Cucumber Mint Gimlet mocktail, La Llorona, Night Mares on the Prairie and Gulfaxi from Night Mares in Portland. Photos by Greg Bryan

Washington Avenue is known for its string of restaurants, but tucked behind it on an alleyway, Romasco Lane, is a new late-night bar called Night Mares.

Owned by two couples (Louis Masi/Devan Marr and Christian Roadman/Elizabeth Rzoska), it shares the space with Prairie Baking, owned by Rzoska. Roadman is a former city planner (in Shaker Heights, Ohio); Masi and Marr used to work at Munjoy Hill restaurant Jing Yan. Marr and Rzoska met when they were both at nearby bakery Belleville.

Walking down Romasco Lane, you wouldn’t realize there’s a bar there. Even though I knew there was, I was a bit hesitant opening the door to peek inside, as it wasn’t completely evident to us that we were in the right place. The door opened to reveal a funky black-brick-walled interior with horse wallpaper (reflecting the name), a wall of Polaroid photos from Roadman’s days as a city planner, and both high and low seating options for about 30 people. The seating was comfortable – wooden chairs and barstools with leather cushions and footrests, and there were hooks under the bar. Even more exciting, there was a bowl of Halloween candy on top of the bar. We were off to a good start.

Marr greeted us, telling us to sit anywhere and come order at the bar once we were ready. The cocktail menu was small but intriguing – we would happily have tried any of the six $13 cocktails. There were also five wines by the glass: a sparkling rose, two whites and two reds, ranging from $13-$16. There’s a rotating selection of $7 draft beer and two $7 mocktails, along with four options for bar snacks, one of which is treats from Prairie Baking.

Tables at Night Mares, located in a former gym on Romasco Lane.

I was with three other people, so we sat at one of the regular tables instead of at the bar. Our drinks came out pretty quickly.

One of my drinking companions ordered the Cucumber Mint Gimlet, one of the two mocktails on the menu: Seedlip, cucumber, mint and lime. It was light and refreshing and reminded us of Morocco. I don’t normally like mocktails made with non-alcoholic spirits, but this one was perfectly balanced – I’d definitely order it again.


Another member of our group went with the Gulfaxi, named after a horse in Norse mythology: Scotch, Drambuie, caramelized honey and orange bitters. In a word, it was spectacular. In more words, it had a subtle undercurrent of honey that paired beautifully with the other flavors and was one of our favorite drinks of the evening.

The bar at Night Mares in Portland.

My third drinking companion went with Night Mares on the Prairie: bison grass vodka, white vermouth and chamomile. We were delighted to see that it was garnished with a tiny sheaf of wheat and served in a glass with wheat leaves etched into the design – I love that kind of attention to detail. More importantly, however, it was yet another exquisite blend of flavors, far beyond what you might expect just reading the ingredients.

For my drink, I chose La Llorona, a twist on a Last Word using tequila instead of gin and Strega (similar to yellow Chartreuse) instead of green Chartreuse. Another winner.

It’s hard to tell Night Mares is a bar until you get inside.

I’m a powerlifter, and Night Mares is located in what used to be the powerlifting portion of my former gym, The Body Architect. The space is completely unrecognizable, even to somebody who spent as much time there as I did. Good thing I enjoy lifting cocktail glasses as much as lifting weights.

Retired diplomat Angie Bryan writes about Maine’s cocktail bars while making as many puns as her editor allows.

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