Finally got a chance to watch “Where the Wild Things Are.” The movie’s all right – a little on the kidsy side – but there were a couple of unbelievable sequences where the scruffy CGI cast makes merry by chucking one another around in a sprawling thicket. It looks painful, but it also looks fun, and the unabashed rough-housing holds a sure moral: it’s OK, in fact it’s essential, to indulge your wild side.

One of the best places in town to loose your barbaric yawp is a sinewy pit bull of a bar called Downtown Lounge. You may have heard of it, and for good reason – the gears mesh cleanly here thanks to the tireless efforts of its scrappy restaurateur owner, Norm Jabar. It’s kind of like the tang in Norm’s famous barbecue has diffused into the ambiance at the DTL, and the guests and staff seem to be feeding off some primal energy.

Maybe the effervescent mood is only possible because of how tight the ship is run in the first place. Let’s start with the bar’s catchy little moniker, which is efficient with its “ow” sounds. Lose the consonants, and you’ve got the popular entreatment “ow ow ow.”

Ducking inside, a row of vintage plum booths with tall seat-backs snakes against the wall, each table spotless and neatly arranged with specific condiments.

The place pops just right, as restaurant folk like to say, with scarce light bouncing around in two opposing mirrors. The kitchen is compact, without wasted space, but powered with ample hardware to craft some pretty special plates.

Also, instead of going chalkboard only, the DTL has finally established some fan favorites on a paper menu. The most popular items include a better-than-good hummus plate ($9.95, homemade, served with marinated olives, grilled vegetables and flatbread) and a contender for best burger in town ($7.95, with garlic pickles, onions, mustard, ketchup and fries). When the bartender mentions the burger, the patron next to me noticeably exhales and vouches for the patty’s renown.

Sound familiar? It’s an awful lot like Norm’s, where already great ideas are presented with personalized love and soul.

The ice machine is a great example of this. Whereas many ice machines are hidden in the bowels of a building as some kind of blight, the DTL makes no bones about its ice out in the open. Its bumper-stickered side is a gallery of Portland popular culture, with shout-outs to Loverless, Coffee by Design, Obama ’08, and of course, Support Your Local Drunks.

For such a small space, the skinny lounge can generate a large experience. Unlike other neighborhood nooks, where folks of questionable odor can cramp easy, the ornate alley funnels its energy and celebrates its cozy confines with loud speakers.

When Norm lets his bartenders loose with their iPods on one of the clearest, most muscular systems around, it can be transcendent, as though you were living in a scene from “Cocktail” and young Flanagan is twirling handles in both mitts.

It’s a veritable goosebump factory, what with a couple of whiskey sours in the tank and the Bon Jovi practically coursing through your veins.

This sensation is real, and available most nights at 606 Congress St.

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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