The bar at Regards, which opened in February in the space formerly occupied by Emilitsa. Photos by Angie Bryan

Fans of Little Giant, which closed abruptly in September, will be delighted to learn that several employees from there now either own or work at Regards, a bar and restaurant that opened in February in the Congress Street space formerly occupied by my beloved Emilitsa (sniff).

My faithful drinking companion and I wandered in and sat at the bar, an excellent choice not only because it had purse hooks, but also because it was such a pleasure watching head bartender Alexandra Welch construct our drinks.

Regards’ cocktail menu is limited, with only six choices the day we visited: an $8 chelada (a Mexican beer cocktail typically made with light beer, lime juice and salt), a $12 margarita ($9 during happy hour), a $14 Paloma, Bee’s Knees or Boulevardier, and a $15 martini. Each drink had a special twist on it, and I’m not talking about a twist of lemon. The chelada was made with Japanese seasoning yuzu kosho, the margarita had eucalyptus in it, the Paloma used mezcal and chipotle, and the Bee’s Knees involved lilac.

I chose the Boulevardier because it used house-made mole bitters, which are made without nuts, meaning my friend with a nut allergy could taste my drink, too. So much for intentionally ordering something nut-flavored so that I wouldn’t have to share.

A Boulevardier and a martini from Regards on Congress Street in Portland.

I’ve had a lot of Boulevardiers over the years, but this one was the best yet. My friend ordered the martini, which was made of gin and sotol, a Mexican spirit similar to mezcal but made from the desert spoon (aka sotol) plant instead of agave. The drink had a few drops of hibiscus oil floating on top and was spritzed with hibiscus so that we smelled the drink before we tasted it. Given that my friend is a card-carrying “don’t mess with my traditional martini” person, I was shocked that she loved her drink – and I think she was, too.

Shortly after our visit to Regards, I met Kimberly Lund Zabriskie at an event. She co-owns Regards with her husband and Regards’ chef Neil Ross Zabriskie and operations director Cameron Lewin. A sommelier and a ceramicist, she has made about 40 percent of the plateware for Regards, including the clay copitas for drinking mezcal straight.


She recently won the Women In Wine pairing competition during Portland Wine Week, for her pairing of an Uruguayan wine with Paige Gould of Central Provisions’ asparagus and ricotta tart. It’s impressive enough that she did a pairing with asparagus, but what really blew me away was the fact that she did not taste the dish ahead of time – she simply listened to Paige describe it and imagined which flavors would hit her palate first. In other words, Regards is by no means just a cocktail spot – be sure to take advantage of her expertise and ask her to recommend the perfect natural wine to go with your meal, your mood or both.

The vision behind Regards is one of “L.A. and Mexico City meet Portland” (that’s Los Angeles, not Lewiston-Auburn), she said. As Zabriskie explained to me, it’s her Afro-Cuban-Polish husband’s memories of the Japanese and Mexican food he ate growing up.

“He’s an artist,” she said, and “what we’re doing is a little different.” That’s evident from the food menu, where even an experienced foodie might benefit from a glossary. The menu states no substitutions, but 90 percent of the offerings are gluten-free. They can also accommodate dairy-free and nut-free diners, and several dishes can be modified for vegans.

Despite the absence of flaming saganaki, I look forward to seeing what Regards continues to come up with.

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

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