Monday, March 10, 2014
By EMMA BOUTHILLETTE
I've always loved seeing the Monument Square restaurants setting up patio tables just outside the front doors to accommodate customers who want to enjoy the weather on warm, sunny days.
Bartender Jennifer Brenerman pours a “hot and dirty martini” at Shay’s Grill Pub in Portland.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
SHAY'S GRILL PUB
WHERE: 18 Monument Square, Portland
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday
PARKING: On-street metered parking or a parking garage at the edge of Monument Square
SCENE: A cozy pub with good food and drink that makes a great place for a business meeting or drinks after work
SPECIALS: Daily specials starting at 4 p.m. include $5 quesadillas and $1.50 Pabst Blue Ribbon pounders on Mondays; $4 martinis on Tuesdays; $3 off pub meals and $2.50 Budweiser drafts on Wednesdays; $3 house wines and tall drafts for the price of small on Thursdays; $1 off all drafts on Fridays. All day Saturday, enjoy sangria for $4 a glass or $16 a pitcher.
Shay's Grill Pub is one of those places. Granted, there was no outdoor seating on the below-freezing day that I met my friend Shannon there for a drink, but the post-work happy hour was still enjoyable.
The pub is kind of on the small side, but with tall ceilings and well thought-out furniture placement, it feels spacious. Just around 5 p.m., Shannon and I were able to grab the only two seats left at the bar. A number of booths and tables were already full as well.
The bar offers about a dozen and a half beers on tap and by the bottle, ranging in price from $2.75 to $4. There is also a good assortment of wine, costing $4.50 to $8 by the glass.
Of course, I was in the mood for a liquor drink, and the bartender set a menu in front of me that had many tempting choices.
Shay's is home to the $5 martini, but there's also a selection of martinis on the menu that will set you back $9 (the part of the menu I was leaning toward).
The bartender recommended the "Eye Opener," made with Van Gogh Espresso Vodka, Stoli Salted Caramel and Godiva chocolate. Believe it or not, I had already overdosed on chocolate for the day. A drink that sounded more refreshing caught my eye.
I decided to order the "Ginger Hound," a shaken mix of Tanqueray, Domain de Canton and grapefruit juice. It was totally worth the $9. The drink had a complex combination of flavors, and was very light and refreshing.
The bartender also did a good job pouring my drink to the brim of the martini glass and sliding it to me ever so carefully so as not to spill a drop.
Shannon, meanwhile, took advantage of the day's $3 house wine special.
I ordered some sweet potato fries to snack on. The food menu at Shay's sounds equally as delicious as the drinks. And since the place has an open-kitchen concept, I saw a lot of dishes being brought to patrons. Shay's certainly doesn't skimp on servings.
As I sat and talked to Shannon, I enjoyed reading various stickers pasted on the walls behind the bar, such as those for Sugarloaf mountain and assorted beverages. Tucked between the racks of wine bottles are small vintage model cars that add character to the bar itself.
Hanging above the booths and tables at Shay's is a regularly changing gallery space for local artists. It's just one more element that makes Shay's atmosphere "hip but not pretentious," as it describes itself on the website.
Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.