August 1, 2013

Bar Guide: Digs, dishes and drinks all divine at East Ender

The neighborhood restaurant and bar meets its goal of representing Maine's food culture.


Nestled in the far eastern block of Middle Street in Portland's East End neighborhood is the aptly named East Ender restaurant and bar.

click image to enlarge

Boasting a bar on every floor, East Ender offers loads of food and drink specials.

Claire Jeffers photo


WHERE: 47 Middle St., Portland

PHONE: 879-7669


HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

SPECIALS: Happy hour, 4 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday; ask bartender about other daily specials

SCENE: Unpretentious and inviting


AMENITIES: Fireplace, two couches, two floors, outside seating

BOTTOM LINE: Good for a quick beer and a bite downstairs or a quiet, laid-back dinner upstairs.

Co-owners Meg Schroeter and Mitch Gerow opened the East Ender in winter 2011 with a keen vision to represent Maine's food culture -- and that they have.

The bar menu is straightforward but intriguing. Lobster poutine and beer-battered fish 'n chips (both $16) are available daily.

On the cheaper side, there are snacks such as deviled eggs ($4), salt and vinegar fries ($5), and pulled pork sliders with cheddar and slaw ($10).

East Ender's first floor is bright, with splashes of yellow, peach and blue throughout and big glass windows that invite the sun reflecting off Casco Bay from just a couple blocks down. (In the winter months, the East Ender's first floor is known for its freestanding fireplace and pink couch. Pair that with a Bailey's Irish Cream during the next Nor'easter.)

The first-floor bar is stocked -- well. It might even be unnecessarily overcrowded, but better that than run dry.

With nine beers on draft and more than 25 by the bottle (anything from Stone Arrogant Bastard, $10; to Leffe Blonde Ale, $5; or Woodchuck Dark and Dry, $4; to Christian Drouin pear cider, $12), everyone can find at least one beer to knock back.

All cocktails are $9 and seem inventive enough, but the raspberry- and cucumber-infused vodka jugs above the bar look tired and under-used.

The sangria ($8) is made regularly in-house and comes highly recommended.

But for a good drink deal, the East Ender offers $2.75 happy hour draft beer (Smuttynose IPA was the happy hour beer recently), $3.50 house margaritas and $3 house wine from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. Don't dally -- they're strict about the 6 o'clock end time.

And then there's a second floor (and, yes, a second bar). The upstairs dining room and bar are open from 5 p.m. during the week, and all day for brunch on Saturday and Sunday.

It's a completely different scene upstairs (exposed brick and darker, more subdued lighting), and the food and drink deals are different.

For instance, "wine down Wednesdays" offer half off any wine sold by the bottle (there are more than 50 to choose from), and on Monday nights from 5 to 8 p.m., you can buy one of five bar snacks and get another one for free (broccoli fritters, wings, mussels, nachos and calamari).

The East Ender's location is fortunate and maybe not so fortunate, especially for a menu that boasts locally sourced American fare.

After all, it's bookended by Portland's legendary Duckfat restaurant, the newly renovated Hugo's and the ever-buzzing Eventide Oyster Company.

But it's all too easy to assume that this feast-happy block of Middle Street sweeps the East Ender under the rug.

With a well-stocked bar on each floor, daily drink and food deals, this establishment has expertly found a way to keep up with the competition.

Claire Jeffers is a freelance writer.


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