Outdoor drinking at its most relaxed.
A mellow crowd, mostly working parents and guys taking a break from mowing, is chilling on the bar’s deck on a sunny afternoon. If not for the “Maple Bar” sign, you could have mistaken this watering hole for another bungalow along the street.
Folks are nursing Oly beers and sparkling cocktails while enjoying a gentle breeze and glimpses of the Olympics. A couple feet over, a smooching couple and their retriever are resting under the shade of a maple tree.
It’s a Weber grill away from looking like a neighbor’s backyard barbecue.
Opened last August, Maple Bar has become a big hit with locals in Maple Leaf. Now owner Heather Ramsay has opened a second outdoor seating area, transforming a bushy, weed-filled backyard into a patio garden that seats 25.
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That garden has become a muse for the bartenders. On a recent afternoon, a young woman walks around the bar to snip some sprigs of rosemary for a gin and tonic. Lavender and mint for the Paloma and julep are also plucked from the garden. The cherry tomatoes will be pickled for a future cocktail, Ramsay said.
The Maple Bar bills itself as a modest neighborhood bar, where locals can play board games and catch up with neighbors over an IPA. But Ramsay and her bartenders care more about craft cocktails than they let on.
The trendy cocktail book, Death & Co, sits on the shelf, and a few drinks are cribbed from Imbibe magazine — both required reading for cocktail geeks.
The Maple Bar is one of the best cocktail bars to open in the North End in the past year.
Some easy-drinking libations headline a menu that features herbaceous spins on summer staples such as the gin and tonic (its best drink), a house-made tonic made with herbs from its garden and spiced up with peppercorns, rosemary and orange zest.
The happy-hour snacks — the usual wings, sliders and corn dogs — aren’t noteworthy but are sufficient to fortify you between rounds of drinks. That pulled-pork poutine is a misnomer, more like a plate of totchos, though that will go down easy all the same with a $2 can of Rainier.
The Maple Bar, 8929 Roosevelt Way N.E., offers happy hour daily from 3-6 p.m., with $2-$3 beers, $4 well drinks, $5 wine and $3-$5 snacks (206-402-6135; no webpage but on Facebook).