685 Congress Street, Portland, ME
Local 188 has been a staple of the Portland cocktail and restaurant scene for 15 years now. It’s a wonderfully homey place that makes you feel you are enjoying a meal at a friends table, or lounging in your own living room. Two bars offer very differing views. One gives a view of Congress Street outside and wraps around to show the rest of the bar area. The other provides a view into the open kitchen, providing an excellent vantage point to watch your food being prepared. While their food has it’s “roots in Spain” they broaden that to include other influences as well. Staying true to their name they source many of their ingredients locally and prepare many things, such as condiments, in house. They are also one of the rare places in town Portland that has parking right out back. Our original information said that they only ran happy hour from Monday – Thursday so when we found ourselves with a Monday off we decided to head on down and check it out.
We were pleasantly surprised to discover that Local runs happy hour, which they call Tapas Time, Monday – Friday from 4-6pm! They feature $3 Allagash White, House wine selections for $4 per glass or $16 per bottle and $5 Frescas, made in house with infused vodkas. While the specials list may be small, it does have something for everyone for great prices. Their real focus is on the Tapas, or snacks. I opted for a white wine paired with the Patatas Bravas which are roasted potatoes with garlic aioli and sea salt. They sit about halfway between home fries and frites and were delicious. They complimented my crisp, sweet white perfectly. My friend ordered a Berry Fresca and the house meatballs. The Berry fresca was fresh and fruity without being too sweet and the meatballs were homey and familiar without being bland or boring. Both were big hits and worth a try when you stop in. They also bring out fresh bread drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper to nosh on.
This was a great spot for a Monday afternoon happy hour. It was quiet and relaxed and we could have a great conversation without feeling like we were shouting over others or music. We shared the bar with only a couple of other people. They feature live music during the week so starting at happy hour and staying there would be a great plan. We’re eager to revisit with others on our normal Friday evenings, though we expect this popular spot will be a bit busier then.
If you end up staying beyond happy hour, or want to go off the specials list they do feature a wine bottle list of over 200 selections, a number of draft and bottled beer options, and a great specialty cocktail list. Overall, Local 188 earns high marks all around!