Dan Hart and Chris Navarra are the co-owners of two North Portland bars – Prost and Interurban – see Thebeerchaser reviews in November 2011 and May 2012, respectively. Prost was an early favorite on Thebeerchaser Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs. Interurban, relatively new when we visited, was okay, but had none of the character of its counterpart a few blocks north on Mississippi Ave.
They have now opened a third Portland bar – Stammtisch on NE 28th Avenue – in the Kerns Neighborhood. Early reviews are very good and we had a great experience.
Stammtisch replaces a bar named Spints Ale House, which based on numerous largely critical comments, was not a loss because of mediocre food, expensive beer and marginal to terrible customer service. One Yelp review concluded, “Spints is ultimately an exercise in unmet potential,” consistent with another stating, “As mentioned in other reviews, the ambience in this joint is non-existent, the music loud and dreadful, and the staff a tad less than gracious (& I’m being polite there!).” (Yelp 1/2011)
Before that the site had Café 401 – closed only a few months after opening to big breakfast crowds. An April 2009 review in the blog “Breakfast in Bridgetown” summarized as “Simple, but above average” - not a rousing endorsement. So Stammtisch does not have an insurmountable legacy to uphold……
Stammtisch is a German term for “an informal friendly get-together held regularly and also the usually large, often round table, around which the group meets.”
Based on the lively crowd on a weekday night, the name is appropriate because community seating is encouraged – and appeared to be working well. “My boyfriend and I shared a table with some strangers when we first sat down and we were clinking our steins with them by the time the bier arrived at our table.”
According to Oregon Live (4/30) “(Hart plans to) transform it into a sister bar to Prost with more German taps, more schnapps and more food.” Our experience and the majority of the early comments viewed indicate that predecessors food quality issues won’t be an issue: “Stammtisch has now become our go-to German restaurant in Portland ..and it’s a drive since we live about 30 miles out-of-town.” (5/6/14 Yelp John B)
Willamette Week published a restaurant review on June 25th and went into great detail on the expansive selection of German food on the menu. The four of us shared just a few of the selections ranging from the Fiorelle (Riesling braised trout) to the Bretzel to the Brites to the Bratwurst with sauerkraut. A return trip would pose the dilemma of whether to repeat what was outstanding or try something new.
This ambivalence would also occur on the German bier selection. The 18 taps – six rotating – helped to reinforce Ernest Hemingway’s assertion: “It was as natural as eating, and to me, as necessary. I would not have thought of eating a meal without drinking a beer.”
Our selection included:
Professor Fitz Briem 1899 Berliner Weisse
Kostritzer Schwarzbier Ayinger Celebrator
A Beerchaser tradition is to visit my bars with interesting people and this was no exception – three young professionals, all of whom make me an ardent fan of The University of Portland, their alma mater. Brian Doyle, Editor of UP’s wonderful magazine Portland, award-winning author, and most impressively, Thebeerchaser of the Quarter in February 2014 summed it up best.
He was chronicling the amazing success of the Rise Campaign at the University which concludes this summer and has raised $180 million over the last four years. He reflects on UP: “I cannot count the number of students I have met in 23 years here who became riveting and creative and devout and admirable men and women.”
So let’s briefly look at my companions that night. Laura Williams - who I am immensely proud to say, is my youngest daughter, a 2008 UP alum and a dedicated pediatric oncology nurse, first at Randall Children’s Hospital and now at Doernbecher.
Ryan Keene – UP 2011 – a skilled project manager at O’Neil Electric, who also helps coach the cross-country team at Clackamas High School, and even works weekends helping in the Arleta Library Bakery and Café – a great SE venue especially for breakfast and featured on the Food Networks “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” (Ryan and Laura were along for Thebeerchaser visit to Quimby’s in NW Portland earlier this year in March.)
And Kenzie Larson – UP 2010 – a very successful senior account representative at the amazing young company, Jama Software - recognized on the Forbes’ Most Promising Companies in America list the past two years.
All of them are good citizens and great athletes – with the emphasis on running. For example, last summer Ryan, who ran two years of cross-country at Gonzaga before transferring to UP, ran a 50K – that’s 31.1 miles – ultra-marathon in Bend on the Flagline Trail. He finished 3rd overall with a time of 4:15. – that’s essentially an eight minute mile for the distance! In fact, the only negative thing I can say about Ryan harkens back to his college days when his favorite beer was warm Busch Light.
Kenzie, besides having played basketball at UP, recently ran the Rainier-to-Ruston Relay, with a team of 4 ladies – it’s like a mini Hood-to-Coast (51.9 miles – so each ran about 12 or 13 miles over the 3 legs) from a starting point on Mt. Rainier to the Tacoma waterfront finish line. They were the top female team, finishing in 7 hours and 20 minutes.
Laura, Ryan and Kenzie lend credence to the complaint: “The only problem with beer is that you have to be stationary to drink it.” They also motivated me to at least sprint from the bar to my car when we left….
Now there were complaints about the service at Stammtisch’s predecessors, but the reviews so far are very good. Our waitress, Leslie – a Louisiana gal who moved to Portland based on the recommendation of her friend who works at Prost – was knowledgeable about the bier, friendly and efficient.
She’s worked there for a month and one-half and said, “We’re having fun here.”
And Dan Hart is smart. One of Ryan’s co-workers at O’Neil (Adrian) and his wife live in the neighborhood. They said that Dan met with the neighbors as they were planning the layout and operation – he was a good listener and responsive to their concerns. As you can see by the picture of the parade of bikes which filed past while we ate, the neighborhood is interesting!
He had an impressive response to a complaint by one patron on Yelp that the beer was too expensive:
“We are glad that you enjoyed Stammtisch. A little note in regards to the price of bier. Our biers that we sell are all premium imported biers shipped from Germany that are sold in .5L glassware. These glasses hold approximately 20 oz, but are filled to the .5L (16.9oz) mark, then the rest with head.
This means that you are getting about 25% more bier then you would if you were at most any other brewery or bar in town…. From my experience that is cheaper than most any other brewery….that makes their beer on site and doesn’t need to be shipped half way across the world. Just trying to ensure you know exactly what you are getting for your dollar. Thanks again for checking us out and we hope to see you at the Pub again soon.” 6/9/2014 Yelp
“I’ve been to Stammtisch several times since it opened a few months ago and I highly recommend it. It’s a casual place, but the staff is friendly and attentive, and the food and beer are excellent. Pretty much all the food I’ve had has been delicious.” (July 8, 2014)
(To view the map with all the bars reviewed by Thebeerchaser, click on the “View Larger Map” link at the bottom of the map below)