On my trip to Portland, ME this past weekend I was introduced to a piece of Portland treasure.
While walking down Exchange Street I was flagged down by a couple in their 40’s. They yelled across the street to me, “have you been to this place?” they asked and pointed to a white door behind them. I looked around, not 100% sure what they were referring to and replied no with an inquisitive tone in my voice. I couldn’t tell if these people were drunk, high, or just out of their minds. They continued to pry, “Are you a local?” Again, my response was no. “You have to go to this bar! It’s down these stair, to the right and then there is a secret door.” The pair’s vague instructions and evidence that they had just come from having a good time intrigued me.
I looked around outside to see if there were any signs or markings to verify this bar existed. Nothing. One white door frame, 16 steps, a giant portrait of Abraham Lincoln and a bathroom were all that existed inside of this building.
Those people were definitely on something, I thought to myself. What was this secret bar they spoke of, where was I supposed to find a hidden door? And then I saw it. Slightly sticking out from the wall, a shelf. Why was there a shelf on this very random wall across from the restroom? The shelf wasn’t high up on the wall, no, it was smack dab in the middle of the whole wall. Furthermore, it as only on this one part. This was the entrance to the secret bar! And before I could open this chamber of secrets the door flew open by the weight of a bouncer.
Close your eyes for a second and picture this: dark painted walls, red velvet couches, a stage for comedians, 8 high top chairs at the bar, and Abraham Lincoln’s face all over the room. Now I’m embarrassed to say that the name of the bar didn’t make sense to me until I looked at the drink menu. Each item, no matter if it’s a beer, mixed drink, or even a cup of chili mac & cheese, was $5. Yup, that’s it. Five dollars for everything on the menu. Now think, whose face is on the 5 dollar bill? Honest Abe’s. Now there is nothing honest about charging $5 for a Bud Light when I could get it for $4 or even $3 at other places, but the concept is in a league of it’s own.
The bar is run by a single bartender and the patrons are tamed by just one bouncer (a play on Lincoln’s other monetary appearance? Probably not. It has to be hard to have a big staff when you’re charging 5 bucks for everything in house). The beer selection was tight, 5 brews on tap ranging from Allagash White to an Irish stout. Nothing out of the ordinary here. For hard liquor, Lincoln’s was serving up the usual suspects, Tito’s, Bombay Gin, Captain Morgan and Patron. A fine selection if you ask me. On top of the drinks, Lincoln’s also offers chili mac & cheese. Perfect if this is your last stop on a Saturday night, but this was my first so I opted out. The thought of having chili & cheese sitting in my stomach while I guzzled alcohol wasn’t comforting, plus the fact that cheese and I recently broke up, stopped me from indulging.
As I looked around I saw what looked to be a 2-way mirror. A way to scope out when your next customer would be arriving, as well as a way of watching newbies try and locate the door. The picture used as the 2-way mirror was of course the portrait of our 16th president himself.
Lincoln’s was a great way to start off my night. I laid out $10 for two beers (which is a lot now that I think about it), I signed a $5 bill to staple to the bar (okay so $15), and I felt pretty darn cool spending time in a bar that has no sign, no street address, and no door for that matter. If I had the authority and notoriety to give something a rating, I would give Lincoln’s a 4 out of 5!