Amesbury Ma has never been known for its nightlife. We have a few decent pubs like “The Barn” and the “Barking Dog” in town, but nothing particularly active. Well, I guess The Barking Dog can get a little jumping, but it’s nothing that would draw people in from other towns to experience. If you live in Amesbury, and want to go out for a night with some friends, you usually have to drive to Newburyport or Portsmouth to find something fun.
A few months ago a new placed opened up in town that seems to throwing everyone into a fury, the “Mad River Tavern”. I had someone tell me that is was hands down the best place to have some beers, watch a game and chill out. Someone even went as far as to say that it’s the best bar north of Boston. So, needless to say I had to scope this place out…
I went down during game six of the World Series. We had a couple friends come into town to hang out, so I figured it was as good a time as any to see this new bar in action.
Parking in Amesbury is hit or miss, but there is a big public lot directly in the center of town that is usually a safe bet. From the parking lot, you can walk along a short brick path down by a waterfall to the backside of all the bars and restaurants that are located on this side of the main strip in town. The Mad River Tavern has a back entrance and standing area that connects to this path so you can see the waterfall as you come out the back door and easily get to your car. The location really is great; Amesbury is definitely a nice little town.
We parked and walked out of the parking lot the other way, and headed down the sidewalk on the front side of all the buildings. The Barking dog is located at the entrance to the lot and we wanted to see what the scene was there in the case that we decided to leave the Mad River. The Dog was pretty mellow considering the game was on and we continued down the hill a few hundred feet and around the corner to entrance to the Mad River.
I guess the line of people out the door should have been a sign, but this place was completely packed. I don’t mean there was a wait for a table, I mean that you really couldn’t walk around at all.
The shape of the bar is long and narrow with a little room in the back by the exit. The main room with the bar in it can’t be any wider than fifteen feet. Put a liquor rack, bartenders, bar, stools, a narrow walkway and a few tables between the walls and it quickly gets a little cramped. Now, on top of that, figure that the Red Sox are in the World Series and this is the first new bar to hit town in ages that actually has some life and you can image how crowded it was. Now, again on top of all that, I should mention that The Mad River has like twenty flat screen TVs strewn about the place. I’m not sure if I made myself all that clear, but this is not a huge place. Twenty big, and I mean like fifty inch kinda big TVs made this place look like media center at Best Buy. There were TVs everywhere, but the best display was on the wall behind the bar. There is a wall of TVs like I have never seen. It was pretty impressive to see. I stopped to take it all in and was pleased to notice the people with me were doing the same. We just looked at each and nodded the “holy crap” nod. It was pretty funny.
Actually, we had no choice but to nod because I don’t think I could have heard them say anything over the completely overpowering roar of the crowd in there. I’m not sure if I was in a bad spot, or didn’t realize that the PA speakers were attached to my head, but the music seemed just a little too loud. I’d gathered that the person running the system must have kept turning it up as the night went on and the crowd grew rowdier. Whatever the case, it was certainly up now.
I’m not a wuss when it comes to loud music. I have a Sony system in my car and have played in many bands over the years, but this seemed a bit excessive. We could barely, and I mean barely make out the words that we were yelling at each other. We only stayed for a couple pints.
All in all, I’d say that most of the people I had talked with were in fact correct. The Mad River Tavern is probably the most active area bar I’ve seen. The atmosphere is that of a college party after some big team win and the beers were cold and came in those beautiful 25 ounce super-tall glasses. I love beer.
I’ve been back there since that night and had food from their menu, which may I add was a pleasant surprise. I’d say that they have the best boneless tenders I’ve had in recent memory! Just keep in mind that if you go on a Friday or Saturday you will probably have to fight the crowds just use the rest room. In fact, we actually had to leave once because the music was just too loud. It’s not fun sitting at a table when you can’t talk to each other.
Mad River Tavern – 8.0