Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By ELISA DOUCETTE
When you first walk into Azure Cafe, it seems like any other cafe in Greater Portland: open space, brightly lit with large picture windows and small tables. But you will be pleasantly surprised to find that this place has more than meets the eye.
Zeus-Hannah Suzette pours a glass of red wine as Bianca Gonzalez watches at Azure Cafe on Main Street in Freeport. The cafe is well known for its wine selection, but also offers locally brewed beers and creative cocktails.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
WHERE: 123 Main St., Freeport. 865-1237; azurecafe.com
HOURS: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, light fare 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
PARKING: A few parallel spots on the street, and lots to the side and behind the building.
SPECIALS: Weekly features of red and white wine usually only available by the bottle (price varies).
BARSTOOL COMFORT: Tall padded chairs with backs. I could sit in one for hours.
GUILTY PLEASURE: Azuretini ($11) is Hendrick's Gin with St. Germaine Elderflower and a splash of Prosecco.
If you are looking to sit down for dinner with a nice glass of wine, you will definitely want to call in advance for a reservation. Rest assured, though, that if you don't call you will be seated in the lounge area.
At the end of the lounge is the bar itself, an intimate five-stool setting with a colorful mosaic top and spotlights hanging from the ceiling with frosted azure-blue covers.
In nice weather, the patio and deck out front are where it's at. With a multi-level layout, the cast-iron patio furniture looking out onto Freeport's Main Street provides an escape on a lazy sunny day. Frequently featuring live local jazz music, this is one of the only patios I know in the area that will accept reservations for outdoor seating.
With award-winning wine selections and wildly popular wine dinners, Azure Cafe has been featured by many wine publications and websites. Azure offers a variety that includes sparkling, white, blush, red, port and vin santo wines, and anyone who loves wine will easily find something to tempt the palate.
There are close to 100 wines by the bottle ($22 to $260). Pay special attention to the notations on the wine menu, as they will help you find some of the best vintages available. Of special note are the T100 (Wine Spectator magazine's Top 100) selections, including a dark spicy D'Arenberg "Stump Jump" Shiraz ($7.50 per glass; $24 per bottle). "We like to offer great wine that is also affordable," explained manager Zeus-Hannah Suzette.
For those not interested in a glass of wine, Azure Cafe has a full bar and beer on draft or by the bottle. Gritty McDuff's is always on tap. The other three draft beers change regularly, but include microbrews from other local breweries ($4). Beers available by the bottle range from Budweiser and Michelob Light to Heineken, Stella Artois and Corona ($3.25 to $4), so there is something for everyone.
After smelling all the delicious food being prepared just beyond the bar area, you will certainly want to order something to eat with your drinks. Bartender Bacall Berry recommended the most popular appetizer, the Calamari Azzimata ($9.95). With a parmesan cheese garnish and Maine sea salt vinaigrette dressing, it is not your average fried seafood meal. Bring a friend; you will need at least two people to devour it.
If you are neither a beer nor wine drinker, you will enjoy the cocktails served at Azure Cafe. Most of the drinks are created by the staff, using only fresh juices and garnishes. Many of Azure's classics offer a special tourist twist, such as the Blueberry Margarita ($8.50), which has a splash of wild Maine blueberry juice and a sugared rim.
If you are seeking out your new summer drink, I was smitten by Zeus' Pomegranate Martini ($9). Perfected by Zeus herself, this cocktail mixes Pama liqueur with Absolut Ruby Red vodka and a splash of fresh lemon juice. Although fruity and light, it's not sweet and syrupy, and the lemon offers a delicious citrus tartness that will complement any afternoon on the patio.
If you're looking for a small but friendly and fun bar with an extensive and award-winning wine list or original cocktail drink, check out the Azure Cafe.
Elisa Doucette is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.