The Doctor is in at T.C. O’Leary’s

In the six years of Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars Taverns and Pubs, I have found that while there are some bars which leave a bit to be desired (such as my last visit to Portland’s Slow Bar), there are none for which I regret my visit(s).  Most of the bars or breweries are admirable small businesses, which radiate warmth, character and are replete with stories of the owners, regulars or the trappings of the watering hole itself.

Such is the case with Northeast Portland’s “T.C. O’Leary’s – A Little Irish Pub.”  Located on 29th and NE Alberta, the pub has interesting space, an excellent patio, innovative music and activities, and the background of Thomas Christopher O’Leary, the owner/manager, including the story of how he got to Portland and his PDX connections, could fill a small book. 

Some people will remember this space as the former Branch Whiskey, which was also managed by Tom and was a favorite neighborhood spot known for its classy selection of hard liquor which Tom has retained.  As one Yelp reviewer opined in May, 2016, “Branch is an amazing spot for sophisticated food and cocktails in a casual atmosphere.”  

Tom has a strong background in managing bars and hospitality based on years working in bars in Ireland, New York City and Los Angeles.  When the opportunity arose in 2016, he with the advice and financial help of family connections who had confidence in the investment potential, became the owner and changed the name and theme to that of an Irish Pub.  The bar would be a family-friendly neighborhood gathering place and would not serve pub or bistro grub, but authentic Irish food.

Tom Kelly

And those “family connections” are some of Portland’s finest citizens ranging from his wife, Siobhan’s, mom and dad – Anne Kelly Feeney and Dick Feeney to uncles Tom and John Kelly and aunt Susan Kelly – all individuals celebrated for their sustained community and public service and entrepreneurship.

Neil Kelly Co. logo

(Tom is the President of the Neil Kelly Co. started in 1947 by his father with a $100 investment and which is now nationally recognized for its award-winning design and innovative practices in home remodeling).

Dick and Anne from article in the “Catholic Sentinel” magazine

Anne was the Multnomah County Auditor for two terms and later served as CEO of Loaves and Fishes.  I remember Dick when he was the Public Affairs Director for Tri-Met and a skilled and effective lobbyist for the agency in the 1970’s and I worked for the Clackamas County Commissioners.

Besides being an investor, Dick has stopped by the bar almost every day since its opening.  He stuck his head into the Snug that day to say “hello” to our group. The couple now devotes much of their time to charitable work.  http://www.catholicsentinel.org/Content/Faith-Spirituality/Living-Faith/Article/Faith-fuels-their-ongoing-public-service/4/29/18615

In the short time since the bar’s “soft opening” – the day after Thanksgiving in 2016 – Tom and Siobhan O’Leary have taken big steps in achieving their goals for the bar.  Let’s look at two other Yelp reviews which reflect the overall sentiments of those commenting on the social media site: 

“This establishment is pretty fantastic….Ever changing specials, Guinness on tap and entertaining live music including a fiddler! You’ll find it here. The fish and chips are delicious. Their Shepard’s Pie is delectable and the service is outstanding. It is nice to know that you aren’t just a customer here, this is your friends and family. ”  (7/10/17) 

“Sweet addition to the Alberta neighborhood! Really nice genuine people own the place and their actually Irish- full accent and all! I have never eaten Irish food before. I really enjoyed the Vegetarian Blaa beet sandwich on soda bread and the fresh garlic and herb fries were pretty damn tasty!”  (6/30/17)

Chuck enjoying his fish and chips

And on my first visit with retired Portland lawyer, Chuck Mitchell, who had not been Beerchasing since our 2012 visit to 1856 – a NE Bottle Shop.   We both concurred that the fish and chips – one of T.C. O’Leary’s specialties – was superb.  Just looking at the menu with items such as Guinness Braised Beef, Bacon and Cabbage, Shepherds Pie and Haddock Chowder made my mouth water and made me come close to addressing Chuck as “Paddy…”

Besides those mentioned above, Tom talked about the compliments they receive on their bread roll and baked beans.  Their Saturday and Sunday brunch (Irish breakfast) is a neighborhood favorite with pork sausage and black pudding (pig) as favorite menu items.  They also have a good Happy Hour menu from 4:00 to 6:00  and all food items are $5, including a new offering of a half order of fish and chips and the “new O’Leary’s hot dog.”

A smiling Trinity coed

Adding to the Irish authenticity on my second visit was our server, a wonderful young woman named Caoiimhe (that’s the Gaelic spelling for Quiva) who is a third-year Trinity College student visiting and working in the US for three months before her final year in college.  Trinity is the oldest (1592) and most prestigious university in Ireland.

Besides Guinness, the bar has nine other beers on tap, (I tried my first Feckin Bewing beer – a tasty “Top of the Feckin Mornin”) several wines, a cider and numerous specialty and classic cocktails plus an amazing selection of liquor – try a shot of Whistle Pig Farm’s 2012 Boss Hog Rye for $48, which will allow you to see if you want to invest in an entire bottle which runs between $100 and $200…..

Kevin – Amys better half..

Our group on the second visit, besides my wife, Janet, comprised a number of Beerchasing regulars including the Faust clan (Jack and Alice, daughter Amy and her husband, Kevin) Jim and Janet Westwood (the combination of Faust and Westwood meant that we had two of the most respected appellate lawyers in Oregon on our side in the event of post-visit litigation….) and intellectual property lawyer, John Mansfield.

Mansfield, preoccupied with establishing his new practice at Harris Bricken, had not accompanied me to a watering hole for some time although he had made his mark at three noted dive bars – The Ship in Multnomah Village, the Slammer in SE Portland and Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive Bar.  (click on the names for a link to the posts)

He also Beerchased at  the classic Mock Crest Tavern and finally at Church – a great SE bar where he tried to emulate Martin Luther by posting 95 patents on the entrance to commemorate the renowned theologian’s 95 Theses at Wittenburg.

A clowning Westwood with Mansfield – the Ivy Leagues finest..??

Westwood and Mansfield, both Ivy League law graduates (Columbia and Cornell respectively), obviously did not talk about their law schools’ undergraduate sports teams, but we all harkened back to Mansfield’s more creative undergraduate days at the University of Oregon where he played in a rock band and majored in music composition and theory. He is a talented musician.

The picture below (I think taken by one of his clients) shows he is not a traditional, staid member of the Bar.

Kiss My Patent…

It also is evidence that Amy Faust, who is a co-host on the Mike and Amy Show on 99.5 The Wolf, will not be spinning any of the tunes on his Pandora playlist on her stint at the crack of dawn each weekday morning.  (She and Mike just received the 2017 Country Music Association 2017 Broadcast Personality of the Year for a Major Market.) Interestingly enough, Amy and John played together in a band for their respective daughters’ school event where Amy dusted off her mandolin and they both sang.

It should also be noted that both Jack and Amy Faust and Westwood have been prior Beechaser-of-the-Quarter “honorees.”  To see their stories, click on the licks here.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2014/09/02/john-r-jack-faust-fall-2014-beerchaser-of-the-quarter/

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/04/11/amy-faust-beerchaser-of-the-quarter-and-mandolinist/

https://thebeerchaser.com/2013/03/28/portland-attorney-jim-westwood-beerchaser-of-the-quarter-for-january-march-2013/

Call ahead to reserve….

Tom had kindly reserved one of the distinctive features of his bar for us – The Snug – a comfortable and fabulously quirky little alcove at the front of the bar which is a tradition in Irish pubs.  It  accommodates about twelve people and provides a wonderful small-group nook that allows a modicum of privacy while still facilitating enjoyment of the T.C. O’Leary ambiance. (Call ahead to reserve it)

The Snug observed from the street.

 

 

 

 

A great patio

 

Although the bar with its fifteen authentic whiskey-barrel tables, historic family pictures and memorabilia is a cool place to sit, another good place to congregate is on the patio at the back, which T.C.’s essentially shares with the adjoining bistros on either side.

Family pictures add to the character of the bar

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of décor, I noted the red athletic tool that looked a little like a hockey stick hanging above the bar.  Tom said it was a “hurling stick”  and I didn’t hear him, so naively asked if he said it was a Curling broom,” to which he replied, “God no!”  Probably the reason for the vehemence of the response was that the pace and action of the sports are total contradictions.  Hurling is an outdoor team game of ancient Gaelic and Irish origin and is the fastest field sport in the world. It is administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association. The game has prehistoric origins, and has been played for 3,000 years.”  Wikipedia     

The antithesis of curling…

Of course, the theme of this bar begs the question, “What is it like on St. Paddy’s Day?”  Tom said they had about seven times the number of patrons on the first celebration of this “sacred” event since their opening, and it was kind of a three-day celebration.   They also moved a separate bar out to the patio and there was a line down Alberta Street.

And Tom, like many of the owners or bartenders I have met so far on this six-year journey, has a great story.  Of course, the most unusual aspect of it was the notoriety he accrued in his six years starring as Dr. Brendan Daly on Ireland’s most popular soap opera, Fair City. 

Dr. Brendan Daly…..

Tom grew up in Killeny.  “During years working as an actor in Dublin – from small theatres to six years playing Dr. Brendan Daly on Ireland’s most popular soap opera, Fair City, Tom and fellow performers communed at local pubs, drinking pints like they would never age.

For his wedding reception, a magical pub in the West of Ireland suited him and his new wife better than any hotel.”  (T.C. O’Leary’s website)

Fair City is the most watched drama in Ireland, with average viewing figures of 550,000….. tackling many controversial and taboo issues previously unseen on Irish television, such as rape.”  Wikipedia 

Siobhan, his wife of ten years, first met Tom in Ireland when she spent nine months at Trinity College.  Tom knew her sister, Catie, and agreed to show Siobhan around Dublin.  Tom had a girlfriend at the time, but he and Siobhan had an “instant connection.”   Tom lived in a big house with extra rooms and offered (partly as a gesture to her sister) to let Siobhan be a boarder.  Her sister told Siobhan somewhat jokingly, “You will fall in love with Tom.”

Catie was correct .  Tom broke up with his current girlfriend.  Siobhan in the subsequent term, got her lowest grades at Trinity.  They decided to pull a practical joke and Siobhan told Catie that she detested her landlord (Tom) and couldn’t wait to leave.  For the next month, the fiction gained momentum until her mom, Anne, insisted that she was going to fly over to Dublin to rescue her “baby.”  As with many practical jokes, after Siobhan  revealed the truth, the family was not amused although fortunately, they approved of the relationship.

Tom came to New York and he and his future wife drove across America while camping along the way.  Fast forward and Siobhan moved to Ireland for a year where they were married on December 29, 2007

They moved to New York City where Tom had some acting gigs and worked in bars on the Lower East Side.  That’s where the dream of owning an Irish pub first crept into his consciousness.

With family on the west coast, they moved to LA for three years, where Tom worked in high-end bars, working two jobs six nights per week with the goal of building collateral to own his own Irish Pub.  And now they had a little girl in the family……

Moving to Portland in the summer of 2014, Siobhan labored at an office job while Tom worked construction.  (Contrary to the popular belief, good bartending jobs are not that easy to get in the Rose City.)

Anne Feeney knew the manager of Branch Whiskey, and with his extensive experience in bars, he hired Tom immediately which began a two-year stint until the owner announced he was closing.

Tom got good advice from his investors and negotiated successfully.  After only a three-week interim closure, they were back in business with some new trappings thanks to a great work by their general contractor Megan Beaver of Eight Penny Nail, and T.C. O’Leary’s “Little Irish Pub,” has become a neighborhood fixture ever since.

I was somewhat critical of the last bar visited on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs i.e. Slow Bar on Grand Avenue.  While it is known for its great hamburger, I questioned whether the bar lived up to its potential by simply relying on its notorious burger and a juke box known for its collection of Heavy Metal selections.

Let’s examine some of the activity Tom has orchestrated at TC’s compared with Slow Bar’s “hot” juke box as a comparison:

The James Joyce book club – a bunch of serious dudes…..

On Tuesday nights, TC’s hosts a James Joyce book club in the Snug and they plow through about fifteen pages reading Joyce’s classic Ulysses with each participant reading his or her selection until the egg-timer rings for the next reader to start.  (Maybe it takes longer because James Joyce, according to one recent article I read, is an “exclamation point fanatic.”)

Of the ten authors with the most prolific use of exclamation points ranging from Elmore Leonard – 10th place to Virginia Wolf – sixth place to F. Scott Fitzgerald – 4th place, Joyce came in first with 1,105 exclamation points per 100,000 words in his three novels!!!  — What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers and Our Own Writing by Ben Blatt, published March, 2017.  (Read the book and you will also learn stuff like Nabokov’s favorite word was “mauve.”)

Every second Monday night, they have Irish music with a fiddler with the other Mondays devoted to other local musicians.  On Thursday evenings patrons see a specialty act – Michael Sheridan, a unique and nationally recognized singer-songwriter who has packed them in according to Tom. https://www.facebook.com/events/1917437525206189/           

If my two visits are typical, you should definitely drop by TC O’Leary’s where Tom will greet you as he does every patron at the door.   This personable Irishman, entrepreneur and former actor can give you advice on which draft beer or one of their specialty cocktails will enhance your visit.

But if he approaches you with a scalpel in his hand, you can be assured, it’s to carve some of the high-quality beef they use and he is not reenacting  his days as Dr. Brendan Daly.

 

T.C. O’Leary’s     2926 NE Alberta

 

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NEPO 42 – A Northeast Portland Gem

Since the start of Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs five one one-half years ago (now at 75 Portland bars and 125 throughout eastern Oregon and the Oregon coast, several US regions and Europe) several methods have been used to “discover” some wonderful new watering holes. Sometimes it’s through the recommendations of blog followers or a review in the press or social media.  And I try tp research and find bars or breweries that are not just part of the mainstream.  It has led to positive results.

But the discovery of NEPO 42 in Northeast Portland, albeit indirectly, can be credited to a wonderful two-year old Golden Retriever – Wesley Walter!   Wesley belongs to my daughter, Laura, and her husband, Ryan.  You see, NEPO 42 is right across the street from 3 Dogs Boarding and Daycare, where Wes goes to cage-free doggie daycare and sometimes boards when the young couple goes on trips.  http://www.3dogsboardinganddaycare.com/

And although this is a blog about bars and beers, 3 Dogs deserves a shout-out as well.  They have always taken good care of Wes and the staff is friendly, helpful and committed to the canines who are their “clients.”

Wesley in his younger days about 1 1/2 years ago..

Laura and Ryan had mentioned a small bar and grill on NE 42nd Street, right across from 3 Dogs – it’s on the border of the Cully and Concordia neighborhoods –  so I decided to try it out when reconnecting with a former work colleague and friend, Bernie Stea.

Bernie and I worked together for several  years at the Oregon State Bar in the early 1980’s when he was the Bar’s Director of Continuing Legal Education and I was the Business Manager.  (more about Bernie below)  Bernie drove in from Camas, where he and his wife, former Portland radio personality, Deb Janes, are managing brokers at the Carl Group, a real estate investment and development firm.

Not the most impressive exterior……

NEPO 42, like a number of bars I have visited, is housed in what cannot be considered an impressive structure (it also has a very small parking lot) but the interior is a different story.  It radiates a warmth as aptly described in a Willamette Week review shortly after it opened in 2009:

“I expected Matthew and Sara Firosz’s bar to be a slightly remodeled neighborhood dive, but the pleasant space, decorated with art nouveau posters and black-and-white photos and with the remains of aged ceramic tiles on the floor, possesses rough, unpretentious elegance. It also has everything you could want from a neighborhood pub: a long bar, plenty of booths, a massive flat-screen TV” (W. Week 3/10/09) 

And while this blog focuses more on beer and bar history than food, let’s talk about the latter before discussing NEPO 42’s impressive twenty beers on tap.  The menu is diverse and not your typical “pub faire”.  Based on my two experiences and customer reviews, you will not leave hungry.  S goof summary is this 6/2/16 Trip Advisor review:

“Wow what a neighborhood GEM. Outstanding Pub Food with a great selection of taps from all over the Northwest. They do all their own smoking and that spells the best pulled barbeque pulled pork that probably is the best in the Portland area. Be sure try the chicken club very tasty and very fresh. Good selection of healthy salads.”

As further evidence, I was struck by the variety of dishes on their menu that received compliments  in social media and press reviews, to wit:  (Yelp) Mac and Cheese – 1/10/17, Fish and Chips – 11/9/16, brewery pretzels, kale salad…and the barnyard fries (“will be asked for on my deathbed.”) – 8/2/16, clam chowder – 1/23/17.

“……my absolute favorite, the OG dog “Primo bun, sauerkraut, jalapeño pickle relish, stone-ground mustard, steamed with Old German Lager. This is one fantastic hot dog.” – (Trip Advisor 3/5/17)

Willamette Week named Nepo42 in its 2016 Best of Portland issue for the third-best wings and in a 9/20/16 review on “Best Happy Hours” stated:

Fried Chicken and Waffles with bacon in the middle) – I even took some home….

“….seek out the masterful fried chicken—golden-brown chunks of crisped succulence either layered atop a waffle or hidden within the bacon-, spinach- and pepper-laden mac and cheese……$6 OG Dog (a ginormous frankfurter wrapped in a sturdy potato bun and slathered with jalapeño relish, homemade sauerkraut, and a house mustard itself steamed with Old German).”

To be objective, there was one vociferous critical Yelp review on 9/15/16 – maybe the cook or the customer just had a bad day……

“Jalapeño Poppers were just BURNT and exploded (they were so dark it was like eating charcoal), cheese sauce for Barnyard fries was grainy and tasted like flour, burger was overly well done and dry (when I had asked for med rare)”

Thebeerchaser is delighted with his Happy Healthy Bowl

I’ll supplement the above with my own two visits.  The Happy-Healthy Bowl (a special menu item with a title Thebeerchaser usually avoids….) I had at the lunch was large, delicious and was filled with a bunch of good stuff (brown rice, black beans, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and roasted fall vegetables. Topped with jalapeño cilantro and guajillo sauce, sour cream and sharp white cheddar)

There was no jealousy on my part as Bernie devoured what he considered to be a great cheeseburger – with a lot of good fries.

A great cheeseburger

Then when I returned for dinner with my wife, Janet, I marveled at the incredible Fried Chicken and Waffles for $13 (including the slices of bacon in the middle) I even took some of it home for a snack – something which I usually don’t do.  Janet had the Happy-Healthy Bowl at my recommendation and although she thought it was good, did not share my enthusiasm.  And their food prices, especially at Happy Hour are really reasonable.

I enjoyed seeing Bernie Stea again – he has had a career both as a lawyer and an entrepreneur and is one of the brightest and most innovative people I know.  His undergraduate and law school degrees were both from the University of Maryland where he was awarded the Order of the Coif – a prestigious national law school honor society and also served on the Maryland Law Review.  He clerked for Maryland’s highest court before moving to Portland in the early 70’s to practice law.

A “late model” Osborne 1

My first encounter with Bernie was in 1980, when as the Bar’s financial manager, I had to question him about his CLE department budget and he showed up with his Osborne laptop computer with the budget laid out on a SuperCalc spreadsheet.   (Even then, he was an early-adopter of technology.)

As I “attacked” his figures we started a friendly rivalry which entertained Bar staff when we “replicated” the dialogue at all-staff meetings.  It became a staged production in the tradition of Jane Curtain and Dan Akroyd on Saturday Night Live.  After Bernie would make a mock eloquent plea as to why his budget should be increased, my reply was, “Bernie, you ignorant slut!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k80nW6AOhTs

His subsequent career involved work at private law firms, CIO for startups, consulting for high-tech firms, and raising timber in SW Washington.  He and his wife now run a real estate sales and investment firm in Vancouver.  The Carl Group focuses on family estates, green construction and multi-generational housing solutions in the Southwest Washington and Portland metro area. http://natureasneighbors.com/about/

Robust selection of beer from 20 taps

While I have focused on the food to this point, I would be remiss not to mention the twenty-one rotating taps including cider.  Janet had a  BoneYard RPM IRA and I had a Priem Belgian Strong Dark Ale (I grew fond of this beer when we first tasted it at the Pfriem Brewery on a beautiful spring day in Hood River last year.)

Priem Brewery in Hood River – makes a great Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Then we split a Double Mountain IRA.  There was a wide range of beers to satisfy most beer aficionados. Pints were $4.50 at Happy Hour which 3:00 to 6:00 daily.

Other positive factors were free pool, a nice porch in the front which is both pet and kid friendly – not necessarily in that order, enthusiastic crowds and specials for Blazer games.  (You might even see Wesley Walter there on a spring or summer evening……)

Free pool

The vibe was of a friendly neighborhood pub and the staff including our server, Natalie, was friendly and efficient – something which might not always have been the case based on this Yelp 8/23/16 review:

”Recent staff shakeup has made a fantastic spot even better! The constantly complaining girl with blue hair is gone, and somehow a new dawn has broken! …….“

Janet ready to drop Wesley off at 3 Dogs. He absolutely loves doggie daycare.

And 3 Dogs is a great story in itself which you can check out at their website:

http://www.3dogsboardinganddaycare.com/about-us-3/ .

“The business started in 2008 and is owned and operated by Anne Graves, an experience veterinary technician and Michael Lauria, a professional dog trainer with years of experience managing tradition and cage-free dog boarding businesses.”

Although I love dive bars, there are a few neighborhood hangouts which have learned to put together a winning package and are worth visiting.  I echo the sentiments of this final review and urge you to check it out yourself.  And if you have a dog that needs occasional daycare or boarding, go across the street and check 3 Dogs out.   Tell them  that Wesley sent you!

From an article entitled “Meet Me in Cully” Willamette Week 8/22/16:

“An irreplaceable oasis of pub life, NEPO 42 does its best to approximate all bars for all people. Parents bring their children, pets accompany their owners to the front patio, sports fans gather for games, and folks predisposed to hate all of the above may choose from 20 taps of craft beer and cider when filling their growlers.”

 

NEPO 42       5403 NE 42nd Ave

 

A busy and competent kitchen


 

 

 

 

 

 

Mummy’s – A (Buried) Portland Treasure

photo-nov-15-5-08-29-pm

Thebeerchaser and Brian before descending……

It is not the typical practice of Thebeerchaser to feature bars that are more of an ancillary feature of a restaurant.  There have been only several exceptions in the five years of this blog – three McMeneman establishments (White Eagle Saloon, Fulton Pub and St. John’s Pub), and the Buffalo Gap Saloon – all worthy of this distinction based on their rich histories. (For Thebeerchaser reviews, click on the link of each name.)

Well Mummy’s has a much lower profile than those above – it’s a subterranean chamber on SW Columbia Street – right across from the now empty high rise that once housed what is now a dying organization – The OregonianStay tuned, or better yet, try it and I think you will agree as do my two Beerchasing companions on my last visit to this venerable place that it is a Portland treasure.

Brain King on the left at Bill Rays Neighborhood Dive Bar

Brain King on the left at Bill Rays Neighborhood Dive Bar

And before telling the Mummy’s story, as per tradition, I will brief you on my colleagues who shared martinis with me while listening to the great music in Mummy’s.  Brian (Brain) King’s (pictured on the left) first Beerchasing expedition – to Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive Bar was memorable (as you can see from the picture) and deserved a return invitation. 

Brain King in his Idaho duds......

Brain King in his Idaho duds……

He also is noted (at least by me) for his profound suggestion after he joined the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt firm as a litigator and skilled environmental lawyer.  

Based on his experience while practicing in Idaho, he insisted on my 2004 sabbatical road trip to Idaho and Montana, that I visit the Stanley Road and Gun Whitewater Saloon in Stanley Idaho.  (I returned with my wife this summer so she could gain the experience.) https://thebeerchaser.com/2016/09/08/beerchasing-in-idaho-part-ii-stanley-and-the-sawtooths/  The initial visit was a key factor in ultimately starting this blog.

Thebeerchasers return to Stanley in 2016

Thebeerchasers return to Stanley in 2016

Joining us on her first Beerchasing expedition although not her first visit to imbibe in Mummy’s martinis with me, was another one of my favorite lawyers at Schwabe – Margaret Hoffman.

Besides being honored in her profession as a top product liability litigator (Oregon Super Lawyer and named as one of the Best Lawyers in America), Margaret is an outstanding human being.  She is also skilled at fly fishing and in her “spare time, ” spends additional court-time playing pickle-ball.

2015-09-30-17-13-30

Counselor Hoffmann on our first visit

I might add that my own background with Mummy’s is extensive and why I invited my colleagues to join me.  I used to frequently walk the two blocks from our PacWest Center office for lunch or an after-work drink and say hello to the proprietors described by Portland Bar Fly as, “Hyper-hospitable brother-owners (who) man the small, square bar.”

And an undated article in the Portland Mercury by Denis Theriault, sums it up well: “When he’s not slinging Middle-Eastern staples or mixing up a surprising variety of tiki-inspired blended cocktails, longtime owner, Ghobvial  Mounir, is perfectly willing to sidle up to the rail and tell you everything you ever wanted to know about his homeland. And yours.” 

Phillip and Ghobvial Moumir

Phillip and Ghobvial Moumir

The brothers emigrated from Egypt and originally opened their establishment in NW Portland, but felt they would be more successful in their current location – they moved to it thirty years ago!

Before retiring in late 2011, I would frequently invite several of the firm’s summer associates to lunch – they were the best and brightest law students from schools all over the country working at Schwabe during the summer in the hope of landing a job when they graduated and passed the Oregon State Bar exam.

Since we were competing with other law firms to recruit them, they were typically wined and dined at most of Portland’s finest restaurants – Higgins, the Heathman GrilleJake’s, etc.  To our Recruiting Director’s initial horror, I would take them to either the Lotus Café or Mummy’s – that is until without exception, they would tell her that they loved the “tomb experience,” – the ambiance, Pyramid Beer, the brothers’ hospitality and the good Egyptian cuisine:

“Mummy’s serves the best falafel sandwich in Portland.  It’s delicious, huge, and a great value for only $5 during lunch.  Plenty of other yummy vegetarian and non-veg options are available.” (Yelp 5/20/13)

And the Schwabe managers and my family surprised me after hosting my retirement dinner at nearby Nel Centro, with an after-dinner reception at Mummy’s – it was memorable – in fact, there is a video someplace in the Ethernet of me reluctantly sharing the floor with a belly dancer, who was performing that night.

photo-nov-15-4-44-52-pmMargaret, Brian and I met at the firm at 5:00 and headed on our two-block journey like a reverse exodus of the Children of Israel. 

We dodged Max trains and commuter traffic on SW 6th Ave. and walked by the mausoleum-like remnants of The Oregonian – which seemed to have images of talented past columnists such as Steve Duin, David Sarasohn, Margy Boule, Richard Read and political cartoonist, Jack Ohman staring out the windows wondering what happened……

Construction workers now in the windows where famed columnists used to work

Construction workers now in the windows where famed columnists used to work

Although it did not take us forty-years wondering through the desert, we reached our Promised Land – Mummys –  forthwith and descended to a “mysterious and venerable place…….True to its name, Mummy’s is filled with Egyptian artifacts much like you’d find in an actual crypt.  (It’s) weird, tomb-like, but lovable space.”  Portland Mercury 

The descent......

The descent……

“As I waited, I noticed something. Hieroglyphics are on the bench, hieroglyphics are in a painting on the wall, the cocktails have ancient Egypt themes, the napkin is a pyramid and artifact replicas are in the waiting area.”  Yelp 2/13/16

Even though it had been five years since I had been to their establishment, when I walked in, Ghobvial immediately exclaimed, “Schwabe!” and pointed towards what had been my favorite booth.

Martinis in Thebeerchasers favorite booth

Martinis in Thebeerchasers favorite booth

Ghobvial and Phillip kindly acceded to my request for photographs and the former mixed two excellent gin martinis and a vodka martini for Margaret.

Pyramid Beer and good martinis - Up with olives....

Pyramid Beer and good martinis – Up with olives….

Note:  Besides a great martini, they also have a number of very inexpensive and creative cocktails such as The Cleopatra (Amaretto, Bailey’s, Irish Cream and coffee) or Ramses (Southern Comfort, peach schnapps and orange and cranberry juice).

We did not order any food on this visit although during the many times I had lunch while working at Schwabe, without exception, the food was always very good.

That said, a number of the comments on Yelp and social media are not overly positive about the food. My sentiments, however, were shared by a recent Yelp reviewer (2/13/16) who stated:

“…………When the veal came, it’s a cutlet, it was splendid. The taste was rich and the rice was outstanding, not a word we usually use for rice. My carrots and mushrooms, vegetables nonetheless, were pleasant to eat. Surprisingly, the command of how to invoke spices was second to none.

The sauces were spectacular. It was a bit pricy, even for the medium portions, but a lot came with my meal, that being the salad and bread too, and this chef should be famous, perhaps on Food Network.” 

photo-nov-15-5-38-43-pmI would also suggest that to garner the Mummys’ “experience,” make your initial trip and if you are not sure about an entrée, just have some drinks and order an appetizer such as the delicious hummus or baba ghanush (a dip made from baked eggplant).  The three of us all think you will return.

And besides, one also has to be careful about the substance of social media reviews.  Let’s look at a couple interesting ones on Mummy’s as evidence.  Although this July 2011 Yelp review was positive, one wonders whether the author needed a geography lesson or some history of the Middle East:

“…….the happy-hour is cheap. They have cute Egyptian-inspired drinks.  I was feeling Gaza Stepish, so I ordered a Pyramid Brewing Hefeweizen.” (emphasis supplied)

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Misperceptions of the Gaza Strip….

Not to be nitpicky, but perhaps someone should tell this person that the “Gaza Strip“, has it’s southern boundary along the border of Egypt and is not in Egypt.  Although there has been some involvement by Egypt in the past including some periods of occupying the territory, Gaza has primarily centered around the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.  And,  oh yes, the primary Egyptian pyramids are located near Cairo and are not the Gaza Strip.

Perhaps more curious was this enthusiastic – presumably female Mummys customer, who in addition to appreciating the ambiance, lauded an unusual supplemental feature:

“The place is run by two old Egyptians brothers who still use typewriters.  There is plenty of seating in the cool booths engraved with various Egyptian gods and goddesses.  Bonus perk:  the women’s bathroom has office equipment from the late 80’s.”  (Emphasis supplied)

1980 Mimeograph Machine ?????

1980 Mimeograph Machine ?????

Note: It is beyond the scope of Thebeerchaser blog to further research or verify this issue.

Because Margaret had to return to the office for an evening client meeting, Brian and I decided to have one more martini – that’s when this Phi Beta Kappa from Colorado State University demonstrated again, why he has the erudition to be an outstanding drinking companion.

As an aside, Brian runs Schwabe’s Corvallis office which works out well because his wife is a tenured professor at Oregon State University.  He was recently described as the most interesting man in Corvallis and rumor has it that he is still the life of many fraternity parties that he does not even attend.

Stretching the bounds on the Rules of Procedure

Stretching the bounds on the Rules of Civil Procedure

Whether it was the admonition by a judge at one time that his motion for summary judgment was like trying to read hieroglyphics, the fact that his surname is “King” and might have some ancient link to Egyptian pharaohs or just his enthusiasm over our plans to visit Mummy’s, Brian was a wealth of information.

His pre-Mummys research, with emphasis on parallels in history, was focused on one of the ancient Pharoahs – Sankhkare Mentuhotep III – who reigned for twelve years during the Middle Kingdom.

Known for his small fingers, protruding abdomen and intellectual shallowness (he never read the scrolls) Mentuhotep was principally known for his journey to the Land of Punt and efforts to build a defensive structure called the “Walls-of-the-Ruler” in Nubia and also to rebuff Canaanite immigrants.

443px-mentuhotep-osiridestatue-closeup_museumoffineartsboston

At least Mentuhotep opted to wear the headgear to hide his questionable hair…..

Fortunately, we finished our martinis before Brian had the opportunity to factor in more recent developments relating to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s term…….

We “wrapped” up our visit, waved goodbye to the two brothers and vowed to make a return trip to what one reviewer labeled, “a gem hidden in plain sight..”

Drop down into this unique Portland venue.  You will assuredly make a return trip.  Tell them Thebeerchaser sent you!

Mummy’s        622 SW Columbia St

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The Fulton Pub — “Home” of Hammerhead

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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.

white-eagleBoth the White Eagle Saloon (post on11/14/12)  and the St. John’s Pub (post on 11/2/15) are part of the McMenamin restaurant chain, but deserved a place in this blog for three reasons: 

(1)  They have great bars with rich histories.  (2)  The McMenamin Brothers are a key part of the Oregon Beer industry and culture.  (3)  It’s my blog and I make the choices!   st-johns

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). 

Author and wine drinker, Brian Doyle

Author and wine drinker, Brian Doyle

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 ) 

p1030976After 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?  

Nice patio - when it is not raining...

Nice patio – when it is not raining…

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”:

p1030979“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.”

the-grailEach 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.

Dave and Lynne Booher chuckling as they remember my meager attempts to write at a graduate level...

Dave and Lynne Booher chuckling as they remember my meager attempts to write at a graduate level…

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.)

floorers_removing_the_hides_usy_chicago_front_tiff

Chicago meatpacking plant near the turn of the century

thejunglesinclair

 

 

 

 

 

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.” 

It was so red........

It was so red……..

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.

Doug Hardesty - a Fulton regular

Doug Hardesty – a Fulton regular

 

Take a look at Brian Doyle’s essay with the link below, and plan to make a visit to this venerable Portland establishment:

https://academics.utep.edu/Default.aspx?tabid=56351

The Fulton Pub               0618 SW Nebraska

 

 

 

 

Mad Sons (Pub) with Happy Daughters…

A resurrected venue in Southeast Portland

A resurrected venue in Southeast Portland

You won’t find Madison’s Bar and Grill in any of the past Willamette Week Bar Guides even though it operated from 1997 until February 2014.  The Bar Guide is the weekly paper’s annual review of about 100 favorite Portland bars and one of the ongoing resources for this blog.

WW described the predecessor, Madison’s B & G, in their review of its resurrection, of sorts, Mad Sons Pub, in its 8/26/14 review of the remade bar: “(Madison’s Bar and Grill was) a bar that looked like a Denny’s in West Virginia and attracted the same clientele.”

The sign with a minor change

The sign with a minor change

The most noticeable change is on the bland exterior of the bar  – the large neon sign near the entrance now has the “I” taped over, purportedly so it would not shine at night although some say that it just burned out and the name change then saved the owners money on signage. The real story is below.

2016-08-15-17-02-34I definitely liked the décor of the remade bar on our recent Beerchasing trip to its location at 1109 SE Madison. The large lot with free parking in an area where vehicle resting spots are at a premium was another plus.

WW speaks favorably of the new bar including the capital invested by the new owners:

2016-09-06-15-55-44“The new Revolutionary War-themed bar is a beautiful hardwood affair complete with 13-star flags, a hearth, a giant blue-felt billiards table and a picture of the signing of the Declaration of Independence burned into the wood of the bar’s service gate.” 2016-08-15-17-05-31

And like some of the other “treasures” – bars or pubs I have discovered in the five-year Beerchaser Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs, I would not have had the pleasure of raising a mug – this time with great companions – if I had not initiated this idiosyncratic but interesting retirement hobby.

Jack Faust contemplates the beer menu

Jack Faust contemplates the beer menu

Joining me was one of the most frequent Beerchaser “regulars,” Portland appellate lawyer and former moderator of the award-winning public affairs program, Town Hall.

Jack Faust has joined me at visits to The Buffalo Gap, Bailey’s Tap House, the Rookery, Kelly’s Olympian, the Marathon Taverna and the lackluster Yard House. (use Thebeerchaser search function above to read reviews of these bars).  He was also one of the more colorful Beerchaser-of-the-Quarters , which highlighted his notable legal (mostly at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt) , broadcasting and civic career (see post on 9/2/14)

Jack Faust

Jack Faust

Speaking of the Schwabe firm, where I spent twenty-five years of my legal management career, Faust, a Portland native, joins two other former Schwabe partners as three of the Jefferson High School’s “Outstanding 100” – their most distinguished alums named at the school’s Centennial in 2009.

Retired US District Court Judge and decorated Viet Nam Veteran, Ancer Haggerty, and the late Congressman, Wendell Wyatt were also honored.ancer

 

The late Congressman, Wendell Wyatt

The late Congressman, Wendell Wyatt

Faust maintains he garnered the honor based on his accomplishments playing quarterback on the Democrat’s six-man football team, but I countered that it was the notoriety achieved by his home-brewed “Raspberry Red Ale” which contributed to Portland’s designation as a SuperFund site by the EPA.

As has been the case on several previous bar visits, members of the Faust clan – in this case son, Charlie, and daughter, Amy, were Beerchasing with us in addition to Charlie’s wife, Kristen, a first-time Beerchaser.

2016-08-15-17-59-11The final two companions that afternoon were the youngest – my daughter, Laura and her fiancé, Ryan Keene, slated for September 17th nuptials at Vista Hills Vineyard and Winery west of Dundee – the home of one of my favorite dive bars – Lumpy’s Landing.

While we did not spend too much time trying to mentor and advise the young bride and groom to-be, they couldn’t go wrong listening to some words of wisdom, given that the cumulative total years of marriage for their elders was an astounding 139 years as follows:

An amazing couple

An amazing couple

Jack and Alice Faust                         60 years

Don and Janet Williams                     36 years

Amy Faust and husband, Kevin        24 years

Charlie Faust and wife, Kristen         19  years

Charlie Faust, being a numbers guy, pointed out to Ryan and Laura that since the average time of marriage for those above has been 34.8 years while the median is still an impressive 30 years, they would do well to invite members of this group out for beers in the future to seek advice on marital bliss…..

Thebeerchaser with his daughter and soon to be son-in-law

Thebeerchaser with his daughter and soon to be son-in-law

Although Charlie and his dad have a great relationship, they agreed to pose while I took the picture below in an effort to get the pub’s owners to adopt it as a logo for their new moniker. In fact, in a moment of sentimentality, Charlie gushed:

“You know, I owe a lot to my parents – especially my Mom and Dad.”

It should also be noted that both my daughter, Laura, and Jack’s daughter, Amy, seemed to be pretty happy with their dads that afternoon and not just because we paid for the beers (I think….)

A new logo for Mad Sons??

A new logo for Mad Sons??

Not only does Mad Sons have some interesting décor including multiple US Presidential portraits but the spacious game-room upstairs includes a billiard table racked for free pool, some nice booths to relax and some additional historical memorabilia.

I had a nice conversation by telephone with General Manager, Lavender Davis, who is one of five partners in Mad Sons.  The remodeling took six months and was done by craftsman with the historic items throughout the bar coming from a variety of sources including estate sales.   Some of the drapes are from her living room…..

She stated that the reason for the name change and blacking out the “I” in the Madison’s on the sign, was because of restrictions imposed by Portland’s Sign Ordinance (Perhaps a skilled lawyer could have overcome that challenge but the name change is a good thing.)

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Blue felt and free

The upstairs has a long shelves filled with impressive volumes ranging from philosophical classics such as Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, Milton’s Paradise Lost  and perhaps appropriately, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King  to novels by Nobel Prize winners such as Steinbeck and Hemingway.  Don’t plan to use the space as a reading room while you’re enjoying a mug, however.

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The expansive volumes on the shelves are all firmly glued together. This is too bad because there was some fine literature on these shelves.

An impressive faux library...

An impressive faux library…

Realizing these books were glued together and untouched, along with the thought of beer readily available, also brought back some unpleasant and possibly repressed memories from my freshman year at Oregon State.

The freedom to have an under-aged brewski at Price’s Tavern with the bros in Corvallis was like a Siren call while my freshman physics and calculus texts sat essentially glued together.   Although they might have indicated an impressive academic regimen, at least part of the quarter, they mostly gathered dust.

Fortunately, my Navy ROTC advisor informed me in a direct manner that if I did not start putting some wear on the pages, I would not only lose my scholarship, but the Navy’s travel agent would be happy to book a free flight on one of its planes headed for the other side of the International Dateline.  The motivational speech worked.

Limited but adequate patio

Limited but adequate patio

Mad Sons is a spacious, interesting and warm space to gather with friends on a fall or winter day – you might also want to take advantage of the limited but adequate patio during the spring and summer months.

The afternoon we were there, the bar was not hopping with patrons and WW alluded to the same situation in their multiple visits. And that’s too bad because Mad Sons also has a good selection of beers and a robust and very reasonably priced food menu described by the Oregonian  shortly after it opened in 2014:

“A little New England, a little Old England with sandwiches, stews and other hearty plates of varying quality.”  Oregonian 10/31/14

A nice selection of beers

A nice selection of beers

There are eleven beers on tap, a rotating seasonal and nitro and a local craft draft root beer. (Our party had Priem IPA, Double Mountain IRA and Upright Pilsner.)

Kristin had a Grapefruit Shandy, which Thebeerchaser had never been exposed to previously.  I learned that a Shandy is a combination of beer and either a soft drink or juice in approximately a 50/50 mix.  Kristin approved of the Mad Son’s version.

Recent Yelp reviews looked very positive including these two:

“Clean with great vibes and plenty of space! Awesome selection of booze with excellent service at Mad Sons Pub. Free pool, pinball, games and a huge outdoor patio – (Thebeerchaser does not agree with this description) for summer! Definitely check this place out! No kids and parking for all. Love it!!!”  7/2/2016

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and

“This place is quality.  Super chill, nice staff, good food and drink, their brisket is awesome.  I really appreciate the ambiance here, they’re always playing good music, it’s nice and dark with the look of an old style pub, but a more modern vibe.” 7/23/2016

Also good comments on their Saturday and Sunday brunch (from 11 AM to 3 PM), which according to Lavender is “very popular” and one where those who prefer not to have children affecting the ambiance, can gather.  The Chicken and Waffles looked promising as did the Beef Brisket Hash as well as the “You Build It” combinations.

2016-08-15-17-00-25This sign describes Mad Son’s pretty well.  They have a DJ every Friday night and a nice Pandora selection otherwise.

As a departing note, Laura and Ryan’s wedding at Vista Hills near Dundee was a wonderful event, notwithstanding this particular Saturday being the only day with precipitation in the ten-day period preceding it. And was it rainy – which can be problematic in an outdoor venue.  Fortunately, we had tents and a crowd with a great NW attitude.

Now while my wife may not think that it is appropriate to post some of the first photos of their wedding in a blog about bars and beer, I think after 36 years, she will probably let the proud Father-of-the-Bride go with this indulgence, given how much I love this young couple and want to show them off.

Rainy but a wonderful occasion

Rainy but a wonderful occasion

2016-09-20-13-37-452016-09-17-15-57-24

 

 

 

 

 

 

The old marrieds there that day talked to Laura and Ryan about the importance of good communication and listening, which opened the door to some of Thebeerchaser’s favorite quotes on that general topic:

“Don’t speak, unless you can improve the silence.”

“Light travels faster than sound.  This is why some people appear bright until they open their mouths.”

“A single fact can spoil a good argument.”

vista-hills

The beautiful Vista Hills setting

Mad Sons Pub              1109 SE Madison    

Look-out for the Ranger Station

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There are a number of classic dive bars in Portland’s noted Barmuda Triangle in southeast Portland.  Thebeerchaser has enjoyed a number of these including the Bar of the Gods and Tanker Bar (see posts on 10/3/12 and 4/29/13).  It was therefore a nice surprise to discover a relatively new neighborhood bar at 42nd and SE Hawthorne.

P1040389The Ranger Station has only been around for a little over two years and its previous incarnations during the last ten years were also bars – Vertigo (closed in 2012) and then the Thorne Lounge.

Consultant, Dave Hicks

Consultant, Dave Hicks

My first of two visits to the Ranger Station was with San Franciscan, Dave Hicks.  “West Coast Dave” gets to Portland regularly on consulting trips and besides being my favorite Princeton graduate, is a Beerchaser regular, having visited the Double Barrel, Sloans’ Tavern and Crackerjacks among others on prior Beerchasing ventures.

The Ranger Station is a quaint a low-key bar, but has some limitations – the primary one being space. “There’s probably at least one snow-bound Alaskan ranger with a larger liquor cabinet than this pub..” (2015 Willamette Week Bar Guide)  It’s essentially a one-room rectangle with a small patio area adjoining and this may be one of the reasons that the duration of the prior two bars in this space is comparable to the half-life of a college education.

Small patio area

Small patio area

The room fills up quickly, especially since they have live entertainment most evenings and there are only a limited number of booths and tables.

The weeknight we were there, people were standing in rows between tables waiting for seats to open since the entry area is also pretty small.

Live entertainment in close proximity......

Live entertainment in close proximity……

Given acoustical and space limitations, it’s almost too small to have live music – the night we were there, a four- piece blue grass group played and in addition to not being overly talented, they eliminated the ability to have any ongoing conversation.

Dave Hicks savors his

Dave Hicks savors his “Half Bird”

That said, the food at the Ranger Station is a strength – particularly the elk burger ($12), which I devoured and the venison stew ($8) with meat purchased at Nicky USA Farms in Aurora and the Bucker’s Brussels ($7) – deep fried and slow seared with bacon, carmelized onion and a mustard vinaigrette sauce.

I chatted with Coltonan amiable part-time chef, and he expressed pride in the menu  and their skill with the grill.  Reviews of the food on social media are generally positive including this one from Dude on Yelp last November, which might be a tad over-stated:

“The food here is so good it makes me wanna climb the highest peak and punch the face of God.”  Perhaps this guy had too many Campfire Coffees (coffee with Makers Mark bourbon and cream and sugar)!

And the prices are pretty reasonable: for example you can get a happy-hour Ranger Burger for $6.50 or Tacos for $5 and try the chef’s choice of flavored pop-corn for only a buck.  Colton emphasized the reliance on local vendors such as Sheridan FruitGrand Central Bakery and Newman’s Fish Market.

TJ, the bartender, serving "Murph: - a Ranger Station regular

TJ, the bartender, serving “Murph: – a Ranger Station regular

Another limitation, however, appears to be lack of staffing especially given the bar’s popularity.  You order both your drinks and food at the bar and the night we were there the only individual taking orders and making drinks was quite harried and spent a lot of time in the kitchen which created a line waiting to order.

Servers bring the food, but the expectation appears to be that you bus your own dishes after your finish. “There is also a dish bin conveniently located for customers to bus their own tables and a tipping option – before the food is prepared.”  (Yelp 6/6/16)

Low-key decor

Low-key décor

The décor is cool and understated.  According to TJ, the bartender I talked to on my second visit and who has worked there since the opening, the owner did all the work on the knotty-pine bar and booths, himself.

There are items such as shovels, axes, lanterns, cross country skis, etc.  hanging on the wall to convey a forest-type environment.

“If you somehow woke up inside the Ranger Station, it would be easy to believe you were actually inside a ranger station. The tiny and rustic Hawthorne District bar looks very much like a Roosevelt-era public works cabin, from the picnic-table-style wooden benches to slatted lawn chairs.

Framed topographic maps and acoustic guitars hang from the walls, and a malfunctioning stove hood provides a cool draft from the kitchen. It’s a decidedly simple place.”  (2015 Willamette Week Bar Guide)

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The Hug Point

Hicks raved over the Hug Point (Hornitos tequila, grapefruit and cranberry) one of five cocktails they serve, and on my first visit, I downed a strong Czech Pilsner from Bouy Beer Company in Astoria  (6.2 ABV – 35 IBU), one of the seven draft beers and one cider available.  My next visit, I attacked a good Hood River beer – a Double Mountain Kolisch (5.2 ABV – 40 IBU)

And perhaps I digress, but as long as the subject is ranger stations and a forest-type environment, it provides an opportunity to praise an absolutely marvelous book by New York Times columnist and author, Timothy Egan –  The Big Burn – which weaves a fascinating narrative on two topics:

  • Teddy Roosevelt’s and Gifford Pinchot’s efforts to fight the robber barons of the timber and mining companies and the railroads to preserve the public lands as a national treasure for every citizen.
  • The fire which started in August 20, 1910 that moved through the parched forests of Oregon, Idaho and Montana in a raging inferno, killing many and devouring towns:

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“Forest rangers had assembled nearly 10,000 men – college boys, day-workers, immigrants from the mining camps – to fight the fire.  But no living person had seen anything like those flames, and neither the rangers or anyone else knew how to subdue them……

….The Big Burn saved the forests even as it destroyed them: the heroism shown by the rangers turned public opinion permanently in their favor and became the creation myth that droved the Forest Service….”

And since I opened the door with a small side trip about Tim Egan’s book, to give you another sample of his colorful writing, check out his New York Times opinion piece on 6/9/16 entitled, “Lord of Lies.”  While Thebeerchaser does not usually venture into the political realm, this one is too relevant and noteworthy to ignore:

I no more expect CNN to set Wolf Blitzer’s beard on fire than to instantly call out the Mount Everest of liars. Trump lies about big things (there is no drought in California) and small things (his hair spray could not affect the ozone layer because it’s sealed within Trump Tower). He lies about himself, and the fake self he invented to talk about himself. He’s been shown to lie more than 70 times in a single event.

Professional truth-seekers have never seen anything like Trump, surely the most compulsive liar to seek high office. To date, the nonpartisan PolitiFact has rated 76 percent of his statements lies — 57 percent false or mostly false, and another 19 percent ‘Pants on Fire’ fabrications. Only 2 percent — 2 percent! — of his assertions were rated true, and another 6 percent mostly true. Hillary Clinton, who is not exactly known for fealty to the facts, had a 28 percent total lie score including a mere 1 percent Pants on Fire.

But back to the Ranger Station bar……..

A small but diverse group of micro-brews on tap

A small but diverse group of micro-brews on tap

There are a slew of good bars in the Barmuda Triangle – sometimes known as the Stumble Zone in southeast Portland.

While the Ranger Station space has limitations which may ultimately have led to the demise of its forerunners, it still has a good vibe and some loyal regulars who enjoy the music and the opportunity to have a drink and some good food close to home.

Before the crowds arrive

Before the crowds arrive

 

But you may want to get there early, so you can then move on to some other watering holes that are more expansive in both their space and their vision.

Of course, if the owners have a strong perspective and want to promote their venture, they would be smart to negotiate with the owner of the adjacent space which is even connected to the Ranger Station by a hallway – they also use common restrooms.

P1030925While some of the neighbors in the area might not want to lose the Fat Straw, (coffee, bubble tea and sandwiches), it could provide the room for the Ranger Station to adequately fit the bands, bar regulars and even some mountain men from the forest that might amble in searching for a good mug!

The Ranger Station  4260 SE Hawthorne

 

Thebeerchaser Rambles on N. Mississippi Ave.

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Historic North Mississippi Avenue, while it does not have the overall quantity of watering holes as the fabled Barmuda Triangle in Southeast Portland, has become a gold mine for good bars.

P1040172Past visits to establishments such as Prost, Interurban and Sidecar 11 (see  posts dated 11/24/12 – 5/13/12 and 6/6/13) were notable and there are additional venues beckoning such as Bar Bar, Crow Bar and the Liberty Bar and Grill.

My three visits to The Rambler, however, were a pleasure – a quaint and classy neighborhood bar now owned by an entrepreneur who deserves to see his efforts come to full fruition after opening only about ten months ago.

Entrepreneurs with class and vision

Christian – an entrepreneur with class and vision

The ambiance and friendly environment of the Rambler – in a spacious old house was especially appreciated after the sterile, corporate hew permeating the last bar reviewed – The Yard House in Pioneer Place.  The 100+ beers on tap could not compensate for what it totally lacked in ambiance.

I visited the Rambler with my friend and fellow Portland State MPA graduate, Greg Wallinger, who until very recently, was the heart of the City Club of Portland’s respected research program, having served as Research and Policy Director from 2012 to 2016.

Wallenger with the traditional Beerchaser logo

Wallenger with the traditional Beerchaser logo

The Rambler replaces two prior establishments, Casa Naranja and then the Bungalo Bar, which was described by a neighbor in a 2015 Willamette Week article as “a magnet for dirtbags……evidenced by OLCC violations, noise complaints and license suspensions.”

After some lengthy and heated negotiations for the building, there was extensive remodeling to rebuild the bar, salvage the flooring and redo the front of the historic 1920’s bungalow while adding two patios and other features.

Outside by the bocce pit.

Outside by the bocce pit.

Christian Lee, the owner, who relocated to Portland from San Francisco, has established a neighborhood venue which draws rave reviews for the changes including adjectives describing the interior and exterior as, “stupendous, admirable, comfortable and awesome.”   

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The back patio – like being at the beach……

“Here the fire pit(s) and tasteful stained-wood picnic tables are joined by – wonder of wonders – an outdoor flatscreen.  There’s another patio in the front, and in the sideyard, there’s a bocce pit.  You might as well be at the beach.” (2016 Willamette Week Bar Guide)                                         

P1040177Christian is described as “career bartender” and knows his craft well.  The Rambler has eight beers and five wines on tap – limited but adequate including one very interesting brew  premiered from Portland’s Grateful Deaf Brewery.

And $1 off during Happy Hour

And $1 off during Happy Hour

But it is the craft cocktails that garner the praise and descriptions such as “expertly-crafted and inventive.”          

“……a kegged cocktail named for Doc Brown, plus a host of $8 to $10 variations on the Manhattan, Old Fashioned and vodka fruit punch.”

——

 

Christian's boulevardier - bourbon, sweet vermouth and campari

Christian’s boulevardier – bourbon, sweet vermouth and campari

There are eighteen menu items – no heavy entrees’ but interesting sandwiches and appetizers. Christian stated that they have good dinner crowds.

Almost all of the reviews and comments on the food are favorable with emphasis on the Frito Pie, fried Brussels sprouts with charred onion, fish tacos, smoked brisket chili and a “$13 burger stuffed with more proteins than a vegan bodybuilder’s medicine cabinet.” Willamette Week 2015 Bar Guide.

Good results from the kitchen

Good results from the kitchen

“The Fritos pie and (pork belly) bahn mi (Vietnamese bread) are galactic affairs. Unequivocally great.  From a New Yorker in an April, 2016 Yelp review.

“The bartenders were fantastic, the fish tacos were delicious, and the overall atmosphere of the bar was just awesome.”  From two San Francisco visitors in a 9/15/15 Yelp review.

Lee at work on the brussel sprouts while downing a Portland Skies.....

Lee at work on the brussel sprouts while downing a Portland Skies…..

I did not eat on any of my three visits to The Rambler, but having a great chat with amiable neighborhood regular, Lee, who was eating the Brussels sprouts while consuming the special cocktail of the day as shown in the picture, tempted me to grab a fork and sneak several bites.

Christian explaining the special punch - gin, violette, lavender,lemon

Try the special punch – gin, violette, lavender and lemon topped with bubbly!


 

Of course, the quaint atmosphere of the bar fit well when one is chatting with an erudite fellow like Wallinger, who shepherded twenty-three volunteer-produced research reports through the City Club’s rigorous review process ranging from studies on property tax to marijuana legalization during his tenure.  He felt the one with the most impact was that on Portland’s Street Fees and Gas Tax.

Greg’s undergraduate degree at Susquehanna University was followed by work as a paralegal in a Virginia law firm where he worked on real estate, bonds and tax matters.   Two years followed as an AmeriCorps/Vista volunteer working on substance abuse issues for children in Helena, Montana, where he also met his wife, Stephanie.

After living in Reno for two years, they moved to Portland and he earned his Master’s at Portland State, followed by work for Stand for Children and then the City Club stint.   They have an eleven-moth old daughter.

Last day at City Club where Greg (center) left a legacy

Last day at City Club where Greg (center) left a legacy

To momentarily digress and since the City Club studied the issue of marijuana legalization, it is also interesting to note that the old house – next door to the bar is one of the five Nectar group’s recreational cannabis locations:

“Nectar is one of the largest Marijuana dispensary chains in Oregon. We pride ourselves on a phenominal staff, great selection of quality products and a wonderful atmosphere.”

Changing times in PDX...

Changing times in PDX…

I still haven’t figured out why they have a person regardless of the weather, continually sitting on the front porch (she’s hidden by the column).  I guess she is a “bouncer” of sorts, and checks IDs…..

Now while the emphasis so far has been on the downstairs woodwork and the rear patio, any description of this reconditioned bungalow bar needs to mention the upstairs

Walinger, showing he has athletic skills in addition to intellecualism

Wallenger, showing he has athletic skills in addition to a keen intellect

Its a cozy attic-type space with a pool table with “pristine red felt” and “a record player where you can play your own records!!!”           

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Space for a cozy chat or to watch a game.

The art work, while it would not hang in a Park Avenue gallery, is cool and very much in keeping with the atmosphere intended.

And if one wants a cozy nook to either watch a sports event or just chat away from the crowd, there is a room right off the patio to accomplish that

Second-floor artwork

Second-floor artwork

There were good comments about the background music at the bar and since the Rambler reminded me of an old road house, in a fit of nostalgia I started thinking about all the tunes over the years with “Ramblin” or “Rambler” in the title or lyrics.

From Nat King Cole’s “Ramblin Rose” to the Rolling Stone’s “Midnight Rambler,” to the Allman Brothers Band’s “Ramblin Man.”

And don’t forget Dylan’s “Rambler Gambler” or my favorite – “Colder Weather,” by the Zac Brown Band, with these great lyrics:

He said I wanna see you again – But I’m stuck in colder weather –  Maybe tomorrow will be better,  Can I call you then?

She said you’re a ramblin’ man – You ain’t ever gonna change – You got a gypsy soul to blame  – And you were born for leavin’.

Zac Brown Band - they would like The Rambler too.....

Zac Brown Band – they would like The Rambler too…..

Well, while retired and not on a road trip or stuck in a truck-stop diner in Lincoln thinking of a girl left behind in Colorado, Thebeerchaser is definitely a Rambler Man.

I loved this bar, applaud Christian for what he has created and urge you to pay the Rambler a visit to say “hello.”  I might see you there.

The Rambler                 4205 North Mississippi Avenue

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