Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Crawlin' Forest Ave: a pub crawl for the chronically broke

This summer I spent way too much money, didn't read enough books, ate at too many restaurants, and as evidenced by my blog, never wrote. Now, my toes are cold in sandals, the leaves are changing color, and I can't afford the delicious pumpkin-flavored beers now on draft everywhere. Thank you summer for leaving me completely penniless for the fall. 

The weekdays aren’t so bad—go home, watch Netflix, overdose on the sodium from yet another Ramen Noodle dinner, fall asleep on my blow-up bed. However, after bopping around all summer long, staying in every weekend will get old fast. The Old Port has too many bars for my debit card to handle at this point, and like many twentysomethings in Portland, I don’t actually live downtown; God knows I can’t afford the cab rides to and from town. Do I stay in? Do I surrender to yet another Mad Men marathon?* Heck no—not every weekend at least!

*Though staying in with Don Draper actually doesn’t sound so bad…

So what’s a broke girl do? Well let me tell ya: venture out to Forest Ave—for a cheap, slightly slummy, pub crawl!

            Contrary to popular belief, the Old Port is not the only fun place Portland has to offer. I know the possibility of stumbling into Gritty’s for the same semi-high school reunion you have every weekend might seem really enticing, but maybe try something different for once. I did this Forest Ave pub crawl myself, and it was actually pretty awesome. And when I say pub crawl, I don’t mean just go to one or two bars—make your way down that beautiful strip of Asian restaurants, dive bars, and conveniently placed ATMs (some of these bars have yet to discover debit cards). Let your hair down and really make a night of it.

On my pub crawl, we wisely started the night at Samuel’s (a bar not unfamiliar to this blog), for some 50 cent wings and cheap pitchers of Miller Lite. It was a great, if not fast start,* to a fantastically cheap evening.

*If you know me, you know I love Samuel’s with all my heart (I have taste buds and a soul, don’t I?). However, their service is oftentimes…unbelievably slow. I once watched a waitress fill about 200 cups of blue cheese before bringing us our tab—but the wings are only 50 cents and they serve food until 1 am, so who’s the asshole complaining?

            After I wiped the buffalo sauce from my face (this took a while), we left Samuel's and made our way to The Frosty Pint. The scene was pretty much exactly what you would think it’d be: middle-aged alcoholics posted up at the bar, a few trashy-looking twentysomethings from Hollis or some other slightly out-of-the-way Maine town which refers to Portland as “the Big City,” and a couple college douchebags wearing the typical “look how funny this is that I’m slumming it” shit-eating grin you might come to expect from such individuals. However, if your friends are cool, who gives a shit what the rest of the crowd looks like. With 20 beers on draft, and splendid drink specials, this place is a win-win! If you’ve graduated college, technically Thursday is no longer a weekend—however, if you do find yourself on Forest Ave Thursday night, definitely hit up The Frosty Pint for their Talls for Smalls special, running from 7 PM-close. Also, Wednesdays they feature a different draft beer for only $2. Everyone likes $2 beers! Just ask the alcoholic sitting at the bar next to you!

            After we drank our fill of Talls for Smalls, we ventured to our next destination: The New Venue. I’d never been in the “old” Venue, and wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. The beats were bumpin’, the dancefloor was huge, the bar looked great, and the drinks were only $1!!! The only downside (for some) was its emptiness—I literally saw more staff than patrons! In all fairness though, it was a Thursday night before USM had started up again, and I’m pretty sure the place had just re-opened. Anyway, it didn’t really bother the group I was with as we weren’t in a meet-and-mingle mood anyhow. We sat at the bar and enjoyed the $2 Blue Moons and $1 PBRs. All in all, a fabulous find. Plus, now that school is back in session, I’m sure their business has picked up. Check out their Facebook page to see their sweet daily specials!

            Our last Forest Ave stop on this crawl was exactly where you would want to end the night: Ernie’s Pool and Darts. Though we played neither pool nor darts, we did play a riveting game of ping pong, or at least our version of the game. Not only do they have pool, darts, and ping pong, but holy moly, they’ve got pinball! Gritty’s doesn’t have pinball! One point for Forest Ave, zero points for downtown!

No one was really there but the bartender was just genuinely pumped to have some new (or any) faces in the bar—excitedly telling us they stayed open til midnight, “or later, if we wanted!” They don’t serve hard liquor at Ernie’s,* which is probably best because there are a lot of pool tables and I don’t really want any balls flying in my face which just might happen if hard alcohol were involved (that’s what she said?)…But seriously—that has happened to me. Pool ball to the face, that is. Didn’t feel great. Black eye for an entire summer. And you better believe booze was involved, so beer is best when billiards are a factor.

*But they do sell mini-bar bottles of KahlĂșa?

            While I’d like to say we ended the evening on Forest Ave (which was kind of the point of this Forest Ave pub crawl), we failed and wound up in town. That’s only because our last planned stop was the Great Lost Bear; we had all forgotten they close stupidly early. So, we cabbed to Sonny’s, then sadly, cabbed back to our USM-area apartment. Sorry bank account. However, you don’t need to make the same silly mistake. If you don’t want to end the night at 11:30 PM (which no one does, Great Lost Bear), begin the night at GLB! Then make your way down to Samuel’s. As previously stated, they serve alcohol AND food until 1 AM; you can’t lose with this plan! Plus, by the time you reach Samuel’s, I bet that waitress has already filled her 200 cups of blue cheese so I’m sure the late-night service will be fabulous!

One more tip: if you find yourself with a horrendous hangover in the morning (you will), make one last stop on your Forest Ave adventure: Mekhong Thai is open and serves alcohol before 11 am.* While White Russians are not on the menu, believe me, they serve them. And they are dee-lish; just ask my friend Caroline (pictured above). You will thank me later.

*Why do I know this? Mind your own business. But really, I’m serious when I say it’s one of the only places on Forest Ave that serves this early, aside from Valley Chinese. But if you can handle the smell of Valley so early in the morning, you’re probably not hung over enough to need the White Russian.

Until next time, keep pinchin’ pennies and maybe I’ll see you on Forest Ave…

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