When you compare the bar scene at El Rayo Taqueria in Scarborough to the El Rayo in Portland, one of the major differences is the alcohol selection. Scarborough has a full bar, Portland doesn’t. There are more than 35 varieties of tequila and mezcal in Scarborough, six in Portland. And while Portland is outfitted with one draft beer (Dos XX), Scarborough has six local taps. The Scarborough location – El Rayo’s new and second address – has a little more oomph and about 60 additional seats.
Still owned by Tod Dana and Alex Fisher, and like its Portland predecessor, took the place of a gas station, Scarborough’s El Rayo is bigger, louder (color-wise) and – despite what its selection of alcohol might suggest – has quickly become a popular place for Scarborough families. However, because of the weeknight happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. ($5 house margaritas and complimentary chips and salsa), as well as $5 burrito Mondays and $5 house margaritas all day on Wednesdays, there’s a young professional crowd that can be seen most nights in the raised bar area.
The bar stools and chairs are all a near-blinding red, yellow, pink or blue contrasted with the warm and chic reclaimed wood bar and tabletops. There’s additional counter seating situated in front of the open kitchen directly as you walk in, where several patrons will likely be waiting for takeout.
Even during peak dinner hour, drinks and food arrive at record speed – icy and refreshing swills; warm and crisp tortilla chips. The bartender is not only fast and attentive, but gives accurate descriptions of drinks. For example, the “Snake Bite” – El Rayo’s signature spicy margarita – was dubbed as “not really that spicy,” which was correct and somewhat disappointing (it’s called “Snake Bite” after all!) The 12 cocktails are all $8.50 and served on the rocks. Tequila flights are $12 to $19 and are all 100 percent pure agave tequila. There’s also a considerable list of non-alcoholic drinks for the kiddos.
Starting again in January, El Rayo’s annual “Feed the Arts” program will donate 10 percent of proceeds made on Sundays at both El Rayo locations to a different Maine art nonprofit or collective.
A great addition to Route One in Scarborough and a happy, lively place all around, El Rayo’s second act will likely be here for years to come.
El Rayo is at 245 US Route One, Scarborough; 494-1000; elrayotaqueria.com. Winter hours are11 a.m. to 9 p.m. everyday; Summer Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday; open until 2 p.m. New Year’s Day.
SPECIALS: Happy Hour 4 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday complimentary chips & salsa and $5 margaritas, $2 bottled beers; $5 burritos Monday; $5 house margarita all day Wednesday
AMENITIES: Brightly colored and cushioned bar stools, hot sauce at each place setting, crazy quick service, vending machine, free parking, seating at open kitchen and full bar
PARKING: Free parking lot
BOTTOM LINE: Expect to find parents, kids and grandparents at El Rayo in Scarborough, but a young, professional crowd at the bar area. The service is super quick, the drinks are tried and true, and what better bar food is there if not fish tacos and Mexico City-style corn on the cob?
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes