“Urbane” is defined as “notably polite or finished in manner,” which is apt for the relatively new (November 2011) Interurban (IU), another watering hole on the now trendy NE Mississippi Ave. One of the three owners is Dan Hart, who also owns Prost – a bar up the street previously reviewed by thebeerchaser in November.
The original opening was delayed because of a fire of questionable origin until, according to our waitress, Rachael, Portland Fire and Rescue came in and pulled down some walls and discovered the source – an action commemorated at the top of the stairs with the logo shown below:
The bar was evidently named after Portland’s first interurban line, the Portland Sellwood and Milwaukie Railway, constructed in 1890 and the first of several interurban lines serving Portland and the Willamette Valley. According to one of the owners, a spur once ran down Mississippi Avenue, right past the restaurant. For those into historic trains, an extremely interesting website can be found at http://pdxhistory.com/html/interurbans.html
Reviews on IU are somewhat mixed and from our perspective, it was almost a little “too cool” – really dark wood, taxidermy, a coolly efficient staff, a nice sound system playing what one patron described as “a mix of classic funk, old school hip-hop, trip-hop and the like,” but was some good jazz when we (thebeerchaser and spouse) were there. A number of reviews have criticized the noise level at IU as being too loud with the sound system a factor.
IU is pretty confined – on the lower level, two tables by the entrance, a somewhat crowded bar with about 10-12 stools and some “buddy bars” with stools facing the wall and a small ledge for eating and to place drinks. Upstairs there are about six or seven more tables.
There is also a patio for use when the weather is reasonable??!! Happy Hour is every day except Saturday with $2 drafts $3-4 whiskey and $5 wine. They have a nice selection (14) of cocktails, craft jello shots, 8 bottled beers and 14 draft beers (we had a nice Staropramen Pilsner).
The Food – two of the owners are well-known Portland chefs and the menu (coolly set forth in manilla file folders with clips..) has a great selection of pork and beef dishes, lamb stew and what is billed as “Portland’s largest corn dog” at $9. I had the “hot dog of the day” – a chili dog – all the meat is from Olympic Provisions, which was outstanding. Also a good range of soups and salads.
The Taxidermy! – one of the bartenders told us that besides the large moose head on the wall, the other two animals on the first floor were shot by one of the bartenders and his father on a trip to Africa.
The Mix of Cocktails – Both the display in the menu and the assortment were impressive and unusual for most bars. For example, “The Suffering Bastard” – which research revealed has a history. One website quoted a 1959 New York Times interview with the inventor himself, Joe Scialom, one-time head bartender at Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo.
“When liquor was short during the war, he had to concoct ‘something to quench the boys’ thirst.’ He combined equal parts gin and brandy with a dash of Angostura bitters, a teaspoon of Rose’s lime juice, and English ginger ale. He garnished the drink with a sprig of fresh mint, a slice of orange and a cucumber peel.”
We enjoyed Interurban (of course, how does one not appreciate any public house). It was cool – but lacked the character of many of thebeerchaser’s prior bars and taverns. If the old trolley line was still operating, I would have taken it up the street to revel in the ambiance of Prost!