The Beerchaser’s favorite nautical quotation is by Admiral David Farragut during the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. The Admiral, in his flagship the USS Hartford, while lashed to his observation post in the rigging, yelled “Damn the Torpedoes – Full Speed Ahead!” This is still good advice if you are on the Willamette River near Sellwood. Chart your course to the Muddy Rudder.
While we didn’t have to dodge naval ordnance, the weather was terrible (rain and hail) which made the pub’s warm atmosphere better the night we had a great visit with our friends, Kate and David Dickson. Note that the picture above is taken in the summer when you can enjoy the Rudder’s neat beer garden. “If you do go, try to sit in the lovely outdoor garden during warm weather.”
Coincidentally, if you are searching on the Internet, you should be aware, there is also a great seafood restaurant and bar of the same name near Portland, Maine – named for the tugboat, PORTLAND, which sank in the Cousins River “when a harsh nor’easter besieged the boat at its mooring and strong winds grounded and overturned her.” – so much for nautical lore, now let’s talk about a great pub in our Portland.
The “Rudder” would be easy to miss because its roots as an old house are still evident and there is little signage. It’s only two blocks from the east end of the Sellwood Bridge. on Tacoma and 7th. As one reviewer stated: “What had been a little decaying rental had been pushed out and up and seemed to be preparing for a second life as some sort of storefront. But that second life had to wait a couple of years while owner Jim Sheehan, a custom woodworker and motorcycle fanatic, toiled away reworking the cabinetry, floors and woodwork.”
One less complimentary description was: “It’s like a commercial version of the residential renovations and partial tear-downs you see throughout gentrifying Sellwood. The successful, upper-middle class, white people in their 40s and 50s with kids and dogs who live in those houses find a regular watering hole in the Muddy Rudder.” However, the above quote is followed by good advice:
“But don’t let this stop you from visiting (or even frequenting) the Muddy Rudder. It’s a great spot with excellent food and drink, and one of the only establishments at the far west edge of Sellwood. You “should” really like it a lot.”
So What’s to Like?
The atmosphere is cordial and classy. There are old nautical charts and maritime accoutrements throughout the two levels. The round tables and wooden chairs, cabinetry and wood bar, give it the feel of a great neighborhood pub.
The food was great and reasonably priced. Most of the menu items ended in vowels, (pizza, Stromboli, bruschetta, zucchini, antipasto, chili, et.al…) Being in the spirit, thebeerchaser ordered his first cocktail on this tour of beer joints – an excellent dirty martini! We had a superb meatball sandwich and a pizza.
The Entertainment – there is music (no cover charge) most nights and if you get there in time to sit on the second level, you’re right next to the band. In our case, it was a great group called the “Sleepy-eyed Johns” – a wonderful five-piece combo (fiddle, mandolin/guitar, bass and banjo). From their first tune – “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” to the end of the evening, they captivated the crowd.
- The Beer – a nice selection of micros on tap at a reasonable price.
In fact, the only down-side of the Muddy Rudder, which was totally offset by the positives, was the service – the pace and not the people themselves.
Our waitress Marissa (Mo) was wonderful and Todd the bartender was great, but they are just understaffed. Mo did a heroic job, but she was the only waitress for the entire pub. Many of the reviews indicate that this has been an ongoing problem as evidenced from this one in early 2009:
“You can’t get through a visit without wondering where your food is, or having the servers apologize for being short-staffed, or having to go up to the bar to ask for napkins or forks.”
One patron’s overall sentiments about this pub seemed right on target when she stated: “I kinda love this place. I hope other people don’t come here so that there is always a place for me when I want to go.”