September 20, 2012

Eat and Run: Downtown Lounge, Portland

In the mood for rib-stickin', finger-lickin' good food?

From staff reports

The only empty seat at the Downtown Lounge in Portland on Monday night was at the end of the bar. It had my name on it.

click image to enlarge

Tanner Gasco-Wiggin shows off a plate of wings at Downtown Lounge in Portland.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

DOWNTOWN LOUNGE

WHERE: 606 Congress St., Portland. 773-1363; downtownlounge portland.com

HOURS: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday to Sunday; dinner served until 11 p.m.

CHEAPEST GRUB: Garden salad, $3.95

WAIT: 10 minutes

PARKING: On street

HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes

RATING: ★★★★

Based on a five-star scale

No self-respecting middle-aged guy can take a seat at the bar without ordering a beer, so I called the waitress over and asked about beer options.

She handed over a menu, but before I had a chance to scan it, the dude next to me chimed in (without looking up from his burger), "Long Trail Double Bag. It's 8 percent alcohol. It's like drinking two beers in one."

Actually, the Long Trail Double Bag has an alcohol content of 7.2 percent, but the guy's larger point was valid: One or two will do ya.

He went on to tell me that every time he drinks a few of them, his girlfriend gets angry. "She hates that beer," he said. Then, in the interest of accuracy, he added, "She doesn't hate the beer. She hates me when I drink it."

I am a big fan of Long Trail, and have been for a long time. He didn't tell me anything about the beer I didn't already know. But I appreciated the tip, and expressed my gratitude with a friendly toast when my Double Bag arrived.

And then I turned my attention to food. On this night, with the first frost warning of the year in the air, I desired comfort food, and I knew I had come to the right place. The sign out front is an open invitation for men of appetite to satisfy their gastronomical desires: Wings, Nachos, Burgers, Tacos, Hummus, Salads, Fish & Chips.

One of each, please, but hold the hummus.

Alas, I was not so gluttonous. I ordered a bowl of homemade chicken stew ($5.95) and a plate of spicy wings ($7.95). It was still a ton of food, but seemed reasonable when I placed the order. I felt hungry.

The stew satisfied me. It came with thick hunks of potatoes, celery and carrots, corn kernels and sliced onions, with a slide of garlic bread for dipping. The chicken chunks were massive. It was somewhat zesty, creamy, hot and wholesome, and was something I would strongly recommend and order again.

I liked the chicken wings too. I'm not a big fan of super-spicy wings, and these seemed about right to me. They were crispy and well cooked, and not particularly greasy.

I picked the bones dry and topped them off by downing all the carrots and celery. I had enough blue cheese dressing for all the wings and the veggies. The operative words here are "tangy" and "succulent." Let's just say I spent a lot of time licking my fingers.

Next time, I will try some red meat. The Philly cheese steak is one of the best sandwiches in Portland, IMHO, and the classic Reuben looks delicious. A friend always orders the fish and chips when we meet here.

The Downtown Lounge has a friendly, neighborhood feel. It's long, dark, narrow and full of character. The walls are adorned with old baseball photos, which I appreciate. One wall is lined with booths; the other is fronted by the bar, with a narrow walkway in between.

It was packed early on a Monday evening, owing perhaps to a show at the State Theatre directly across the street that was an hour away. I assumed a lot of folks at the bar were there for a pre-show warm-up.

My new buddy paid his bill and scooted out before I could finish my dinner and beer. He might have been going to the show.

But I presumed he was on his way home to get chewed out by his girlfriend.

The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $10.

 

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