A block up from the plastic lobster bibs and tourists waiting in line for ice cream sits Boothbay Harbor’s Thistle Inn.
For day-trippers looking for a refreshing cocktail – and those who rented a room at the inn – the Thistle offers an inviting boat-shaped bar and separate dining areas. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, three of us headed there shortly after the bar opened at 4 p.m. hoping to score seats at “The Dory.” We landed near the stern, pretty much where your right oar would hit the water if we were rowing in from our yacht in Linekin Bay (a girl can dream, can’t she?).
We checked out the cocktail menu and decided on three very different drinks. The woman sitting next to us recommended a Lavender Lemon Drop ($10), which features Tito’s vodka, elderflower liquor, lemon juice and lavender simple syrup. It’s a classy looking drink that’s served in a martini glass and tasted a little like a cosmo.
Next came the Jamaican Crush ($12), with Flor de Cona rum, crushed pineapple and chipotle simple syrup. Our bartender double-checked to make sure I wanted the spicy chipotle added in, I nodded yes and she promised not to use a heavy hand on the hot stuff. It provided a nice balance to the otherwise sweet drink.
And finally it was time for a drink called Save the Bees ($11), with Tom Cat gin, Barr Hill Raw Honey, chamomile simple syrup, lemon juice and lemon. The bartender hung around for the first sip and immediately offered to sweeten it up a bit. Apparently, the gin is known to be rugged. After adding a little more syrup, she also said she could mix in a splash of fresh rhubarb puree – another great suggestion that provided a counterweight between the syrup and the gin.
For the beer drinkers, there was a nice mix of Maine microbrews priced between $6 and $8 a pint, including the Oxbow Farmhouse Pale Ale, Dog Fish Head 60 Minute IPA and the Atlantic Brewing Coal Porter. There were also bottles and cans from Coors Light to Corona and two cider options.
Two more locals wandered in shortly after we arrived, filling six of the eight bar stools. There were three high-top tables in the bar area behind us and more seating next to entrance. The formal dining areas are in smaller rooms, one of which was separated from the bar area by a sliding barn door that was likely there long before every trendy couple in suburbia had one installed in their en-suite.
The inn dates to 1861 when it was built as the home of a sea captain, according to the inn’s website. It’s been an inn since 1960 and is on Oak Street, aka the main road you drive on when you are just heading in to the heart of downtown Boothbay Harbor. It’s right next to the Opera House, making dinner and a show an attractive option.
When it came time for food, we ordered the chicken wing special ($11 happy-hour price), which came with four double wings, carrots, celery and our choice of bleu cheese or ranch. We also put in for a flatbread, which varies in price depending on toppings.
It should be noted that there is a separate pub menu that offers lighter fare with salads, mussels, Maine crab cakes and truffle tots, which came highly recommended from a local. As you might imagine, the pub fare is smaller and less expensive. The grown-up menu for the dining rooms has entrees ranging in price from $18 to $34, with the lazy lobster varying with market price.
When it was time to go, we contemplated a second stop at one of the bars along the waterfront. We ended up at Robinson’s Wharf in Southport, giving us a chance to soak up the sea air and sunset from the comfort of our barstools.
WHERE: 55 Oak St., Boothbay Harbor
PHONE: (207) 633-3541
HOURS: 4-9 p.m. daily
AMENITIES: The website offers online table reservations if you’re going for dinner, there’s a large TV in the bar area and an outdoor bar will be opening soon. Happy hour is 4-5 p.m. daily.
BOTTOM LINE: There are lots of great eating and drinking options in Boothbay Harbor, but if you’re looking for an awesome cocktail in a classy bar, this is the place for you.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes