One of the general guidelines established when I commenced Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs five years ago was that I would focus on the aforementioned watering holes and not cover restaurants that may also have good bars. The only exceptions – now added to by the Fulton – have been two McMenamin establishments.
With that preface, I have to disclaim that it has taken me over two years to finally tell you about the Fulton Pub, which I visited two more times after my memorable first trip for drinks with prolific Portland author, Brian Doyle. He suggested The Fulton as one of “my regular watering holes” and had even written a wonderful essay about the pub entitled “An Ale Tale.” (see below).
The last two visits were with my spouse, Janet, my sister, Lynne and her husband, Dave – one of the more notable Beerchaser regulars having accompanied me on Beerchasing trips through Central and Eastern Oregon (see post on 11/4/13) and the Central Oregon Coast – a three day trip in which we visited fifteen unforgettable saloons in Lincoln City, Newport, Depoe Bay and Pacific City. (see post on 9/23/14)
The Fulton epitomizes the image of an intimate neighborhood pub. It’s a half block off Macadam Ave on Nebraska Avenue not too far from John’s Landing and:
“…..dates back to 1926, when it was a Prohibition-era hangout serving home-cooked meals, pinball games, stogies, candy and ice cream. Speculation says that during Prohibition the pub might even have provided patrons the odd pint as an unadvertised special.” (McMenamin’s website )
After being known as the Home Tavern for a number of years, The McM Brothers opened it as the Fulton in 1988. You can order any of the McMenamin microbrews and munch on one of their good burgers with plentiful fries or other items on a good pub-faire menu. And it does have a great patio – filled with drinkers of good cheer during the few non-dripping months in Oregon. So what distinguishes it from any of the other McMenamin venues?
For a brief explanation, I defer to my friend, Brian, who in this excerpt from his essay on the Fulton hits the mark. (And for the full version, which is worth reading, check out the link at the end of this post which I found on-line in the inaugural issue of the University of Texas at El Paso’s literary magazine, Quicksilver.)
Since Brian is the Editor of the University of Portland’s award-winning quarterly magazine – Portland – this begs the question why his essay was one of three featured at an academic institution in the state in which Rick Perry is the former governor…….(By the way, the other two essays in this issue of Quicksilver are entitled “Farm Machines” and “2.4 Miles.” and are very good.)
I think the answer is best found in the UTEP magazine’s mission statement:
“Quicksilver has many connotations, both literal–the mineral was mined in Terlingua, south of El Paso–and figurative–the word means erratic, malleable. Quicksilver also equals charged writing: the best content we can find.” (emphasis supplied)
From Brian’s essay entitled, “An Ale Tale”:
“It’s unpretentious, friendly, liable to laughter. There are babies and dogs and mismatched chairs. There’s world-class stuff made there but there’s no preening or wheedling. The pub and the ale were created here by people here for people here. When it rains everyone crowds inside, including the dogs. When the sun comes out everyone sprawls outside, including the babies.
On the hottest hot days, the guy making ales in the back throws open the screen door and out writhes the most redolent funky bready earthy dense smell you ever smelled, which is the smell of Hammerhead being born.”
Note: According to the McMenamin’s website, “…..legend has it that the brew’s hallowed recipe (Hammerhead) was perfected here.”
Each of my three visits to the Fulton made me leave promising to return. At the first one, I interviewed Brian to glean the background for his Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter “honor” (see post dated 2/14/14). I had a Hammerhead and was surprised that he drank wine rather than beer. I guess that’s explained by his book The Grail – a 2006 work in which he chronicles his “….year ambling and shambling through an Oregon vineyard in pursuit of the best pinot noir wine in the whole wide world.”
Since that Fulton visit in 2014, he has authored three additional novels: The Plover, Marten Martin and Chicago and five collections of essays.
On our last two visits my companions and I dined, and both times found that the usual ponderous McMenamin’s turn-around time on meals was not the case at the Fulton and the servers were wonderful. I might add that the combined experience of drinking with Brian Doyle and then my sister and her husband, imparted a connection with those who are artisans of the English language.
Lynne and Dave are retired school administrators and both at one time during their careers taught Literary Arts and Writing at the high school level and taught education courses at Lewis and Clark College.
They both served as loyal editors/proofreaders on all of my papers written during my seven-year journey to get my Masters Degree at Portland State. (My adviser finally admonished me that if I did not finish in the next six months, they would start deducting credits.)
My sister and her spouse were extremely helpful although not gentle in their critiques and notations on these documents – done in red pen.
In fact, there was so much crimson on some of the papers that Upton Sinclair would have been inspired to write a sequel to The Jungle if he were still alive. (They would be proud of me for my literary reference to this 1906 novel on the meatpacking industry in Chicago which was instrumental in the creation of the Federal Food and Drug Administration.)
Yes, their critical remarks were as numerous as Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen’s comments during the last two years leaving the door open for a future hike in interest rates:
“Just because we removed the word ‘patient’ doesn’t mean we’re going to be impatient.”
After their review, the papers were as scarlet-filled as the organic ketchup produced by Portland Ketchup Company that McMenamins uses (sorry – I got carried away with repressed images) and is great on their fries. (It’s good to know that even though the fries may kill you that the garnish won’t…)
And that thankfully brings us back to the Fulton. Each time I visit this wonderful bistro, I am impressed by its character and the regulars who consider it “my pub.” The last time I ran into an Oregon State fraternity brother, Doug Hardesty, who was there for one of his regular stops for a beer and burger.
Take a look at Brian Doyle’s essay with the link below, and plan to make a visit to this venerable Portland establishment: