New Irish Pub/Restaurant
Just tried the new Irish Pub on Commercial Street in Portland, and they've done a beautiful job with the space. It's deceivingly large, with two floors and a waterfront view out of the large front window. The place was packed on a Thursday night. We had dinner which was very mediocre, but the menu appeared to be authentic Irish. Great place for a beer in some big comfy couches!
Yes, it looks nice, but it seems to be too clean to be authentic. And I was hoping that the beer (guinness) would be served at the right temperature, but like almost all beer in Portland, it was freezing cold. Blecch. I was told by a good friend that the two bottles of wine that he ordered with dinner came uncorked to the table. He also said dinner was mediocre. But its atmosphere/view are better than the drydock, but I have yet to try the food.
I had lunch at Ri Ra today. We were seated toward the back of the restaurant on the first floor; it was somewhat reminiscent of being on the set of Titanic (steerage class).
Indeed, my Guiness came icy cold, and with the kind of weak head one would expect for an overchilled stout (they did however leave a neat shamrock imprint on the head).
I ordered the fish and chips, which arrived in a timely manner. A fair luncheon sized portion, the fish (haddock) was fresh and flaky, the coating light and flavorful. The chips were acceptable, though not outstanding. A $7 luncheon entree plus stout came to about $9.
My guest and I must have been forgotten in the end-of-lunch shuffle; we lost our waitress when it came time to pick up the tab (is it just me, or is this happening more and more often in Portland restaurants, wait staff who don't seem to know how to close the meal for customers?). We eventually settled up with the bartender, who was very pleasant.
I will be going back to Ri Ra; the decor is impressive (perhaps to a fault, though not as nearly as canned as say a Fridays or theme chain restaurant)and the food promising enough to explore further. I expect that in the next week or so they will catch on to the fact that Portland beer drinkers are knowledgable enough to fancy their Guiness at room temp.
They lose points on service, but there were enough smiles that they lost points, not a customer.
RiRa is a chain...a franchise. There's nothing remotely authentic about it. There was one in Boston which suffered tremendously...how can one even consider opening a chain Irish bar in Boston??? Now they've invaded Portland just in time for tourist season.
The place is consistently packed with thirty-something yuppies who think they're hanging out at a cool Irish bar. You can't smoke in there, the waitstaff is always angry, and unless you sit upstairs in the "fancy" restaurant to eat, you are crammed at tables interspersed between annoying bar patrons. It's basically an Irish version of Margaritas.
I highly discourage anyone from supporting RiRa. Go to Brian Boru or Molly's instead. They may not be authentic Irish, but they don't claim to be either. They are Portland, Maine, Irish-style bars.
I've been there a couple of time, once for dinner and once (St. Patrick's Day) for drinks. I enjoyed myself both times. I thought the food & service was very good for a place that's been open only a couple of weeks. The seemed to have gotten hammered by customers from day one, so much in fact that they had to close down and afternoon shift in order to catch up.
One question: is this the Guinness owned brew pub that was rumored to be opening in the Old Port for the last year or so?
A little late to the discussion, but I might as well weigh in about Ri-Ra.
Aside from some very nice, smiley and genuinely cheery waitstaff, the whole place just feels like they're trying way, way too hard.
I get it: It's an Irish pub. In Maine.
Where Brian Boru's has managed to become a local, Portland bar with an Irish flavor, I don't see this ever happening with a place like Ri Ra. It's theme park eating and drinking and another example of the type of places choking waterronts up and down the east coast these days. Don't think the owners (Guinness?) aren't pulling for the new cruise ship terminal to be built next door at BIW. The place is totally geared to the fanny-packed set looking for a safe bite to eat in a "quaint" old-timey place.
Even if it's brand new.
As for the food: first of all, it's too expensive. The fish and chips lunch special is 7.95. Gilbert's, a block away has a $5.95 all you can eat fish on fridays. No fake fireplace, though.
The hamburgers are pre-formed and cooked to hockey puck consistency. Yech.
When a restaurant has to lay out so much capital renovating such prime real waterfront estate, something will suffer. Here it's not only the icy guinness, it's the food.
I fear, however, that this boutique franchising is a sign of what one can expect as the city turns the waterfront over to the tourist bureau.
Had a nice lunch at Huong, though.