Silver Street Tavern Redux
The building on the corner of Silver and Main streets in downtown Waterville is a local landmark. According to reports in the Morning Sentinel, the former bank is over a century old, and has had many tenants over the years, including Giguere’s, a clothing store responsible for the G’s in its stained-glass windows.
Restaurateur Charlie Giguere (no relation, as far as he knows) was one of a series of people who ran what was perhaps the building’s most popular incarnation, the Silver Street Tavern. Giguere bailed when the building was sold a few years ago and reopened as the music club Midnight Blues, but returned and purchased the property at auction in early 2011 after city officials condemned apartments on its second and third floors, according to the paper.
He’s since rebirthed the Silver Street Tavern in grand fashion, complete with the once notorious sign featuring the figure of a topless woman. It’s a large, open place, with a dining area, bar, and floor space for dancing to live music. A set of stairs leads to a downstairs lounge, and there’s patio seating outside.
The dining area is decorated with huge photographs of turn-of-the-century Waterville, accompanied by dates and descriptions. These tidbits of local lore compelled me to circle the room and learn more about this cool little city. The bar runs along the back wall of the dining area, flanked by a few televisions tuned to news or sports. The barback is brick, with an impressive display of racked wine and an open window to the kitchen.
The beer selection is dominated by blue-collar national brands, though there are some Shipyard products and a few tap handles that may pour genuine micro-brews (as opposed to the faux-micros owned by Bud’s Belgian overlords). The wine selection is thoughful and diverse, and as with the beers, affordable ($5.50-$7.50/glass).
The tavern’s extensive menu offers pub fare at prices you’d expect — pizzas, sandwiches, salads, “steak burgers,” apps and entrées. On my first visit, I had the fantastic Teriyaki Steak Bomb ($10.95), which is served on ciabatta bread. The “steak burger” I had on a return visit tasted like a conventional frozen patty.
No matter — I was really here for the cocktails. There’s a more-than-decent selection of liquor behind the bar, including a case containing the “very top shelf” bottles — tequilas, cognacs and scotches you don’t see everyday, priced at $19 a shot (with the exception of Gran Patrón, at $25 a pour). Granted, there’s also a blender (more on that later).
The featured cocktail list is short, just five options. I started with the first, the Wrath of Charlie. This drink promises a good buzz, and — consisting as it does of Southern Comfort and Bacardi Limón, with triple sec, sour mix, yet more vodka and grenadine — it delivers on that promise. It’s an exceptionally easy-to-drink concoction, laced with sugar, that tastes a bit like carbonated fruit punch. I sipped it for a while, wondering where the “wrath” was. Its taste remained consistent even as the ice melted. I suspect the wrath arrives the next morning in the form of a vicious hangover should one fall prey to its drinkability and have more than a couple of these sweet drinks. I recommend pairing it with water and a designated driver.
On my second visit, I gave in and ordered the blender drink on the list: The Christinarita. Served in a big margarita glass, the Christinarita looks and tastes like blendered strawberry shortcake. It’s a dessert drink. The raspberry liquor and strawberries are doing all the work; the tequila gets lost in the mix. It’s stand-a-spoon-up thick, which makes it difficult to drink through a straw and impossible to sip, at first. I suggest you wait a few minutes to let it thin out as the crushed ice melts.
On my last trip, I went for a Red Sunset. It’s a Bacardi Limón–based cocktail topped with Monster energy drink, a splash of OJ and a bit of grenadine (to impart the titular color). Like the two previous cocktails I tried, it’s very sweet — a light, citrus-y drink that finishes with a distinct candy flavor, thanks to the Monster, reminiscent of dissolved Smarties.
Back in Portland, I asked a longtime Waterville resident for his thoughts on Silver Street Tavern. “Oh, it’s changed hands a few times, but for 20 years it was always the place to be in Waterville,” he told me. “Whether family, friends or clients, I always brought them out to the Silver Street Tavern.” A ringing endorsement, one the reborn tavern intends to keep earning.
— Carl Currie