My East End neighborhood is hoppin' now - with the addition of Oxbow, Maine and Loire, Terlingua, and now Roustabout, the bottom of Munjoy Hill has become quite the destination for eating and drinking.
I've fallen out of my habit of making every new restaurant's opening night - Professor A. and I were on quite the tear there in 2014. So even though it's been open for a month now, I hadn't made it down to the neighborhood's new Italian restaurant.
But I went earlier this week for their happy hour - Tuesday through Friday from 4-6pm and again late night from 10pm-12am. The specials feature $5 red and white wines, a $5 cocktail, and a $3 beer. Happy hour snacks are inexpensive too - there were 5 dishes for $5 each.
The restaurant is surprisingly large for Portland and decked out in a jaunty nautical theme. I was instantly won over when the server placed our napkins on the table with nautical flags printed on them (the red and yellow triangles fit together in a square is the symbol for "O").
We ordered snacks: the ricotta and pepperonata, chicken liver, and marinated mushrooms, only passing up a panini and chips and dip. The chicken liver was my favorite, with salty fried capers a nice contrast to the rich, smooth liver spread. We needed more crackers to finish off our hearty portion.
The marinated mushrooms seemed to be full of love 'em or hate 'em flavors - very tangy from the vinegar and full of smoked paprika (a friend told me). The combination was intriguing, and I kept returning to the dish, not sure if I was in the "love" or "not-for-me" camp.
The hearty snacks sufficed for dinner, so under the guise of "just looking," I accepted a dessert menu. I ended up ordering a panna cotta topped with candied fennel and crumbled biscotti. The panna cotta reminded me of the cream top on my yogurt - smooth and rich. White candied fennel certainly isn't for everyone, I like its strange flavors and the crunch the biscotti added.
The restaurant began to fill as we enjoyed our happy hour, even though it was early in the week. It seems as though everyone is excited to check out the new place. The service was friendly and relaxed, since we were clearly in no hurry and enjoying our drinks and food.
But happy hour is a nice way (my favorite way!) to try a restaurant without dropping a pretty penny. I'm a huge fan of the drinks-and-snacks approach. Check out nautical Roustabout for your next happy hour - it feels particularly festive at the holidays!