When new owners take over an existing bar/restaurant, I’m always eager to see what, if any, changes they make. I knew Andy’s Old Port Pub was sold shortly before the pandemic, but I didn’t manage to get there to check it out until this year. Owners John and Tanya Lowell happened to be there during my stealth visit, so after my drinking companion and I had finished our food and drinks and settled the bill, I introduced myself and got to hear directly from them about their ideas for the place.

The biggest change, they said, is that Andy’s is now a soccer bar. John Lowell coached soccer for 25 years, so it was a natural fit. (He also worked as manager at the pub for a year under the previous owners.) During the recent World Cup, they had a blast welcoming new patrons from a variety of countries. The couple even times the pub’s opening hours around the earliest kickoff of the English Premier League; if there is a game at 7:30 a.m. on the weekend, say, they’re open for it.

The Lowells have also modified Andy’s approach to live music, and now feature certain musicians more regularly. Live music is scheduled on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and the occasional Thursday, too. On Tuesdays, from 7-11 p.m., the pub hosts a blues jam in conjunction with the Maine Blues Festival.

Given its location on the working waterfront, it’s not surprising that the Old Port Pub kitchen focuses on seafood and pub fare. The Lowells say they use local ingredients whenever possible. Harbor Fish Market is nearby, so the kitchen can buy seafood in small quantities and take advantage of what’s available. “The onus is on us to provide a stage for the best of the best,” John Lowell said. I can confirm that the fish and shrimp tacos were top notch, as was the pulled pork taco, all topped with excellent fresh pico de gallo (something this Texpat is very picky about).

Their tap line is exclusively local craft beers, 60% of them from smaller boutique distributors. They also buy from self-distributors. Their house lager, margaritas and bloody Marys cost $5 each.

Barbie Rock Star (right) and the Adult Chocolate Milk Photo by Angie Bryan

Old Port Pub lacks a cocktail menu, but I don’t expect pubs to offer one. It does have a full bar, and when I asked bartender Claire Boynton what cocktails she enjoyed making, she immediately suggested the $12 Barbie Rock Star (raspberry vodka, passionfruit liqueur, vanilla vodka, pineapple juice and Malibu) and the $11 Adult Chocolate Milk (chocolate vodka, Bailey’s and a little milk). My drinking companion, a lover of all things pink, ordered the Barbie Rock Star, which she declared “tastes like vacation!” Unlike similar cocktails I’ve tasted, it was neither cloyingly sweet nor dominated by the Malibu, which was a pleasant surprise. We also enjoyed my Adult Chocolate Milk, although we thought it tasted more like a vanilla milkshake. Maybe I just like my chocolate milk like my soul — extra dark.

Boynton, who has worked at Andy’s since September, clearly enjoys being there, and the service was stellar. My friend and I loved the big room in the back with a pool table, the friendly regulars who invited us to play a game of pool, the variety of seating options, the fact that the pub has both purse hooks under the bar and coat hooks on the wooden posts, the wall of boat photos on the back wall, and the local art for sale on another wall. Sunday is Trivia Night, Monday is Game Night, and even a brief chat with the personable owners makes you want to become a regular. The Lowells’ motto is “do simple things and execute them perfectly.” From what we saw, they’re doing precisely that.

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

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