Lolita

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90 Congress Street, Portland, Maine

While we clearly love a great happy hour, we respect it when a restaurant chooses not to have one for whatever reason. It can be disappointing, but we get by. What we love is when a restaurant replaces it with something that is their own, and in someways even better. Lolita Vinoteca and Asador does just that every Monday night.

Perched atop Munjoy Hill in Portland’s East End, Lolita is a cozy, funky place that serves up cuisine influenced by the Mediterranean. It’s also the home of the best cure for a case of the Mondays. Every Monday night from 3:30 – 10:30 is tapas night. They select four pours, usually centered on a theme or region, and pair them with tasty tapas. All for only $5 each! Selections change weekly so you always have a reason to visit regularly.

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Drinks can range from a selection of wines, beers, or ciders. The evening we went the focus was on Portugal. We had the option of choosing between a white Port cocktail, a Vinho Verde, Vidigal Viho and a Val de Bonfin. These were accompanied by a selection of seven tapas, chosen by the chef. Since we were a larger party, we ordered a great selection and shared our tapas.

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We are suckers for a good vinho verde – so crisp and ever so lightly effervescent. Clearly, we picked the best night to tapas it up. While normally, the tapas aren’t quite big enough for sharing, with good friends it should be no problem. The bites are fairly small and really designed to go with each drink without overwhelming.

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From top left, clockwise: duck w/ tomato confit, Monkfish, ham croquettes, potatoes w/ cheese

Each of the small plates was all amazingly delicious and it was fun  to wait and see what would come out next. We had ham croquettes, potatoes with cheese, chorizo and white bean stew, monkfish, and duck with tomato. Not pictured, roasted red pepper with anchovy.

The standout drink of the evening was the white Port cocktail. We’d never even heard of white port before but now we are going to be on the lookout. It was simply made with Dow’s Port, tonic, and lemon with a simple lemon peel garnish. It was sweet and tangy, light but rich. Definitely an easy drinking cocktail. If you see it, order it! It was a little slice of sunshine on a cold and snowy day.

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We loved our tapas so much that we decided to order up some more drinks and dive into the regular menu offerings for dinner. Absolutely a great decision. From a creamy citrus accented Burrata to a standout frisee salad everything was excellent. Put Lolita on your regular rotation. You will not be sorry.

Lolita is one of those restaurants that make us wish we lived closer so it could be part of our every Monday routine. Thankfully for our wallets it isn’t, but we will be making sure to revisit often. You should too.

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Bao Bao Dumpling House

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133 Spring Street, Portland, Maine

Bao Bao Dumpling House is one of our favorite new restaurants of the past couple of years. It serves up delicious food family style, including their selection of their signature dumplings. They compliment this with a great bar mixing up cocktails, wines, sake, and local beers. You’ll also find a great tea list if that’s more your style.

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We were excited to hear that they have a happy hour that features their amazing deep fried pork buns. You have to be quick though, happy hour at Bao Bao runs for 1 hour only, 4:30 – 5:30 on weekdays (in winter this means Weds-Fri). Pair those buns with a draft beer for $2 off or a $4 glass of house wine. Do yourself a favor and order up two buns. At around $2 each they are a bargain for your taste buds.

You can do happy hour as a great prequel to dinner at Bao Bao. The best way to enjoy it is to bring a friend or a few, order some different flavors and share among you. They are prepared in many different ways including steamed and pan fried. The suggested preparation is in the menu, but get what pleases you. If you want to start with an early lunch and stay through happy hour, dumplings are 1/2 off from 2-4pm on weekdays.

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Definitely go check out Bao Bao. We haven’t heard of a disappointed customer yet. Just make sure to leave time to locate parking. It can be a bit tight in that area of town and you don’t want the search to eat into your happy hour.

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