How does a restaurant distinguish itself in today’s market? In Portland, there are three trendy eastern Mediterranean restaurants within half a mile of one another. They each offer a chic atmosphere, excellent cocktails, and outstanding, authentic food. But of the three, Evo Kitchen & Bar is the smallest by a few thousand square feet. At just 1,400 square feet (compared to 7,000 at Tiqa and 5,000 at Ebb & Flow), Evo’s architecture, with floor-to-ceiling glass and incredibly efficient use of space, makes the restaurant the visual standout by far.
The glass house sits at the base of the Hyatt Hotel, but is not the hotel’s restaurant (that’s Glass Lounge next door, which might get confusing). The majority of the 48 seats (all comfortable bar stools) are on the ground floor, and there’s room for about 15 at two- and four-tops on the mezzanine level, which is suspended directly over the centralized bar and open kitchen.
No matter where you sit at Evo, you’ll have a direct view of the open kitchen, which shares a space with the bar, and great views of passersby on Fore and Union streets. Keep in mind that there’s not a seat in the house where someone from the outside can’t see you.
The best time to check out Evo right now is during happy hour from 5 to 6 p.m. on weeknights. During the hour, draft beers, a featured cocktail and a wine by the glass are all $5. The house Mezze plate, which includes hommus, baba ghanouj, and muhammara with house pita, is just $4 (for the amount of food you get, this is basically free).
Michael Gatlin, bar director at Evo, has created a cocktail list that changes seasonally and complements Chef Matt Ginn’s authentic Mediterranean fare seamlessly. Cocktails are based onmescal, Metaxa (a Greek brandy), gin, vodka and rye. The Metaxa cocktail, called the Full Blood ($12), was recently featured on Gaz Regan’s 101 best cocktails and is made with Lillet Rouge, lemon blood orange, basil honey syrup and Metaxa 5 Star. An upcoming cocktail for fall will feature rye, cold brewed coffee, amaro monetengro, punt y mes and local bitters.
According to the website, Evo is one of only a few New England restaurants that carry a wide range of white and red wines from the eastern Mediterranean, including bottles like Ixsor, Altitude Sauvignon Blank and GA’IA Notorious Red Blend.
Because of the shared kitchen and bar space, there is a lot of collaboration between the bartenders and chefs. One such alliance will result in a new cocktail that will feature duck fat-washed bourbon with dry vermouth, dry curacao and chili syrup.
Gatlin says Allagash White is almost always on tap, but other taps rotate regularly to include local offerings like Banded Horn, Oxbow, Rising Tide, Foundation and Bunker. A sour beer from Liquid Riot has recently been a popular brew on tap.
If you can’t make it over for happy hour at Evo, the full menu is served until 10:30 Sunday through Wednesday, and a late night menu is featured until 11:30 Thursday through Saturday.
Evo’s unique space and Mezze-style dining encourages food to be shared with a few friends or a somewhat larger party on the mezzanine. The staff is attentive, and despite the snug kitchen and bar quarters, the mood is light, creative and energetic. Evo is a great way to experience the Old Port this fall.
443 Fore St., Portland | 207-358-7830 | evoportland.com
HOURS: 5 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday to Tuesday; 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Wednesday to Saturday; late night menu until 11:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday
AMENITIES: Great natural light in the evening, host table, sliding bathroom doors, linen napkins, attentive service, open kitchen.
BOTTOM LINE: Evo Kitchen & Bar should be on the top of anyone’s list for the next place to go for wine, cocktails, and small plates. Michael Gatlin has created a beautiful drink list that complements Chef Matt Ginn’s beautiful, seasonal Mediterranean fare. The all-glass space and design is breathtaking, and nowhere else on Fore Street will you feel like you’re at a swanky bar somewhere in Manhattan.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes