November 15, 2012

Bar Guide: Bonobo pours unusual drafts buts its pizza reigns

The wood-fired pizza joint is a hip little place tucked between apartments and homes in Portland's West End.


Pizza and beer. It's a cliched food-and-drink combo.

click image to enlarge

Reegan Brown pours a draft at Bonobo in Portland’s West End.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer


WHERE: 46 Pine St., Portland; 347-8267,

HOURS: Dinner served 4 to 10 p.m. seven days a week (until 11 p.m. Friday). Winter hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday. Open for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday to Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday

PARKING: On street and a parking lot

SCENE: A cozy wood-fired pizza joint with ambient lighting. Great for gathering around a pizza pie and catching up with friends.

But at Bonobo, it's far from your run-of-the-mill pairing.

The wood-fired pizza joint is a hip little place tucked between apartments and homes in Portland's West End. When I walked in on a recent Saturday night, I found a small bar with eight stools, which all were available. Most of the tables in the seating area were either taken or reserved for parties still to come.

Little white Christmas lights strung back and forth across a tin ceiling combine with paper lanterns to create soft ambient lighting for a calm, relaxed atmosphere.

As I pulled up to a stool at the bar, my first realization was that Bonobo doesn't have a full bar. It's just beer and wine for your drinking pleasure. The menu featured six draft beers, which were all atypical. No Bud or Miller Light here. You could get a pint of Bull Jager for $6, which was described as a "fantastic Oktoberfest beer," or a pint of Brooklyn Lager for $4.50.

The wine list for the evening was quite short. You had a choice of red -- Sangiovese for $6.75 a glass; or white -- chardonnay for $7.75 a glass. Both also could be purchased by the bottle for $21 and $22, respectively.

As I flipped through the rest of the menu, I decided the drink options must have been kept to a minimum because deciding what you'd like for pizza would take most of your energy.

The pizza is the real star of this bar, with a thin crust and creative toppings to satisfy adventurous taste buds. The pies measure about 13 inches and come with a promise that no nitrates, hormones or antibiotics were used in the meats.

I like a good cheese pizza just as much as the next person, but sometimes I enjoy a creative take with interesting toppings. I ordered the Gruyere pizza for $15.50. It featured slices of potatoes, bits of prosciutto ham, spinach, leeks and gruyere and Parmesan cheeses with a roast garlic butter base. Super yum.

It's one of 15 pizzas on the menu, and if you don't see something you like, you can create your own combination.

Since one brick fireplace handles all the pizza baking, be prepared to relax and enjoy the company of friends. It took about 30 minutes for my pizza to be served. You could call and order ahead, however.

As for the funky name of this funky little pizza place, the website explains it simply: Bonobos are humankind's closest relatives, along with chimpanzees.

Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.


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