There are several seating options at Rigby Yard, which operates as a coffeeshop and work space during the day. Photos by Angie Bryan

Many of my friends avoid Wharf Street unless they have a reservation at Street & Co. They’re missing out on one of the best new additions in a while, the beautifully designed Rigby Yard, a perfect spot for drinks and people-watching.

Rigby Yard is named after a train depot in South Portland that was built in 1922 and then became the busiest New England rail yard north of Boston, serving as a link to all of the Northeast. As its website explains, the bar and restaurant “now continues that tradition, bringing visitors and locals together in a unique, comfortable space united by warm hospitality and menus rooted in the seasonal bounty of New England.”

Open since September, the space is impressive, particularly with regard to the architectural details. It’s wide open with a variety of seating options, the vibe is a mix of rustic and industrial, and the train theme is subtle but present in details such as the wall art. The small outdoor patio has a dozen or so tables for two; inside, there are big tables for larger groups. There’s also a private room that sat eight before COVID restrictions were lifted but could easily fit more.

The drink list at Rigby Yard, which includes 17 craft brews on draft, is listed on screens like train departures and arrivals.

The barstools have backs, cushions and foot rails, but my drinking companion and I chose to sit at a small table overlooking Wharf Street. Service was prompt and friendly, and the background music was at the perfect volume for conversation. Once we were seated and began looking around, we noticed more and more clever design details. For example, when we first entered, I had noticed a few television screens above the bar.  Closer examination, however, revealed that some of the screens were the beer and wine lists displayed like arrivals and departures at a train station, with rows flipping over to reveal subsequent entries.

The Jack Roller and the High Liner are among the seven specialty cocktails at Rigby Yard.

The cocktail menu is limited, with seven options. My friend ordered the $13 High Liner (rum, orange juice, crème coconut and pineapple juice); I went with the $12 Jack Roller (gin, Chartreuse, grapefruit juice, Maraschino liqueur and lime juice). I was a little distressed to discover when I got home that a Jack Roller was a person who robbed drunken or sleeping people, but it tasted great, as did my friend’s choice.

Rigby Yard has a much wider selection when it comes to beer, with 17 local craft brews on tap ranging from $6 to $12, with most for $7-$9. For wine, there are three whites, three reds, one rosé and one sparkling available by the glass, with prices ranging from $7 to $14 (again, most options are under $10).

We were there for the drinks, not the food, but our stomachs got jealous of our livers, so we ended up ordering the $19 tortellini with chicken and the $25 steak frites. Both were outstanding and were generous portions, as was the $9 spinach dip with baguette that we split beforehand.

Rigby Yard operates under a slightly different business model from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, when it’s a coffee bar and workspace. Word on the street is that the cappuccino is worth a trip. There’s free Wi-Fi for people who want to come in and work while enjoying a hot or cold beverage (the full bar is open during those hours) and a light snack.

I predict that at least one of my future columns will be written at Rigby Yard while I’m doing precisely that.

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


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