Pepper’s Landing might be in a strip mall, but the service is excellent and the prices reasonable. Photos by Angie Bryan

Not too far from Brunswick Landing, in the same strip mall as Bed, Bath, & Beyond, you’ll find Pepper’s Landing, a bar and seafood restaurant that opened in the spring.

My drinking companions and I were impressed from the moment we walked in; it was spacious and airy, and the wooden barstools with metal backs were comfortable.  (And yes, there were purse hooks under the bar – off to a great start.)

An Old Fashioned and a cocktail that the bartender whipped up on the spot, made with coconut and blueberry.

Our bartender was friendly and knowledgeable, two of my favorite qualities in the person who is making my drinks. My drinking companion went with an Old Fashioned ($7.50, plus an extra $1.50 for a specific bourbon). I was feeling less decisive, so I did something I don’t do unless I feel like the bartender is really good at reading people: I told her she could decide what to make me, as long as it wasn’t too sweet. She came up with a cocktail inspired by her housemate’s bath soap (a first for me), a mixture of coconut and blueberry so perfectly blended that I forgot to ask what kind of alcohol was in it. It’s not on the menu, so I was a bit worried about what the price would be, but it ended up being $8. The advantages of drinking in a strip mall!

The specialty cocktail menu had six options for $8-$10, many with nautical-themed names such as The Lobster Trap (Malibu rum, Bacardi rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice), Drunken Sailor (light rum, gold tequila, ginger ale and pineapple juice) or The Low Tide (Rum Haven coconut rum, Midori melon liqueur and pineapple juice). There were also four specialty mocktails for $6-$8. They even had a special menu of raw bar cocktails such as The Nautilus (a $10 concoction consisting of Smirnoff vodka, spicy bloody Mary mix and horseradish, topped with jumbo shrimp, olive, spicy pickle, celery, lemon and lime in a giant goblet rimmed with Old Bay).  There were six beers on draft (four of which were from Maine), ranging from $4.50-$7.50 and 16 bottled/canned options ranging from $4-$9, as well as 22 wines by the glass, ranging from $5.50-$13.

My friends and I talked with the bartender at length, and it was clear that she and her colleagues not only loved working there, but also loved the story behind the establishment. As the website explains in more detail, Pepper’s Landing is named after Pepper Martin, the grandfather of one of the owners. A Maine Guide, avid hunter and fisherman, and home brewer of a beer known as Pepper’s Champagne, Martin was a larger-than-life presence whose photos now decorate the restaurant, giving it a distinct family vibe despite the large space.

Although the décor and the vibe are completely different, Pepper’s Landing features the same food menu as its sister restaurant, Sea Salt in Saco. We went with the $16 spinach dip with lobster, the $9 crab quesadilla, and the $7 garden salad (which was enormous and came with a balsamic vinaigrette that I’m still thinking about). We loved everything we ordered and would definitely go back. I just need to find out when the bartender’s housemate is getting some new soap.

Angie Bryan is a former diplomat who is enjoying getting acquainted with her new home in Portland, one cocktail at a time.

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