December 12, 2013

Bar Guide: B.good has the makings for a tasty Old Port happy hour

Portland’s is the only one in the burger and fries chain to serve beer and wine.

By Claire Jeffers

Massachusetts and Connecticut will be jealous to hear that Maine’s first b.good location has a happy hour. That’s because the 12 other b.good spots in New England do not serve alcohol, which seems like a shame – a cold beer pairs so well with a locally sourced burger and fries, don’t you think?

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B.good on Exchange Street in Portland has six taps with local beer and plenty of seating in the upstairs bar.

Claire Jeffers photos

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Baxter Brewing is one of the local brews offered on draft for $5.50.

B.GOOD

WHERE: 15 Exchange St., Portland

PHONE: 747-5355

WEBSITE: bgood.com

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

SPECIALS: $1.50 PBRs, $1 off local draft beers, 4 to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday

AMENITIES: Comfortable lounge swivel chairs upstairs, plenty of condiments.

PARKING: Street parking

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: First floor, yes; second floor, no.

BOTTOM LINE: A quick, no-fuss and affordable option for a beer or glass of wine, the nascent b.good location in Portland is focusing first on what it does best: burgers, fries and milkshakes. But they’re all set up for a happy hour scene with a barroom upstairs equipped with two flat-screen TVs, lounge chairs, six taps and views of a bustling Exchange Street.

In 2004, best friends Anthony Ackil and Jon Olinto started the Boston-based chain with the motto “food made by people, not factories” and now have corporate and franchised locations all over Massachusetts, Connecticut and, as of last summer, Portland. There’s talk of Portland franchise owners Dr. Ben Zolpher and his son Bill opening a second location in Maine – let’s hope with a happy hour to boot.

From 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, b.good on Exchange Street serves up $1.50 PBRs and $1 off local draft beers (Allagash, Rising Tide, Shipyard, Baxter and Sebago). There’s also a decent selection of red and white wines by the glass or by the bottle ($6.75-$7.50 by the glass; $25-$27 by the bottle).

Unfortunately, the happy hour scene hasn’t caught on yet at this burger and fry joint. Their most popular time of day is unquestionably lunchtime. Given b.good’s location in the Old Port, it’s the perfect place for office folk to stop in for a quick – but healthier – burger. The West Side burger packs avocado, cilantro, fresh salsa and chipotle puree. Any of the sandwiches (turkey burger, veggie burger, chicken sandwich) are offered with a gluten-free bun at an additional charge or veggies in place of bread.

While there are six taps behind the register on the first floor, the bar itself is on the second floor. Despite the shiny taps and neatly placed wine bottles, there won’t be a bartender staffed upstairs except during higher-traffic evenings, which for now means just Fridays and Saturdays.

But the upstairs is primed for what could be a great place to meet a friend, watch a game (there are two flat-screen TVs upstairs) or swivel around in one of the five black leather lounge chairs in the room adjacent to the bar.

Almost every inch of wall space at b.good is adorned with giant professional photographs of local farmers and brewers. Downstairs, the photos are somewhat overwhelming and, not surprisingly, corporate (this is a chain, after all). The restaurant’s overarching theme – eat real food fast – seems to be shouting from every corner, lest a hungry customer forget. But the photos on the second floor, while still enormous, are more refined and add nicely to the overall ambience.

Simply put, there’s definitely a market for a bigger happy hour crowd at b.good – any night of the week. Directing diners to check out the upstairs, advertising with something as easy as a sandwich board, or a larger local Facebook presence, could help to bring b.good’s happy hour up to speed.

Claire Jeffers is a Portland freelance writer.

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