Despite being typecast as the restaurant reviewer who only reviews restaurants starting with ‘R’, like Perd Hapley’s reporter characters, I jumped at the opportunity to give my opinion of a venerable Old Port fixture. Some say this pub was brought over, brick by brick, from a long-lost county in Ireland in the wheel wells of Aer Lingus jets. All we know is, it’s called Ri Ra.
It was a cool November day in Maine. Actually, no. I cannot deny the climate’s warmth on that sunny Friday. As usual, our party was in seemingly high spirits for our company outing to Ri Ra Irish Pub. There was a dark cloud, though, and everyone had a feeling in the pits of our stomachs that nothing would be the same after that day. While it was a day of revelry, it was also a day of mourning at Page One. For Shamus, master of both graphics and designs, was leaving us to catch the wave of the future: print media.
Shamus’ choice of Ri Ra was a no-brainer. Where better to have an Irish Wake than the best Irish pub in town? Sorry, Brian Boru and Bull Feeneys, but your charm never truly rubbed off on me the way Ri Ra has. It may not have been a true Irish Wake, as Shamus was still technically alive, but that didn’t stop us from celebrating his Page One life with a few drinks and some delicious fare.
My choice of beverage is usually gin related, if I can help it. Luckily, Ri Ra’s selection included the aptly named Ginger Cocktail, consisting almost entirely of ginger and gin with a piece of crystalized ginger as a garnish. It was an excellent choice, both delicious and nutritious thanks to the citrus juice. Jeremy’s drinks went down easy, starting with a Coconut Breeze and finishing with the Strawberry Sour cocktail. Koren’s usual cup of vodka was as expected, though there was a small replenishment delay. Chalk it up to the size of our crew as the waiter Jesse was very timely with both appetizers and our meals. Overall drink impressions were mostly positive, which you would of course hope for in a pub.
Appetizers were varied and abundant, with the Avocado Toast and Bangs Island Mussels leading the pack. I’ve never been a fan of mussels, (don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love other mollusks) but even I was dipping some bread in the warm and buttery broth. Elise had some trouble tasting the Jameson-ness of the Jameson Honey Glaze Wings, but she more than made up for this shortcoming by spearheading a round of Jameson shots for the table. I personally liked the fact that wings on the menu are listed specifically as “Some Wings.”
While I enjoyed my Publican Reuben, it was a little on the salty side, even for salted meat. Though, I suppose we can all be too salty sometimes. In honor of our now departed honoree Shamus, I’ll say this: later in the evening I enjoyed the rest of my reuben, which made it re-Publican.
Both Elise and Shamus enjoyed their Cottage Pie, both in terms of flavor and presentation. It turns out that cottage pie uses beef while shepherd’s pie uses lamb. I had always called any potato crusted casserole with beef shepherd’s pie, but thanks to Ri Ra, I learned something new!
The most popular meal at the table was the Fish and Chips. Thankfully, as it should be, the Irish pub knocked the fish and chips out of the park. Emmie liked her fish and chips enough to make the dish her go-to recommendation for any new pub visitor. Even to the point of walking up to random tables to offer her meal suggestion.
The meal concluded, the drinks drunk, and the credit card swiped; it was time for Shamus’ last goodbye. Ri Ra was there for us and made sure our bellies were full and our mirth was plentiful despite the impending departure. Shamus, we’ll miss you! And we will especially miss your lovely pup Oona.
Most-Favorited Dish: Fish and Chips
Honorable Mention: Cottage Pie
About 85% of Page One employees would enthusiastically return to Rí Rá
Words Used by Our Team to Describe the Experience:
Address: 72 Commercial St., Portland, ME 04101
Hours: Monday-Friday – 11:30am-1:00am
Saturday-Sunday – 10:00am-1:00am