Quinn’s Bardega ditched its full cocktail program, but kept a couple specialties and still has a full bar. Photos by Angie Bryan

I would never have realized that Quinn’s Bardega existed had somebody not tipped me off about it. Mellen Street Market has been the convenience store of choice in Portland’s Parkside neighborhood for close to 50 years, but there wasn’t a bar inside until Quinn’s Bardega opened on March 13, 2020.  Yes, you read that right – an unfortunate opening date for a bar or restaurant given what was about to happen.

Despite not publicizing the opening, Quinn’s had a fantastic first day and is still alive and kicking a year later. I gathered a few fully-vaccinated friends and headed over to check it out.

Both the convenience store and Quinn’s are tiny, and a wheelchair probably couldn’t navigate the narrow aisles. Every employee I encountered was friendly and welcoming, and I was pleasantly surprised to find purse hooks underneath the bar. There are also regular tables for people who prefer not to sit at the bar, and Quinn’s hopes to reopen its popular outdoor patio.

Manhattan and Cooler Than a Cucumber from Quinn’s Bardega.

I had heard great things about the cocktail program, but I was too late – it had been discontinued a few months ago due to lack of interest. That didn’t stop the bar from making me one of the two holdover cocktails from that menu, the $9 Cooler Than A Cucumber with gin, lime and a cucumber simple syrup. The other holdover is Shawn of the Dead (named after co-owner Shawn Freeman), made with tequila, lime, soda water and jalapeno simple syrup. My drinking companion ordered a $10.50 Manhattan, and we were both very pleased with our drinks, as well as with the service provided by bar manager Anthony Nataluk, formerly of Samuel’s.

Freeman was present during our visit, so we chatted with him about his vision. The website describes Quinn’s as “a magical place, where laughs are had, plans are made and neighbors come together to toast one another’s health.” Freeman wants to keep prices low enough for neighborhood residents to be able to stop by regularly, and hopes to become a focal point for introducing neighbors to each other.

Freeman also wants to support the community as a whole. He displays art by local artists, a local resident created the logo for Quinn’s, and he has fed third-shift medical personnel a couple blocks away at Maine Med on a few occasions.  He’s currently exploring options to partner with one or more individuals or organizations to do something about child hunger.

Freeman co-owns Quinn’s Bardega with Tim Ly, a friend for over 20 years. A lover of clever wordplay, Freeman came up with the term “bardega,” a combination of “bar” and “bodega.” The bar is named in honor of his grandfather, John Quinn.

Stellar sandwiches are also on the menu at Quinn’s in Portland’s Parkside neighborhood,

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the mouth-watering $9 cheesesteak sandwich and waffle fries I ordered. I’m still thinking about how delicious it was, and it easily could have lasted for two meals had I not powered through and eaten the whole thing in one sitting. I’m no quitter. My friends were equally impressed with the Italian and banh mi sandwiches that they ordered.

Happy hour is every day from 3 to 6 p.m. Different weeknights have special themes, such as The Wonderful White Claws of Wednesday, Truly Amazing Tuesday & Trivia and – my personal favorite – Margadilla Monday, when you can get a $5 margarita and a $6 quesadilla.

It’s hard to go wrong with a local spot that offers terrific service, delicious sandwiches, a full bar, reasonable prices, a cute bathroom, and the ability to do a little grocery shopping on your way out. I’ll be back – probably on a Monday.

Angie Bryan is a former diplomat who is enjoying getting acquainted with her new home in Portland, one cocktail at a time.


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