When I mention in conversation, off-hand, that I’ve lived in Maine for six years and have never been to Old Orchard Beach, the reactions range from incredulous to very obvious disappointment. I have to agree; it’s a travesty, and I don’t know how I’m still allowed to live here.
As luck would have it though, I got a taste of the Vacationland vibe at OOB when I drove through on my way to The Garage BBQ, a barbecue joint with a killer bar in Scarborough.
As you may have guessed, The Garage BBQ is located in what used to be a church. Kidding, of course. The building has been a garage since it was converted from a livery stable long ago and, when the weather gets hot, the garage doors come up creating a seasonally appropriate open-air vibe. The restaurant will be open from April to October, so there’s a solid three months of open door time.
If you’d rather sit outside, you certainly can do that on their patio. Complete with bench seating and large umbrellas, it’s a good spot to get out of the sun and enjoy a couple beverages.
Inside, the decor is decidedly industrial, as you might expect from a restaurant that used to be a garage/stable. There’s plenty of table seating inside, but I sidled up to the marble bar and acquainted myself with the draft, cocktail and bourbon menu — aka the “full lubrication service.”
The Garage BBQ boasts 14 taps, which include most of Maine’s most popular brews: Geary’s, Shipyard, Allagash and Baxter. Budweiser and Coors are also there for good measure, as are a couple out-of-state craft selections like Jack’s Abby and Goose Island.
I myself went for the bartender’s recommendation of Jack’s Abby Smoke and Dagger, a 5.8 percent alcohol rauchbier that pairs very well with barbecue. For $6, how could I say no?
The beer did complement my order of six dry-rubbed wings ($11) very well, but at the end of the meal, I was in the mood for something a little fruity, so my eyes were immediately drawn to the Limoncello Razz Fizz ($9), a delightful combination of limoncello, raspberry puree and prosecco. Fizzy, fruity and cold are sometimes all you need.
There are two flat-screen TVs behind the bar if you need additional entertainment. The staff is fun to watch in its own right though, as they were all embroiled in a lively discussion of what the newest special (a cocktail with blueberries and vanilla vodka) should be named. I left before a decision was finally made, but it came down between Blueberry Pie and Blue Man Group. Who could possibly make that decision?
While Old Orchard Beach wasn’t my final destination, I will always credit Garage BBQ for giving me my first taste of the old-school boardwalk fun times. Definitely a bar to keep in your back pocket if you want to escape the crowds and get out of the sun for a little bit.
WHERE: 3 E Grand Ave., Scarborough
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
AMENITIES: Daily cocktail specials, large draft selection, plentiful outdoor seating, large bar, happy hour specials, fire pit, air conditioning inside
BOTTOM LINE: Located right on the edge of Old Orchard Beach, The Garage BBQ is a great spot to check out if you want to escape the craziness of the boardwalk for a couple hours. A healthy draft list, funny drink specials and delicious BBQ are sure to keep your thirst at bay.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes