Located inside the Francis Hotel in the spot formerly occupied by Flood’s (and before Flood’s, by Bolster, Snow & Co), Wayside Tavern is not the kind of hotel bar frequented only by overnight guests.

When my drinking companion and I arrived on a Monday around 5:15 p.m. (it opens at 5), there was already a sizeable number of people there, and by the time we had decided what to order, the place was almost full. According to the bartender, most of the patrons that evening were residents of the neighborhood.

The atmosphere inside Wayside Tavern is warm and welcoming, with sage green walls and lots of plants. There are many charming details, such as music at a low volume, little vials of colored bitters sitting on the bar counter (which, to my delight, had hooks underneath), and an L-shaped banquette in the primary seating area.

There’s a spillover room with additional tables, but our favorite spot was the cozy back lounge area, perfect for a small gathering of friends who want some privacy. My friend and I settled in at the bar on the wooden barstools with backs and took a look at the drink menu. Service was friendly and fast.

The cozy back lounge at Wayside Tavern might be the best seats in the house.

Wayside Tavern has a full bar, but focuses more on wine than on cocktails. The cocktail menu has six options, all of which are $12 or $13: a martini, a daiquiri, a Negroni, a grapefruit highball, a drink called Paper Plane (bourbon, amaro, RAS americano and lemon), and a sparkling cocktail. My friend ordered the sparkling cocktail, a combination of vodka, blueberry, absinthe, vermouth, and bitters, and I went with the grapefruit cocktail featuring blanco tequila, salty grapefruit cordial and Cointreau. As advertised, mine was both salty and grapefruity, so I was not disappointed.

The Sparkling Cocktail and the Grapefruit Highball off Wayside Tavern’s drink menu, which is dominated by wines.

Wines by the glass range from $11 to $17.  They include two Italian sparkling wines, four whites (an Austrian Muskatina, a French Chenin Blanc, an Italian Arneis and a French Chardonnay), three rosé and orange options, and six reds (two from Italy, two from France, one from California, and one chilled Pais from Chile). The list of wines by the bottle is two pages long. In addition, they sell five draft beers and three bottles and cans, with prices for beers ranging from $5 to $10 (but most around $7 or $8).

The food menu isn’t what you’d expect from a place with “tavern” in the name. The six dinner options range from $19 to $27, with the exception of one $43 plate, a dry aged rib steak with pepper sauce.  Most of the menu is smaller plates that could work as nibbles to accompany a few glasses of wine, but are much more original than you’d find in a pub.

On the night we were there, some of the many choices included a $9 house-made Tuscan soppressata (do not Google how to make this item), $4 foie gras truffles, a $12 eggplant terrine, and $11 fried sunchokes. Feeling adventurous, we ordered the soppressata and the sunchokes, both of which my foodie friend very much enjoyed.

I can see why Wayside Tavern is so popular with its neighbors. It feels like a welcoming hug at the end of a long day.

Retired diplomat Angie Bryan writes about Maine’s cocktail bars while making as many puns as her editor allows.


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