57 Center Street, Portland, Maine
Brian Boru is practically an institution in Portland. Established in 1993, it has been serving up delicious drinks and tasty food as other bars in town have come into being and faded away. Named after an ancient king of Ireland it thoroughly celebrates it’s Irish heritage, but don’t peg it solely as an Irish pub. It’s such a popular weekend spot that many looking for a less crowded atmosphere may avoid the place but it would be a shame to miss out on Boru entirely. Which is why happy hour is the perfect time to check it out!
Running from 4-7pm Monday – Friday, happy hour at Boru features $3 Geary’s Autumn and Pale (may change seasonally) and $3 house wine. Sure, we’d love a cocktail option, but providing both a beer and wine special is great and we love that it features a local beer as well. The wine isn’t anything too fancy, a blended white, but it was tasty and a very generous pour for $3! They also have a house red option.
Boru has plenty of space for you to enjoy your drinks with 2 floors, a patio and a deck which is good, because even after work it’s a popular place. The staff is friendly and you’ll see a wide mix of people but everyone becomes fast friends. The deck has ample seating and room to enjoy warm days outside or you can stay inside and belly up to bars upstairs or down when the air turns cold. They even have parking! Parking is a bit limited until 5pm when the lot across the street opens, but there is usually space on adjoining streets.
They also offer great options for non-happy hour times. Each week they host live music with local bands, trivia nights, and irish music sessions. It’s a great neighborhood bar and you’ll see a cross of Portland’s population. They also serve up a delicious brunch with excellent drink specials including pint sized mimosas and bloody marys served with a slider on the side. Yes a slider! So go check Boru out if you’ve never been there or rediscover it. There’s a reason it’s a staple of the Portland bar scene.
64 Market Street, Portland, Maine
One of our favorite new spots this year has been MAPS on Market Street. They opened up this summer just across from the old Big Easy and tucked underneath Sherman’s book store on Market Street. We love the vibe and beer selection so when we learned they offered happy hour specials, we knew we’d have to add it into our rotation.
MAPS has a great take on happy hour and even include some unique specials for non-drinkers. From 4-6 each day they are open they feature $1 off all 16oz. drafts and glasses of wine. They also off a coffee/tea happy hour for $5 which pairs a piece of their delicious cake with your choice of coffee or tea. Late night, from 8-11pm, you can get a glass of port or another dessert wine with a piece of cake for $7. We love a happy hour that includes cake!
They have a small but rotating draft list that features popular local and national craft brews as well as a nice bottle list so there is bound to be something to please your palate. We highly recommend whichever Sam Smith fruit ale if that is your thing. We first fell in love with the Strawberry and also adore the Apricot. At $9 a bottle it’s a good deal to split with a friend or to have a generous pour for yourself. Still, if you are looking to score a happy hour deal, stick to the draft list. Cocktail lovers should looks elsewhere, MAPS is beer and wine only. They clean and inspect their taps regularly to ensure that they are performing properly and not emitting off flavors. We’ve never had anything less than a deliciously poured draft there. To start off I ordered up a Bissell Brothers Bucolia, a hoppy local brew that’s been getting some great buzz. The bartenders at MAPS will also give you a dish of pretzels to munch on as you drink and keep refilling them while you’re there. Gotta love free snacks!
The food menu is limited but delicious just the same. They focus on a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches which are warm, gooey and amazingly delicious. They also have snacks like warm soft pretzels with mustard. For dessert it’s all about the cake. The cakes are displayed in covered cake stands on the bar tempting you with their sugary beauty as you drink. The flavors vary and are made fresh on site. The day we were there they featured Chocolate Guinness Cake, Chocolate Peanut Butter cake, and Ginger Molasses cake with vanilla frosting. Yum!
With a name like MAPS you’d expect there to be a lot of maps on the walls which there are, as well as globes scattered around including the etched candle holders. Even the coffee mugs and sugar bowls are etched with a world map! It’s a small place filled with homey touches. The vibe is almost like 70’s basement home bar mixed with your neighborhood pub. It’s comfortable and friendly. The owners are always in house, serving up drinks or grilling sandwiches. They have a great selection of albums and are often playing them on the turntable. Our favorite feature is the jukebox tucked in the corner. It’s free to play any song on it and the owners rotate the selection so there is often a new song to rediscover. Want to watch a game? They do have one TV, hidden away behind a map of the human body but don’t expect it to be on all the time.
Overall MAPS is a chill place to be. It doesn’t hold a ton of people and it’s gained in popularity due to some great press lately but don’t let that stop you. As we get further into fall and winter a warm grilled cheese, a chilled beer, and a sweet treat are just what is needed to chase the cold away and MAPS has got you covered.