When a restaurant has been around for about as long as I have, it must have something special to offer. Such is the case for The Great Lost Bear on Forest Avenue. This festive eatery and pub has been in its Portland location since 1979, according to management, and business is still going strong. Their wide variety of food is a big attraction, but I think their endless selection of microbrews from Maine and beyond is the reason people still flock there.

The restaurant has a rustic atmosphere with old pub signs and wall-mounted boat accessories. The large wrap-around bar is decorated with Christmas lights (year-round!) and filled with merry patrons tasting their favorite brews. The bar is visible from the large dining area through suspended glass windows. The Bear can easily accommodate large parties with its separate party room at the back of the restaurant and an outdoor patio for the warmer months. The noise levels can get quite high, so I wouldn’t go to there to enjoy a relaxing meal.

The Bear makes it easy to be rowdy, especially on Thursdays. Every week the restaurant showcases a different brewery or type of brew. Sometimes two brews are pitted against each other-somehow the customers come out the winners.

Their six-page menu is impressive, though it is hard to chose from the endless possibilities. One page is dedicated entirely to appetizers, with lots and lots of nacho choices! We started off with some Super Nachos minus the chili-cheese, tomatoes, onions and peppers ($8.25). A few other nacho selections include chicken, veggie and Portland’s Favorite-just cheese ($7.95 to 9.75). They also have a pretty impressive wing selection ($9.25 to 9.95).

Our nacho plate was enormous. The platter was covered with tortilla chips and topped with plenty of melted cheese and all the fixings. The plate could have easily fed four or five people. We stopped halfway through to save room for our meal. We finally decided to order the Cajun-grilled chicken sandwich ($8.95) and the grilled chicken fajita ($9.95).

Stuffed from the nachos, we were worried we wouldn’t be able to touch our main course. The waitress knew exactly what she was doing though, and spaced the courses perfectly.

By the time our food came the place was hopping. A large party gathered at the table behind us and we raised our voices to hear each other over the chatting and occasional burst of laughter.

The sandwich was spicy and the lettuce and tomato that topped it were fresh. The round, sliced, skin-on potato fries that came with the meal were warm and tasty. My friend’s baked fajita was filled with chicken, tomatoes, peppers, onions and cheese and could only manage to eat half though he was pleased with the taste. Other entree choices include rollups, burgers, steak, fish and cheese steaks ($7.95 to 16.50). It’s one of those places where you could just about name anything and they have it.

Two hours later we were finally finished. It seemed as if we were eating forever, and there was definitely no room for desert. Next time I think I’ll bring more friends, sit at the bar, eat appetizers, drink and be merry!

Staff Writer Katie Gallagher can be contacted at: [email protected]

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