PORTSMOUTH — Could ale cure the ails of independent bookstores? Given the crowd that filled the newly-opened Portsmouth Book & Bar on a recent Saturday afternoon, it’s certainly possible. As the winter sun gushed through the tall picture windows of the bookstore-taproom hybrid, dozens of customers lounged on sofas, held court at a cozy six-seat bar, and huddled around tables imbibing books and glasses of beer and wine.
While cafes have become common appendages as bookstores try to fend off the Amazon and e-book assault, Book & Bar, which opened in December, adds a new dimension with beer, wine, gourmet sandwiches, small plates, and pastries. Brew lovers can go upscale with one of the local craft beers on tap or slum with a can of Narragansett, the sudsy equivalent of a trashy romance novel. There are about a dozen choices on the wine list, and caffeine fiends will still find coffee, espresso, cappuccino, and coffeehouse chatter.
The menu of high-quality used books for sale, many of them for less than the price of a beer, is even more impressive. Thousands of tomes are organized in sections from graphic novels to math, New England to Eastern philosophy.
The renovated, 2,800-square-foot space, located in the city’s old granite Custom House just a block from Market Square, retains the building’s 19th-century grandeur with lofty coffered ceilings and classical columns. The result is a very literary atmosphere for enjoying a drink, a meal, and a good read. Good luck ordering that on Amazon.
Portsmouth Book & Bar 40 Pleasant St., 603-427-9197, www.bookandbar.com
CHRISTOPHER KLEINCHRISTOPHER KLEIN