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Pappy’s – That’s all there is to it!
This is a blog about bars, saloons and breweries – colloquially labeled as “watering holes” – not bistros or cafes. I’ve made a few exceptions where a great bar is located within a restaurant, but only for those of historic significance.
These have essentially been restricted to the McMenamin establishments which reek of history – the White Eagle Saloon, the St. John’s Pub, the Old Church and the Fulton Pub.
The following is an exception, however, because of the compelling character of both the bistro and the owner. It’s not a bar – I don’t even know if they serve any alcohol, but Pappy’s Greasy Spoon in the heart of Canby – a small town in semi-rural Clackamas County about twenty-five miles south of Portland – is a destination I would unequivocally recommend.
And it’s not that often when the charisma and personality of the owner are so integrated with the overall character of the bar, that it becomes a focal point and the highlight of the visit.
Those I remember from my eleven years of Beerchasing are John Runkle of the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak, Montana and the others all in or near Portland.
There’s Adam Milne, the entrepreneurial owner of Portland’s Old Town Brewing; the late Mayor Bud Clark and his unforgettable Goose Hollow Inn and former Irish soap opera actor, Tom O’Leary, the owner of T.C. O’Leary’s.
I can’t forget amiable Amy Nichols of the Cheerful Tortoise and Cheerful Bullpen; the inimitable Frank “The Flake” Peters of the Grand Cafe (RIP) and last but not least Patrick Whitmore, the generous and down-home, cowboy-hat wearing owner of the Beavercreek Saloon (formerly Buffalo Bill’s and Kissin Kate’s in rural Clackamas County.)
I heard the stories of the grit and determination it took to open and manage their bars from each of the individuals above and pictured below, while I was at their establishments and they were unique and rewarding to hear.
From top left clockwise: John Runkle, Adam Milne, Tom O’Leary, Frank Peters, Patrick Whitmore, Amy Nichols and Mayor Bud Clark
However, on my May 4th birthday, I met another icon like those above – this one at Pappy’s Greasy Spoon where I had breakfast with two former work colleagues – Dick Templeman and Walt Duddington.
Dick, who is now retired in Canby, was the first manager (Director of Operations) I hired when I started working at the Schwabe law firm in 1985. We worked together until I retired in 2010 and he was outstanding at his job.
Walt was a skilled technology consultant, who saved our bacon on a number of projects. And speaking of bacon, see below.
Pappy came over and spent twenty minutes relating his story and just chatting with us – at the end being joined by his wife, Lisa. But first he thanked Dick for supporting the business during the pandemic years when takeout was the only option much of the time.
While you can get an excellent burger or fried chicken sandwich with a milk shake before their 2:00 PM closing time, the specialty is breakfast of “generous” portions which Pappy’s starts serving at 6:00 A.M.
Before telling you more about Pappy’s and maybe out of a sense of guilt, I should tell you about my breakfast that day as it probably shortened my life by several years. That said, I would do it again.
The Riley Special for only $9.00, is two eggs, four strips of bacon (or sausage), hash browns (or red potatoes) and two slices of toast (with jam). At least I didn’t have the biscuits and gravy…but as a recent article in Oregon Life stated:
“:…this isn’t a place for those who are counting calories or watching their cholesterol. This is classic American diner food in its truest form. “
Birthday bacon, itself, is worth remembering but as stated in one of the many articles:
“But what makes Pappy’s truly exceptional is Pappy himself (whose real name is Mike Merrill), who’s owned and run the diner for over 20 years and absolutely loves what he does.
The business originally started in a bowling alley, Canby Bowl, which has since closed down and has been replaced with an O’Reilly Auto Parts.” (Oregon Live 4/18/23)
Pappy told us that he and his first wife moved to Oregon from New Hampshire. He’s had the business for over twenty years. Walking into Pappy’s is taking a trip back to the classic diners of the 50’s.
The long counter with red stools reminded me of the drugstore where I used to get nickel Cokes after my Oregon Journal paper route in Oregon City was finished.
And speaking of Coca Cola, much of the memorabilia (which he states is about 90% donated – even some from the East Coast) is Coke related.
There’s numerous Coke signs, a clock, an upside umbrella hanging from the ceiling and best of all, an antique Coke cooler which I assume still functions because there are current bottles of Coke underneath it.
Don’t forget the Aunt Jemima sign and the photos of celebrities’ ranging from Elvis to Nat King Cole to Danny Thomas and Al Hirt to name just a few.
Pappy stares out from galley where he cooks hundreds of breakfasts each week and periodically walks out like an army general to greet his customers who are already being giving loving attention by his servers including Lisa.
He told us that his first wife died a number of years ago from an extended illness, but Lisa, who was working as a server became a friend and then a perfect match. They were married about five years ago.
Dick said the wedding was held in a large vacant room down the hallway, but the reception was in the diner:
“Marilyn and I attended along with half the town. It was standing room only. Fun time.”
Pappy’s is well worth a visit, but it may require a wait. It’s worth it!
Pandemic Recovery Challenges Continue
In my last two posts I wrote about the number of bars and breweries that struggled during the pandemic and listed a number of my favorites which are no longer in business.
One would think the challenges are largely past, however, the City of Portland unfortunately and to the detriment of business owners, has not recovered to the extent of other major US cities.
While it’s easy to point fingers and there have been unprecedented challenges, most citizens feel that elected officials, most notably the Portland Mayor and City Council and the District Attorney of Multnomah County fell down on the job. Don’t forget the last Oregon Governor’s constant equivocation on COVID closure and occupancy policies for hospitality establishments.
One of my favorite historic Portland dive bars I first visited in 2015 is Kelly’s Olympian. A May 10, 2023 Willamette Week article is entitled, “The Owner of Kelly’s Olympian Is Despondent About the Fentanyl Den Across the Street”:
“Since it opened in 1902, Kelly’s Olympian, the bar on Southwest Washington Street, has survived two world wars, the Depression, Prohibition, the Great Recession, the 2020 protests and COVID-19.
It’s an open question whether it will survive the fentanyl den across the street between 4th and 5th avenues.”
When I visited Kelly’s, the scene was typical of that until the pandemic – people sitting at picnic tables in front of the bar, a few motorcycles parked out front by patrons who wanted to see the vintage collection of the machines inside and a friendly, engaged and diverse crowd at the bar as described in this Zagat Review:
”a mix of punks, business types and ‘street urchins’ gathers for Pabst and ‘strong’ pours of Jack Daniels….”
And there would always be crowds to enjoy the bands who played there several times each week. At one point, Kelly’s was purported to have the second highest liquor sales of any establishment in Oregon.
But what attracted many people – both regulars and visitors – were the unique trappings of the bar. Hanging from the ceiling were about a dozen vintage motorcycles which had each been beautifully restored.
Adding to the flavor were museum quality neon signs, antique gas pumps and historic photos of Portland and an old-fashioned pinball machine.
Our friendly bartender, Mary Kate, when we asked about the bar’s history, showed us the trap door behind the bar and the stairway down to the cellar which although they are now boarded up, used to have a maze of “Shanghai” tunnels:
“Legend has it that there used to be several secret entrances to the Shanghai Tunnels, Chinese immigrants and dockworkers lived and made their way about the underground of Portland.” Kelly’s Olympian website
It should be noted that not all of downtown currently Portland presents the same picture as the area around Kelly’s Olympian. As stated in the Willamette Week article, the times of prosperity have changed:
“Kelly’s is hanging on ‘by a string,’ says owner Ben Stutz. Blight, crime and untreated mental illness and addiction in downtown Portland are driving customers away, and Stutz is spending $15,000 a month on full-time security guards for Kelly’s and tenants on the floors above
…I would like more police patrols. Just walk the street. Go in and deal with people. Make it uncomfortable for people to break the law. I’d also like to see the governor get some State Police and National Guard out here like they’re doing in San Francisco.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is not what you’d call a bleeding heart. He took a look at San Francisco and said, ‘We can’t have this happen.’ But our governor isn’t doing that. The mayor talks about a reset. The governor needs to talk about a reset too.”
Next time you are in Portland stop at have a beer or whiskey at Kelly’s and tell them you’re glad they’re still going. And ask to see the trap door behind the bar!
But Let’s End on a More Uplifting and Ethereal Note!
Those who follow Thebeerchaser know that my favorite brewery is Mount Angel Oregon’s Benedictine Brewery – on the grounds of the Mt. Angel Abbey. The Brewery is one of only three in the US owned and operated by Benedictine monks.
I was fortunate to get involved in the planning and development in 2016 until the Brewery and St. Michael’s Taproom Taproom opened in November 2018.
It has been extremely successful and Fr. Martin Grassel, the Head Brewer, has developed a regional following for his excellent beers. ( External photo attribution is at the end of the post. #1)
Recently, he was featured in an episode of “The Beer Hour with Jonathan Wakefield.” The episode covers a wide variety of topics, from the history of monastic brewing to monastic formation and Fr. Martin’s vocation story, to the origins of the Benedictine Brewery.
Since it’s 53 minutes long, I was just going to listen for about ten minutes, but got hooked and listened to the entire thing. He’s a good storyteller!
The Beer Hour with Johnathan Wakefield: Benedictine Brewery’s Father Martin Grassel on Apple Podcasts
But I want to end this post – not with a review of a watering hole – but a movie. Fr. Stu: Reborn was released by Sony Pictures in December, 2022.
As unlikely as it seems from his past roles, it stars Mark Wahlberg (who is a devout Catholic) and was produced on a shoestring budget of only $4 million. Evidently, the film received mixed reviews; however, my wife and I really enjoyed it. (#2 – #3)
The focus of my interest was the role of the Mt. Angel Seminary. As stated in the Mount Angel Newsletter:
“An injury ended Stu’s heavyweight professional boxing dreams, and after a succession of short career starts, a motorcycle accident caused him to spend months in hospital care.
In that time of recovery, he realized his vocational call to the priesthood and entered the seminary for the Diocese of Helena. He studied at Mount Angel Seminary from 2004 to 2007 and was ordained in 2007.”
Since I serve on the Abbey Foundation Board, I’ve gotten to know many of the monks, priests and seminarians including Fr. Pius Harding OSB (shown below) a monk who was Fr. Stu’s spiritual director at the Abbey and who just celebrated his 30th anniversary of ordination. He stated:
“Stu had a casual, upbeat way about him: very interested in the people around him. He was most generous; as a matter of fact, you had to refrain from admiring things in his presence, or he would buy them for you.” (#4)
During his years in seminary he was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that mimics the symptoms of Lou Gehrig’s disease and for which there is no cure. The movie chronicles his courageous battle with the disease.
“He took [the illness] on like the fighter he was trained to be,’ recalls Fr. Pius. ‘And he went on to live the vocation of love. I know several who embraced the Catholic faith due to his kind example and zealous catechetical ministry.’” (#5)
I’m confident that you will enjoy the movie. Blessings and Cheers
External Photo Attribution
#1. Benedictine Brewery Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/BenedictineBrewery)
#2. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mark_Wahlberg_(6908662467).jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Author: Eva Rinaldi – 20 February 2012.
#3. Mount Angel Letter (https://www.mountangelabbey.org/fr-stuart-long-lifelong-fighter-for-christ/)
#4 Mount Angel Letter https://www.facebook.com/MountAngelAbbeySeminary/photos/fr-pius-x-harding-osb-celebrates-25-years-of-ordination-at-the-mass-for-trinity-/1612137055508896/?paipv=0&eav=AfZLE-ZipJYEIS3d0endrLmmaDP01ldf2GuMQlXxWffe36RtDUmu0_V1g1Nw0EuDYTY&_rdr)
#6. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mt._Angel_Abbey_(Marion_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(marDA0213).jpg) The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitted. Source: Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives.
Hi Don! Hope you and family are doing well! I finished the semester, and just spent a week canoeing in Maine (including a little snow–eek), and I’m about to go out to Colorado with friends to raft. Then back to the salt mine of Smith College for the rest of the summer.
I was wondering if you’d ever reviewed “The Sports Bra” bar in Portland? It’s on our list if / when we get out there, because of watching women’s sports with the daughters all these formative years.
I am overdue in making a trip to Maryland to see Gene, Laura & Jason. Not sure when I’ll pull it off, but it is teasing at me.
be well, keep chasing! S.
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Hi Sue, great to hear from you. Enjoy Colorado where there are some great bars and breweries and check out Thebeerchaser for some of them ranging from Fort Collins to Breckenridge to the Denver area.
I have not visited the Sports Bra yet, but it is on my list. From an opening that was in many respects a disaster, they have recovered and become a destination bar.
Thanks for the comment and stay in touch.
Another great read, Don! Such a sense of community in your posts.
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Belated happy bday, Don!!! Do you know that our bdays are a day apart? Celebrated mine last May 3rd! Great minds think alike, right?