Those who prefer cocktails, but want some good draft beers as well, should check out the Richmond Bar – only about a year old and replacing the Matchbox Lounge – oft praised in the past for its great $5 burgers and good beer. It joins the list of plentiful watering holes on SE Division.
The Oregonian includes the Richmond in its listing of “Portland’s 10 Best New Bars,” and describes it as, “….. (a)surprisingly handsome and cozy spot with a British-meets-Pacific Northwest vibe decorated with tufted leather booths, imported wall paper and large wooden tables.”
Nate Tilden (the Portland restaurateur and “cutting edge” guy who takes meat very seriously) (also owner of Clyde Commons and Olympic Provisions – entered another of his partnerships with Portlander, Marty Schwartz.
I was pleased that Beerchaser Regular, “West Coast” (although his sales territory goes east to Chicago) Dave Hicks, was in town from his San Francisco environs to raise a mug and convey pearls of wisdom.
Hicks has been to prior Beerchaser watering holes including Crackerjacks, the Horse Brass Pub and Belmont Station. His Princeton University under-graduate education is evident as he was quick to quote American journalist and satirist, H.L. Menken while drinking an outstanding Fort George Spruce Budd Ale – one of nine beers and one cider on tap.
“24 hours in a day – 24 beers in a case – Coincidence. I think not.”
Before we tried the menu and imbibed in one of the cocktails, I took Dave’s suggestion – a bottle of Duchesse De Bourgogne – a reddish-brown ale from the West-Flanders region of Belgium. And although he is not fluent in Dutch, he taught me the correct pronunciation to order it.
The Richmond is cozy and low-key. You order your drinks and food at the bar and even during Happy Hour, it had a nice vibe. We talked to Kelly, the bartender, who has worked there for just a few months and moved from Clyde Commons – which has also supplied chefs.
The bar has a rotating selection of “hand pies” and Dave enjoyed the ham pie, which the Portland Tribune Beef and Brew column described as, “….juicy Olympic Provisions sweetheart ham, smoked cheddar and – instead of predictable root vegetables – roasted cauliflower.” I enthusiastically devoured the wild boar and sweet corn pie. The most recent choices for pies on their website are a roasted venison and a vegetable option.
The robust menu shows mainly pub food with an Old English theme – and you know the OP meat is going to be superb. The offerings include mac & cheese, a number of burgers and sandwiches, salads and some esoteric snacks such as Pickled Eggs and Anchovies, Pork and Pistachio Pate, and Roast Beef and Turnips. Take a dollar off any item during their Happy Hour from 4:00 to 6:00 every day and all day on Sunday.
We were pleasantly surprised based on our limited sampling of their twelve original cocktails, and ours deserved the reputation the Richmond has garnered.
I had the Strong Water ($10) – stirred with rye, cardamaro, averna, dry vermouth and bitters – ingredients departing from what you would expect Thebeerchaser to be accustomed to – barley, malt, hops and yeast.
Hicks had a Paloma ($8) – tequila, grapefruit shrub, lime and jalapeno simple. I did not have the courage to ask what was the difference between plain grapefruit and “grapefruit shrub.”
A return trip would probably mean trying the Park Life, the Incider or the Mo Betta or the June Bug although that would still only cover one-half of their mixed drink lineup.
The Richmond has its own nice character, classy décor, the bartenders were skilled and friendly and as Willamette Week concluded in its review, “The cozy, tasteful little bar does absolutely nothing wrong – except perhaps doing nothing wrong.”
Their website is pretty basic, but has their drink and food menu and information on their Happy Hour. However, if you’re searching for “The Richmond Bar,” be specific and expand your search terms or you may end up reading about a bunch of lawyers in the oldest bar association in Virginia (founded in 1856).
And who can impugn the motives of those whose goal is “to promote legal science and the administration of justice…..while meeting the challenges of our rapidly changing profession.”
Since West Coast Dave Hicks is also a lawyer, he would drink to that mission!
And by the way, if you are still wondering, cardamaro is an Italian herbal wine-based liqueur flavored with a relative of the artichoke and blessed thistle among other herbs and spices.
And grapefruit shrub is a sweet-tart infusion of vinegar and fruit.