If ever there was a time for me to be sad about moving out of the West End of Portland, that time is now, with the opening of Plush West End.

Occupying the space that Katahdin restaurant used to dominate at the corner of High and Spring streets, Plush West End is perfectly situated between the bustling area of the Arts District on Congress Street and the laid-back village environment of the West End. As such, people from any walk of life will feel comfortable wandering in to grab a drink by themselves or with friends.

Living up to its name, Plush West End is a specimen example of the lush interior popular among the hip and urban set of Portland. Cushioned leather couches in the lounge area and deep-red walls create a dark, seductive setting that compels you to stay for hours.

The bar is the focal part of the space, located directly to the right as you walk in the door. Tall and substantial, the gray top juxtaposes brilliantly with the red underlit ice trough that runs along the back of the structure, chilling cocktail and martini glasses for quick access by the bartenders. The space, seemingly small from a quick assessment outside, is much bigger on the inside.

Like many of the other restaurant-slash-bar establishments cropping up more frequently around Portland, Plush West End stands out with its signature twists on classic drinks, such as the Stiletto bourbon drink ($9), which substitutes lime juice for lemon to create a slightly more tart spike to the flavor.

At the suggestion of Sean Steinmark, our bartender for the evening, I tried one of Plush West End’s most popular drinks, the Stargazer cocktail ($9). The drink blends citron and mandarin vodkas with white cranberry juice and something called luster dust, topped with a beautiful purple orchid. Not usually a fruity-drink imbiber myself, I could easily have drunk two or three of these. They were that delicious.

In addition to a uniquely spun cocktail list, Plush West End also boasts a substantial wine list for those looking to sip a glass while chatting with friends from the comfort of the leather sofas. Offering a few dozen Lush Whites and Plush Reds ($23 to $100 per bottle; $7 to $15 per glass), the cellar list of European, South American and Californian wines is impressive.

If you are looking to unwind after work, be sure to grab a glass of Happy Hour Castellar Cava ($5) to shake off the stress of the day with some bubbly fun.

Not caught up in the potentially pretentious trap that many of the current place-to-be bars fall into, an extensive draft beer tap runs along the back wall behind the bar. With local favorites such as Gritty’s, Allagash and Shipyard, the bar also offers domestic microbrews such as Sam Adams and Brooklyn Lager. If you like to skip across the pond for your ale delight, you can order draft Guinness, Boddington’s or a light Stella Artois.

The food menu at Plush West End focuses on tapas and appetizer-type fare, a perfect pairing for someone looking to grab a drink with someone for the evening. If you order nothing else on the food menu, be sure to get the Plush Sliders ($8). Although the serving is a little small if you are sharing (two slider sandwiches), the taste party that will explode in your mouth is worth it.

Mixing a smoked paprika aioli with a sweet onion relish to top the applewood smoked bacon cheddar cheeseburger, this is my new favorite burger in Portland. If you want to add a little to the dish, I suggest the Polenta Frites, a larger serving of fried cornmeal sticks topped with sea salt and various herbs.

A perfect addition to the West End and Arts District of Portland with its drink offerings and delicious bar menu, Plush West End should definitely be added to your list of new places to check out.


Elisa Doucette is a freelance writer.