Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Rí Rá logoI spend a good part of every summer on Great Chebeague Island off the coast of Portland, Maine. I made such a favorable first impression on my girl Natalie and her brood that first Thanksgiving so many years ago, that - to them - I was a logical addition to their summer party. I'm now part of an extended family that can balloon up to as many as 15 on any given day. We clamber around a rambling three-storey shingled cottage elbowing for room on couches for DVDs, and squeezing in at the breakfast table for popovers and egg "sammies".
Pint O'GuinnessFor visitors, island life is a simple life. Reading, jigsaw puzzles, golf, naps, long walks and lots of cooking with an extended cocktail hour every afternoon. There's pier jumping, and a greased pole climbing contest at the July 4th fair. But I begin every trip to the island with a stop at Northeast Liquors for a bottle of akvavit (more on that later), and a pint of Guinness or two at Rí Rá before catching the ferry over to Chebeague.

Rí Rá is conveniently located at the foot of the Casco Bay Lines dock. I've been eating and drinking there for years. Three years ago, I caught the 9:30 ferry from Chebeague every morning to watch the World Cup. I didn't miss a game. Upon arriving in Maine, my first stop is always The Rí Rá. They take pride in their traditional Irish atmosphere, slightly chilled draught beers and superior pub fare. Along with the now usual suspects of wings, crab cakes, Caesar salads, and burgers, their Irish dishes rank among the best. The Emigrant's Corned Beef & Cabbage ($12.95, served with mashed potatoes and Irish parsley sauce) is tender, obviously, but also perfectly seasoned with crushed pepper corns and a vinegary brining liquid. They do a Guinness simmered beef stew ($11.95) that rivals any red-wined also ran out of France. Finally, the traditional Irish Breakfast - eggs, bangers, rashers, pudding, grilled tomato fry up: $10.95 - is served, gratifyingly, all day long.
Rí Rá exteriorRí Rá interior
You can get a perfectly grilled to order burger for $8.95. It comes with a side of fries, nicely crisped and golden brown. The staff has never been anything but amazingly friendly and open. Portland thrives on a tourist trade, and the locals know it. Although I abhor thinking of myself as an outsider, the fact remains the summer crowd will never be considered locals, but I relish the hospitality showered on us every summer.
Pub Burger & fries
Rí Rá:
72 Commerce Street (right on the waterfront)
Portland, Maine
Local or tourist, arriving in Portland will feel like a homecoming. It's an unhurried, rugged, individualistic atmosphere. Consider it an invitation.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

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