Old Town has its own rules. It is its own party-ruined Long Island kingdom. And the Old Town rules have nothing to do with the rest of Portland. So when the Tube and Revelry co-owners decided to make an Eastside-style cocktail hang called Maxwell (20 NW 3rd Ave., facebook.com/20NW3RD) next to Tube, one wonders what this could possibly mean.
Well, it still means DJs every night except on Mondays, like at Tube. And it still means a bunkered concrete-and-brick space, like previous tenants Black Book and Yes and No. And like at most bars in Old Town, it means five flavors of Ciroc vodka and variations of Stoli and Absolut, plus a $300 bottle of Dom for the real ballers.
But here at Maxwell, the food is vegan—although there's no kitchen, so that means $9 panini-grilled sandwiches from Snackrilege, including a surprisingly tasty "steak." The vinyl booths are plush for comfort. The art on the wall depicts burlesque and drag performers leaning sultrily against the Hung Far Low sign, and the cocktails are a little more fancy than these parts are used to. The $10 Laid Back swirls together gin, limoncello and orange liqueur with bitters for a result that tastes like boozy-hot, sweet lemons, while the $10 Black Sunday is a world of cassis, plum and tequila with a black-salt rim. It is Old Town mixology: oversweet and brightly visual.
The friendly bartender makes the place into a decent hang, though a $7 well gin and tonic makes it a bit expensive to do so. And the fact that few crowds seem to have discovered Maxwell also makes it a pretty damn chill place for DJs to grab a drink between sets, next to insiders waiting for the real party to start. But does anybody come to Old Town to chill?