Marcus Archambeault and Warren Boothby are no strangers to the Portland bar scene….or Beerchaser followers. They are the owners of two previously reviewed watering holes – Gold Dust Meridian (GDM 10/2012) and Club 21 (9/2014) And for that matter, the prior count should be raised to three since they are “remaking” the classic dive bar Sandy Hut – more affectionately known to regulars of this historic bar as “The Handy Slut” – reviewed by Thebeerchaser in February of 2014.
And the Double Barrel, like their other establishments, has its own character and ambiance, differentiating it and making one want to return.
Joining me for my visit was Beerchaser Regular, “West Coast” Dave Hicks, Princeton undergrad, who went on to get his law degree and is now a San Francisco-based consultant in the legal industry.
The Double Barrel opened in February of 2014 in the historic building which previously housed the Seven Corners Bar and Grill and before that K.J’s, Wynner’s and Dilly’s. This excerpt from Portland Bar Fly.com describes the change well:
Formerly, Seven Corners, the GDM/Club 21 boys got themselves a new toy and man, are you gonna want to play with it! An extensive remodel of the long malingering premises reveals the hundred year-old store front’s charming old bones, and dresses them up with a clever neo-vintage take on a Wild West saloon. Horseshoe bar with whiskey kegs holding up the booze and a rustic lodge-style fireplace add to the ambience.
And the two entrepreneurs also take into consideration the neighborhoods of their venues when making changes:
“(One neighbor) was pleased with what the two had done with the Double Barrel bar at 21st and Division, and how they reverted the property back to some of its original luster. ‘We got a lot of inspiration from the old-schoolers in that neighborhood,’ says Archambeault. ‘We wanted to pay homage to the old Division by making a place that is a local place, an old-school place.'”
This is not just rhetoric based on a telephone conversation I had with Marcus about the work on the Double Barrel. For example, the design in the floor is a septagram (seven-pointed star – a mural of sorts with seven stars surrounded by a circle). “We wanted to honor the tradition and history of the Seven Corners – the name of the neighborhood based on the seven streets intersecting division in that vicinity.”
And then there’s the menu. Each of their venues has it own specialties. For example, at Club 21, we feasted on their “Build-a-Burger,” and at GDM we ordered seconds on the “Classic mac.” The review from the Neighborhood Notes publication (3/27/2014) describes what holds court at the Double Barrel:
“Expect salads, snacks (tater tots, onion rings, hush puppies and gator bites), wings six ways, and eight signature burgers and sandwiches (including one called the Triple Threat that’s made with roasted pork loin, pulled pork and—because why not?—bacon)……”
Most of the social media reviews are positive such as this one from Yelp last December: “The juiciest (real meat not processed) hamburger cooked to perfection on the softest bun. The onion rings were so tasty and crispy. A 9 out of 10 – must try place…..”
Not to belabor, but the $5 Single Barrel Burger was heralded during “Portland Burger Week” by the Portland Mercury in August 2014:
“…. a charred Painted Hills ground chuck patty with proper 80/20 juiciness. They throw on tender bacon and deep-fried jalapeño rings, then douse it with their killer creative masterstroke: a house-made spicy Southern pimento cheese that gets all the other ingredients in a line and creates a marriage ceremony “in your mouth.”
Our own experience sampling the Happy Hour (an expansive 2:00 until 7:00 every day) options was really positive except for the Hush Puppies, which were soggy and flavorless. That said, the fried cauliflower bites with pimento dip and the “little smokies” were scarfed up immediately and the delicious wings were already addressed.
Since Thebeerchaser’s passion is investigating the history, background and context of the bars visited, it is worth spending some more time on the thought process of Archambeault and Boothby in their work on the Double Barrel the end result of which is summarized aptly below in Willamette Weeks 2014 Bar Guide:
“But a month in, Double Barrel is classic in form, dim of light and somehow already aged into its space. It feels like yours the first damn time you walk in. Order a bourbon….. and drink to dear old dad.”
I followed up with a telephone conversation with Marcus Archambeault on some of the specifics:
Beerchaser: “How did you come up with the name?”
MA: “Our corporate name is Double Barrel Inc. (May 2011 incorporation). We also liked the double entendre – it references both the shotgun – consistent with the western theme of the bar and the barrels in which whiskey is aged and which are a feature in the bar.”
Beerchaser: “The long horseshoe bar is amazing and the whiskey barrels are a great touch. Where did you get them?”
MA: “We let the building speak to us. We took the original bar and all the paneling and wood when we removed the dropped ceiling and restored to the original height. It’s largely recycled from the original building.”
The games are a nice touch (darts, Big Buck HD and old-style pinball – and DB is probably the only bar in town in which you will see an chicken and egg vending machine.
And since it is a bar, we should at least briefly address the beer, described by Willamette Week – again in its 2014 bar review:
“Double Barrel’s insistence on carrying not only Pabst and Oly, but also Hamm’s, Coors, Rainier, High Life and Tecate seems like an almost ham-fisted statement (Thebeerchaser strongly disagrees with this premise!), though there are also eight taps spouting local standards like Migration and Boneyard.”
Dave Hicks had a Heater Allen Pilsner and I enjoyed a Commons Farmhouse Ale (Willamette Week’s 2013 Beer-of-the-Year) after I first hoisted a draft Hamms – in a “hamm-fisted” and rebellious manner! They also had a cider on tap.
The Double Barrel is a great bar and another testament to Archambeault’s and Boothby’s vision and creativity – expect to see that imagination in the revitalized Sandy Hut when it reopens in May.
And finally, since it has been quite awhile since you have seen a bar joke in a Beerchaser post, it is only fitting with the theme of the Double Barrel that you are offered these to old western gems (with apologies):
A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says, “Hey, why the long face?”
A three-legged dog walks into a bar and says to the bartender, “I’m looking for the guy who shot my paw!”
2002 SE Division Street Portland