While there have been very few bars I’ve visited which have been disappointing in the five and one-half years on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns or Pubs, there are less than a handful in which a visit and the experience transcend that above all the others.
They simply radiate charisma and character – maybe it’s the combined personality of the regulars, the bar’s story or history, the tales of the staff and the bartenders along with the trappings that convey an ambiance that one wants to bottle.
Whatever the composition, it is an abstract presence that draws one in and makes you want to stay.
Such was the case with the Central Pastime Tavern in Burns, the Embers Brew Pub in Joseph and Charlie B’s – an historic Missoula, Montana bar and finally, the Stanley Idaho Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon. (https://thebeerchaser.com/2016/09/08/beerchasing-in-idaho-part-ii-stanley-and-the-sawtooths/)
You will note that these all are located away from the major metropolitan centers of the US.
They tend to be in the rural or “frontier” regions and reflect what noted historian Frederick Jackson Turner articulated in his essay “The Significance of the Frontier on American History” – the Frontier Thesis. More on this below…..
Well, I have good news for my Beerchasing friends in Portland. You can experience this type of venue without packing up and embarking on a road trip to another western state or even having to head east across the Cascade range.
Thebeerchaser’s high school alma mater is Oregon City High School – now located on S. Beavercreek Road in the more rural area south of Oregon City and only 18.3 miles from the Tugboat Brewery – one of my favorite pubs in the heart of downtown Portland. (Okay, when I attended OCHS in the ’60’s, it was on Jackson Street right in OC proper)
If one then continues south on this rural road another 2.9 miles – only about five minutes – you arrive in the Hamlet of Beavercreek – one of only four such jurisdictions in Oregon. And at intersection of Leland and S Beavercreek Road, you will come across the bar called Buffalo Bill’s (hereafter BB’s) Note: As will be referenced below, the bar has recently returned to its roots and is now officially named the Beavercreek Saloon.
In the 2010 census, Beavercreek had a population of 4,485 and consists of:
“……a small grocery store, post office, café, tavern, hair salon, drive up coffee, veterinary clinic, automotive shop, gas station, well drilling business, a grange hall and a newer fire department not far down the road.” (Yelp 4/16/15)
“In the summer of 2006, the citizens of Beavercreek voted to become Oregon’s first hamlet, a system of quasi-government which exists in Oregon. A final hearing by the board of county commissioners on the formation of the hamlet took place in September 2006, and officially recognized the community as the Hamlet of Beavercreek.” (Wikipedia)
Now admittedly, on the outside, BB’s is nothing special. It’s entrance is nondescript and it’s surrounded by a very large parking lot with scads of pick-ups and large SUVs – most of which are work vehicles rather than just recreational.
But a step through the door is transformational. You will see buffalo head and trophies from hunts of elk, antelope and deer hanging from the wall plus the skilled taxidermy of bobcat and brown bear along with interesting western memorabilia and farm equipment ranging from traps, old whiskey bottles, cowboy gear and numerous western pictures including one of the namesake, Buffalo Bill Cody.
And these items are not tacky knockoffs. They are spaced to enhance the ample spaces which house a number of larger tables and booths. For the sports-minded, they have a number of wide-screen TVs – including the NFL Ticket – but these don’t interfere with the ambiance. There is also a cool horseshoe bar immediately in front of the entrance which is where they have thirteen beers on tap.
Although the lunch crowd was more staid, this Friday night was rockin’ and there were groups playing pool at the two pool tables, couples sitting at the bar and almost every table was occupied by the end of the evening – everyone appeared to having a good time.
Now as mentioned above, Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis asserted that:
“….the moving western frontier shaped American democracy and the American character…..This produced a new type of citizen – one with the power to tame the wild and one upon whom the wild had conferred strength and individuality. The forging of the unique and rugged American identity.” (Wikipedia)
That night, I had the pleasure, at dinner, of spending two hours talking to a fascinating guy – the owner – Patrick Whitmore. I think JF Turner would have enjoyed meeting Whitmore too – born and raised in Beavercreek – and hearing about his life since graduation from Molalla High School in 1957 since he epitomizes the individual embodied in Turner’s work. More about him below.
One of the great attributes of BB’s is the food – quality, quantity and price and perhaps a quote that night from Patrick, reaffirming my sentiments about his character.
Two of our party ordered salads rather than the hamburgers which captivated the rest of us. We had already made comments about the prices being so reasonable – for example, a 1/3 pound cheeseburger with a bunch of fries for $9.00 – (A happy-hour – burger is $4.50……)
But then our server, Christal, brought the salads – one was a cobb and the other a chef and a collective gasp broke out – literally! They were gigantic and filled with good stuff – all for the price of $10.50 and 9.95 respectively. One of the guys in our party who is a small businessman, asked Patrick rhetorically, “How can you make any money when your prices are so low and your food so plentiful and good??”
Patrick’s immediate rejoinder was, “Well, we may not be making a lot of money, but we’re making a lot of friends.!” (He was correct about making friends that evening and I think beyond that Friday and he is also a savvy businessman).
The enthusiasm for the new venture was pervasive with staff as well. We had excellent service by Christal and the bartender.
People enjoyed the French fries and Patrick commented about how he personally inspects the potatoes based on his farming experience to ensure the quality.
And what did our host have that evening? One of the new specials on the menu – steak and lobster – that and prime rib are Friday and Saturday night specials along with “all-you-can-eat catfish” every other Thursday for $9.95. The other Thursdays feature bacon-wrapped meatloaf for $14.95. I noted that when it was time to settle up, Patrick paid for his dinner rather than have it “on the house.” His cousin, Jerry, told me that this was to be fair to his partner in the venture.
Now, you can also choose to have breakfast or lunch at Kissin Kate’s Cafe, adjacent to and connected with BBS. The corned beef and hash looked pretty inviting and the breakfasts get very good reviews:
“Homemade breakfast, my husband loves their Corn beef hash. Denver omelet, light and fluffy. Great food and a must try.” (Trip Advisor – 1/23/16)
As I mentioned previously, I had lunch there the same week with three of my classmates from Oregon City High School – the class of 1966. All of us also were pleased with the reuben, turkey wrap and burgers we devoured – and the French fries still passed the test with flying colors.
The aforementioned also gives me a chance for a quick “shout out” to OCHS for it’s 94% on-time graduation rate last year – top in the state.
A follow-up story by the Oregonian’s Betsy Hammond, entitled, “At Oregon City High School, teachers showing students they care has made a huge difference – When Actions Equal Words” also told a compelling story about the community of teachers and students led by Principal, Tom Lovell.
“Oregon City’s on-time graduation rate rose by 5 percentage points to reach 94 percent, including 91 percent among low-income students. That’s an accomplishment unmatched by the 40 other big high schools in the Portland area.”
I met Tom last summer when he agreed to meet with me to provide some statistics about the school that I could use for our 50th reunion – a great and charismatic guy – I can understand why he and his team have achieved the results.
Besides making major changes to the menu, they have also updated their computer system and it was interesting hearing Patrick and his friend, Barbara Brooke, who is the General Manager, talk about some of their future dreams for the place.
These include having an expanded selection of beers on tap, a new web-site, remodeling and changing the name back to the original “Beavercreek Saloon.” (I have a feeling that the photo of Buffalo Bill will still be present……).
And since it is a compelling story, a little bit more about Patrick Whitmore. After high school graduation, he completed an apprentice course in sheet metal work and left the family farm to work for Boeing in Seattle.
Seeing the manner that many of the workers were treated by the big corporation when the economy went south, after twenty years, he decided he wanted more control over his own destiny. He and a friend returned to Beavercreek and grew potatoes (one reason he takes particular interest in the quality of BB’s French fries.)
They soon needed a structure to house their product so they built a pole barn with a sheet metal roof – one that Patrick’s neighbor wanted replicated on his property. He and his partner formed a successful construction company and did work for Clackamas County. The scope of their work expanded and ultimately led to the formation of Morrison Construction which does residential and commercial construction including apartments and condominiums.
This Beavercreek native, turned entrepreneur, has also been involved in a number of other enterprises and is active in civic affairs as well. You will also be able to find him and Barbara on the slopes of Mt. Hood during ski season in their “spare time.”
They have enthusiastically set a course for their new vision and take a drive in the country to check them out. I typically quote from some of the more interesting reviews and comments on social media when writing these narratives, but given the changes that have occurred in the last six months, they will be largely omitted this time due to the short transition. Let’s finish with the two below which I think sum up the situation aptly:
“If you make it out to Beavercreek stop in – the food’s really good, service was excellent with a friendly atmosphere… I heard that it was under new management and wow it really shows.” (Facebook 10/22/16)
Unfortunately, we left before the karaoke started at 9:00 (Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays), but it was a great cap to the evening to hear the disc jockey warming the crowd up with Alabama’s “Down Home” BB’s also periodically features local country-western groups with live music.
Buffalo Bill’s Saloon and Kissing Kate’s Cafe
The Beavercreek Saloon
21950 S Beavercreek Rd Beavercreek, OR 97004