An inviting sign at the Saco cocktail bar. Photos by Angie Bryan
Be sure to get a specialty cocktail – or two – at Lady & the Mensch.
The couch area inside the cocktail bar.
A popcorn machine and menus with the day’s offerings at Lady & the Mensch in Saco.
As soon as I arrived at the door to Lady & the Mensch, a cocktail bar in Saco that had opened about six months earlier, I had a sneaking suspicion that I was going to enjoy my visit. Perhaps it was the clever logo in which a martini glass forms the “y” in “Lady,” or the popcorn machine, or the bright and airy atmosphere featuring what appeared to be a copper-plated pressed tin ceiling.
After being welcomed by a friendly bartender who turned out to be one of the owners (his wife is the chef), my drinking companion and I chose one of the medium-high tables, delighted to find comfortable cushioned barstools with backs. There’s also a couch option.
For patrons who aren’t familiar with the Yiddish word “mensch,” a person of integrity and honor, one of the walls is imprinted with the definition. Cute chalkboards in frames outline the wine list, the local beers on tap and the selection of small plates.
On the day of our visit, there six wines by the glass ($6 to $8.50) and five by the bottle, plus five local beers on tap ($6 to $7). The small plate options change weekly, although the $6.50 fresh hummus and veggie plate is always available, so that customers have a gluten-free option. Other choices included a $6.50 tapenade, a $6.50 buffalo chicken dip, a $3.50 hot jumbo pretzel and a $9 Mediterranean torta, which is so popular with regulars that some version of it is almost always on the menu. There’s also a rotating selection of three desserts from a local baker.
Lady & the Mensch has a full bar, but the real star of the show is its specialty cocktail menu, featuring a dozen $9 to $12 drinks with entertaining descriptions, such as for the Mango Madness: “the secret ingredient is vodka, as all secret ingredients should be.” It was hard to narrow down our choices, but my drinking companion decided on “The Mensch” (when in Rome, right?), a cocktail whose description opened with “The Mensch has left a long trail of empty highball glasses in his wake to bring you the perfect whiskey sour.” The bar makes its sour mix in-house, and it did not disappoint. I went with “The Pep,” a beautifully smooth, perfectly balanced Manhattan. The drinks were strong, as was our desire to return and try additional ones.
In an embarrassing display of alcohol-induced gluttony, we ordered the hummus, the buffalo chicken dip and the pretzel. Having spent a great deal of my adult life living in the Middle East, I’m quite the hummus snob. One bite in, and I knew I had found a kindred soul. “That’s no grocery store hummus,” murmured my friend through a mouthful of warm naan, a welcome variation from the usual pita bread. The pretzel was also fantastic, and I can neither confirm nor deny that the buffalo chicken dip was so good that we ordered a second serving.
WHERE: 172 Main St., Saco
WEBSITE: On Facebook
HOURS: 4-9 p.m. Wednesday through Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
AMENITIES: Friendly owners who make everything themselves, except for the desserts; weekly-changing menu of small plates; popcorn machine; specialty cocktails
BOTTOM LINE: Worth making a special trip if you don’t live in Saco; rumor has it that there’s a fun crowd of day drinkers there on Sunday afternoons.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes