December 13, 2012

Bar Guide: Venture off the beaten path for drinks – or breakfast

Ruski's Tavern is a typical neighborhood bar in Portland's West End.


The fun part about my gig as your bar guide is going to bars I would never otherwise visit.

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WHERE: 212 Danforth St., Portland

PHONE: 774-7604

HOURS: Open at 7 a.m. daily, except 9 a.m. on Sunday, and serving up drinks until 1 a.m.

PARKING: On street

SCENE: Your West End neighborhood bar where you can get breakfast or late-night drinks.

AMENITIES: A dartboard and plenty of televisions to keep up on the latest sports.

Ruski's Tavern in Portland's West End is one of those places. I had heard of it before. Driven past it a few times. But it's off the beaten path. It's your typical neighborhood bar. And, well, the West End isn't my neighborhood.

But that aside, I dropped into Ruski's on a recent Friday evening. The bar was pretty quiet. I imagine that all of Portland had made their way downtown for the First Friday ArtWalk. Diane and I had attempted to do that ourselves, but between the rain and crowds, we bailed.

We picked two seats at one of the long pub tables, because the bar was dotted with a few customers who had things sprawled out on the bar. One woman was sipping a martini and flipping through what looked like a textbook and typing on a laptop. A man a few seats down from her had the newspaper folded in disarray beside him.

I went to the bar to grab drinks while Diane settled into her seat. I ordered an Absolut Ruby Red and soda water for myself, and a Miller Lite for Diane. The total for the two drinks was $9.25.

Diane and I had already eaten dinner, so we were just enjoying our drinks. A lot of folks at the bar were dining on your typical pub food, though. Ruski's offers things like nachos and burgers.

The bar was already decked out for the holidays with nutcrackers and lit garland. Above the bar, a variety of antique tin plates advertised different products. A wooden plaque hung just under the plates featured the bar's name.

There was a jukebox in one corner and a dartboard in another. Not unlike my recent trip to Howie's, I was perplexed by why the dartboard was placed so close to the front door. At least Ruski's has a window on its door so you can see if someone on the other side is lining up for a shot before you barge in.

The small crowd at the bar was a mixed group. There were some young and some old, some professionals and some students. It seemed like an anybody kind of bar for any time of the day.

After having gone to Ruski's, I was told by some people who frequent the bar that the best time to go is really for breakfast. Apparently, it makes good grub in the morning -- something tasty that's rather good after a night when you possibly drank a few too many.

As much as I love going to bars, I love going out to breakfast, so I'll have to get back to Ruski's someday to see what they're talking about.

Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.


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