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.

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

    • I think you’re correct after I did some additional research. My companions gave me a bad time because the pictures and description of the Canyon Meadows Lake before it dried up were pretty impressive and they were looking forward to catching some fish and camping by water.

  1. Pingback: Thebeerchaser Does the Central Oregon Coast – Part I | thebeerchaser

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