Sidecar 11 — Worth the Ride and/or the Drink?

An Inconspicuous Entrance

An inconspicuous entrance which does not reflect the character of the interior

While there are some expansive Portland bars such as the Horse Brass Pub, Joe’s Cellar (RIP..) and The Twilight Room, there are some interesting establishments occupying confined “hole-in-the-wall” type spaces.

Thebeerchaser has visited a number of these watering holes including Belmont Station, Beer and Hawthorne Hideaway. The latest is a wonderful little bar on N. Mississippi Ave. – Sidecar 11.

According to the owner, this contraption is also a rationale for the name of the bar.

According to the owner, this contraption is also a rationale for the name of the bar.

I was fortunate to share this new venue with my good friend, Larry Paulson.  Larry is the long-time and recently retired Executive Director of the Port of Vancouver.  He is also a former General in the Air Force Reserve Judge Advocate General Corps.  As have been the majority of those I’ve raised mugs with on this Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs, the General is also a lawyer.

"The General" in a Turbine -- (He thought it was a keg....)
“The General” in a Turbine — (He thought it was a gigantic keg….)

 While the entrance to Sidecar 11 is very understated and quite frankly, could be enhanced, one is immediately struck by the character of this little place based on the personalities of the owner and bartender, the décor and, the variety and contents of the cocktails served.

Virtually all the printed comments on this bar are really good and it stands out among the multiple taverns, pubs and bistros which have sprung up on N Mississippi like cavities in non-fluoridated cities (Since Thebeerchaser doesn’t get to vote in the City of Portland, this is a political statement in lieu.)

A nice setting and bartender, ___, makes one feel welcome

A nice setting and bartender, ___, makes one feel welcome

For example, the following two reviews from Yelp in 2012 and 2013 are typical and echo our sentiments:

“Every time I am in the neighborhood and have the time to spare, I will come into Sidecar.  The bartenders are super knowledgeable and really have a passion for what they are doing. 

I never know what to order because everything looks so good. I have my default Manhattan (they make a killer one here) but I will always take the suggestion of whoever is working for a mystery libation.”

“The service has always been on the mark.  The space is small, but well laid out.  If they are busy, the bartender makes a point to communicate that with you and that they will help you. I highly recommend going here, it really is a lovely little bar”

The General and Aaron with Thebeerchaser Logo

The General and Bartender, Aaron, with Thebeerchaser Logo

Both the bartender, Aaron, and the owner, John Cooper, were extremely helpful in the service and telling us about the origin of the bar which opened just in 2011 and was named after its signature drink – the Sidecar.

Distinguishing Characteristics

Signature Cocktails – While Sidecar has some good draft beers – Larry had a Leavenworth Bier’s Bakke Hills Black Lager – it differentiates itself by its signature drinks.  I had an outstanding Lavender Martini (Lavender vodka, Crème de Violette, lemon, sugar and peychaud’s bitters).  Larry “chased” his beer with a superb, Old Fashioned, and I encouraged him to recount (briefly…) some of the memories of his dual careers.

The namesake of this great little bar
“Mississippi Sidecar” – the namesake of this great little bar

Larry Paulson was known in SW Washington as a collaborative leader at the Port.  He  had extremely cooperative relationships with the Longshoremen’s Union and other bargaining units while he was there and they publicly stated their respect at his retirement dinner, which was attended by Washington Senator, Patty Murray.

Paulson espoused Dwight Eisenhower‘s philosophy of leadership: “You don’t lead people by hitting them over the head – that’s assault not leadership.”

And as a military lawyer, he helped resolve problems like jet jockeys flying too low and “strafing” cattle in Eastern Oregon during flight training exercises.

1966 Bordeaux - Aged but not ready for burial....

1966 Bordeaux – Aged but not ready for burial….

 

The Wine – They feature some excellent and older bottles of wine.  Aaron showed us their featured “old” wine – a 1966 Chateau Talbot Bordeaux – which they opened for tasting on March 5th and the adjective “old” brought me back to reality because it was the year of Thebeerchaser’s graduation from high school….

Adding to the ambiance and the education of the patrons each week is “Tasting Tuesday” – complimentary tasting and discounts on wine – sponsored by various NW wineries.  That night the featured libations were two Prosser Washington, Airfield Winery products – their 2010 Runway Merlot and the 2011 Runway Syrah.

An impressive assortment of wines

An impressive assortment of wines

Of course, the “Airfield” reference evoked a look of nostalgia from the General, who quoted his favorite section of the Air Force Flight Manual: “It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed,” although he admitted never having to litigate the situation.

ArtworkDifferent galleries are showcased every other month. Numerous quality works of art adorned the walls and we met Molly Kovaka, the owner of Studio KO, who was there to comment on each piece of art from her gallery – nice person and a nice touch.

Molly Kovaka - Artist "In Residence" at Sidecar

Molly Kovaka – Artist “In Residence” at Sidecar

The food menu is limited, but we had a great cheese plate and this Yelp review from 2011 is a fitting way to end this post and describe the bar and its menu:

 “We stumbled upon Sidecar 11 during a stroll though the Mississippi neighborhood.  

It turned out to be the best discovery we’ve made in the past year.  The cocktails are AMAZING….Definitely not a drink for the timid… 

All four of us ordered a different salad and loved it.  The salads were simple but at the same time fresh and creative.  The apple, pear, red quinoa salad with maple dressing was the best of the bunch, but all were good.  And the garlic cheese bread?  Killer!”

Sidecar 11        3955 N Mississippisidecar art

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