Newport and Depoe Bay – Thebeerchaser Does the Central Oregon Coast – Part III

An Historic Newport Bar

An Historic Newport Bar

The third day of our Beerchasing sojourn on the Central Oregon Coast, we headed south from Lincoln City to Newport along beautiful Highway 101.  Dave, seeing the boiling foam from the surf stated, “That reminds me of the suds on a brewski and I’m looking forward to a beer.”

P1020630Our first stop was the historic Bay Haven Inn in Newport – a sanctuary over the years to many fishermen and loggers and also the set for the Snag Saloon in the Ken Kesey movie, “Sometimes a Great Notion,” filmed in Newport in the early ’70’s.  The establishment originally had an inn on the second floor – long gone, but the name of the bar has never changed.

Steve, the bartender who has worked there for three years after moving from Montana,  was friendly and helpful in telling us about this classic watering hole – he also shared some scrumptious smoked salmon – worth the trip to Newport alone.

Bartender Steve, Thebeerchaser and my favorite logo

Bartender Steve, Thebeerchaser and my favorite logo

We viewed the varied artifacts in the bar and absorbed the ambiance artfully described by Matt Love in his Letitpour Blog review from the 1990’s:

….beaten-to-a-pulp hardwood floors, fog-light lanterns, sea captain sculptures, deer trophies, a property seizure receipt from the National Marine Fisheries Service, a mounted octopus, an ancient outboard motor, plaques commemorating fisherman perished on the water and lots of wool-wearing, bearded drinkers at 1:00 P.M. on a weekday.” 

Eclectic interior design material.....

Eclectic interior design material…..

We also admired the sign which said, “I’ve been fishing so long, my worm is getting Social Security.” 

The Bay Haven is also the only bar I have visited in almost 100 venues, that had a horseshoe pit in the back – and there was an intense game in progress at 11:00 in the morning.  No corn-hole contests for these patrons!

 Steve told us that during rowdier times, the pit is closed as the horseshoes can become lethal weapons with some inebriated patrons – something that could happen if one guzzled a few of the featured Bay Haven cocktails including the Dead Nazi – (1 oz. Jagermeister + 1 oz. Peppermint Schnapps) a bargain at $6.

Prior to three years ago, they did not serve hard liquor – evidenced by the sign captioned, “Soup of the Day — Whiskey.”  They also have a full menu.

 

Potential lethal weapons for those with blurred vision

Horse-shoes – Potential lethal weapons for those with blurred vision

A final story (“The best drinking hole story on the Oregon Coast for all time…”) from Matt’s blog that should be told, relates to Paul Newman, who directed and was the star of the aforementioned movie:

“….with the cast and crew of the movie staying in Newport, the man (who told Matt the story) drank in a dive tavern in the rugged timber town of Toledo, eight miles east……Enter Paul Newman carrying a chainsaw, exactly like the hard-ass logger character, Hank Stamper, he happened to be portraying…….

Wordless, alone, Newman, who according to various biographies……has at times drank to considerable excess, fired up his chainsaw.  He sawed the legs off the pool table.  It crashed to the floor.  Stunned logging locals looked on.  They did nothing.  Newman left, perhaps later sending a check to cover the damage. Perhaps not.”

What's in a name??

What’s in a name??

We traveled a few miles up the road along Yaquina Bay to Sawyers’s Landing and a delightful and idiosyncratic venue with a name that belies its history.  On the way, Steve saw a fishing boat and said, “Fishing reminds me of hoisting a brewski with friends, I’m looking forward to a beer.” 

And when we sat down at the bar in the Mad Dog Country Tavern, Steve immediately ordered a Sessions – which he fondly described as, “Like Coors Light – only with body.”   

Pauline - a good storyteller

Pauline – a good storyteller

Pauline, another of many cordial bartenders we met on the coastal journey, has worked at the tavern for 3.5 years.  She told us that her “regulars” are people from the adjoining RV Park, summer tourists and Newport residents.

Pauline’s story on the origin of the name of the bar – about 50 years ago –  was similar to Matt’s, but given his diligence with historical details, we will defer to the Letitpour.net blog account:

Historical significance.....

Historical significance……

“….Years ago, a large log rested in front of the tavern.  It has seatbelts attached to it.  In some sort of contest, certain patrons would strap themselves in and then proceed to consume a bottle(s) of a particular brand of fortified wine.  The “winner” remained sitting upright.  Thus Mad Dog Tavern.”  

Aged to perfection....

Aged to perfection….

———————

While we drank our beers and considered how long the pickled eggs and Hot Mama sausages in the jars had been fermenting, Pauline told us other stories.  One was about the wake for one of the regulars named Brenda.  Based on septic tank issues, all of the toilets in the bar backed up the day before the gathering, so they ordered 3 porta-potties, which “accommodated” the mourners that afternoon.

We sat stunned as a resident from the RV park next door came in, ordered a beer and asked Pauline for his “envelope” which she retrieved from the safe and counted out $125 in cash.  He sat down at a video poker machine and about 30 minutes later came back and said he needed the envelope again!

Aside from this one negative, Matt Love’s description stands, “The Mad Dog is so perfect and perfectly American..maybe not for the Drys, but definitely for us wets.”

After a good lunch at Ocean Bleu Seafoods and a walk along the Newport Bay, we made our last Newport stop – an innocuous little bar named Hoovers Bar and Grill – just south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge on Highway 101.  P1020652

We noticed an interesting portrait of a women with a semi-exposed breast – allegedly given to the owner by Gracie, the founder of the Sea Hag Restaurant in Depoe Bay and a sign promoting their jello-shots stating, Jello isn’t just for kids…,” , We then were fortunate to hear the history of the bar related by Amy, the granddaughter of the owner.  

A one-time petting zoo -- oh wait.....!

A one-time petting zoo — oh wait…..!

Evidently, the building became Alice’s Tavern in 1978, but that was after the mini-mart, gas station and petting zoo with a live alligator and black bear was decommissioned.

We listened in fascination to a fellow sitting next to us at the bar from Minnesota arguing in a heated cell-phone conversation that he had been promised a gig on a NOAA ship out of Newport as first mate.  We also sat appalled as a kid who couldn’t have been more than 18 or 19 sitting right behind us, burned through $70 on a video poker machine in no more than 15 minutes.

Oh yes, another intriguing sign appeared to be a dated – but authentic – advertising Caroline’s Topless Charter Service,  – a former Newport “sport-fishing” option that offered three-hour expeditions for $75 and all-day trips for $100.  Perhaps this approach to “bosom fishing” ran its course, because the bartender told us they were no longer in business.

P1020655We headed north, and since to that point I had been the designated driver, I said after seeing a pool of stagnant water along the road, “That reminds me of PBR and I’m looking forward to drinking a beer in Depoe Bay.”

We decided to pass on an option to stop at O’Downey’s Irish Pub in Depoe Bay based on the premise that Sheperd’s Pie and Irish Stew might be not be a coastal culinary special, but found our way to a wonderful, albeit dilapidated building just north of Depoe Bay housing The Tide Pool – a former video store and laundromat – now a great dive bar.

Maybe in Dublin, but not in Depoe Bay....

Maybe in Dublin, but not in Depoe Bay….

Our bartender was Vicki – also the owner – and she was emphatic about her pizza being the best on the Oregon coast.  Dave and Steve agreed and their order was faster than the sign posted by the kitchen i.e. “Same day service on most food orders…”

Both of them got into the spirit by purchasing Tide Pool t-shirts.  Vicki told us about going to “Take Your Kid to Work Day,” when she lived in Iowa as a child and her dad worked in a slaughter house……

 P1020662

P1020668

The girls resting after a day of charter fishing and conversing with Steve

The mementos and brick-a-brack in the bar was superb ranging from artifacts such as a huge dead lobster from the former Depoe Bay Aquarium to a life raft recovered from the New Carissa, to a picture of three bare-breasted nymphs – a recurring theme in the bars along the coast although perhaps these had been employees of the now defunct Carloline’s Topless Charters.

As Matt Love opined in his blog post, “What a joint!  For starters it was practically a labyrinth with all sorts of weird angles, alcoves and passages.” 

Standing guard

Standing guard

 

 

 

 

 

This included a narrow passage into the video poker and pool room – in which there was a second bar and a battered, legless, facially tattooed, mustached mannequin in a bright red shirt stood guard.

P1020666

But perhaps the highlight was what Matt described as “a salt-water glass coffin called the Tank of Death.  It is packed with all manner of marine creatures caught by local fishermen who bucket in their curious finds and dump them in.  Eels, crabs, sea bass, perch, Dick Cheney, octipi and urchins all end up in the mix……….

P1020670

Beware — The Tank of Death!

  

According to the bartender, aquatic creatures regularly stage a battle royal to the death and the tank serves as a Roman arena of savagery and merciless predation  – with bets slapped down and accelerated drinking when the water turns a creamy, cloudy red.”   

 

The Tide Pool was one of our favorite watering holes and one to which we will return.  And thanks to Matt Love’s outstanding blog – Letitpour.net – which has not lost its value even though not active anymore.

P1020664Filled with a strong appreciation for the tales and history of the Oregon Coast, we headed north to Lincoln City for dinner – it was Senior Night at the buffet at Chinook Winds Casino….   P1020673

 

Steve, Vicki and Dave with Thebeerchaser logo

Steve, Vicki and Dave with Thebeerchaser logo

 

Buying into the program…..

Bailey’s Tap Room – Keep a Stiff “Upper Lip”

Bailey's - Repeats on the Top 100 Beer Bars

Bailey’s – Repeats on the Top 100 Beer Bars

As was the case with The Tugboat Brewery, (reviewed in March, 2013), Thebeerchaser was embarrassed that he worked downtown – right on the Portland Transit Mall for many years and had never visited – or even known about Bailey’s Tap Room.  For five straight years, it has made Draft Magazine’s Top 100 USA Beer Bars.  It even got special recognition in the preface to the list with the following quote:

“We want you to go to Bailey’s Taproom in Portland, Ore., which cares so much about beer freshness, the digital menu says when each keg was tapped and how much is left. We want you to go to all 100 of these places, because they really are a cut above the rest.” (Actually, part of this statement is incorrect – the digital display shows how much of the keg is left, but does not give the date it was tapped, although it does have the designation, “Just Tapped” for a few selections. )

Charlie and Jack Faust with Thebeerchaser logo

Charlie and Jack Faust with Thebeerchaser logo

Accompanying me were Oregon appellate lawyer, Jack Faust, – who before retiring, made it on a number of list for many years – that of Oregon’s and America’s best lawyers.  Jack, who was also the award-winning moderator of KATU’s Town Hall program, was joined by his son, Charlie.

Bailey’s has also made Willamette Week’s Annual Bar Guide, featuring the paper’s favorite Portland bars every year since its opening in 2007, but let’s examine the rationale for Bailey’s –  BEER!!! (not that there’s anything wrong with that….)

Scott - one of the knowledgeable and helpful bartenders

Scott – one of the knowledgeable and helpful bartenders

"Beer-me-up, Scotty!"  The space-age display

“Beer-me-up, Scotty!” The space-age display

The twenty-four rotating taps of West-coast beers – according to Scott, the friendly and knowledgeable bartender – they tap about five new ones each day – are an eclectic and impressive list supplemented by spotless showcases featuring over fifty bottled beers from all over the USA.

An impressive selection of bottled beers too!

An impressive selection of bottled beers too!

But the title of 100 Best Beer Bars begs the question, “How come?”   The Beerchaser Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs is not primarily about the beer.  It’s about the ambiance and distinguishing characteristics that make you want to return to an establishment with your friend(s).

And that’s lacking at Bailey’s as evidenced by the following excerpts from the Willamette Week guide:

2009“What it lacks in atmosphere (white walls, bright lights and sparse decorations give off the vibe of an operating room) Bailey’s makes up in suds.”

2012“Simplicity is the name of the game at this busy downtown beer bar.  No liquor, no wine, no food, no games – just 20 taps of craft beers and a dozen tables filled with mostly male computer programmers, loan officers and other assorted cubicle drones.”

2014 –  “Really, the people are the only problem at Baileys.  First, there are always far too many of them crammed into the SW Broadway space, bird-dogging tables even when somebody just gets up to go the restroom.”

P1020110
Now it’s certainly true, that we had an excellent sampling of esoteric beers – and it helps that  they have both large and small glasses (4 ounces) for a number of brews, so you can get a good sampling and maintain your equilibrium and your wallet.

And Scott and Janelle, the bartenders, were extremely helpful and patient in explaining each one – but the overall atmosphere was more like that of a cafeteria (without the food…) than a bar or pub.

Between the four ounce glasses and sharing some pints, we tasted the following beers:

Green Flash White IPA (Belgian)         Oakshire Overcast Espresso Stout

Ninkasi Critical Hit      Kermit the Hop IPA        Stillwater French Farm Ale

Heater Allen Pilsner (McMinnville)      Ballast Point Navigator Doppelbock

New Belgian Gruitt (horehound, bog myrtlle, yarrow, wormwood and elderflower)

All of them were great except the Espresso Stout, which would have been better at Starbucks.

No food except what comes in externally - thanks Charlie!

No food except what comes in externally – thanks Charlie!

Fortunately, Charlie Faust had the foresight to bring some pretzels we could munch on and a number of reviews talk favorably about Santeria, the Mexican restaurant across the street that will deliver orders to go to the bar, and evidently has great food.

The lack of atmosphere and food means you focus the conversation on the beer and your compatriots – that’s not a bad thing given the background of the Fausts:

For example, I learned that Charlie, after graduation from U of O, traveled for a year in Europe and SE Asia, then worked as a staffer for Senator Bob Packwood.  That prepared him to weather the storms when he worked for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and had the experience of being on the crew in a NOAA hurricane research plane during Gloria in 1985 – peak winds of 155 mph.

Charlie's plane was in there someplace....
Charlie’s plane was in there someplace….

 

Jack Faust - Brews his own beer besides doing some other stuff....
Jack Faust – Brews his own beer besides doing some other stuff….

And drinking beer with Jack Faust, means chatting with a very interesting and intelligent guy – after all, for years he had a hobby of brewing beer in his garage.  (once brewed a raspberry ale that was the color of sweat…)

He graduated first in his class at U of O Law School, was editor of the Law Review and still stimulates conversation with queries such as, “When will all the rhetorical questions end…?”

I shifted the conversation to past cases before the Oregon Court of Appeals and Supreme Court after he told me that he would have to kill me if I asked any more questions about his service as a Special Agent in the Far East Command of the Army Counterintelligence Corps during the Korean War.

I will have to admit, however, that Charlie and I were both fascinated by his recounting the details of his arguments in the 1986 Oregon Supreme case Oregon Republican Party v. State of Oregon.  Did the Party violate the Oregon Corrupt Practices Act provision that “[n]o person * * * shall directly or indirectly subject any person to undue influence?”

And  finally,Thebeerchaser’s standard practice of visiting each bar reviewed twice, paid off because Scott the bartender, casually mentioned that I should visit “Bailey’s Upper Lip.”  My response was to ask whether I needed a secret code word or a note from the bartender, but that wasn’t the case.

The entrance to the Upper Lip on Ankeny Street

The entrance to the Upper Lip on Ankeny Street

And walking part way down Ankeny Street to an inauspicious doorway with only a bottle on the door, and then up a dark, narrow stairway heightened the anticipation of what awaited.

Willamette Week’s 2014 Bar Guide sums it up well:  “There, you’ll find six well-chosen taps and a massive case of bottles ranging from Belgians to small-batch bourbon stouts.   P1020166

There’s a short bar, a long table for groups, a digital tap list, a bartender, a few high-top tables set on barrels…..”

There were less than ten people, while the Taproom below was very crowded and Luke, the bartender, told me that the group was typical – evidently a lot of people are just not aware of the speakeasy-type addition to the main floor bar.   I decided to be bold and had a small glass of Nebraska Brewing’s Sexy Betty Imperial Stout.  (Betty was, in fact, hot….)

Bartender Luke and the bar at The Upper Lip

Bartender Luke and the bar at The Upper Lip

If you want a to sample a wide variety of draft or bottled beers from all over the world and receive expert guidance and advice from the staff, Bailey’s is your place. 

Bottled beers from all over -- to say the least

Bottled beers from all over — to say the least

If you want the ambiance of a neighborhood bar with good food and interesting regulars, Thebeerchaser suggests going Off Broadway…..    

Long tables upstairs

Long tables upstairs

 

 

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If you want to view all a map with all the establishments previously reviewed by Thebeerchaser, click the link which states, “View Larger Map” below.

Bailey’s Tap Room and The Upper Lip                  231 SW Broadway

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip — To the Skyline Tavern

The Historic Skyline Tavern

The Historic Skyline Tavern

There are many bars – most notably in what is known as Portland’s Barmuda Triangle in Southeast Portland, where the setting for many bars is a busy urban intersection on Powell or Belmont, or one walks out into a strip-mall along a the busy street.  The attraction is thus, the interior design, the selection of beers and the character/clientele of the bar – not the setting.

The Skyline Tavern is the antithesis – an historic building that looks like a road-house in the woods on Skyline Drive near Forest Park – 9.7 miles from downtown Portland.  There are only four beers on tap – and the Terminal Gravity IPA was gone on that August evening we visited.  They do, however, have a bunch of bottled and canned beers, but no cocktails or hard liquor, and the only food is essentially microwave faire.  And by the way, bring cash or you may end up washing dishes – no credit or debit cards at this venue.

TrinketsThe saloon does have a few interesting antique trinkets and signs.

Oh Schlitz, where have thy gone when we need you now......

Oh Schlitz, where have thy gone when we need you now……

Unless your commute takes you by the pub, however, it would be best to save your visit for a cloudless day when you can take advantage of the expansive patio, the wonderful view of the Willamette Valley and the fire-pits where you can grill your own food and eat at one of the picnic tables in the beer garden or play Ping-Pong on the porch.  They also have a good juke box.

Of course, some readers would point out that waiting for a cloudless day in Oregon limits the opportunity to about 47 days per year.

Old - growth timber is improved over a brewski

Old – growth timber is improved over a brewski

I hit the Skyline with Beerchaser regular, Portland lawyer, Scott Whipple, the same afternoon we visited  another historic Portland bar – Slabtown last August.  Scott was still on an adrenaline high from our intense Pop-a-Shot competition in the back room at Slabtown, and immediately suggested we play pool – I might add that it was harder trying to hold a cue stick with buttered micro-wave popcorn on our hands, but Scott probably knew that.

Still riding an adrenaline high from Hop-a-shot at Slabtown
Still riding an adrenaline high from Pop-a-Shot at Slabtown
The chalk was only partially helpful in absorbing the popcorn butter
The chalk was only partially helpful in absorbing the popcorn butter

——————

We talked to friendly bartender, Diane, a Scappoose High School graduate, who has worked at The Skyline for seven years.

Diane and Thebeerchaser with the old logo

Diane and Thebeerchaser with the old logo

———

This excerpt from an October 2012 review in Portland Monthly Magazine, describes the venue perfectly:

“The Skyline is like a summer camp for casual drinkers:  The metronome of ping-pong balls clacking on the back porch, the clang and thunk of horseshoes thrown in the pit, the smell of burgers sizzling on the BYO – meat community grill, all played out in front of a tree-lined view of the Willamette Valley that’ll put a lump in your throat……”                                                                   

"The metronome of Ping-Pong balls....."

“The metronome of Ping-Pong balls…..”

Diane said that their biggest seller is 16 ounce PBR Tall Boys and that if you come on a summer evening or weekend, you will probably encounter a bunch of cyclists or motorcyclists at the end or on a break on their road trips.

——————

Not much in the way of draft beer, but plenty of bottles and cans. Have a PBR tall-boy
Not much in the way of draft beer, but plenty of bottles and cans. Have a PBR tall-boy!

The Skyline was pretty laid back and we were the only ones there besides Diane and a “regular.”

Scott did spice up the evening on the return trip by pointing out a forested spot on the off Thompson Road that “used to be the site of some memorable Sunset High School keggers…

I might add that since our Beerchaser Trip to Slabtown and The Skyline, Scott has shed ten of a planned forty-five pounds on his New Year’s diet – “I am shooting to lose 45 pounds by the time I turn 45..”  – some of which can be attributed to the stress of coaching The Sting his sons’ basketball team.

Stay tuned for a more svelte and conditioned Whipple - both mentally and physically

Stay tuned for a more svelte and conditioned Whipple – both mentally and physically

Some might object to the “minimalist” approach of the bar. This October 2013, Yelp review excerpt from a woman, whose initial paragraph in the review expressed shock that when she exited the bar, there were two guys inspecting a rifle that was pointed right at her votes for the status quo:

“But let’s be real here , I’m not a mans man. I am a lady who loves a nice game of horse shoes, pool or darts. I am also a lady who loves porch chillin’.

Skyline has an amazing back patio. Every time I’m here I have this horrible thought ‘If they just cut down all these trees, they would have any amazing view.’ You can, however, peek between the trees to enjoy a breathtaking view.  

As others have mentioned this bar is Cash Only – talk about no frills. If you’re reading this Skyline, don’t you change a f…ing thing. You keep it real, and I like it.”

And perhaps on a cloudless day in June, Scott and Thebeerchaser will return and toast his successful diet….??!!!

The Skyline Tavern    8031 NW Skyline Blvd.

The Diamond Hotel – The Cutting Edge in Hospitality and the Final Chapter in Thebeerchaser Tour of Eastern Oregon

The Round Barn south of Burns

The Peter French Round Barn south of Burns

After lunch in Burns – a great town where one pundit asserted, “You could get a good meal, rent a movie and hire a contract killer,” we headed southeast on Highway 78 to Diamond, Oregon (population 5) and our final night at the historic Diamond Hotel.

Passing through the most desolate country on this stretch –  Burns south past the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve almost to the Steen’s Mountains and the Alvord Desert. We toured the Peter French Round Barn – on the National Historic Register and constructed around 1870 by the cattle rancher who used it to train horses.

More prevalent than cars on Highway
More prevalent than cars on Highway 78
The remarkable interior structure of The Round Barn.

The remarkable interior structure of The Round Barn.

About 50 miles south of Burns, we also stopped at the Diamond Crater Natural Area -  which reportedly “has the best and most diverse basaltic volcanic features in the United States.” We saw lava flows and tubes and cinder cones from the observation area.

A road through the lava beds or what Dave maintained was a description of Thebeerchaser's career.

A road through the lava beds and a sign that Dave maintained was a description of Thebeerchaser’s career.

The Diamond Hotel was in a beautiful grove of poplar trees and we believed the sign that said the population of Diamond was only five since the hotel was in essence the center of “the city” – on Main Street.

The Census Bureau had an easy time in this venue

The Census Bureau had an easy time in this venue

After playing cards and having a beer, we sat down for “Family Dinner” – eight people sitting around a large rectangular table for an outstanding rib dinner with all the accoutrements.  The three-hour feast lasted that long because of the fascinating conversations with our fellow diners.

Family Dinner at the Diamond Hotel

Family Dinner at the Diamond Hotel

Two of the diners were a married couple in their mid-eighties and riding in on their Harley – mid-way through a tour that took them into Montana, Idaho and Oregon.

Another was a high-tech exec from Portland – a German immigrant who rode in on his BMW bike on which he has toured most of the western US and Canada.  We were the only boring ones at the table……David Thompson, one of the friendly owners, briefed us on history and shared stories while we were eating.

Notice the Harley and the BMW bike

Notice the Harley and the BMW bike

For those who love our state and want to explore, the Diamond Hotel should be on your bucket list.  Built in 1998, it was completely restored in 1990.  Shirley and David Thompson, descendants of one of the first families in Diamond bought the hotel in 2001 and now operate it.   P1010787

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It was headquarters for the Cycle Oregon staff during their 2013 ride this summer, which had a one night stay near Diamond.  The rates at the hotel, including the dinner, are very reasonable and it is quaint and interesting.

"Recreation" before Family Dinner

“Recreation” before Family Dinner

And so ended our four-day road trip.  After breakfast, we headed north – this time on Highway 205 back through John Day, then north on 395 and to Steve’s home in Pendleton.  We photographed the Stampede Room in Long Creek, which will have to wait until our next trip to raise a mug.

The Stampede will have to wait until the next trip

The Stampede will have to wait until the next trip

—————-

We saw amazing sights and reaffirmed the premise of Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland Taverns, Bars and Pubs“Each bar or watering hole has its own unique character, ambiance and clientele,” – only in the central and eastern part of our wonderful state.

Whether sampling the brews of Johnny Brose at the Bull Ridge Brewery and Pub in Baker, kidding Patty at the Central Pastime Tavern in Burns, hearing stories from Heather at the Horseshoe Tavern in Prineville or just photographing the Powder Club Tavern in North Powder – which incidentally, is Under New Management or The Elkhorn Saloon in Sumpter, our visits to the Central and Eastern Oregon bars was outstanding and we would recommend it.

Powder    - Under New Management!

Powder – Under New Management!

We told Eastern Oregon bar jokes like the one about the dog who limped into the bar and said to the bartender, “I’m looking for the guy who shot my paw…!”

or

The bartender who asks the horse who comes into his bar and orders a beer, “Hey, why the long face..?”

Besides the establishments mentioned above we also visited The Solstice Brewery in Prineville, The Long Branch Saloon, The HideoutTavern and 10 Depot Street Bar and Restaurant in LaGrande and The Mt. Emily Ale House in Baker City.  These are reviewed in the first three blog-posts of this road trip.

1,746 miles, four nights and ___ bars later....

1,346 miles, four nights and eight bars later….

Now back to Portland where the next Beerchaser post will review the fairly new and interesting neighborhood tavern – Church.

Burns, Oregon – A Hot Stop on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Eastern Oregon

One of the sights along the highway in God's Country

One of the sights along the highway in God’s Country

Our third day on the Eastern Oregon tour started with a drive from Catherine Creek State Park through Baker City to John Day where we had lunch.  Although it was too early for a beer, we photographed Kilpatrick’s Tavern in Mt. Vernon and I talked briefly to the female co-owner, who with her brother, lawyer, Mike Kilpatrick, are the offspring of the legendary Oregon lawyer, Roy Kilpatrick, who served on the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors from 1965-8.     

Kilpatricks Tavern in Mt. Vernon

Kilpatricks Tavern in Mt. Vernon

The sign from his law office by the entrance to the bar shows his firm was established in 1854.  Among the partners was Grace K. Williams, the first woman elected to serve as a district attorney in Oregon, who died at 90 on June 22, 2007, in John Day.

Robert Dayton, my colleague at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt for many years, also worked at Kilpatrick’s firm and described Grace as, “Honest, tough and did not cave into pressure.”  

A Legendary Eastern Oregon law firm
A Legendary Eastern Oregon law firm

Bob described Roy Kilpatrick as “An Eastern Oregon powerhouse along with Wendell “Pinky” Gronso from Burns….and Owen Panner of Bend.  Owen and Roy hit it big as plaintiff’s lawyers for the folks flooded out in the big Mitchell flood of 1956.”  (After a thunderstorm resulted in four inches of rain in about 50 minutes a sudden surge of water destroyed or heavily damaged 20 buildings in the Mitchell and several bridges.)

His obituary in The Blue Mountain Eagle stated: “His red bow tie (was) as colorful as his vocabulary….He was a fighter, without peer…one of the last of the colorful characters who set the tone in courtrooms in the eastern two-thirds of Oregon.”

The Dirty Shame Bar and Pizzaria

The Dirty Shame Tavern and Pizzeria in John Day

We decided to explore some other camping options before opting for Clyde Holliday State Park in Mt. Vernon, and drove south from John Day and on the Forest Service Roads off Highway 395 past Wickiup and Parrish Cabin Campgrounds to what we hoped was a great camping and fishing at Canyon Meadows Lake.  Wrong…!

The "remains" of Canyon Lake.

The “remains” of Canyon Meadows Lake.

We saw the impact of the drought and forest fires. The only water at Canyon Meadows was a small creek which passed through an impressively large meadow – once the bottom of the lake – which ended with a recently erected beaver dam.

This campground shows the impact of the Parish Creek fire in 20
This campground shows the impact of the Parish Creek fire in 20

So we headed back to Clyde Holliday Park for dinner and the night with an early start the next day to Burns and Diamond.  The highway was straight and well-maintained as Dave, feeling the power in his left foot, powered his Highlander up to pass two cars until he realized in the nick of time it was a cop chasing a speeder…..!

Almost waved to him as we passed....

Broderick Crawford would have been appalled…..

The fourth day we drove south on Highway 95 to Burns – home of former U of O and now St. Louis Rams quarterback, Kellen Clemens.

We explored and made a stop at Reid’s Country Store which had an impressive growler option for beer-hungry patrons.

Impressive selection of beers

Impressive selection of beers

Growler options

Growler options

The grocer directed us to the Central Pastime Tavern  (CPT) for lunch,  which allowed us to ignore Steve who was pushing for the Broadway Deli after seeing the sign below and arguing, “It would be good food and also make sure our car had a smooth ride to Diamond……..”   P1010761

The Central Pastime - "Best food in Burns...."

The Central Pastime – “Best food in Burns….”

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It was a great recommendation.  We talked to owner Glen Williams, a Wisconsin native, who was very cordial and a real character.  After a variety of occupations involving surveying and power, he bought the CPT seven years ago and said the original bar was in the old hotel in Burns.

Thebeerchaser logo with Thebeerchaser and Glen Williams

Thebeerchaser logo with Thebeerchaser and Glen Williams

However, the bartender, Patty, was the star of our visit.  She served us a great lunch (chicken gizzards, a rib-steak sandwich and a taco salad) and we each had one of the eight beers on tap.

Rib Steak, onion rings and Heinz 57 - it doesn't get any better....

Rib Steak, onion rings and Heinz 57 – it doesn’t get any better….

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—–

We listened to some great country music – it reminded us of Bob Newhart’s memorable quote, “I don’t like country music, but I don’t mean to denigrate those who do….And for people who like country music, ‘denigrate’ means ‘put down.'”  Of course, this prompted us to remember some of our favorite county-western titles such as:

  • If The Phone Don’t Ring, You’ll Know It’s Me
  • I’m So Miserable Without You; It’s like Having You Here
  • I Put the Golden Band on the Right Left Hand This Time (This one is actually a wonderful real tune by the late and great, George Jones)
Great interior design enhances the atmosphere at the Central Pastime

Great interior design enhances the atmosphere at the Central Pastime

Since we talked about Kellen Clemens, Dave decided to ask one of the patrons, “Do you know Kellen Clemens?”  The guy was listening to country-western and replied, “No, but hum a few bars to see if I remember the melody.”

But the conversation with the  hard-working Patty, an attractive and personable lady in her late forties or early fifties, was the best part of this bar.  I had seen the cocktail menu which included some interesting libations including one entitled, “Liquid Marijuana.” I didn’t want to pay $9 and had already had a PBR, so Patty offered to fix a shot sampler and told us the ingredients: Captain Morgan’s Rum, Blue Curacao, Malibu Rum and a splash of Midori (green melon liqueur).  It tasted like a Long Island Ice Tea with coconut.

Liquid Marijuana - "Because it's green and makes you hungry..."

Liquid Marijuana – “Because it’s green and makes you hungry…”

We could have talked to Patty all afternoon, but we needed to head to Diamond and our conversation concluded with this friendly exchange:

BeerchaserHow long have you worked at the Central Pastime, Patty?

Patty:  Eighteen years.

BeerchaserThen this must have been your first job out of high school?

Patty:  And I thought the cowboys around here were smooth talkers.  You city slickers put them to shame!

Good food and selection on "The Daily Specials"

Good food and selection on “The Daily Specials”

And with that parting dialogue, we took off south for the historic Diamond Hotel – our last night on Thebeerchaser Tour of Eastern Oregon.

The bar at the Central Pastime. Patty was camera shy but impressed with the city slickers passing through.

The bar at the Central Pastime. Patty was camera shy but impressed with the city slickers passing through.

Thebeerchaser Does Eastern Oregon – Part 1

Granite - one of the stops in the Eastern Oregon Beerchaser Tour

Granite – one of the stops in the Eastern Oregon Beerchaser Tour

After visiting pubs in six European countries on a 21-day Rick Steves’ Best of Europe Tour this summer, a return to basics was in order.  What better description of “basics” could one devise than a four-day road trip through Eastern Oregon – visiting taverns, pubs and bars along the way. (This post is the first of three installments…)

Historic beauty along the highway

Historic beauty along the highway

Psyched to start our 1,300 mile journey
Psyched to start our 1,300 mile journey

Thus, three of us – Thebeerchaser, brother-in-law, Dave Booher and Pendleton teacher and coach, Steve Larson, completed a 1,346 mile four-day trip in August.

We camped three nights and stayed at the wonderful Diamond Hotel, in Diamond, Oregon on the fourthP1010785Diamond, with a population of five, is so small that the “Welcome To” and “Come Again” signs could be on the same telephone pole.  Anyone who has not experienced this historic inn, should make it a bucket-list item.

As one can see from the map, we circled through the “God’s Country.”

The Route - From Prinevill on the West to Baker on the East - Diamond in the South and ending at Pendleton (North)
The Route – From Prineville on the West to Baker on the East – Diamond in the South and ending at Pendleton (North) – 1,346 miles in 4 days.

This trip was a great opportunity to either visit or photograph some of the colorful and historic local watering holes that are institutions in cities such  as Prineville, LaGrande, Baker, Fossil, Burns, John Day, Mitchell and Sumpter.

Solstice - LaGrande's only brewery

Solstice – Prineville’s only brewery

Prineville

Solstice Brewery Solstice celebrated its second anniversary in July and with a play area for tots (which we did not try) is a family oriented venue.  Shelby, our waitress, was friendly and helpful as was the owner, Joe, who told us it was the only brewery in Prineville and that they have a five-barrel capacity.

Shelby and Dave

Shelby and Dave with Thebeerchaser Logo

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P1010656

The Bar at Solstice

They bought their five-barrel brew kettle from Terminal Gravity Brewery in Enterprise. Their beer was good and we tried the War Paint Red Ale, Show-me-the-Honey Wheat Ale and Walton Lake Lager, three of six Solstice’s own brews.  We also had a good Sunday lunch.

The Horseshoe - Established in ____

The Horseshoe – Established in ____

Horseshoe Tavern  - Just up the street from Solstice on Prineville’s Main Street we met native Pennsylvanian, Heather, the bartender, who did a great job filling us in on the history of the bar, which is over 70 years old – a fact substantiated by the picture of the original owner, Howard Bose, on opening day.

Horseshoe Founders in 1940

Horseshoe Founders in 1940

Heather told us that her most challenging customers were the off-duty state troopers, who made the trucker patrons look tame.

They have seven beers on tap and we enjoyed the Bombshell Blonde from Cascade Lakes Brewery in Redmond.  This review from “Urban Spoon” summed up the Horseshoe pretty well, “Good food, huge portions.$1 beer, friendly staff.  What more could you want?”

Heather at the Horseshoe
Heather at the Horseshoe

Heather convinced Thebeerchaser to have an “Angry Balls” cocktail which is Angry Orchard Hard Cider (5% alcohol) and a drop of Fireball.  It was very good although evoked no emotional or physical reaction implied by the name.

LaGrande

The Hideout Saloon – Our next stop was in “downtown”, LaGrande, where Cindy, the gregarious bartender who has worked at the Hideout for ten years, hailed from the Land of Sky Blue Waters as did the “Beer-of- the-Day” – a draft Hamm’s.

Thebeerchaser "hiding out..."

Thebeerchaser “hiding out…”

P1010695

Cindy briefing Dave on the Hideout

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Cindy didn’t know exactly when the bar started operating, but said without equivocation, “It’s older than anybody here.”

Old Testament  Vintage

Old Testament Vintage

We noted that a number of patrons – other than ourselves –  reminded us of some of the Old Testament characters so we knew the bar was old.

Because they had cheap PBR and Dave was in a nostalgic mood, he harkened back to his days in the Navy’s Submarine Service and used the phonetic alphabet and ordered a “Papa – Bravo – Romeo,” which Cindy understood.

The LongBranch Saloon - Just down the street, we discovered our final LaGrande bar – one that had no lack of character and ambiance.  Patsy, the bartender didn’t know how old the bar was, but said that her grandmother worked there at one time.P1010699

Barbed-wire sculpture added to the atmosphere

Barbed-wire sculpture added to the atmosphere

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One young guy came in and she asked for his ID which he didn’t have.  He left – came back and showed his ID – then just got a glass of water….!  The Long Branch also has a quant diner attached that looked like it was from the 1950’s.

Straight from the 1950's..
Straight from the 1950’s..

We then debated where we should camp that evening.  Steve advocated flexibility, but I told him, “Spontaneity on this trip takes a lot of planning…”

We stopped at the Dairy Queen in John Day to assess our options, while I had a chocolate malt, Dave a Dilly Bar and Steve a DQ Sundae.  We couldn’t figure out why Dave told the Drive-thru waitress to make sure that our orders were “To Go.”

Unity Lake at Sunset

Unity Lake at Sunset

We headed east  on Highway 26 and about half way between John Day and Sumpter, we ended up at one of Oregon’s wonderful State Parks – Unity Lake State Recreation Site

“Camping” may be a stretch to describe our accommodations because we stayed in a cabin with bunks, but as you can see from the photos, it was a perfect ending to a day of exploration. 

A toast to God's Country!

A toast to God’s Country!

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A Tribute

And this post should end with a short tribute to the man who instilled my appreciation of God’s Country when I was in my teens and he was a carpet salesman for Mohawk Carpets.

My Dad - F. Duane Williams –  on whom we lovingly bestowed the moniker, “FDW”, grew up on the East Coast and thanks to his courage and that of my mom (Frannie), we moved to Oregon from Ohio in 1960 after a three-month camping trip (a VW bus hauling a Nimrod pop-up-tent trailer) across the US.  We missed three + weeks of school in the fall because FDW wrote the superintendent of schools that we were getting an outstanding education on the road.

FDW in God's Country

FDW in God’s Country

We all fell in love with Oregon on the trip and FDW quit his job and moved to Portland while Frannie sold the house and then drove the four kids across the country to our new home in Oregon City.   From that point on, FDW was imbued with “The spirit of high adventure.” 

FDW and his VW

FDW and his VW

Although he did not make much in commissions from his Eastern Oregon territory, he loved the trips. From the geology to mingling with his dealers such as Doc Mosier of Mosier’s Home Furnishings in John Day – founded in 1955 and now operated by Doc’s son he relished the adventure.

I still have a personally autographed copy of famous Oregon cattleman, Herman Oliver’s autobiography, Gold and Cattle Country, with whom my dad had many visits in Grant County.

And no trip was complete without  navigating a little-used Forest Service road in his VW Bus. (We once spent the night sleeping in the VW when we took the wrong turn got stuck on a new spur in the Mt. Emily Road and had to be pulled out the next morning by a bulldozer that was excavating for the new road!)P1010892

Slabtown – A “Slice” of Portland History

An important institution in an historic neighborhood

An important institution in an historic neighborhood

After six posts on pubs and taverns in Europe based on our Rick Steves’ Best of Europe Tour, Thebeerchaser takes comfort in returning home – to the roughly 700 watering holes in Portland.  And what better way to regain the origins of this blog than reviewing a Portland classic dive bar – Slabtown.

External character in a manner of speaking

External character in a manner of speaking

As evidence of its status, it is the only bar other than the recently Beerchaser reviewed Slammer Tavern (September 2013) that has been named one of the favorite bars in the ”hallowed” – at least in my eyes because of its value as a reference source – Willamette Week Drink Guide (Favorite Bars) for the last six  years.

And as we walk you through our visit to this NW Portland institution, we will provide some highlights from the WW past reviews:

2013“Old-school rock and roll venue, Slabtown is, as ever, a play-town for putative grown-ups (with occasional all-ages shows served up from the back entrance) with pinball, air hockey, Skee-ball and Pop-a-Shot.”          

Old School venue with traditional bar competition
Old School venue with traditional bar competition – Air Hockey, etc.

I was pleased to have Portland lawyer, Scott Whipple, a Beerchaser regular and esteemed graduate of Iowa’s Grinnell College (where they still talk about his accomplishments on the basketball court) accompany me both to this bar and our second stop that night at the Skyline Tavern.

Fred and Scott - A character in a bar with character(s)
Fred and Scott – A character in a bar with character(s)

We sat at the bar next to a great old guy with a white beard, overalls and a baseball cap named Fred, who while I talked to the friendly bartender, Dave, wanted to engage Scott on topics such as “quality trading” in the stock market,  World War II and the global economy.  Ben, another quality barkeeper who has worked there for 4 1/2 years was there working with Dave on my second visit.

Two Class A Bartenders - Dave and Ben

Two Class A Bartenders – Dave and Ben with Thebeerchaser Logo

Dave was very helpful, has worked there for 18 months, is a Wilson High graduate and the grandson of John Howard,  the former and very well-regarded President of Lewis and Clark College.

2011 - “….Slabtown has changed, man.  But don’t freak out – it has changed for the better.  

The owners booted the video poker machines for more pinball and video games (this place is like a Chuck E. Cheeses for adults) upgraded the sound system a bit and incorporated a wider range of music into the schedule….The building seems further from collapse than ever before….”

Old style pinball machines replaced Video Lottery --- Good Move!!

Old style pinball machines replaced Video Lottery — Good Move!!

Distinguishing Characteristics

Its History – Slabtown has been around since the ‘70’s under three different owners   It was originally a strip club and was also known as “Cal’s Fort.”   It has an interesting “altar” near the entrance, paying tribute to fabled rock musicians Wendy O’ Williams and Freddie Mercury.  The bar was also used as a set for two scenes from the “Portlandia” show.

The "alter" at the entrance.

The “altar” at the entrance.

The Slabtown neighborhood is also one of Portland’s most historic neighborhoods and oozes with history as evidenced by this excerpt from the July 13, 2013 The Oregonian

“For a century, Wallace Park was the site of trading for Native Americans, (Tracy) Prince writes in “Portland’s Slabtown.” The book (published by Arcadia Press) traces the Slabtown neighborhood’s history……when Native Americans outnumbered white settlers 1,000 to 275, through its blue-collar decades, and into its current “Trendy-third” reputation for its Northwest 23rd Avenue boutiques…..

It was a working-class neighborhood home to marginalized groups — Native Americans, Chinese and European immigrants, gypsies, and black Portlanders.”

Timber is a key to the "roots" of Slabtown.

Timber is a key to the “roots” of Slabtown.

Why the name “Slabtown?  “….back in the industrial days of lumber milling, the slabs of the rounded tree edges made good fuel and were to be found all over this area.” (KGW.com 9/7/2010).  The slices of wood piled up at the George Weidler Lumber Mill on NW Northrup Street commencing in the 1870’s.

The Menu – It’s entirely vegan since last June!  This is the first time Thebeerchaser has encountered this situation although it was not a problem.  Neither Scott nor I could tell the difference between the excellent large order of vegan french fries we had that night versus what we are used to……..

A very positive change initiated in July 2012 was the introduction of Falafel to their kitchen with a new chef.  You can see the reviews are superb:

Yelp 6/6/13:  “Dive BAR! but right now they are renting the kitchen out to an amazing FALAFEL CHEF… So good you must try…”

Although a limited menu, the food gets high marks.
Although a limited menu, the food gets high marks.

Yelp 5/9/13:  “Best falafel sandwich I’ve had in Portland and quite surprising to find it at a dive bar.”

Yelp 10/12/13:  “Lover’s of delicious food: this is a serious find. It is a serious dive……But the people who make the falafel are serious about their craft. I’ve never had a better gyro, and I’ve been to Greece and eaten them there, so I feel like I am qualified to speak to Gyro power.”

Drum sticks and guitar strings - A unique feature

Drum sticks and guitar strings – A unique feature

The Vending Machines – It may well be that Slabtown is the only bar in Portland where one can purchase both guitar strings and drumsticks (not the kind one eats) from a vending machine.

You can also see Scott waiting in anticipation at the kissing booth, which, understandably,  did not get any participants when we were there.  There are also a number of old classic pinball machines, air hockey and skee-ball and Pop-a-Shot that did see a lot of action.

"Better not give up  your day job, Scott."
“Better not give up your day job, Scott.”

2010 - “…You can order a basket of French fries and  play pinball for three hours and no one is going to try to grab your boobs…”

Pop-a-Shot - The score reflects Whipple regressing to his college days at Grinnell...

Pop-a-Shot – The score reflects Whipple regressing to his college days at Grinnell…

But perhaps the machine that ended up with more than several of our dollars in its belly, was Pop-a-Shot.

Scott immediately gravitated to the machine and we played no less than five games in which he marginally came out on top in four of them. Scott sang the Grinnell Fight Song as he shot.  After we went back into the bar, Dave the bartender, said to me, “He’s a competitive guy, isn’t he?” (If  you only knew, Dave….)

As a Concert and Performance Venue – When I asked Dave and Ben how they would best describe Slabtown i.e. Dive Bar, Neighborhood Bar, Music Venue, Ben stated, “It’s something different to each person and can be each of those.”  Dave, however, chose the Performance Venue option because of the history and the percentage of the bar’s receipts resulting from these shows.

Indeed, check out the calendar on the Slabtown Website or Facebook page – a full calendar with different types of music – live and otherwise – some with cover charge – some free – almost every night.  They also have all-ages shows to open it up for more patrons and obviously, closely control the alcohol for underage folk.  Also Bingo and Industry Night events on Tuesdays.

2008“….Slabtown strikes a near perfect balance between style and scum with dirty rock and plenty of breathing room to relax over cheap food and plentiful beer…A fine after-work drinking spot if there ever was one.”           

Scott at the "Bar" - making a closing argument to himself

Scott at the “Bar” – making a closing argument to himself

As a sign by the entrance said at one time, “This isn’t the Pearl – It’s  Slabtown!  You’ve been warned.”

So noted!  And that’s a good thing.  Check them out while you have a gyro….

Slabtown       1033 NW 16th