Venturing out to unfamiliar bars on weeknights has become a regular and enjoyable aspect of my life, but heading to Evelyn’s Tavern in South Portland, I’ll admit, I had a slight case of the jitters.
While grabbing a drink by myself isn’t as nerve-racking as it once was, the prospect of rolling up to a bar that, according to my own cursory research, has a strict “no new friends” policy made my palms sweaty. So, after luring a couple of sympathetic friends with the promise of drinks on me, we embarked on our quest to this quintessential local dive bar.
Located in a very residential, slightly dilapidated section of SoPo (made spookier by the dense fog on the night in question), the exterior of Evelyn’s is not the most inviting. Nondescript is the perfect word for it: There is literally no sign that a bar is there minus neon beer logos in the windows.
We were braced for a record-scratching, all-heads-turning situation when we walked in, but as it turns out, we don’t live in an ’80s movie, so our arrival went unremarked. The decor is charmingly bare bones, consisting mostly of wood paneling and knickknacks, both of which have probably been there since Evelyn’s was founded in 1978.
Our fears of not being accepted were, of course, completely unfounded. The bartender, daughter of founder Evelyn Urbano, was friendly, welcoming and patient with us as we fumbled through our drink order. The dream of blending in with the regulars, however, was dashed as soon as we opened our mouths to order. We asked the following questions, so you don’t have to:
What do you have on draft?
Nothing. All of the beer at Evelyn’s comes in bottles or cans. That being said, they have a wide selection of brews, ranging from dive bar staple PBR tallboy to Red Hook IPA and even Pumpkinhead for those yearning for falls past.
May I have an Old Fashioned?
Kind of, but not really. There were no bitters (an intrinsic part of an Old Fashioned) to be found in the vicinity of the bar, but more importantly, if you’re looking for a cocktail more complicated than a vodka and cranberry, Evelyn’s is probably not for you. A revised order of a glass of Maker’s Mark sufficiently solved this issue.
Do you take credit cards?
No. I felt silly for not assuming that Evelyn’s would be cash only, but the on-site ATM remedied this conundrum, as ATMs so often do.
Once we got our drink orders straightened out and paid for, we were treated to a lovely evening of watching the pool league, drinking our Miller Lites and Maker’s Mark and listening to the jukebox, which was pumping strictly head-bangers, including Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Despite my initial silly, groundless expectations, a great night was had by all.
WHERE: 121 Sawyer St., South Portland
HOURS: Monday 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday, 4-11 p.m. Tuesday, noon to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday, closed Sundays.
AMENITIES: Laid back, no frills atmosphere, darts, pool, pool league nights, TVs, jukebox, good selection of bottled beer, happy hour, daily $2.50 drink specials, dog friendly, friendly bartenders, family-owned feel, cool locals, divey atmosphere.
BOTTOM LINE: Evelyn’s tavern is a quintessential dive bar in every respect. Darts, pool, TV, beer and well drinks are what’s on the menu. What more do you really need? Don’t be fooled by the regulars-only vibe; all are welcome at Evelyn’s.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes