Sometimes you want to go out for a quick snack and a drink. It happens, and there are any number of reasons to stick with just that. Maybe it’s because you want to kill some time, need to take a break from whatever else you’re up to, or you are only a little hungry and thirsty. But if you’re grabbing a small something and nothing more, you want it to be good, because there aren’t any second chances when you only order one food and one beverage. Regardless of your reasons, I want your tiny eating experience to be a good one, so here are some of my favorite places to make sure your one food/one drink order is as enjoyable as possible.
1. Popcorn and a shot of Don Julio Añejo at Portland Hunt and Alpine Club – 75 Market St.
Chile powder, butter, and parmesan are the secret ingredients to Hunt and Alpine’s fantastic popcorn. Have it with a shot of some nicely aged Don Julio añejo which I found a fondness for on a trip to Mexico. The combination of the salty corn and a decent tequila is a fun little trip down to the intersection of Snack Street and Shot Central. It doesn’t matter how you drink the Mexican liquor – sip it or shoot it – just enjoy it and the fun atmosphere at PHAC.
2. Fries and a local beer at Nosh – 551 Congress St.
Nosh was my 2014 restaurant of the year. Some say they’ve turned into a purveyor of novelty food. I agree, but I’m fairly certain that’s what make a them so great. If you’re only there for a snack however, you probably don’t want the over-the-top madness that is a burger between mac and cheese buns or pizza slices. Instead grab some of their fries – bacon dusted if you please – and pick a local beer from their great beer list. You might consider something from Maine Beer Company if they have it in stock. I always enjoy the Peeper, but whatever they have is sure to be good.
3. Scotch egg and scotch at The King’s Head – 254 Commercial St.
Why have a Scotch egg at The King’s Head? Why the hell not? The deliciously crusted, sausage rolled, hard boiled egg is as manly a treat as exists in this great nation. One of those will inject you with a fire that only a Scotch egg can deliver. Pair it with a scotch whiskey, not just because it’s similarly named, but because it will double up the manliness of the egg alone. I suggest the Laphroaig. It has a super smokey peat that will light up your senses with that full flavor that is the pure essence of many a decent scotch. And don’t worry ladies, the manliness you get from The King’s Head is only temporary, so feel free to indulge without worrying about growing hair on your chest.
4. Steamed Clams and Sam Adams at J’s Oyster Bar – 5 Portland Pier
Steamers are delicious, especially the fresh, local kind, and J’s gives a hefty bowl of them to patrons looking for the shelled sea snack. There’s probably enough for two in a large order, so bring your significant other or sit next to someone at the bar who appears hungry. Then after you order those, grab a Sam Adams Lager and sip it while you wait for the clams with melted butter and then while you eat them. Voila, you’ve got two great tastes that taste great together.
5. Beef Rendang Burger and Jarkarta at Tempo Dulu – 163 Danforth St.
Tempo Dulu is on a lot of my lists and with good reason. Grab a seat at the bar and order a Jarkarta, because some day we’re all going to die, and if you haven’t had a Jakarta before you do, it’ll be hard to honestly say you ever lived. Their version of a Manhattan has won best drink in the country and is the most fun you’ve ever had watching a bartender make a cocktail. Once you’ve got that, ask for the bar menu and order the Beef Rendang Burger. Truth be told, I’ve never actually had it, but I have had the Beef Rendang and that stuff is like a stick of taste bud dynamite that just explodes with awesomeness when it hits your mouth. Unless they’re topping it with a pile of dirt, the sliders can only be pure heaven. After you experience those must haves, make a reservation for a full meal, because my 2015 restaurant of the year might be Portland’s best kept secret.
Okay, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t offer you only five places for excellent snack and drink combos. Here’s one more at no additional charge. Don’t ever say I didn’t give you anything for free and my apologies for the misleading title.
6. Chicken Nachos and Pineapple Martini at Shay’s – 18 Monument Way
If you’re throwing caution to the wind, consider stopping at Shay’s for the greatness of a couple simple flavors that work together quite well. The chicken nachos are loaded with typical nacho goodness and the pineapple martini packs quite a fruity punch. The nachos are another snack that’s probably best suited to share due to their heft, so make sure you have a friend with you to eat what will likely be more than enough chips for both of you.
There you have it, five plus one places to grab a drink and just a bit of food, or more than just a bit in some cases. Go check out each place on a day when you have an “I feel like going out and having a little food and drink” moment. There’s a lot more places for that type of thing in Portland, but the above are the ones that stay on the tip of my tongue when someone asks, “what’s a good place for that?” Enjoy.
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