I’m not sure how long Rosie’s has been around, but I think it was somewhere around the time man discovered fingernails that their doors first opened. One of Portland’s exceptionally popular dive bars, the cheap booze and eats purveyor draws a significant crowd from Old Port business and often has a crowded house filled with a crazy mix of patrons. College students, suit and tie types, dirty auto mechanics, clean auto mechanics, people named Jed – you name it and they might all be there any time the doors are unlocked.
I found myself headed to Rosie’s when a friend wanted to grab a burger and a beer for a Saturday lunch. I didn’t want to go to any of the places he suggested, so I chose and we ended up at the Fore St. haunt. There were a few people scattered about and we grabbed a seat by the window so we could see if my car was being ticketed after my 42 minutes on the meter expired. A waitress came up to our table, handed us menus, and asked us if we wanted anything to drink. It turns out we did. My buddy ordered a Sam Adams and I went with the advertised $1.50 Miller High Life which was a 50% increase in the cost of of the brew since I was last there. Still, I suppose it was a reasonable price for “The Champagne of Beers”.
Taking a hard look at the menu, I reminded myself what the restaurant had to offer. They had a pretty sizable menu with all the pub standards and a few items with a little extra flair. I wasn’t looking for anything spectacular, just something to fuel the rest of the day’s house cleaning project. The specials menu wasn’t anything I was looking for, but the main menu with apps, salads, burgers, dinners, sandwiches, pizza, and more had plenty of possibilities. My buddy immediately decided on the BBQ Bacon and Cheddar Burger – 8 oz. burger with carmelized onions, lettuce, and tomato with fries. It took three visits from the wait staff before I decided on Chili, Cheese, and Jalapeno Nachos served with salsa and sour cream.
We soon had our beers in front of us – he with his highfalutin Sam and me with my “man among men” MHL. I took a sip of my High Life and it caused an effect in my brain that sent me back in time. It tasted like college and career ambition, and while don’t usually want for the cheap beers of old these days, I must admit, it fit with my mood and location. We both seemed pleased with the way the beer went down, so we drank and engaged in verbal tomfoolery while awaiting our food orders.
Our goodies made their appearance like a superhero in the nick of time. Both of our items were well portioned with his stacked high and mine spread throughout my plate. My nachos were simple – tortilla chips, cheese, chili, and jalapenos. With little cups of salsa and sour cream on the side, they were complete. I took a bite and their simplicity was evident, but they did the job with cheese, meat, and heat. My cohort seemed to enjoy his burger and fries.
At some point, not long after we got our food, we both finished our suds and requested waters to continue staying hydrated. We worked on our grub, with his finished well before mine was. I eventually ate the last of my chips, and feeling like it was just the right amount of food for a Saturday lunch, decided I would call it quits right there. I had a little of that feeling one gets when they don’t live up to their own expectations – I believe it’s called disappointment, but if I had eaten anything else, the house cleaning I was returning to would have suffered and I didn’t want that.
Our meals came to about $36 total after tip. His Sam Adams was $2. I’m not sure why or how it was only that, but I was thinking I might have been willing to dish out an extra half dollar to upgrade to a more upscale beer. Of course, it wouldn’t have had the same effect on me as the High Life, and the truth is that every once in a great while and under just the right circumstances – like at Rosie’s, I actually want a cheap beer to reminisce about the days when I didn’t have money for anything pricier.
Rosie’s offers something you can only find at dive bars – an atmosphere where anything goes as long as you’re not causing a problem; where the food is always good, occasionally very good, and rarely great; and where you can get served with hardly any green in your pockets. I drink there more than I eat there, but when I do either, I always leave happy and feeling like I got more than I paid for. It’s a place where just about anybody can go and have the same experience.
You know that old t-shirt you used to wear a few days a week when you were younger? Sometimes you’d wear it all weekend and by Sunday night it smelled like stale beer, BBQ sauce, and cheap perfume. Eventually it wore thin and had holes, so you’d wear it to clean or paint. You wore it that one time to help old Mr. Haskins move and it got snagged on a nail from his beat up dresser. Then you sort of forgot about the shirt and it sat in the bottom of your draw with no attention paid to it for years. In a massive purge, you found it, and unable to bring yourself to include it in the Goodwill pile, you brought it back, wearing it occasionally on the weekends. You smiled every time you opened your drawer and saw it on top again. Your wife hated it, but she didn’t understand, because she wasn’t with you when you bought it, and didn’t know your connection to it. That shirt is Rosie’s, except your wife will love Rosie’s. Everybody loves Rosie’s.
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