“Drink while you rink” is the mantra, written in chalk on the menu, at The Rinkside Yurt & Bar at Thompson’s Point. So lace up your skates, grab a hot, spiked cider and hit the ice!
Or just completely skip the skates and cozy up by the fire with a drink in hand and watch the people falling down repeatedly. Granted, you can watch people drunkenly fall down anywhere on Fore Street after 11 p.m., but at Thompson’s Point, it’s more good-natured, and you’re less likely to find college kids grinding up on each other.
If you are crazy enough, like me, to head out in Maine in January and glide around on a slab of ice in sub-zero temperatures, then you will need the Yurt Bar. But it’s not just a bar of necessity, it’s a good bar — fun, well-designed (well, for a yurt), cozy and, most importantly, warm. Though it’s not wildly fancy nor does it have a massive menu, what it has is solid. The drinks are simple, with only one or two ingredients, but there’s something to be said for keeping it simple with nice booze mixed with well thought-out flavors.
Inside, you will immediately start to warm up. It’s cozy and sprinkled with strings of Christmas lights. Beams of wood prop up the thick tent. A fire burns in the corner. A stack of board games is available to its patrons. And inside, you’ll find a group of people laughing and chatting with each other, despite the fact that they didn’t come to the rink together. There’s a sense of camaraderie created by a set of common goals: Get warm, get drunk, get back to skating.
The bar is stocked with rotating, local craft beers (Bissell Brothers, Mast Landing, Allagash, etc.) and a small selection of wines from Maine’s Cellardoor. But if you’re coming in from temperatures that make penguins say “brrrr,” then you may prefer something a little hotter, a little stronger.
I tried the Vespertino Crema Tequila mixed into hot chocolate ($8). You can also order it with coffee, but they had run out of coffee (and the bartender happened to look awfully jittery — hmmm). The drink was nothing fancy or intricate, but it hit the spot: creamy, sweet and chocolatey, with a nice kick of tequila. But my favorite drink was the Stroudwater bourbon with hot cider ($8). The cider was sweet with a sharp acidic bite that complemented the heat and spice of the bourbon.
Your drink won’t come in a fancy cocktail glass, but in cheap, disposable to-go coffee cups. In a way, that added to the experience, keeping costs down and making it easy to toss the drink away before heading back onto the ice.
Yurt Bar is fun, original and a great place to go with skaters of all ages. Whether you’re looking for a place to go on a date, have a night out with friends or take your partner and kids, The Rinkside Yurt & Bar is a great choice this winter.
WHERE: 10 Thompson’s Point, Portland
PHONE: (207) 222-3031
HOURS: Open for the season through March 4; 3-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 3-10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday (hours may change depending on weather)
AMENITIES: Warming lounge; beer, wine and limited cocktails; games, fireplace, outdoor fire pit, TV
BOTTOM LINE: I was surprised at how cute and fun this bar was. It isn’t the place to go to if you’re looking for a wild night out, or a huge eclectic mix of booze, but if what you’re seeking is casual fun with hot drinks, cold beer or local wine and an activity to keep you moving, then this is a great place for people of all ages. Just make sure the kiddos get a regular hot chocolate, instead of the boozy one.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes