Sunday, December 8, 2013
By EMMA BOUTHILLETTE
The Bar of Chocolate may easily be the Old Port's best-kept secret. Tucked between the Oasis and Amigos, this bar is unlike any other I've been to in Maine.
Bartender Kevin Goodell makes an espresso martini at the Bar of Chocolate in Portland.
Derek Davis/Staff Photographer
THE BAR OF CHOCOLATE
WHERE: 38 Wharf St., Portland
WEBSITE: "The Bar of Chocolate" on Facebook
HOURS: Open at 4 p.m. daily
PARKING: On street or garage
SPECIALS: Half off select bottles of wine on Tuesday nights
SCENE: A bakery meets bar for some late-night sweets and delicious drinks.
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes, but keep in mind there's a cobblestone street to navigate.
Patrons walk in off the cobblestone street to find comfy chairs, a few tables and a small L-shaped bar with stools. To the right of the bar is a nicely lit dessert case filled with delectable treats for some late-night snacking.
This bar has been open in Portland's Old Port for eight years, and I don't understand why I've only been there twice.
My friend Ashley accompanied me on my first visit to the Bar of Chocolate. We wanted to be out in the Old Port, but not necessarily clubbing it up or trying to chat over loud music. We were able to grab the last two seats available at a small table. It was probably around 9 p.m., and the place was packed.
I recently stopped in again at the Bar of Chocolate for an after-work cocktail and was surprised there weren't more folks there doing the same. A group of ladies sat at the bar sipping martinis and glasses of wine, and chatted casually from time to time with Sarah, one of the bar's owners.
It's hard not to take a peek at the sweets being offered for the night, so I perused the bakery case. Slices of pie and cake precut for serving ranged from chocolate decadence to non-chocolate options such as carrot cake.
I resisted my sweet-tooth urge and sat down to take a gander at the bar's cocktail list. While there is a fully stocked bar, it appears that the list of well-concocted martinis and wine are the main focus.
The martini list is priced at $9 and ranges from the classic with gin and vermouth to the creative: An espresso cocktail that is the rave on Bar of Chocolate's Facebook page. I selected the Irish Coffee martini, still feeling a bit celebratory post-St. Patrick's Day. The drink, served in a traditional martini glass, combines Irish whiskey with Kahlua and espresso.
Despite the fact I have an insatiable sweet tooth and a penchant for all things booze, I tend to not be a fan of the sweet, dessert-inspired cocktails. I am, however, a fan of this Irish Coffee martini. The Kahlua and espresso make for a very dark cocktail that is thick and slightly creamy.
Bar of Chocolate also offers a great selection of wine. Taking up a full tablet-sized page, the list is hard to choose from. The best time to check out the wine is on a Tuesday night, when the bar offers select half-priced bottles. The staff picks two red wines and two white wines to sell by the bottle on the cheap. A bottle that may run you $24 on a regular night will only be $12, which is a steal in a bar and restaurant setting.
The Bar of Chocolate is also one of the few places where I've seen absinthe on the menu. The green-tinted, anise-flavored spirit was banned in the United States for quite some time. I personally have never tried it, but many people have an acquired taste for it, and love the drink.
If you're not interested in the fist-pumping music of some of the Old Port clubs but want to stay downtown on any given night, I recommend the Bar of Chocolate. It's a cozy place with an atmosphere that takes me back to a trip I took to France.
After all, who could say no to a place where you can drink cocktails and taste some divine dessert?
Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.