Arcadia is on Congress Street in Portland, in the former location of Port City Music Hall. Photos by Angie Bryan

I’ve never been an arcade/pinball/skeeball person, so I was never really interested in going to Arcadia, either on Preble Street or when it took over the much larger former space of Port City Music Hall about two years ago. But I had heard about its cocktails, and I appreciated the wordplay in its name, so I knew eventually I’d make it there. I’m kicking myself for not having done so sooner.

My friend and I went on a Wednesday, when there’s free pinball and happy hour prices all day (on other days, happy hour is 5-6 p.m.). When you walk in the door to the left of the small outdoor patio, an employee checks your ID before allowing you inside – it’s a strictly 21-plus venue. There are two large tables with bench seating in the window area, perfect for groups, but most of the seating is on surprisingly comfortable backless but cushioned barstools around a rectangular bar in the center of the room.

Continue past that and you enter the arcade area, which has several high-top tables, each with four backless metal barstools. Around the corner is the “food court” – you order your food separately from your drinks, paying separately as well. That area has a few cushioned booths, but you can take your food to the bar or bring your drinks to the food area. Downstairs you’ll find more games, including a large-screen Nintendo Switch. Both floors have restrooms.

We sat at the bar (where there were no hooks underneath). The crowd was a relatively even mix of genders, with the bulk of the patrons appearing to be in their 30s. Surprisingly, the noise was at a decent level, and we weren’t overwhelmed by arcade sounds. Water dispensers and cups were placed throughout the establishment.

High-top tables in the arcade are among the seating options at Arcadia.

The cocktail menu did not disappoint. Divided into classics, house cocktails and highballs, most drinks were in the $12-$14 range. My drinking companion ordered one of Arcadia’s nitro draft cocktails (in other words, a cocktail on tap – how do I get one of those installed in my apartment?), the $14 50/50 Cosmo: cranberry-adjusted Grey Goose Le Citron vodka, dry vermouth, dry Curacao, cranberry bitters, lactic acid and lime. I wasn’t familiar with dry Curacao, a less sweet version of regular Curacao with a deeper (and drier) orange finish. We both preferred the 50/50 Cosmo over a regular one – it was much smoother and less tart, yet still had the essence of a traditional Cosmo.

The Amateur Astronomer and 50/50 Cosmo from Arcadia.

I went with the $13 Amateur Astronomer: gin, the Brazilian sugarcane spirit cachaca, Budweiser syrup, passionfruit, lemon, Mexican sparkling water Topo Chico and mint. I don’t like beer, but was intrigued by the concept of a beer-based syrup, which the friendly and efficient bartender explained was, in fact, a Budweiser reduction. It worked beautifully in the cocktail, providing a slight hint of beer, but balancing perfectly with the other ingredients. Both our cocktails could easily have been found at a high-end, much more expensive craft cocktail bar. We also very much enjoyed the gourmet pizza (which is $4 off during happy hour) and the fried pickle dip with kettle chips.

Acadia has a rotating tap list, but always has both Modelo and Pacific. The cocktail menu has a non-alcoholic section with six options ranging from $6 to $8, and for wine, one variety each of sparkling, red, white, and rose, ranging from $8 to $9 and served in small flat glasses to make spills in the arcade area less likely.

Arcadia has something for everyone – don’t wait as long as I did to go see for yourself.

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

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