My introduction to the eye-poppin’ Frog & Turtle Gastro Pub in Westbrook is a little tainted. Standing out on a rainy curb taking a quick pic of the place for the scrapbook, some jerks start laying on the horn just because.

Really, guys? Side. Walk.

They slowly lurch their blue Pontiac forward and I imagine them, two teenagers, chuckling in their weasel-y way.

But everything beyond this moment is worth the fuss. The Frog and Turtle crackles inside, a smoldering swamp with witches brews. Although the statue outside depicts a frog and turtle playing a gentleman’s game of chess, inside there’s plenty of mischief afoot.

It starts innocently enough with a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Safest of plays. There’s some movie posters, the requisite Ted Williams portrait, but most strikingly there’s a large thick-leafed plant square in the middle of the bar. It’s a great centerpiece.

Mostly though, the place is just lit well with great colors, perfect for its live music heart. The Tony Boffa Trio and Joe Farren share Thursday nights, and Friday mixes it up, sometimes with the crankin’ Jerks of Grass.

The G Pub is up on every detail. Every level of management, including affable owner/chef James Tranchemontagne, come out to greet me, including chefs and waitresses, all loving life, loving being there. Their welcoming nature is not lost on me.

I might have known. Soon as it gets all “pleasant,” the real whizbang comes in an ice-cold, bubbling — no, make that bubbling and smoking — chartreuse martini called “The Swamp,” the Frog & Turtle’s signature drink. Apparently it’s made with Absolut, Midori, pineapple and orange juice, and the boiling effect is some dry ice, but none of that registers at all as the thing goes down, lemme tell ya. Vats of sin, they should be called. The Swamp is refreshing and smooth, kind of like the F&T’s whole m.o.

When I ask about the contents of the menu, the bartender literally blushes. “Oh my gosh, the food here,” she says. “Wicked perks” we called ’em back in my restaurant days. Try fried calamari (with charred greens and creamy lime dressing, $10) and then wash it down with a tsunami flatbread (BBQ and Ninja Sauce with bacon grilled chicken, roasted garlic spinach, and blue and cheddar cheeses, $13).

There’s no area of the biz of being a live music gastro pub that these people aren’t ahead on. It’s the closest, coolest escape from the city.

 

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.