Looking at the signs hanging off the side of buildings on Commercial Street in Portland, you can find Andy’s Old Port Pub easily. But if you’re walking along and not paying attention to the nooks along the facade, you’ll likely miss it.
The entrance is about five steps up from street level, and the door is tucked away. I’d been to Andy’s before, and I knew the entrance was tricky to spot (even sober). It gave me pause, though, when I decided to drop in on a recent Thursday night.
Right in the window facing the street, musician Peter Gavett was setting up. Normally part of a trio, Gavett was playing solo acoustic with a mix of covers and original tunes.
His audience was small when I was there around 7 p.m. A few guys gathered at the bar sipping beers and taking shots of Jim Beam. A couple sat at one of the pub tables.
It was a quiet night, but I’ve seen the small bar at Andy’s quite full. In fact, I remember a happy hour when co-workers and I overtook the bar’s long picnic-style table, and other customers filled the rest of the barstools.
When I bellied up to the bar, I was pleasantly surprised that Shipyard Pumpkinhead was still on tap and one of the night’s happy hour specials. I grabbed a pint of that and started perusing the menu.
Andy’s has about two dozen offerings for red, white and sparkling wines, a selection of Honeymaker Meads, and 10 beers on tap with even more in the bottle. Of course, it also has a fully stocked bar and is willing to mix up any drink you’d like.
There’s some small-town charm to this little waterfront pub. Photos of fishing and recreational boats line a good portion of the walls at Andy’s. According to one bartender, most of the photos are of loyal customers’ boats; regulars who come to Andy’s from all over, including some of Casco Bay’s islands.
The people you find at Andy’s come from all walks of life. You could easily meet a fisherman there or a businessman.
It’s my impression that Andy’s is the kind of place that hard-working people go to unwind. It’s also the kind of place for friendly people — the bartenders were very chatty and fun to joke with.
Not open super-late into the night, Andy’s steers away from the wild Old Port nightclub scene and keeps it low-key with acoustic music acts scheduled nightly. The pub keeps an up-to-date music calendar on its website.
And don’t be deceived by the small-pub atmosphere. Not only do the bartenders whip up good drinks, but the staff has a knack in the kitchen, too.
I can’t remember what I ate the first time I went to Andy’s, but I remember thinking: “This food is amazing.”
Along with my Pumpkinhead, I had a crock of French onion soup to warm up. Probably a pairing most gourmets would frown upon, but it was a delicious combo on a chilly night.
Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.