Bar guide: Taxidermy takes over former Free Street sports bar

Located opposite Cross Insurance Arena in the old Binga’s Stadium, the Free Street Restaurant and Cocktail Bar – which opened just before Christmas – is one of my favorite new finds, and not just before or after sporting events.

Clear all thoughts of what Binga was like before entering. Although there are still plenty of big TV screens, the vibe is more après ski than sports bar. In other words, lots of taxidermy.

When I walked in, Hank Jr.’s ‘Family Tradition’ was on full blast, which made this Texpat feel like home. The place is huge, with a wide variety of seating options, and there’s also a spacious room downstairs for live entertainment. Hand-painted murals adorn many of the walls. My drinking buddy and I sat down at the long bar, which I’m happy to report has hooks underneath, and had a look at the cocktail menu.

I immediately noticed the $10 Orange Lazarus, a nod to the popular “Field of Pete” episode of Nickelodeon’s “The Adventures of Pete & Pete,” in which he’s described as the “hedonistic nectar of greed.” and power”. It’s too tempting, too delicious – too cold. You think you’re drinking it – oh no – it’s drinking you! I had no choice but to order it.

Free Street’s Orange Lazarus cocktail is a nod to Nickelodeon’s “The Adventures of Pete & Pete.”

It was cold. It was muddy. It was a chemical version of orange. It was made with orange creme juice (don’t ask me what that is) and whipped cream vodka in a giant slush machine, and I really felt like a kid in a game 70s TV while drinking it.

It was way too sweet for me to drink more than a few sips, so I stole my friend’s Old Fashioned and she ordered a margarita. Both drinks were great and their topping game was strong. In total, the cocktail menu offers around ten cocktails ranging from $9 to $12, but there’s also a full bar from which you can order just about anything you fancy.

Several of the seven wines offered by the glass are of much higher quality than what is often found in a casual place and range between $10 and $12. There’s a long list of local beers on tap, most priced at $8. The food menu is standard pub style fare, includes a $15 brisket sandwich called Willing to BRISKET All. Chest and a pun? Yes please.

Co-owner and general manager Eli Shapiro was on site. As we were leaving, I asked him what else he would like potential customers to know.

Free Street uses leftover orange peel to make orange bitters.

“Just because we have a lot of dead (swear) on the walls doesn’t mean we don’t care about the world,” he said.

Free Street has partnered with the Audubon Society, not only to showcase wildlife, but also to contribute a portion of its proceeds to sustainable wildlife programs. The kitchen is also committed to sustainable practices, such as using leftover orange peel to make homemade orange bitters and dehydrating leftover fruit in an effort to waste nothing. On a fun note, Free Street also cuts its own ice in-house using directional freezing, resulting in hand-cut clear ice cubes in unusual shapes for cocktails.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Free Street. I am already looking forward to my next visit.

Retired diplomat Angie Bryan writes about Maine’s cocktail bars while doing as many puns as her editor allows.

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