Friday, December 13, 2013
By EMMA BOUTHILLETTE
I remember hearing about Billy's Chowder House from my mom when I was growing up. It was a restaurant my parents visited when family came to town for summer vacations.
Bartender Kelly Whitney prepares drinks at Billy’s Chowder House in Wells.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
BILLY'S CHOWDER HOUSE
WHERE: 216 Mile Road, Wells. 646-7558; billyschowderhouse.com
HOURS: Open daily at 11:30 a.m.
PARKING: Parking lot with valet
HAPPY HOUR: 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday with half-price drinks, beer and wine
SCENE: A casual sports bar inside a Maine seafood restaurant where you can find locals mingling with tourists
AMENITIES: Like any good sports bar, Billy's Chowder House has a lot of televisions to watch games, but with a view over the Rachel Carson Wildlife Preserve, your eyes shouldn't be on the TV.
It only seemed right that I snagged her for an afternoon cruise down to Wells to check this place out.
Admittedly, traffic heading south on Route 1 on the third Saturday of July was a bear, but when we finally made it to Billy's, I was amazed by the location: The restaurant/bar sits right on the marsh that is part of the Rachel Carson Wildlife Preserve.
It was even more impressive as we made our way to the bar at the back of the building. Windows lining the building provide an excellent view of the marsh. The tide was low when we were there, and we were told that when there are extraordinary high tides, it almost looks like the bar is floating in water.
As we picked two seats on one corner of the three-sided bar, I was immediately interested in the Little Black Dress Cocktail menu. Each drink comes in at about 100 calories, and makes sipping a drink arouse a little less guilt.
I ordered the Soda Shop, which has Little Black Dress Black Cherry Vanilla Vodka mixed with Diet Coke. Mom decided to try the Blue Berry Lemonade with Little Black Dress Blueberry Pomegranate Vodka and light lemonade.
Mine came served with a cherry, and mom's came served with small blueberries floating in the glass. The drinks cost $6.50 apiece.
Billy's Chowder House has been open for more than 30 years, current manager Chris Varano estimates. His brother Dick and sister-in-law Sherri are the current owners. When they took over, the Varanos renovated Billy's, converting a porch into what is now the bar and making it suitable to remain open almost year-round. (They close for some of December and January.)
Unlike the restaurant, which is decorated with nautical memorabilia, the bar walls are covered with sports photos, beer and liquor swag, and a number of college pennants. Varano said a lot of the staff starts working at Billy's when they're in high school. When they leave for college, they often return with a pennant to hang in the bar.
The bar has a dozen beers on tap and more in bottles, wine offerings and a full bar. One popular item is the Voodoo Juice Bucket. The bucket has 32 ounces of four different rums and juices, topped with a dark rum.
Varano was kind enough to let us sample the Voodoo Juice. Mom and I agreed that it could mean trouble on a hot summer day. While it contains an ample amount of rum, the concoction really just tastes like juice.
Luckily, they have a two-bucket-per-person limit.
Emma Bouthillette is a freelance writer who lives in Biddeford.