The first time I learned about the Broad Arrow Tavern was last January.

I first visited the tavern, which is tucked inside the Harraseeket Inn on Main Street in Freeport, as a student at the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Masters in Creative Writing program. During the 10-day residency, the students are housed at the Harraseeket Inn, and the tavern became a gathering place for us at the end of the day.

It’s the kind of place I couldn’t imagine many people going to if they’re not actually staying at the inn. But when I stopped in for a drink on a recent night, I realized I was wrong.

I sat next to two men who were visiting from Boston but staying elsewhere for the night. I also overheard one of the wait staff talking about a regular couple who took a table in the dining area because the small bar was full.

I settled into my cushioned bar stool and asked for a drink menu. I was stunned by the 11-by-14-inch menu the bartender handed me, with lists of beer and wine covering both sides and a corner reserved for specialty drinks.

I was immediately drawn to the French Kiss. Slightly less exciting than the real thing, this martini had a delicate mix of Grey Goose and Chambord with a splash of cranberry juice. 

While the bartender mixed my cocktail, I took in the scene. It’s exactly what I think of when I hear the word “tavern”: dark, cozy and warm. It also has touches of the Maine outdoors, with an array of stuffed animals.

The bar itself is small and off to the side from the larger restaurant. (Not far enough away, however, to escape the smells wafting over from the open kitchen area.) Behind the bar, large handles of top-shelf liquor reflect off a mirror, and six beer taps serving seasonal and local brews are lined up.

There are fewer than a dozen stools wrapping around the tavern’s bar, and it was full when I showed up. As I sipped my drink, it cleared out a bit, and my bar neighbors enjoyed a brick-oven pizza.

I listened to them rave about it, call it “out of this world,” but I resisted the temptation to get a pizza all for myself. After all, I am a girl on a budget, and my sweet martini was listed as $11.

If you’re going for the fancy specialty drinks at the Broad Arrow, you’re looking at spending between $8 and $12. Beer will run you from $4 to $6, and wine by the glass ranges from $6 to $12.

And if you do decide to order some food, the tavern offers award-winning dishes starting at $5 for a demi salad up to $34 for “The Real Maine Meal,” which includes a cup of lobster stew, a 12-inch lobster roll and a 12-ounce Maine microbrew beer.

So if you are hitting up the outlets this holiday season, don’t overlook the tavern inside the inn. It may be little, but it’s a great escape from the shopping bustle.

Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.