The number of new breweries and pubs making the scene in Portland is remarkable. Although it probably lags the proliferation of cannabis shops, each week Willamette Week or The Mercury will feature either a totally new brewery or another brewpub for an existing establishment.
Just a few examples from a January, 2018 posting of Newschoolbeer.com are Great Notion Brewing (NW), Migration Brewing (Gresham), Modern Times Brewing (SE), Ruse (SE), Stormbreaker Brewing (St. Johns) and Thirsty Monk (SE). My wife and I did like the sign below in front of the Thirsty Monk Pub and Brewery when we visited Asheville, North Carolina – it’s home base. It conveys a certain wisdom!
Speaking of monks, don’t forget the much-anticipated Benedictine Brewery at the Mount Angel Abbey which should brew its first batch on site in the next three weeks with Grand Opening of the St. Michael Taproom on September 22nd.
While the Thirsty Monk Brewery is an Asheville, North Carolina corporation, the ownership and brewing at the Benedictine will be by actual monks including General Manager Fr. Martin Grassel and Head Brewer, Fr. Jacob. It will be one of only three such brotherly enterprises in the United States.
But to experience one of Portland’s classic establishments, you should follow my lead and by the end of the summer, travel north on Naito Parkway (fighting backed up traffic to accommodate the ill-advised “Better Naito” Bikeway) then on to NW Front Avenue to the Dockside Salon and Restaurant.
And make a point of personally thanking the owners Terry and Kathy Peterson for their initial entrepreneurial spirit in 1986 and the perseverance and courage to maintain this great saloon in the face of surrounding development.
Like many of the classic bars in Portland, The Dockside and its domain have historic roots as well-stated on their website:
“The Dockside Saloon & Restaurant opened its doors on September 15, 1986. Prior to that, the restaurant, What’s Up Doc occupied the building and before that it was home to Dot’s Sternwheeler. It has always been some sort of restaurant and in the early years served as a commissary for the train workers. By our best guess, the building was built around 1925.”
The Dockside doesn’t have the most robust tap list – seven draft beers including three rotating seasonal on tap, but it carries about fifteen different bottled beers plus a good selection of wines and a full cocktail menu.
Happy Hour is from 4:30 to 7:30 Monday-Friday and rotating craft beers – normally $4.50 are $1.00 off as is the case with Lagunitas. Coors Light is also $1 off from the regular $3.75 but you can get a PBR for $2.75 instead of the regular $3.50.
And well drinks – normally $4 are $3.25 with wine reduced by $1 from the regular price of $6.25.
They also have an outstanding Sunset Menu with six options including a burger, bowl of clam chowder, chicken quesadilla, Caesar salad, beef tostada or three sliders – each for an astounding price of $3.95. That means you can have a burger, chips and a pint of PBR for $6.70!
Historic pictures, old beer signs and memorabilia adorn the walls. You immediately feel welcome and the staff greet you like you are family. And they are family themselves. For example, Karen, the lead server has worked there for 27 years and Angel, the chief cook, for 22.
So why is the ambiance so good and the employees so hospitable? Perhaps other hospitality owners should take a lesson in management perspective from Kathy Peterson who wrote me:
“I am very proud of my staff. Angel and Karen have been with us for many years and I am thankful for their dedication and devotion to making the Dockside what it is today. In addition the entire staff works hard at making us successful.”
Of course, it helps when you accompany a regular – on all my visits of the last several years, I have joined Dennis B. Ferguson for breakfast. And breakfast is one of many reasons you should visit The Dockside. Denny, who initially retired after a very successful career as an insurance executive, is now the Senior Philanthropic Advisor for the Portland State University Foundation.
Besides knowing everyone in Portland, he is the most optimistic and cheerful person I have ever known. (He has such a positive viewpoint that each time he makes a withdrawal from the ATM, when the cash is delivered, he shouts, “I won! I won!”).
On my most recent visit, I got there a little earlier than Denny – parking is somewhat of a challenge – and told Karen, when she came with coffee, I was meeting “Fergy.” She immediately responded, “He’s coming in today. That’s like winning the lottery.” (Karen is one of the most personable servers I’ve met in the seven years of Thebeerchaser Tour.)
The sixteen primary breakfast options are all named after Portland-area bridges and the prices are very reasonable and the food plentiful and delicious.
The choices range from the Burnside Bridge (2 eggs, hashbrowns and toast for $8.25) to the robust St. John’s (7 oz. ribeye steak, 2 eggs with hashbrowns and toast for $14.75).
Or try my favorite – the West Linn Bridge (2 small cakes, 2 eggs & 2 sausage links or 2 pieces of (superb) bacon for only $7.75)
And the hashbrowns are legendary as evidenced in this quote from Oregon Live’s 2018 “Ultimate Guide to Portland’s 50 Best Inexpensive Restuarants,”
“….making some of the city’s best hashbrowns….Those hashbrowns are a wonder with preposterously ideal crispness. $3 on their own or a bit more with eggs or other things in one of the Dockside’s bridge-themed breakfasts.”
Or a 12/4/ 2017 Yelp review – just one of the many mentioning this dish: “They’re buttery crispy, golden brown and cooked all the way through. They’ve ruined me for hash browns at any other place.”
For lunch and dinner, they also have a multitude of sandwiches, soups and salads. Oh yes! If you hit The Dockside on Tuesdays between 4:00 and 7:30, you can get three tacos for 1.50!
Any review or article on the Dockside will inevitably mention the connection with Portland’s infamous “celebrity,” former Olympic ice-skater Tonya Harding. Although she had not been to the Dockside, her then husband, Jeff Gillooly, purportedly got rid of a bunch of trash including papers in the Dockside dumpster in 1994. Notes in an envelope appeared to provide evidence of her complicity in the ill-fated attack on Nancy Kerrigan.
The Dockside’s website and the back page of their menu tell the story – Kathy Peterson found the documents and called the FBI. She and The Dockside were interviewed by broadcast and print media from all over the world. A good summary of the story is on this YouTube of the KOIN newscast of the story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuD2kDC-Szw
Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune also wrote a good story on Harding’s recent emergence in the movie and on Dancing with the Stars. (Notice in the article that she said about her TV appearance, “My knees were shaking,” rather than “knocking.” Go figure!)
Karen confirmed the accuracy of a Willamette Week article on February 10, 2016, where you can find out about the commercial project which surrounds the eatery. The original developer tried twice to buy out The Dockside, but Terry and Kathy gave them the thumbs down.
The project named “Field Office” – a six-story two-building $100 million sustainable office and retail complex, which literally envelops the saloon, was then acquired by Portland developer Project^, working with Hacker Architects. They were cooperative:
“The development will horseshoe around the 90-year-old building housing longshoreman’s hang-out Dockside Saloon as if the Dockside had a forcefield around it. ‘The Dockside will stay exactly how they are,’ says lead architect Stefee Knudsen. ‘We’re not touching it, we’re staying away from it to the best of our ability, to accommodate this historic pub.’
‘The Dockside was not on the table,’ says Jonathan Ledsma a developer for Project^. ‘I wasn’t interested in purchasing it. Ledesma says they carved out extra space along the lot line to give the bar some breathing room, and have been in constant contact with Kathy and Terry Peterson, Dockside’s owners.
‘It reminds me a little of the skyscrapers built around the little house in (the movie) Up,’ Knudsen says. ‘But I hope we’re accommodating it better with the design.‘”
Now if you want to go to an establishment named The Dockside, you can also choose very upscale options in Wilmington, N. Carolina; in North Tonawanda, New York – along the Erie Canal; on the shore of Lake Michigan in Oconto, Wisconsin, on York Harbor in Maine or for delicious ribs and lobsters, in Hyannis Harbor on Cape Cod.
However, Thebeerchaser will lay odds that the best option is Portland’s own Dockside Saloon and Restaurant – and ours is not even actually on the water…..On weekdays they are open from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM. And when you enter, say hello to Karen, Angel, Ashley and owners Kathy and Terry.
I will conclude with the words of one of the many positive reviews on social media which sums it up quite well – Trip Advisor: 11/16/17:
“OK, this is SO Portland…this little gem of a restaurant is hidden in a sea of condos, apartments and commercial buildings along Front Avenue. It has been a restaurant since the 1930’s and must NOT be overlooked. Owned and operated by a local Portland family for over 30 years (who can say that?).
The food is down home. Scratch biscuits, home made hollandaise sauce, daily soup, eggs cooked to perfection and THE BEST hashbrowns and bacon anywhere! All at very reasonable prices…..
They have the friendliest wait staff anywhere and they quickly learn what your favorites are…..Hands down, its just the best in casual dining.”
Of course, if you really want to make it a winning day, call Fergy and invite him to come with you. Then go out and buy a Megabucks ticket!