Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By EMMA BOUTHILLETTE
I’ve heard rave reviews about The Front Room perched atop Portland’s Munjoy Hill, but those reviews were centered on the bar and restaurant’s food menu. When I walked through the door on a recent Friday with Diane, I could easily see why.
Bartender Asher Boisvert pours a strawberry twist at The Front Room in Portland, where they like to take classic cocktails and spice them up, plus offer their own creative twists on drinks.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
The bar and restaurant was packed. It was standing room only if you wanted to be at the bar, and people were waiting by the hostess station for seats in the dining area. As Diane and I edged our way in, a server squeezed through the crowd to deliver one of the best-smelling plates of mussels I’ve ever experienced. Then we were hit with the wafting scents from the open kitchen as chefs worked quickly to prepare meals.
We were there on a completely different taste-satisfying mission, though, so my bar scene partner in crime and I found our way to one available seat at the bar. Diane grabbed it, and I stood closely behind her.
The bartender was moving quickly back and forth in the tiny bar space, mixing cocktails, pouring beers and serving wine. Behind him, passers-by peeked through the window to see if there was any space for them to join the fun. Most decided to keep walking and not wait it out.
I know people have raved about the food, but let me tell you, the cocktails at The Front Room are worth the wait too. When the server finally handed us drink menus, I was overwhelmed by the options. The Front Room takes classic cocktails and spices them up, plus the bar offers its own creative ideas – all between $9 and $12 apiece.
The drink that first caught my eye – Hell Hath No Fury – tempted me, but I’ve learned that even though I think I can handle spicy things, house-infused vodka is an entirely different beast. When it’s house-infused, I prefer fruity over peppery, but I’m sure The Front Room does a nice job on any infusion with Twenty 2 Vodka.
My eyes quickly went to the next drink up, The Hill, and I decided it was only appropriate to drink this cocktail while sitting in a bar “on the hill.” This drink includes rye whiskey, hard cider, blood orange puree and lime. If you’ve been following this column long enough, you know I’ve got a thing for cocktails with blood orange juice and blood orange puree. This cocktail was unlike any blood orange-touting drink I’ve had, however. I can’t even find the words to describe it. You just have to trust me or try it for yourself.
In the time it took me to decide what I was drinking, Diane had already ordered a glass of wine. The bar offers red, white or rose wines by the glass, carafe or bottle. Prices are reasonable, and the wine-by-glass serving is generous.
If you’re in a beer mood, no worries: The bar has six beers on tap, a healthy variety by the bottle and even a couple offerings in cans, all between $3 and $7.
I don’t know what other evenings at The Front Room look like, but even if you can only go on a busy Friday or weekend evening, be patient with the wait time. It’s worth it. I can say this firsthand in regard to the drinks, and reiterate what others have told me in regard to the food.
Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.