(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser. If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened. External photo attribution is at the end of the post. #1)
In a January 2023 Beerchaser post, I captured my visit to the iconic Jolly Roger in east Portland with my friend Hillary Barbour. The current Jolly Roger on SE 12th and Madison was opened in the early ’90’s and Rob and Starr Jackson were partners with the Cheerful Group.
This group owns two Portland bars previously reviewed by Thebeerchaser – the Cheerful Tortoise and the Cheerful Bullpen.
The Jacksons became the sole owners in 2004 and leased it since; however, the watering hole is short-lived as the landlord plans to develop it as a five-story, 100-plus-unit residential complex.
The bar’s closure and demolition will happen when permitting issues are finally resolved with the City of Portland – probably by the end of the year although the City’s actions have dragged on. So the Jolly Roger – East will have its final voyage in the coming months and be sorely missed.
As one 2021 Yelp reviewer stated:
“Exactly what you want with a neighborhood place. Regulars who accept newbies, great drinks, good beer selection and some really good bar food.”
Fortunately for Portlanders like myself, who love good bars, the Jacksons still own two establishments – the Sports Page in Beaverton and the Jolly Roger at John’s Landing which is reviewed below.
The Jackson’s business model is built on the premise:
“Nobody has more fun than we do.”
Although each of the two Jolly Rogers has a distinctly different ambiance, both are “communities” and the Jacksons have promoted activities which draw not only regulars, but people who want to experience the comradery of such events.
Starr Jackson said that since the pandemic, those gatherings have essentially ceased at the Jolly Roger-East and John’s Landing, but they still continue at the Sports Page which has more expansive quarters. (#2-#5)
The Jolly Roger at John’s Landing
I was pleased that my Beerchasing companion, Dennis Ferguson, suggested that we try the John’s Landing location and had no idea that he was a regular since he lives in a different part of the City.
I’ve known Denny since 1979 when he was President of JBL&K Insurance – our employee benefits and insurance broker at the Oregon State Bar. After he retired from the company, he had a second career as Senior Philanthropic Advisor for the Portland State University Foundation.
One of my most frequent Beerchasing comrades as you can see from the photos below — we’ve raised mugs at places ranging from the Cheerful Tortoise, Cheerful Bullpen, Yamhill Pub, the Lompoc Tavern, Dockside Saloon and the Leaky Roof – to name just some of the watering holes where he’s joined me.
Denny is probably the most positive and optimistic person I know and a true friend. For example, when I got to the Dockside Saloon early and told Karen, the server I was meeting him for breakfast, she immediately responded:
“Fergy.” He’s coming in today. That’s like winning the lottery.”
Dennis Ferguson is so positive that he once started a rigid diet on the day before Thanksgiving. He is so confident that he fills out his March Madness bracket during football season before basketball has started. He’s so optimistic that (well, you get the idea…)
(Photos below clockwise – From JBL&K, the Cheerful Tortoise in 2012, the Leaky Roof in 2019 – my 300th watering hole reviewed on this blog), Karen at the Dockside in 2018, the Yamhill Pub in 2015, the Lompoc Tavern in 2015 and the Cheerful Bullpen in 2014).
What’s Not to Like About This Place??
It’s located in a nice, older neighborhood with character, where parking is plentiful (and free) and in a building that also has some interesting history – it used to be one of the two Stanich locations – from 1987 to 2003.
Note: The eastside Stanich’s also had a colorful history – named by a Thrillist writer in 2017 as making the Best Hamburger in America! Stanich’s, temporary closed in 2018 – some say caused by the Thrillist story, but most contend, by Nick Stanich’s multiple and complex legal and family problems.
(The bar closed permanently in 2020. Read the fascinating Willamette Week article with the story.)
Besides the nice external setting, one walks into an upscale, well-lit cafe’-type ambiance with tables and booths of assorted sizes well-spaced and with what appears to be happy and energized patrons seated throughout.
Starr Jackson and our friendly server, Suzie address the patrons by name – people come back to this place regularly.
The multiple televisions and video poker machines (located in an alcove) don’t interfere with the atmosphere – not the case in many bars in which both are a distraction. The juke box softly plays a good selection of tunes which enhances the mood. The wood bar is long and attractive.
The good news according to a telephone conversation with Starr this week is that they are still investing in the property so they probably aren’t going anyplace….They’re replacing an old garage in the back which provides the storage for the bar.
And speaking of the back of the bar, take a look at their patio and why it is a favorite spot in the neighborhood during good weather. (#6)
An Example of Community
Shortly, after we sat down for lunch, some older guys walked in incrementally and headed for a long table in the northwest corner. They were all carrying individual bottles of wine and then ordered lunch which they ate while immersed in conversations.
Denny told me that Starr let’s these guys bring their own wine in for what is essentially a non-existent corkage fee and they drink it during lunch.
The last guy to join the five elderly gents was a much younger guy – very tall and athletic – he looked familiar. The younger guy – part of the regular group – is former Portland Trailblazer Center, Steve Johnson.
He starred for the “Orange Express” Team at Oregon State which in 1981 went to the second round of the NCAA Division 1 Tournament.
” A 1st Team Consensus All-America and Pac-10 Player of the Year in 1981, Steve was also a three time selection as All Pac-10. His 746 field goal percentage was an NCAA men’s basketball record until 2017….
Johnson was inducted into the Oregon State University Hall of Fame in 1993 and now the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.” (Oregon Sports Hall of Fame)
Steve Johnson played ten years in the NBA for a number of different teams including the Trailblazers before retiring. The group drank wine and stayed talking until after Denny and I left. (#7 – #8)
The Beer, the Food and the Service
The preponderance of social media reviews are very positive (one misfit complained that he could not see the Trailblazer game on any of the TV’s – this could be construed as prudent censorship….).
Many bars have a limited “pub menu” but the JR is the full-mail deal – a diversified assortment of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers a number of macaroni & cheese options, pizza and full plates which include steak, brisket and fish & chips.
Don’t forget the expansive breakfast menu (served until 3 PM on Saturday and Sunday) – includes omelets, steak and eggs, biscuits and gravy, and corned beef hash (which is going to get me back there – soon….)
And the prices are really reasonable. Denny had the cheeseburger for $14. He’ opted for this menu item every time we’ve Beerchased except one bar at which they didn’t have it available during breakfast!)
My Taco Tuesday lunch at the Jolly Roger meant three beef tacos for $5. (#8 – #9))
The Yelp reviews focus on the quality of the food – especially the tacos, burgers and mini-corndogs – the friendly and efficient service and the selection of beers and cocktails. Take a look at these four from which are very representative:
“I love Jolly Roger! They have great drinks and food. It’s very fresh and so tasty! The bartenders are super friendly and always remember you. Highly recommend!” (3/4/2023)
“I’ve visited this bar a couple times since I moved into the neighborhood and it is an amazing spot! I come here to work on assignments for my fellowship as well as drink and eat with friends. Regardless of why I visit the workers always treat me with kindness and camaraderie. Great selection of beers on tap and yummy food.” (12/5/2021)
“My local watering hole. The staff is phenomenal and the food is delicious!!! They have a big selection of food and drinks. They always have daily deals, which is awesome. The food gets better and better every time I go. There’s a lot of TVs also. I would definitely recommend this place.” (2/13/2019)
“I love this bar!! Great quality food! Amazing service! Feels like a family with all the regulars and being in the middle of a neighborhood! Great safety measures being taken here!” (8/15/2020)
In my Beerchasing travels the last twelve years, I always appreciate the family-owned operations which understandably tend to have a family-type environments. The Jolly Roger at John’s Landing epitomizes this.
Stop by and the second time you go in, Starr will greet you by your first name — and you might even see Denny there eating a cheeseburger!
The Beerchaser’s recommendation for the Jolly Roger might be summarized by one word:
And as pirates say when they toast:
“May your ANCHOR be tight, your CORK be loose, your RUM be spiced and your COMPASS be true.” (#10)
External Photo Attribution
#1. Sports Page Bar Facebook Page (http://(https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=526974246095180&set=a.526974219428516)
#2 – #5. The Jolly Roger Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10101048170669568&set=t.100000625986101&type=3)
#6. Yelp – Back patio (https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/jolly-roger-at-johns-landing-portland-3?select=ZpGOlRyzOucpGzHgUk4MiA)
#7. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Steve_Johnson_OSU.jpg) This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1928 and 1977 inclusive without a copyright notice. Source: Oregon State University Yearbook 1977.
#8. Oregon Sports Hall of Fame (http://oregonsportshall.org/timeline/steve-johnson-basketball/)
#8 #9. Taco Tuesday (https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/jolly-roger-at-johns-landing-portland-3?select=cXZbVwS4H253G5gsm0UGAg)
#10. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracy#/media/File:Dale_Clark_poses_as_Johnny_Depp) This work is from the Carol M. Highsmith Archive collection at the Library of Congress. According to the library, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of this work. Carol M. Highsmith has stipulated that her photographs are in the public domain.