When my fiancé and I first discovered The River Tap and Grill on the Saco River in Hollis, we went for the views. We’ve since returned for lunch, brunch and dinner. We’ve even brought family from Colorado and New York.
This is one of those places you don’t want to share, you don’t want to see become too busy. But in the hope that the 20-minute drive from Portland (a drive made worse during rush hour) will dissuade the masses, we recommend this favorite and uncrowded spot as one worth visiting.
All the appetizers and sandwiches cost less than $15, prices that beat the Old Port, and yet they have quality and taste that is on par with many of those more expensive eateries.
Many of the smaller plates are delightfully fresh and flavorful. Some of our favorites include the lightly battered haddock bites ($9.95), the juicy and well-seasoned pulled-pork quesadilla ($11.95) and the crab cakes with red pepper sauce ($11.95), which actually are loaded with crab rather than bread (what a concept!) and have just the right spicy zing. The steamed mussels with chorizo sausage ($12.95) are just as good as the same dish at more expensive Portland restaurants.
Then there’s the view.
While the Saco River can only be enjoyed in winter through the big picture windows, the scene is smashing from the deck in the warmer weather. Come fall, this lunch spot is a rare find.
In fact, when you enter the restaurant at Salmon Falls Country Club, you get the feeling you’re hours from Portland. There always seems to be a friendly crowd that’s never too noisy. People must be too busy enjoying their food.
A week ago, a man sitting a few bar seats away saw my meal and asked if I’d had the pulled-pork sandwich there before. I admitted I was well acquainted with the quesadilla version, but joked that I was trying to branch out. The steak and cheese sub ($11.95) and fish fillet sandwich ($12.95) tempted me, but the River Tap and Grill’s pulled pork pulled me back.
He nodded with understanding and said I was in for a treat.
Was he right. The moist, flavorful pork shoulder with pomegranate-jalapeno barbecue sauce is piled high on a soft bun with a layer of coleslaw and pickles, for a juicy sweet-and-sour taste.
When the bartender checked on me, she didn’t even look surprised when I gushed how I enjoyed it. “I’m so glad,” she said.
WHERE: 52 Golf Course Lane, Hollis
INFO: (207) 298-9620; rivertapandgrill.com
HOURS: 4-9 p.m. Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday (in the winter)
WAIT: About 10 minutes
PARKING: A lot outside
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes