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Novare Res Bier Café

Not Rated.
Novare Res Bier CaféNovare Res Bier Café
BA SCORE
99
world-class

180 Ratings
Ratings: 180
Reviews: 115
rAvg: 4.49
pDev: 9.35%
Taps: 26
Bottles: 250
Cask: Y
Beer-to-Go: N
[ Bar, Eatery ]

4 Canal Plz
Portland, Maine, 04101-4034
United States
phone: (207) 761-2437

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @novareresbiercf

Notes:
None, yet.

(Place added by: indiapaleale on 05-28-2008)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 180 | Reviews: 115 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of j_hollings13
1/5  rDev -77.7%

j_hollings13, Jun 19, 2014
Photo of growler
3.18/5  rDev -29.2%

I really wanted to like this place. I came up to Portland for a long weekend. The service was horrendous and uneven. After my husband was about barely halfway through his 1st drink, the male bartender was hounding him for his next drink. However, after I had barely 2 sips left in my drink, no one would come near me. The bartenders were too busy socializing with presumed regulars. Not only that, I noticed they had a computer in the corner of the bar and we playing music from it, but they were also spending way too much time online. Since I was facing the computer, I noticed the familiar BA logo and the male bartender was pointing something out to female bartender. Normally I wouldn't care, but when I have to practically wave an empty glass around to get service. I was also sitting at one end of the bar where I was able to make eye contact or at least attempt. I think it was 4:30 on a Friday and maybe 15 customers in the whole place.

The atmosphere is cool, not too much light. Long tables inside, with maybe 10-15 bar seats. Selection was good, both tap and bottles. I had the Smuttynose Brett & I and Allagash Burnham Road. I would visit again if in the area, in hopes they have learn to step up the service. If I want potential crappy service, I can go somewhere in Boston and not drive 2 hours.

growler, Aug 23, 2009
Photo of taeagan
3.4/5  rDev -24.3%

A remarkable space for a beer bar. The indoor and outdoor spaces are done really well. A comfortable place to sit and have a beer and hang out even when busy.

The draft selection is very good, though it's the bottle list that really impresses. Love that they're really promoting a great bottle list.

The food is very tasty, though there is not much of a selection at all. Beer and food prices are pretty reasonable.

So basically I really loved this place, except...

The awful service. So bad we had to laugh about it. We were invisible. We were almost done with our food when the beers finally arrived - and we ordered the beers ten minutes before the food. The glasses of water that we asked for showed up with the check. The next day we went back and didn't get a whole lot better.

If they did something about the service and added a few more choices to the menu this place would be an east coast beer destination.

taeagan, Jul 15, 2008
Photo of mclaughlindw4
3.5/5  rDev -22%

I have been here often and unfortunately do not agree with the high rating it has received. Many of my complaints are mentioned in other reviews but somehow those reviews still end up giving high marks. Perhaps I am spoiled because I used to live in brunswick and frequented the lions pride often.

I guess I feel the tap list is extensive but does not usually have more than a couple beers I actually want to drink. The biggest issue for me is the service. The waits are long even when it is a quiet day. I don't think I have ever been asked how I was enjoying a beer nor do I feel the bartenders are interested in talking about it anyway. I have had issues getting samples that were more than just a quarter shot glass full of foam. I am glad I know what I like and can order what I need but I can't imagine going in there as a newbie and getting any sort of quality direction from this staff.

All this being said they are the only game in town as far as beer
bars go and I do appreciate that. The events are often well worth attending as well.

mclaughlindw4, Oct 09, 2011
Photo of TXHops
3.53/5  rDev -21.4%

The other reviewers have explained the charm and the great selection of this place and they're all right. I'd personally like to see more local beers but the international selection was great and unusual. However, I'll never return as we had the absolute surliest waiter I've ever had in my entire beer drinking existence. Slow with orders, beyond short with answers, put out by every question or order, rolling eyes when I wanted another round... The place wasn't even crowded. Being this rude goes beyond standard apathy and requires real effort, which is utterly unfathomable. It's too bad- he completely ruined my experience at a place that I was really looking forward to trying.

TXHops, Jul 13, 2011
Photo of luddy83
3.69/5  rDev -17.8%

I found the execution of the design to be a bit on the low rent side. There are some nice touches (taps behind the bar, the beer cooler) but also plenty of cheap touches (cabinetry at the back bar, bar stools uncomfortable due to them being very industrial with a totally flat seat, tables are utilitarian).

I found the service very bad. I tried to get the bartender's attention on a slow night and had no luck. I asked a question of the waitress who seemed shocked someone wanted to ask a question. She warmed up a bit later and was reasonably helpful in selecting a beer. She seemed knowledgeable. Later, when we tried to engage her for our next choice, she passed us off to the surly bartender, who seemed just released from military basic training and lacked all social graces.

When I tried to get the person's attention who was fiddling with the music by taking a step around the bar, I was accosted by the barman in a very belligerent manner--mind you, I'm no terrorist at 55 and generally mild mannered. He put his hand on me and I politely asked him to remove it and all he could do was parrot, "Get away from the back of the bar." It all left a rather sour taste in my mouth, I finished my beer, asked for the check, and left. I won't be in a hurry to return.

The bottled beer menu is well organized by category but the draught menu is merely a listing with alcohol content and amount poured. If you are trying to educate the uninitiated, more information would be helpful.

luddy83, Aug 12, 2009
Photo of opwog
3.7/5  rDev -17.6%

I had to grab a late dinner when arriving in Portland and saw that NR was rated well on BA and on Yelp. There seemed to be some confusion initially upon arriving of whether the kitchen was open or closed (different hours on the phone while parking, than 5 minutes later after walking in).

The pros: The food was really tasty and the beer selection was good. The prices were also good for both.

The cons (which I mention in hopes that these might change):

1) If the Red Sox are in the playoffs and somebody asks if there is a TV to watch the game in one of the rooms, the reply should not be; "it is all about the beer here." You serve mainly unshaven community college kids in pseudo-vintage t-shirts that they bought at Target. You are not above having a TV set showing the Red Sox game. I have been to half of the top beer bars in the US and all of them have TV sets.

2) If somebody's GF does not want beer and needs a second to look at the wine list (as short as it is), do not leave her for another 15 minutes having to flag wildly to get her order in while the bar is half empty.

3) Loose that "hot chicks and douchebags" soundtrack playing in there. I do not say that as the grumpy old guy, but as somebody equally aware of what far better music is readily available over that guitar-centric BS that reminded me of my worst night having to sit through that dude from Lacuna Coil.

I might be busting balls in this review, but the beer, food and prices are what is right about this place. The rest of this place should be redone from scratch because the crowd that I saw in there are the type who may write you up on Yelp today, but will move on to "farm to table" dining to impress their fake ID dates next year. You need to build a beer bar that will hold interest of the beer community and make members of that community want to come back and spread the word to others. That is far more important in a business model than temporary hipness.

opwog, Oct 09, 2009
Photo of MaineBirdMan
3.7/5  rDev -17.6%

My friends had told me to look for the "beer garden." My wife and I found the place last Friday night. My wife loved the place (even though she doesn't drink). I was satisfied with the place. I was expecting something a little more. The beer selection was awesome and the way they had the menu set up was excellent. I was excited to see they had a stout from Orkney,Scotland. I was in Scotland in 97 and remember this stout quite fondly. So I was eager to have it again. "Sorry, we don't have that one." Bummer. My wife wanted one of their non-alcoholic beers, "Sorry we don't have that one." Bummer. She settled for a ginger beer. The bartender was nice enough but not very up on his beers. There was one bartender (he said he was persian) who was excellent. We didn't try any of the food. The cheese selection looked fine and there seemed to be some nice pairings. We were never asked if we wanted any food. I guess I should have gone out of my way and asked. I mean, I am the one paying the bill. I might go back. I won't go out of my way to get there.

MaineBirdMan, Feb 15, 2009
Photo of mcintire78
3.75/5  rDev -16.5%

mcintire78, Oct 08, 2013
Photo of Dreadnaught33
3.93/5  rDev -12.5%

So I normally don't rate places I only go to once, but I feel I must in this case. Overall the selection is great but the customer service is not great.

Atmosphere: cool vibe in brick, dark lighted 'cave' like bar very cool for beer geeks. Overall the people in there seemed ok but a little on the not so beer informed side, it was a Tuesday night afterall.

Quality/service: the bottles look stored well, most of the taps were ok but here's where personal experience comes in: my friend orders a my Antonia (dogfish) on tap and it comes out extremely oxidized and not true to the beer any of us knew. We told the server we had and she was super defensive about it although we spent enough and bought bottles expensive and rare enough that they should have known we knew what we were talking about. Would not replace or give a refund for it. Not cool, if you ask me, even at the super expensive beer bars I've been to everywhere they would take back and probably ackowledge old taps, give a refund or another beer, not the case here. Overall service was spotty and was not friendly even when we tried to engage on a beer level. Quality of the cantillon 2005 guezue was excellent though.

Selection is outstanding, cool tap choices from the world and local plus a great bottle selection. Check out the website for yourself here. Would have liked a bit more Midwest and west coast selection but perhaps thats the state laws?

Overall great beers for the most part, not caring service. Would try again and hope for better results/ ask for tastes if they do that for hoppy stuff.

Dreadnaught33, Mar 23, 2011
Photo of Sammy
3.94/5  rDev -12.2%

A classy restaurant with a large patio. Pretty pretty good cellar list and decent tap list, with correct poured temperature and over a large bar. Hard to find, we circled one way streets a few times until I found a tourist map with the clue on how to enter by foot. A number of weird and ordinary people here, they make up a good part of the city but in the end they are harmless. Service was decent and there were people like me there, for the beer. I would come back again. Newer place that can become something. Would like an earlier opening time for the bar.

Sammy, Aug 17, 2012
Photo of cshafer7
4/5  rDev -10.9%

cshafer7, Sep 16, 2014
Photo of donkeyrunner
4/5  rDev -10.9%

Been here many a time. Some thoughts on Novare Res:

The servers have a laissez fair attitude towards service and they'll get to you when they get to you. On a lazy afternoon that's not a bad thing.

Atmosphere is nifty. It’s like a beer cellar. Drinking beer in a beer cellar is indeed nifty.

A bit pricey considering Sebago and Gritty's are right down the street and Great Lost Bear is a few minutes car ride away. Novare does have a better Belgian selection than all three combined though. Sort of a mini Ebenezer's.

I went here once during Octoberfest and in the traditional German manner NR only had 1 festbier on tap. All taps, one beer. That sucked at the time but if I was a local I think it's pretty neat.

A bit of Cambridge has seeped up into downeast Maine as a lot of the stronger or hard to find beers come in 10oz. servings. I hate that. I'm a big boy and I want a big boy glass of beer.

donkeyrunner, Jul 26, 2012
Photo of dancaplette
4.03/5  rDev -10.2%

Went there Sunday afternoon, great selection, heavy on Belgium selections. I tried something from Marshall Wharf from Maine. They have a good selection on draft from Maine. I sat down at a table with my two kids, took the bartender over 10 minutes to even come over to our table, another couple had the same problem.

We ordered some food, he forgot out appetizer. Menu is not very extensive, but it was good. They have a nice outside area with tables.

Overall the beer selection is fantastic, I just loved the vibe of the place. It was a little of a beer geeky crowd, but I think that just made the atmosphere better.

If our server would have had a more welcoming tone , it would have capped off a great day in Maine. I will definitely come back, the selection and vibe is just to good to let it be ruined by one bad server.

dancaplette, Jul 02, 2013
Photo of morebeergood
4.03/5  rDev -10.2%

We stopped in here on Saturday late afternoon for pre-dinner drinks and snacks. There is a sign on the street that directs you down the alley to the cafe, so that was helpful. Looks like a tucked-away beer garden when you come around the corner. There is an elevated patio where you can sit at tables outside and enjoy the sun. Inside, it's a very cozy and homey bier bar. There are communal large table that encourage sitting with others. The brick walls gave it an old-world look. Tons of beer signs everywhere to keep my eyes wandering. Awesome looking walk-in beer cellar. We were there the day after the 2nd year anniversary, so there were still a lot of those beers on tap. Plus, the huge menu-like book of bottled beers to choose from. We had to wait a while to be served, and once she took our order, two other waitresses came by to take our order again. They need to get their act coordinated. We also noticed other tables that sat for a while without getting served. Also, whenever the waitress came back to us, she seemed very hurried and rushed. We ordered a few beers. I had the BFM Cuveé Alex Le Rouge on cask and the Marshall Wharf Novare Res Anniv. Beer. My wife had the DFH Immort Ale and the Haverill Tappist 8 dubbel. All were good. We also ordered a cheese plate ($3 per selection). Had a trio, with accompaniments, which was delicious. We were just finishing up, when I saw the dessert, and I wish I saw them first. Cantillon truffles? Tripel ice cream? Wow. Prices here were on the high side, but this level of quality is going to cost you. Novare Res really does stand out as the premier destination in Portland, and possibly one of the top in New England. I am glad that we finally got a chance to experience it.

morebeergood, May 24, 2010
Photo of brewandbbq
4.06/5  rDev -9.6%

Hidden off an alleyway in the Old Port, Novare Res finds it's home in a converted bank space. The nature of the locale is reminiscent of many Belgian cafes, being off the beaten path and only found by those knowing or on the hunt.

Two hand-made bartops, plenty of woodwork and brick, and rustic colored concrete floors.
A serarate room houses dart boards, couches, and a brick fireplace that will definately have to be utilized during the long, cold Maine winters.
One of the vaults now houses the extensive bottle selection, with another vault to be later converted to hold extreme rarities. Very cool.
Another room has a wrought iron gate which will house exclusive goblets for the select few who sample and keep record of the 230 (and growing) beers available. Quite a "mug club", indeed.
Definately sporting an inviting, cozy vibe, even though the place was vacant when we arrived.

Expecting some unusual and premium Belgian specialties on tap, we were a bit dissaponted to find only one Belgian-style draught. High and Mighty Dubble. A chaulk board on the wall informed us that it was "American Beer Week". Ahhh..That explains it. Decent enough selection of domestic crafts though. Old Raspution for $6.50 for a full pint. We like full pints of big beers, which few and far places are pouring anymore.
Other Pints were $5, which I still think is high. Maybe not for Boston, but this is Portland, Maine.
The bottle list is extremely extensive, and extremely expensive. Basically looks like all the bottles are retail cost x2. Yikes..BFM 2007 Abbey De Saint for $44.00? Gulp.

We didn't sample any food, and the menu is limited to snacks of cheese, meats, and sandwiches. All of which sounded pretty damn tasty.

The owner, Erik was there, and when I inquired about any DeStruise beers, he piped up and informed us he has a keg of Black Albert out back to be tapped at a later date.
Keep an eye out, peeps.
The barkeep who waited on us was friendly and eager to please. Nice guy, and that counts for a lot in my book. I don't go out enough to deal with barkeeps with attitudes.

My only real annoyance with the place is the fruit fly issue they have. That needs to be taken care of, and fast.

We'll definately be back in the future and hopefully the Belgians will be back with the fireplace roaring.
Best of luck to Novare Res!

brewandbbq, Nov 21, 2008
Photo of polloenfuego
4.08/5  rDev -9.1%

polloenfuego, Sep 08, 2014
Photo of chuckd123
4.08/5  rDev -9.1%

Visited 3 separate times during a weekend in Portland. Absolutely fantastic atmosphere and every bartender was very knowledgable and helpful. First night we stopped in their keg room refrigeration had konked out, leaving them with only 5 on tap. Bottle selection made up for it and then some, with some amazing choices. Next day all taps were up and running and selectino was excellent from about 25 taps. Selection as you'd expect leans toward belgians, but taps included a couple of IPA's and a good mix overall. Bottle list is very impressive, and bartenders were happy to talk about any and all of them, and explain the ones we weren't familiar with. Great place, and considering it's only been open a couple of months, you have to think it will only get better. Well done!

chuckd123, Jul 25, 2008
Photo of Digimaika2
4.08/5  rDev -9.1%

Visited this place twice on back-to-back weekday evenings in early August 2011. The place has a pretty huge outdoor patio (that was packed both visits) and an inside area that resembles a medieval beer cellar, complete with display bottles, long wooden tables, belgian beer plaques, and lots of brick! Probably worth a visit just to check the inside out.

Quite an extensive beer list with representation from all the good beer countries. I ended up venturing to Sweden and Italy off the menu. Unfortunately, the two days I was there were the two days leading up to their annual Rogue tap takeover. There were only about 10 taps going, and most were Maine staples which isn't bad at all but was hoping to try some belgians on-tap. Would love to go back when they have all 25 taps going.

As the outdoor patio was packed, and our server was working both inside and outside tables, the service definitely suffered for us inside both nights we were there. I remember it took us quite a long time to grab the bill from our waitress at the end of the night. However, both nights the staff seemed quite pleasant and helpful.

Tried some of their food one of the nights and went with the Mediterranean Plate and a Vegetarian Sandwich. Decent food albeit it is more small plate/appetizer sized portions.

Prices were a little steep, both for food and beer I thought. However, for beer it can be justified to some extent for some of the more rarer and special products.

I'd like to return again to try a more extensive variety of belgian product on-tap. I'll just have to check first that there are no tap takeovers planned the night before my visit.

Digimaika2, Oct 05, 2011
Photo of John_M
4.1/5  rDev -8.7%

Just off of Exchange street in downtown Portland is Novare Res Bier Café. They have a sign posted on Exchange street, fortunately, as otherwise it's not all that easy to find.

The cafe is located in essentially it's own little plaza area with a very large patio for out door seating. As the weather was gorgeous this particular evening (temps in the low 80's), the patio was packed. As one walks inside, one is confronted by a fair size dining area with two bars. My guess is the two bar areas seat around 20 people, and it was fairly full around 6:00 on a Friday. The room has a low ceiling with lots of wood and brick. Seating consists of benches and long tables in the dining area, and there's no doubt the owners are trying to portray an informal, relaxed, minimalist vibe. It's OK, though I can't say I found the bar chairs or seating arrangements particularly comfortable.

As for the beer selection, this day they had 28 beers on tap (one cider as well), including 3 beers on cask. Surprisingly, they only had 6 actual Belgian beers on the draft list, but with a number of Belgian syle domestic beers. Things I saw included De Range XX and Noir De Dottignies, Black Albert (at $10 for an 8 ounce glass!), Chimay, etc. There were also some local beers (marshall wharf and beer of the Gods), and overall I thought the draft list pretty decent. The bottle list consists of around 300 selections, which I know sounds pretty strong. In fact it was decent, but on the other hand I didn't see one thing I hadn't seen elsewhere. Also, I don't know... I just thought it would have been nice to see more local selections on the bottle list. They had a couple of beers from Beer of the Gods, some smuttynose, and some Allagash, and that was it.

The two beers I had were the Taras Boulba and the Noir De Dottignies. Both were quite good and were served in proper glassware. The cafe seems to take it's glassware seriously, something I always appreciate. Didn't try the food, but it's pretty limited in any event. They have a meat and cheese selection, and you can mix and match several plates to make up an antipasta dish.

Prices are hard to describe here. I thought them a bit high on some things (see the Black Albert price, and my two beers were both in the $8 to $8.50 range), but on others fairly reasonanble (a pint of prima pils was $5). Still, overall I thought the prices here just a bit high.

Apparently they also have some sort of beer club here, as I saw a number of people with paper charts, marking off different beers as they tried them. I didn't see any information about this, nor did my waitress volunteer any info, but as I was just here for the one day, I saw no reason to inquire.

Service here was decent. The wait staff was familiar with all the beers, though their actual knowledge about them seemed a bit limited. For some reason it seemed to take a while initiially to get a beer, but after that things went much more quickly and smoothly.

This is a very solid place, even if for some reason it just didn't wow me as much as I was expecting. Still, I would certainly recommend this place and wouldn't hesitate to stop in again next time I'm in town.

John_M, May 23, 2009
Photo of ChrisPro
4.13/5  rDev -8%

Awesome atmosphere. Decent music playing as you sit around beer hall style tables or outside on the patio. Couple of dart boards to go with cool brick walls and an impressive bottle collection. Went on a Wednesday night, so the crowd was great. Service was fantastic as we got our menus and orders in quickly. Funny guy who liked to talk, but didn't bother us too much.

The selection is incredible for a U.S. beer bar, no doubt. However, the first two beers my wife tried to order were both gone. We each got a beer, then when I tried to order a second, they were out of both beers I tried to order. I wasn't even trying to get uber rare stuff, but they were just out, so we ended up leaving after one beer (in all honesty, if I didn't have 4 days of drinking in VT ahead of me, there were definitely other beers I would've ordered). I'm impressed when a bar has an incredible draft and bottle list, but I'm even more impressed when it's correct and I don't waste time setting my sights on a beer. Just be aware of this as you're looking at the list.

Still, If you're in Portland, Novare Res is a must hit. If you're anywhere near Portland, it's still probably worth going a bit out of your way for. Definitely a cool place.

ChrisPro, Jul 21, 2011
Photo of Sudcutter
4.14/5  rDev -7.8%

I went on a Thursday evening, so I may not have gotten the typical experience, but the place had a slightly unwelcoming atmosphere. It was self-seating, and it took about 15 minutes for a server to approach my table, and it was difficult to get her attention throughout the night.
The beer selection was tremendous.
The food options are very limited. My party ordered several appetizers. They were all good but not great.
The prices were normal for the offerings.

Sudcutter, May 10, 2013
Photo of Kirk_Grant
4.16/5  rDev -7.3%

I think it's going to be difficult to find a place in New England that's doing a better job with Beer lists than Novare Res. They have amazing selections, Cantillon is almost always available, and there's a list long enough to put some wine bars to shame.

The food is good, but there's something missing and I don't quite know how to put my finger on it. I've ordered food from them 3-5 times in the last year. Every time the foods been good, but not something I feel compelled to order again. So I'm happt to be eating, but I'm not thinking, "I need to go back there for the ___."

Service is hit or miss. Some of the servers appear to favor favorite/regular customers. I've had to ask for my bill or stop them for another drink most times. Increased tipping doesn't appear to impact the quality or frequency of attention/service here.

Kirk_Grant, Sep 05, 2013
Photo of GeezLynn
4.16/5  rDev -7.3%

Had a difficult time finding this place, but after stopping a few locals, we found the enterance (which is almost like heading down a back alleyway).

Anyway, on the Saturday night we stopped there, the place had a pretty lively atmosphere. Outside, there were plenty of tables and lots of room - great for enjoying the weather and for larger groups. The inside was a smallish, dim bar/cafe like setting and was very crowded. It took probably 20 minutes to get a beer, particularly since the bartenders seemed to prioritize chatting/servicing their friends. After chatting awhile with another patron, I was served and the bartender seemed to be pretty knowledgeable on their lineup. The taplist had plenty to get excited about - I think I had beers from Pretty Things and Cisco - and the bottle list was also very good. My beer came in proper glassware and I got the impression that it was definitely a beer-centric place.

As a whole, I enjoyed my stop at Novare and would consider it one of the better beer bars in Portland.

GeezLynn, Jun 27, 2013
Photo of ThePorterSorter
4.16/5  rDev -7.3%

This place is a "cool spot" whether you're a local or tourist. I am a tourist to the area and will be reviewing this bar/beer garden from this perspective.

First walking in I notice well made beer merchandise (I know...an oxymoron) covering the walls.. The stuff was actually quite tempting as their logo is fairly bad-ass, but the price led me astray from any immediate purchases. I quickly snagged one of the many available tap lists to aid in my evening's decision. I believe there were approximately 30 beers on tap, all of which were well selected options.

I went with the Allagash Victor...which was unfortunately the only Allagash on tap at the time. I felt this decision was appropriate considering I'd never had an Allagash beer previous to this evening and wanted to try something "local." The beer was terrific and of course came in the appropriate matching Allagash glassware.

I soon ventured outside to the patio to play a little sack toss. I wouldn't normally play this game in any other setting, but I was meeting new people that evening and sack toss is far easier to than having to converse...at least until after I had finished my first beer.

The second thing I noticed was the place packed to the brim. Even with wall to wall patronage there was still ample, roaming service providers who were non-invasive, yet constantly asking me whether I would like another beverage. I did eventually get the funds together for a glass of mead from a local mead producing facility (meadery?) in Portland known as the "Maine Mead Works." This was an outstanding beverage and I am thrilled to have the option to consume and enjoy this beverage.

Unfortunately I did not try any of the food, so I can't speak to that effect.

Overall I was glad I convinced a group of 15 people to venture to a random bar I read about on our first night in Portland, when we could have easily been grinding asses at a local night club instead. The prices were fair, but not outstanding and the overall atmosphere made it an enjoyable evening.

ThePorterSorter, Jun 18, 2011
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Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, ME
99 out of 100 based on 180 ratings.