St. Patty’s Day was eerily warm this year, and on Maine Street in Brunswick, the sunlight gloriously blinded at sharp angles. It took a while, but sort of like the dream sequence from “Happy Gilmore,” an Irish flag with the word “open” oozed out of the white-hot light. Soon after, the words “public house” emerged large on the long glass windows across the way.

Bingo. I knew it was Lilee’s, not by name, but by function.

“Yeah, that was definitely something we wanted from the beginning, to get back to the original meaning of public house,” says Chris Pillsbury, a cofounder. He means back in the day when there were only two options for places to go – a church or a public meeting house – where ales were poured and politicians were skewered.

Call it a lucky Irish push, but the pub was popping like April clovers, and in the world’s quickest no-brainer, I dropped $9 on the daily special, a tall chocolatey Guinness with a luscious neat Jameson’s on the side, a haymaker to my Celtic jaw. Might as well – this is how my people have gotten down for centuries. I’m an easy-grinning laddie, and there’s whiskey in the jar.

“What’s with the signs?” I asked, pointing to two monstrous rectangles framed in brick above the bar. One reads, “AIRPORT Brunswick Flying Service,” the other simply “Grand City.”

“Oh, the older folks get a kick out of those,” Pillsbury says, “Grand City was a market that shared our block and sold everything to the locals: lightbulbs, sewing needles or sandwiches, you name it. It closed down, and the former owners donated (the sign) to Lilee’s.” It looks great under these endlessly high ceilings, a kind of portal to the community’s past.

It’s a testament to the trust that Pillsbury and his business partner, Robert Magda, have cultivated, starting with a high-end joint around the corner called Back Street Bistro and now with Lilee’s, which Pillsbury admits caters a little more to their shared “beer-and-burger” sensibilities. It’s almost like in order to retire in pub heaven, the restaurateurs had to cut their teeth on the greater risks of a high-end date magnet.

The burgers in question are served until 11 p.m., and the masses that work in this foodie/college town sure appreciate it. They cash out their tips around 9 p.m., and move in droves to conquer their appetites with affordable style.

Thankfully, there’s no reinventing the wheel; hungers are slayed with barbecue pulled pork sandwiches ($9, thinly sliced pickles and onions, topped with melted cheddar and sauce) or by going big with the cottage pie ($11, layers of ground pork and beef, creamed corn and sweet bell peppers topped with parmesan mashed potatoes).

Lilee’s isn’t kidding around with this old-school public house stuff, judging by all the fist-pounding and hearty bellows in the hall. It’s no wonder the clientele is typically made up of an age group with more experience and discernment.

Pillsbury and Magda have concentrated all their tricks of the trade, garnered over many decades, into one well-oiled public servant of an alehouse. Lilee’s is itself not even 8 months old, but it’s got the look and feel of a trusty veteran.

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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