LFK, Portland

LFK is a drinker’s’ bar.

Plain and simple, regardless of how you choose to interpret that statement, that’s what it is. It is dimly lit and has the kind of eclectic décor, from deer antlers, old typewriters to an embossed Emily Dickinson poem that runs the length of the bar, that allow it to be a range of different things to various types of patrons. For me, the comfortable, mauve-colored bar stools in particular invoke the scene from Goodfellas where Billy Batts makes his short-lived homecoming.

That’s probably why I like LFK so much, because, despite the fact that it has only been around for three years, it has a lived-in quality that suggests it may have been founded in the early 70s. The crowd is incredibly diverse, as is the music. They’ve got a full cocktail list and a very reasonably priced selection of wines by the glass, but the beer program is what seems to get the most attention. They maintain solid selections on draught, including a list on the menu of what’’s on deck when the last kegs of the current beers are kicked. Most of the more quaffable brews, like Tecate and Hamm’s, are available by the bottle or can. You can even procure a full bottle of decent Prosecco, in the event that you’’re feeling celebratory.

Personally, after finding a suitable perch at LFK, I like to drink Jameson Irish Whiskey. It’’s got a hint of toffee in the nose, and strong flavors of butter and vanilla with a fairly long finish. It’’s not necessarily a sipping whiskey like Green Spot, but it always makes me happy and, as it turns out, goes quite well with damn near everything on the menu.

LFK boasts a fairly small menu, but it covers the entirety of bar food staples, in LFK’’s own inimitable fashion. This concept is perfectly illustrated when I start with their “deviled” eggs, which materialize on a plate emblazoned with a pentagram drawn in paprika. The eggs themselves are traditional, with a creamy texture that suggests a higher content of egg yolks than condiments, which I think is preferable as part of the allure of deviled eggs is the manner in which they conjure up the backyard barbecues from childhood.

The burger is an all-important staple in an establishment such as this, and LFK’’s version lives up to its solid reputation. The patty itself is thick, but well marbled, especially for grass-fed beef, so it stays juicy. A healthy portion of gooey, tangy pimento cheese, also known as the “pâté of the South,” makes the burger especially decadent and a touch messy. The bacon cheddar potato salad served on the side was most impressive due to its velvety texture, and although it is still quite rich, it does provide a pleasant cooling element as do the shallots which are lightly pickled in mirin.

One of the more interesting dishes is the marinated pork loin, which in a sense pays homage to the more Germanic routes of Alsatian cuisine, utilizing the combination of pork and sauerkraut with the addition of sweet apples stewed in cinnamon and brown sugar. The loin itself is quite tender, cooked to a pinkish hue, and benefits from long brining in caraway, fennel, brown sugar, and bay leaf. The addition of roasted delicata squash, which is also quite sweet, makes the acidity imparted by the sauerkraut absolutely crucial to maintaining the balance of flavor.

One thing I have noticed thus far is that no one in the kitchen is afraid of seasoning, which, in regards to these kinds of dishes, is a very good thing. The last of the pub favorites that I sample is their take on mac and cheese, which arrives in a small cast iron skillet, still bubbling from the oven. The primary cheeses employed are bleu and cheddar; however, there is a hit of Parmesan to add both salinity and umami. Béchamel melds the whole thing together, while an even dusting of fresh Dijon breadcrumbs and flecks of crispy bacon push everything right over the edge.

I will admit that by far the most surprising dish of the night is the chocolate tart. I am generally less excited by dessert than the rest of the meal, and it would be exceptionally rare for me to order it in a bar, but in this case I am glad I did. The tart itself is made with both coconut oil and almond flour as a base with the cocoa, and the flavor, aided by Maldon sea salt on top, is remarkably intense, but for some reason it’’s the texture that I find most compelling. It’’s silky, yet there is a crystallization, almost like the way it is with great Parmesan cheese. It’s really, really good.

Even after the last plate is cleared, my night is far from over. Another element of the experience at LFK is the depth of talent they employ, the range of personalities, most of which have a long history within the Portland restaurant community. Having been served by them in various establishments over the years, I’’m sure they can understand my earlier declaration that LFK has something to suit a very wide variety of tastes.

188A State Street | Portland | (207) 899-3277 | find them on facebook

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