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Susan Cover

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Posted: April 17, 2018

Grab a pint at Gary’s in Naples and travel back in time

Written by: Susan Cover

The Victorian housing Gary’s was built around 1880.
Photos by Susan Cover

When you walk in to Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern in Naples, you can almost hear the rumble of the stagecoach on its way in from Portland.

There’s been a tavern at this spot, located on what is now heavily traveled Route 302, since the late 1700s – although the first two burned down, making way for the present-day Victorian farmhouse, built around 1880, according to the local historical society. Judging by the big beams, low ceiling and wide plank floors, much of the original home has been preserved even as burgers, fries, pizzas and modern-day microbrews are slung across the bar top.

On a recent sleepy Saturday afternoon, we perched ourselves at the bar, which twists and winds its way around the room in a shape that allows for private conversations, if you’re so inclined, or if you want to ask the guy at the end of the bar what he’s reading, you can do that too. My party of two opted for privacy.

The bartender was quick and attentive, asking what we’d like. I asked for a cocktail menu, but she said they were between seasons; spring is not quite time to roll out the summer offerings. I ordered a rum punch anyway, and it came just as I had expected: colorful and tasty, with a side of summer cheer.

Gary’s offers tasty cocktails in addition to a wide variety of local beers.

There’s a ton of beer options, including some brewed on site at Bray’s, which is just behind the restaurant. On this particular day, there were seven Bray’s brews, including Pleasant Mountain Porter, Muddy River Brown and Whatchu Gott IPA. Another chalkboard listed 20 additional beer options, including Oxbow Farmhouse Pale Ale, Mast Landing’s Gunner’s Daughter, Founders All Day IPA and ye olde standbys, Guinness, Bud Light, Coors Light and Stella Artois.

When it comes to food, there are plenty of appetizer options, from fried Brussels sprouts ($10) to lobster stew ($8 cup) and pork dumplings ($9). We went right for the pub menu, which features four types of burgers (black Angus beef, bison, turkey, veggie), a lot of pizza options and a local sausage platter with three specialty sausages served with onions and peppers or sauerkraut ($16).

I ordered the pulled pork sandwich ($9), described as Southern style and slow roasted in Bray’s Ale with barbecue sauce. The bartender asked if I wanted it “extra spicy,” but I declined, sticking with the traditional sauce and a side of fries. My dining companion opted for the pesto grilled chicken sandwich with a side of coleslaw ($9). For a little extra, we could have gotten onion rings or sweet potato fries.

Before we knew it, the food had arrived. The pulled pork was delicious, the brioche bun was toasted just right, and the fries were excellent. The pesto grilled chicken was fresh (as advertised), but could have used a little more pesto.

My dining companion could not stop talking about the coleslaw. Seriously. A generous portion, it was zingy in all the right places. She liked it so much, she even asked the bartender about the “secret ingredient.” The bartender smiled, and like all good bartenders who keep secrets, she claimed not to know.

Since we were there late-afternoon, we didn’t get a chance to scope out the dinner menu, which is offered from 5 to 9 p.m. But online, it shows eight items in addition to the pub menu. There’s a kids menu available all day too, with spaghetti, hot dogs, mac and cheese, grilled cheese and other options.

Right about now, I started thinking back to the other times I had been in this particular bar. It was during the Maine Blues Festival, held every Father’s Day weekend in Naples. Back then, the bar was called Bray’s Brewpub and Eatery, and it was packed to the gills with blues lovers. You had to snake your way through the indoor crowd to get to the outdoor patio, where another bar greeted you, but the main attraction was the blues band onstage.

The festival is held at bars and restaurants from one end of Long Lake to the other, and you can even catch live blues music on the Songo River Queen II, if you time it right.

This year, the festival is set for June 15-17, and tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the festival. Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern is at one end of the line and is a nice place to start your blues tour … or just spend a sleepy Saturday afternoon.

Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern

WHERE: 678 Roosevelt Trail, Naples
PHONE: 693-6806
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily
AMENITIES: Large bar, ample restaurant seating and a big outdoor space for summer dining
BOTTOM LINE: There are lots of food and drink options at Gary’s, with a nice variety to fit any budget, from hearty $9 sandwiches to a full dinner menu that includes a $22 steak meal.

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