

Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.

 

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