You don’t have to be a NASCAR fan to enjoy your visit to Sarge’s Tailgate Grille in Saco, but it certainly helps.
Seemingly hidden on Storer Street between Main and Elm streets, Sarge’s occupies the first floor of an impressively large building across from its huge dirt parking lot.
If you enter through one of the doors in front, you’ll find the restaurant and diner area of the establishment. The bar and lounge are situated toward the back of the building, accessible by walking through the dining area or directly through the side door after the stairs and ramps.
Once you step through the doorway into the bar and lounge, it’s impossible to not take note of the obvious theme. NASCAR memorabilia, driver cutouts, checkered-flag motifs and race posters consume the wall and display space.
“I’m an avid collector,” says owner Ken “Sarge” Sargent. “This is mostly my personal collection. My wife, Cori, told me I had to get it out of the house, so it found a home here.”
The bar and lounge area includes a large U-shaped bar that takes up about half the space and seats at least 20 patrons. To the side is a half wall with a bar ledge for people interested in standing around talking to friends rather than spending their time sitting at the bar. On the other side of the half wall are a half-dozen small tables with checkerboard tabletops.
The drink of choice for most at Sarge’s is beer, with seven on tap and another 20 available by the bottle. Beer (ranging from $2.75 to $3.25 for both draft and bottles) skews heavily on the domestic side, with lots of Budweiser, Michelob and Miller varieties available. Or, my personal favorite, the $2.75 PBR pounder.
If domestic beer isn’t your bag, they also have imports and microbrews available, with Corona, Geary’s and Stella in bottles or Shipyard and Samuel Adams on tap. You can also order up a tall Guinness (22 ounces) for only $5.
With a full bar and a few wines, there are other options for folks who don’t want beer. They offer four house wines (Chardonnay, Cabernet Savignon, Merlot and White Zinfandel; $4) and four wines by the glass or bottle ($4.50-$6.25/$19-$26).
The most popular drinks served are Sarge’s house Bloody Marys and Margaritas ($4.50/$5.50), made with top-shelf liquors and served in a pint glass.
In my time at Sarge’s, I have to say I met some of the friendliest random strangers I have ever encountered at a bar. Usually when you go to a place where everyone knows everyone, if you are an outsider, you are relegated to a barstool in the corner. Instead, I was immediately engaged in conversation and treated like a new addition to a family. If the Cheers bar had racecar hoods and checkered flags on the walls, I’m pretty sure it would end up being Sarge’s.
Sarge’s is never short on activities and entertainment, either. When I was there, the back portion of the lounge was filled with patrons participating in the Tuesday-night Dart League, but the participants didn’t overwhelm the bar area, as often happens. During racing season, Sarge’s broadcasts on all of the televisions hanging around the bar and lounge area, and offers specials on appetizers and beer.
Whether you’re a NASCAR racing fan or someone looking for a friendly crowd to grab a tasty drink with, you will find a barstool waiting for you at Sarge’s Tailgate Grille.
Elisa Doucette is a freelance writer.