Since the Greek story-teller Aesop, was purportedly a slave, it is doubtful that he conveyed his fable about the tortoise and the hare to Aristotle or Herodotus while hoisting a mug in a fifth century Greek pub.
The Cheerful Tortoise Pub (CT) by the Portland State campus, however, has an eclectic mix of PSU students, professors, athletes and OHSU medical students so drinking yarns and tales of yore are prevalent. With its 42 television sets, gobs of sports momentos and historic sponsorship of PSU athletics, the CT was voted the top sports bar by Portland City Search two years in a row. However, it’s far more than just a sports bar as one patron stated:
“One must remember that this place is a college bar that is a sports bar that is a karaoke bar that is a neighborhood dive bar. Most of the time it is chock-full of regulars, but at other times is a raucous mess of barely 21 college student who get stupid after 2 beers.”
I was fortunate to be joined by my good friend, former insurance company president and now Director of New Business Development for the PSU Athletic Dept. Dennis Ferguson. All the bartenders know Denny, who is an extrovert and so optimistic that he once started a diet on Thanksgiving Day. He commented on the generosity of owner Amy Nichol and Pat Lockhart (former) whose contributions generate PSU scholarships.
Thursday night is $1 beer and $2 wing night so the probability of seeing out-of-control college kids escalates. Trivia Nights on Mondays are for those who desire a more mundane experience.
While a few of the reviews commented on unfriendly and slow service, our experience was great. Our bartender, Allison, helped educate us about the bar which opened in 1940, and she and fellow bartenders Lana and Brooke were all intelligent, friendly and great looking!
The TC has 18 beers on tap — I had a Hamms which is always $2.75 except on $1 beer night. Karoke is on Wednesday – Friday and Saturday.
The History – Although fellow PSU Grads, historian John Terry and former GE College Bowl PSU Captain, Jim Westwood, wax eloquently about the tradition of PSU-area pubs such as Lydia’s, the Chocolate Moose and Birdies, andthebeerchaser remembers some good draft beer after class at Sam’s Hoffbrau (now a McDonalds), none of these survived – and the Cheerful Tortoise is still going strong after 72 years!
It evokes Park Blocks memories for many – whether it is WW II vets taking courses at Vanport Extension Center, Ben Padrow coaching his 1965 College Bowl Team or the outstanding dialogue when masses of students gathered to hear and debate decorated Marine Corps officers and Viet Nam veterans, Lt. Ancer Haggerty (Silver Star and Purple Hearts – now a federal judge) and Cpt. Jud Blakely (Bronze Star and Purple Hearts) when they recruited on campus during the late ’60’s.
The Character – There are essentially no windows and the 42 TVs provide the light so it’s very dark yet the big fireplace roaring all year makes it warm and hospitable. One night, you may see a bunch of international students in front of one of the TVs cheering on their favorite soccer team. It’s quirky trademarks such as $1 Beer nights and the $1.99 Breakfast available every day, have a wide following. As Willamette Week’s 2009 Drink Guide, listing their 100 favorite bars, aptly stated:
“The CT packs the benefits of a college sports bar without the vomiting sorority girls and Dave Mathews fans….But on the Bar’s legendary $1 beer nights…there is no escape. Come ready to get drunk– and relive the glory days.”
You don’t have to be a student to enjoy the Cheerful Tortoise – give it a try.
The Cheerful Tortoise 1939 SW Sixth Avenue
Great article thank you for the feature. Sorry I missed you. We would have loved to come down and meet you. If your ever in the area again please let me know so I can come down say Hi and buy you a beer.
Owner Cheerful Tortoise & Cheerful Bullpen
Thanks Amy and there is a clear and viable solution to the fact that we did not get to meet. Fergy and I talked about making a visit to the Cheerful Bullpen which I would write up for thebeerchaser blog. We will just make sure that our visit to your second establishment is on a date when you can join us. Thanks again for your support of PSU.