Gaining Perspective at the Falls View….

The Falls View Tavern

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  Since this is a long post, if you are seeing it 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.)

Note: The last 25% of this post may be of particular interest to history buffs.  Check out this story which goes back to 1850 and continues to the present time.

I’ve published quite a few posts related to my time in Oregon City, Oregon – from seventh grade until after I got married at age thirty-one except for time at Oregon State University and in the Navy.  My wife and I then moved across the Willamette River to West Linn – another Portland burb and our high school rival in the old Tualatin Yamhill Valley League.

I was a pretty good kid in high school – motivated by the admonition of Dale Herron, our basketball coach, that if we even thought of frequenting one of Oregon City’s bars (or went skiing at Mt. Hood) we would have to turn in our Chuck Taylor Converse All-stars (black high-tops). 

Knowing that attending college also depended on an academic scholarship and a clean record, I never drank alcohol before I turned twenty-one in college.  (* photo attribution at end of post.)

Oh yeah. When I when I asserted above “pretty good kid,” – in the interest of full disclosure, there was that one incident at the end of our senior year when several of us from the Class of ’66 decided to put an old out-house on the roof of the school. 

Fortunately, OCHS Principal Vern Larson (possibly remembering his own school pranks in North Dakota) went easy on us.   His son, Dave, was one of my best friends, so maybe that didn’t hurt either.  Understandably, Dave was not in the group of pranksters.

And when I worked on Main Street for Clackamas County after naval service, my haunt was either McNaulty and Barry’s – a wonderful and fabled dive (still going strong) across the street from the Courthouse. 

The Dunes Motel Lounge (long gone) was a sleazy alternative – after work attendance and political banter and ample booze consumption were expected during the last two years when I worked for the Clackamas County Commissioners.

Thus, I was surprised when my friend, Matt Love, another Oregon City High School grad, (a lot of years after my diploma) but also an expert on Oregon dive bars, suggested the Falls View Tavern.   It’s right across the street from what was one of our favorite high school hangouts – Art’s Cafe.

We spent a lot of time at Art’s on Friday nights after our games eating their great burgers and fries (Art’s is now the Highland Still House which is a great place to go for a shot of fine whiskey):

“With more than 500 bottles of whisky consistently behind the bar and a rotating collection of rare and exciting whiskies from around the globe.”  *2

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But I never really even bothered noticing the Falls View Tavern. I’m glad that I remedied that in early July with Matt and another Beerchasing regular, Jim Westwood – the dean of our group and another Oregon City High grad.

Both Matt and Jim are outstanding individuals and accomplished professionals as set forth in my post: .https://thebeerchaser.com/2021/07/22/2021-summer-beerchasing-miscellany-part-ii/

And we were not disappointed.  Since it was a nice summer day, we sat in their expansive patio or beer garden.  Falls View on their website describes it as:

Best Beer Garden within ?,??? miles.  Umbrella Covered Tables, Covered Stage, Covered Smoking Area, Fire Pit and a refreshing Misting Station for those two really hot days.”

The patio was a recurring theme in the positive reviews of the bar as best summarized by this 2017 Yelp Review:

“They have created an amazing outdoor area for live music or just kicking back to enjoy some food and drink. Whenever I take pictures of the bands playing in their back patio, friends always think I’m in someone’s backyard, and that’s exactly how it feels. But it’s the best backyard because there are these lovely people who will bring you food and drink in exchange for plastic or cash.”

While it’s nothing fancy, it’s spacious and draws a lot of people who just hang out or listen to the live music on weekends, compete in Wednesday Night Trivia or sing at the open mike on Thursdays.   

The owner, Terry Bee Enstad, another Oregon City High School graduate, said that during the restrictions on indoor dining, the patio was always full and people would come from all over the surrounding area.

The Yelp review mentions “lovely people” and there are other comments about friendly staff. Cyndee, our server that afternoon, exemplified this sentiment.  She’s worked at the bar for 5 1/2 years and since they weren’t extremely busy initially, spent time enlightening us about what makes the bar a “Community.”

And Terry Bee, the delightful owner for the last twenty-one years as of the Friday before we were there (the bar goes back to the 1920’s) lives nearby.   She’s used her charisma and personal touch to turn the Falls View into a community gathering place.  

Cyndee introduced us to one of the regulars named Sabrina, who positively gushed about why “The Falls View has become the only bar I’ll ever visit in the future.”  She lives in nearby Canby and talked about the great food and people she’s experienced since the first time she came to the Falls View two years ago.

“This is the last bar I ever want to be in!” (Sabrina – a regular)

An old building provides some challenges and Terry had had her hands full with maintenance and updating.  For example, a 2018 project involving the flooring gives an apt picture of the challenges:

“With the discovery of hardwood flooring under the carpet, it was an easy decision for Terry to lead the charge to rescue it.  But as with all repairs and projects at The Falls View, being a hundred year old building, you have to be prepared for surprises (usually unpleasant & costly ones). 

 We immediately discovered the first one to be that the floor was covered with a variety of materials including plywood (heavily nailed down), particle board, and something called Fix-All which proved to be a huge obstacle.”  (Falls View Website)

The inside of the dive bar validates the label and has a great musty ambiance with historic photos, signs and a great back bar.  There’s also an alcove for video machines which is nice as they are away from the main part of the bar.

The food is one factor that distinguishes Falls View and people rave about the broiled chicken:

“That said, this place is a KEEPER!  I came for the chicken and left with the opinion that it was, by far, the best chicken experience I’ve ever had.  I say ‘experience’ because everything from the service to the seating was excellent.  Then comes the chicken – five pieces totaling a full half of a chicken, perfectly broasted and seasoned with a very light coating, some hand-cut jo-jos, and garlic bread.” (Yelp 7/9/17)

One-half of a chicken, jo-jos and garlic bread is only $11.75, or the cod fish and fries is a stunningly reasonable $9.75.  And I will definitely return for the chicken gizzards and fries for $8.25 – the only bar I know in the Portland area besides the Yukon Tavern that serves this “delicacy.” 

As their website asserts, “Quirky was probably invented here.”  The breakfast menu also looked very good.

To further give you an example of why Terry should probably raise her prices, take a look at the total bill for the three of us.   Matt had two micro-brew pints and Jim and I each had two tall-boys (Old German – the first time I’ve had that Pittsburgh beer) for a total of $8 since there is a $2 tall-boy special each day. We topped off with a large order of great French fries

And they have five rotating taps besides the three standards (Coors Light, Bud Light and Boneyard IPA) supplemented by almost twenty different bottled and canned beers, wine in addition to ciders and hard lemonades.

Notwithstanding the fact that she was being pulled in several directions as the regulars started to pour in, I spent a pleasant twenty minutes talking to Terry about the bar’s history and her plans.   

My congratulations for her shepherding this establishment into one of the most distinctive and pleasant neighborhood dives I’ve been to in ten years of Beerchasing.  I will definitely be back….

One More Thing…..But It’s Important!

Now to end this post, I have to include some of Oregon City’s fabled history which I have talked about in several prior posts.   That’s also easy with Matt Love, an authority on Oregon lore and history (check out his offerings at the Nestucca Spit Press).

Matt told us that we had to check out the historical marker across the street from the bar at the Willamette Falls View Point.  Besides the outstanding view of the Falls, the locks and the historic mills on both sides of the Willamette River, he told us that the marker conveyed the story of the last Oregon public execution in 1850.

Well there was, in fact, an historic marker, but it was just that of Dr. John McLoughlin,  “known as the ‘Father of Oregon’ for his role in assisting the American cause in the Oregon Country.” (Wikipedia)

What happened to the plaque about the Cayuse Five?

However there was nothing regarding the hanging which Matt had referenced.  This sent me on an Internet search and the research may have revealed why officials removed the sign about the capital punishment:

“In May 21, 1850, the trial of five Cayuse men accused of murdering Protestant missionary Marcus Whitman begins in Oregon City, capital of the newly organized Oregon Territory. Whitman, his wife Narcissa, and 11 others had been killed during a Cayuse attack on the Whitman Mission near Walla Walla two and a half years earlier…..

The defendants were indicted on several charges associated with the attack but were tried on only a single count, that of ‘feloniously, wilfully and of their malice aforethought’ killing ‘one Marcus Whitman’ (Grand Jury indictment No. 11). The trial lasts four days and ends when all five defendants are convicted and sentenced to death by hanging…….

And, it does not speak well for “frontier” justice at that time:

“How the Cayuse made the decision to turn in those five men is not known. There was some speculation, at the time and afterward, that the Cayuse simply gave up five volunteers in order to appease the whites and end the fighting. For his part, Lane (the Governor of the Oregon Territory) seemed unconcerned about whether any of the prisoners had participated in the killings or whether any of the actual attackers had gone free. ‘The punishment of these Indians,’ he told the Territorial Legislature on May 7, 1850, two weeks before the trial, ‘will remove the barrier to a peace with the Cayuse, and have a good effect upon all the tribes’…….

“Oregon City at that time was a frontier town of about 500. The jail was a one-room structure on Abernethy Island, at the foot of Willamette Falls. There was no courthouse; the trial took place in a tavern, crowded with a couple of hundred onlookers. During the jury selection process, on the morning of May 23, the defense issued so many preemptory challenges that the original panel of 24 prospective jurors had to be augmented with people chosen at random from among the spectators. Eventually, a jury of 12 was empaneled and District Attorney Amory Holbrook (1820-1866) began presenting the prosecution’s case……

“The court heard three hours of summation from the defense and the prosecution and then adjourned. In giving his charge to the jury, at 9 a.m. Friday, May 24, Judge Pratt basically said the defendants’ guilt was proven by the fact that the tribe had turned them over to the authorities. As Lansing points out, ‘Today, Judge Pratt’s actions would have been a clear violation of the hearsay rule and the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment confrontation clause: ‘the accused shall enjoy the right … to be confronted with the witnesses against him’ “‘(Lansing, 151).

The jury deliberated for one hour and 15 minutes before returning the expected verdict: guilty. The defense immediately filed several motions on appeal; all were denied. At 4 p.m., Judge Pratt reconvened the court and pronounced his sentence. He ordered the prisoners to be confined until 2 p.m. on Monday, June 3, 1850, when they were to be taken by the U.S. marshal — Joe Meek — to a gallows to be erected in Oregon City, ‘and there by him be hung by the neck, until you are dead’ (Oregon Spectator, May 30, 1850).”

(History Link Essay No. 9401 – By Cassandra Tate – Posted 4/16/2010: “Trial of Five Cayuse Accused of Whitman Murder Begins on May 21, 1850.” https://www.historylink.org/File/9401)

The story has a woeful ending according to this account in article from MyNorthwest.com by Feliks Banel on 11/29/2-017:

“The Cayuse Five were [named] Clokomas, Kiamasumkin, Isiaasheluckas, Tomahas and Telokite,’ Karson Engum said. ‘They were hung in Oregon City and they were taken off in a cart and they were put either in an unmarked grave or in a mass grave, and at this point, there’s ideas that they may be under a parking lot somewhere in Oregon City or in some not necessarily unknown cemetery.’

Those interested in this story and related history will hear more in coming months as the area in question and adjacent to the Falls View Tavern is part of the Willamette Falls Legacy Project.  While the Whitman massacre was a tragedy, the manner in which the accused were convicted adds to the sad narrative.

Interested parties including the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, various historians and government agencies involved in the project including the City of Oregon City and Metro are involved in bringing more information to light as set forth in this article by Oregon City historian, James Nicita, in the 6/13/18 Clackamas Review entitled A step towards healing: Repatriating the Cayuse Five; author offers theory on gravesite location.”

Photo Attribution

*1  https://www.facebook.com/highlandstillhousepub/photos

/a.442627192277/154748597277/

*2 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:

A_classic_Black_pair_of_Converse_All_Stars_resting_on_the_Black_%26_White_

Ed._Shoebox_ (1998-2002).JPG Author: Hadley1978  at English Wikipedia

*3 – *7 Falls View Tavern Website (https://thefallsviewtavern.com/)

Standing on the Corner…..Corner 14 That Is!

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  Since this is a long post, if you are seeing it 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.)

Corner 14 is a great “new” family-oriented venue in Oregon City where one can get “great food, spirits and brew,” in both an expansive outdoor environment, or now that restrictions are lifted, in a nice indoor space as well. 

I’ve been there four times in the last two months and all visits were enjoyable with good beer and delicious food – each time from a different choice in the eclectic food carts on the premises.  And I’m delighted that an entrepreneurial family was willing to take a risk in the town in which I spent a good part of my youth. 

Find out below, why you should put this on your list of establishments to visit this summer.  But first a little context.  Why should you want to visit Oregon City?

My family moved to Oregon City, Oregon from Ohio in 1960 when I was twelve. Oregon City is a wonderful community – now with about 38,000 people – about twelve miles south of Portland on the Willamette River.   The Oregon City Arch Bridge built in 1922 is an historical landmark.

2016-08-15 16.26.06

History abounds – the city was founded in 1829 by the Hudson Bay Company and in 1844 became the first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains.  The original plat of San Francisco was filed there. (See end of post for photo attribution *).

Willamette_Falls_(Clackamas_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(clacD0069)

For many years, it was a mill town with Publishers Paper at the south end of Main Street and Crown Zellerbach right across the River on Willamette Falls in West Linn. *1  That’s the site of the first multi-level navigational locks in the US.

The Willamette Falls Legacy Project is a public (four government entities) and is owned by the Confederated Tribes of Grande Rhonde who own the site. 

It’s also the only city with an outdoor municipal elevator in the US. The Oregon City Municipal Elevator (130-foot vertical lift) was originally constructed in 1915 and was water-powered. (It required riders to navigate a wooden catwalk between the exit and the Promenade at the top.) The current elevator replaced it in 1955.

P1040519

The Elevator took me from the second level and the top of the basalt cliff to downtown where I delivered the The Oregon Journal in junior high.

Our home was on Center Street on the second level – across the street from the historic John McLoughlin House – I also mowed and took care of the McLoughlin House lawn during the summer for $20 per week.*5

250px-john_mcloughlin_house_oregon_city.jpg_3534603314

Living in OC was like taking a continuous class in Oregon History.  Our first house at 720 Center Street was built in 1908 and owned and occupied by Captain M.D. Phillips

“He served during the Spanish American War as a member of Company I of the Second Oregon Regiment of Oregon Volunteers. He replaced Captain Pickens while in the Philippines.

Captain Phillips was co-owner of the Riverbank Skating Rink in Downtown Oregon City with G. Olds and later was employed as foreman by Crown Willamette Company.” (City of Oregon City Planning Department)” 

Main Street is filled with historic buildings and the Carnegie Library – only about four blocks from our house – was built in 1913.  The City’s infrastructure such as the Oregon City-West Linn Bridge and the Elevator are on the National Register of Historic Places.

After Oregon City High School in 1966 and graduation from Oregon State University and Naval Service, I returned to Oregon City.   My first “real” job was working for Clackamas County for seven years – first in the Elections Department and then for the County Commissioners – right on Main Street where I used to deliver the paper.

Oregon City also means a lot to me because that’s where I met my wife of forty-one years, Janet.  I ultimately served on the Oregon City Planning Commission for almost eight years and was Chair.  Janet was hired as the City’s first Citizen Involvement Coordinator – important because we spent over a year developing the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan

The first time I laid eyes on her was at a 1979 evening Planning Commission meeting and since the process and decisions could often be controversial with the various constituencies, no one knew we were dating until we got engaged that September.  Janet went on to become the Assistant City Manager for both Oregon City and West Linn.

In the late ’70’s, we were concerned that downtown Oregon City was slowly withering away with shops, professional offices and restaurants moving away or going out of business and the distinct possibility that the Courthouse and many County buildings would move to the Red Soils area which is about five miles from downtown.

Fortunately, in the last several years, downtown Oregon City has had a revival, of sorts.  Although not helped by the pandemic, there are new shops, restaurants and bars and the Courthouse stayed in its original location and expanded to a building across Main Street. Now, it’s difficult to find a parking place and downtown is thriving. 

I’m therefore pleased to say that on a busy corner – only two blocks east of the north end of Main Street – at the corner of 14th and Washington Streets – there’s now what I’ll label as a “new community watering hole” named Corner 14.  And it’s right across from the Oregon City Brewing Company – also a nice establishment.

Corner 14 is the brainchild of Cherisse Reilly and her father, Dan Fowler, who opened their new venture in February, 2021.  Both are long-time Oregon City people, she a 1997 grad of OCHS and her dad from cross-river rival, West Linn HS in 1971, but then moving back to OC where he eventually became Mayor

Cherise and Dan – daughter and father and fellow entrepreneurs *10

His parents also graduated from OCHS (grandfather Dale Fowler in 1949, grandmother Norma (Schubert) Fowler) in 1950.  Both Dan and Cherisse have been involved in businesses and historic restoration in Oregon City for many years. They describe Corner 14 as:

“Founded and operated by a father and daughter with a deep love for the community of Oregon City.”

Corner 14 is not a bar per se’ but a large lot that houses twelve esoteric food carts, an expansive area with numerous picnic tables – many of which are undercover and have small propane burners to keep patrons warm.  Oh yes, there’s also an ax throwing cube – more on that later.

There’s an indoor area housing a bar in the structure that for many years was “Spicer Brothers’ Produce Market.”  When the Spicers sold it, Dan and Cherisse leased it from the new owner to bring to life a concept they had been thinking about for some time.

In the indoor bar area, they have 24 taps (twenty beer, two cider and two wine taps).  It includes gluten-free selections. Their most popular beers are two of my favorites – Boneyard RPM IPA and Pfriem Pillsner.   If you want a cocktail, they also have a good selection and skilled bartenders.

In the last six weeks, I’ve been to Corner 14 four times and loved it.  It had the advantage of being a great place to eat and drink in a covered (also uncovered if desired) outside area before pandemic restrictions were lifted to allow indoor dining.  They also have live music several nights each week.

They took a risk in bringing to life a community concept with the same “outdoor vibe” as Bend in such establishments as the Crux Fermentation Project.  Bringing it to fruition took patience and perseverance since the City Zoning Code at the time did not provide for food carts. 

Clackamas County had no similar concept and, of course, there were the usual hoops to jump through to secure licenses from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and food permits, etc.

The pandemic-caused lockdowns, which occurred shortly after they opened, undoubtedly caused them to pause, wonder about timing and move forward cautiously; however, they have not altered the original concept.  

And upon reflection, since outdoor venues were the only ones that could serve food and beverages for quite some time, there were some advantages because Corner 14 was the venue with the most outdoor seating in the area.   (We found that out the first time my wife and I visited it while indoor options were still not available. (They were also good with mask protocols so one could feel safe.)

Ten excellent Food Cart selections

I had food from three different food carts (Shawarma Express, Adelina’s Mexican Food and Maw Maws Cajun Kitchen).  The pricing was very reasonable, the food excellent and portions plentiful.  Cherisse said that when they were considering the concept, the food cart vendors came to them and they selected the mix based on having food diversity, but more importantly, “owners that were a good fit and great people.”

My favorite was Mediterranean vendor Shawma Express where I had a scrumptious lamb sandwich on saj bread which was big enough for dinner that night and lunch the next day.  The complete list of food carts and their menus are on the Corner 14 website.

The “Celtic Ax Throwers” booth is from a company that originated at the now-closed Feckin Brewery just south of Oregon City and one of the first ax vendors in the area.  The owners decided to market the concept and now have them in five bars and breweries in the US and even have private parties for this type of competition which is obviously more aggressive than darts! 

Cherisse said the activity is very popular and since I worked in a law firm for many years, she responded well when I asked questions about insurance and liability issues, especially since it’s in an area where people are drinking alcoholic beverages.

These two articles from the Daily Nebraskan in 2019 are Point – Counterpoint pieces on the wisdom of this concept with the debate “Do Ax Throwing Bars Provide a Fun, Different Escape from Reality?” or “Are They a Reckless New Fad.”   Evidently the State of Nebraska prohibits ax throwers from having more than two beers!

So what’s ahead?   Cherisse Reilly when I asked her what has been the biggest surprise since they started, didn’t hesitate and said, “The amount of support we have received from the Community.”  As evidence, each time I’ve been there, the place has been bustling with enthusiastic individuals and families.

The aforementioned Oregon City Brewing is expanding across the street and plans food carts, but rather than view it as competition. Cherisse stated positively, “Activity breeds activity.”

I have to mention before ending that my last visit two weeks ago was with a frequent Beerchasing companion and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Jim Westwood – a fellow OCHS graduate.  His mom, Catherine, was my (and his, a few years earlier) Latin teacher for two years in high school.  (That is some indication of how old we are….).

Jim Westwood with a Boneyard RPM

This retired appellate lawyer and I were reminiscing about life in Oregon City including the 1964 Christmas Flood that affected the Northwest and Northern California.  It was a          100-year flood caused by unique weather conditions that Jim explained – he has a long-time interest in meteorology – even appearing as a weekend weatherman on Portland television in past years.

Also at the corner of 14th and Washington – across the street from Corner 14 is my high school classmate Tony Petrich family’s fish market – founded by his dad, Tony Sr. in 1936.  You can see from the two of the pictures, the impact of the 1964 weather event.  The Willamette River is over two long blocks from Tony’s Fish Market – also worth a visit and including delicious fish and chips.

*12

Photo Attribution for Photos not taken by Don Williams

*1  Willamette Falls – Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain – Author: Angelus Commercial Studio, Portland, Oregon  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Willamette_Falls_–_at_Oregon_City,_Oregon_(75494).jpg

*2  Willamette Falls – Wikimedia Commons – Author: Garry Halvorson, Oregon State Archives 2006 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Willamette_Falls_(Clackamas_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(clacD0069).jpg)

*3 Willamette Falls Locks – Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Willamette_Falls_Locks_1915.jpg)

*4 Original Oregon City Elevator Mural – Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: EncMstr – 16 Dec 2006 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oregon_City_Municipal_Elevator_mural_original_elevator_P1331.jpeg)

*5 Captain Phillips House – 720 Center Street (https://www.orcity.org/planning/720-center-street-captain-md-phillips-house)

*6 The Dr. John McLoughlin House on Center Street – Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  Author: Mark Goebel from Taos, New Mexico, USA – 28 June 2006 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_McLoughlin_House,_Oregon_City.JPG_(3534603314).jpg)

*7 Carnegie Library Oregon City – Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Srandjlsims 29 May 2012 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OREGON_CITY_OREGON_CARNEGIE_LIBRARY_copy.jpg)

*8 Main Street Oregon City circa 1920 – Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain – Source: Carey, Charles Henry. (1922). History of Oregon. Pioneer Historical Publishing Co. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oregon_City_Main_Street_1920.jpg)

*9  Clackamas County Courthouse – Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Another Believer 22 April 2018 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oregon_City,_Oregon_(2018)_-_008.jpg)

*10 Cherisse Reilly and Dan Fowler – Courtesy of Cherisse Reilly.

*11 Corner 14 Barroom – (https://www.corner14oc.com/)

*12 Washington Street during 1964 Christmas Food – Photo Courtesy of Clackamas County Archives.

Get a Read on the Rose City Book Club – Even Now!!

Explanatory Note

I was ready to publish this post on March 15th, but decided in light of world events, that perhaps I should suspend Thebeerchaser.com. for some period.   Offsetting this sentiment about being insensitive were quite a few comments from followers and family that by providing narratives that are on the lighter side right now might be appreciated and provide a diversion from the news.

With that in mind, I will do a few posts about some establishments that I visited months and maybe even a year or two ago, but never had the time to write – not the situation now….. You’ll also see updates on some bars and breweries that are adapting and still doing a good job of serving their customers now – in creative ways that comply with the Oregon’s regulations.

Such is the case with Rose City Book Pub, where owner, Elise Schumock, who you will meet below, is still open for “take out food, growler fills, and book sales.”  Her new hours are 11 am until 10 pm.  Check out the introductory paragraphs in her website which convey what she is doing and some great options you should consider not only for your own enjoyment, but to support a small business owner during this crisis.  (I visited Rose City three times in the last year.)

And if you have any thoughts about if and where Thebeerchaser should “go” in the next weeks – other than to have a draft beer in your favorite watering hole, leave a comment.    Don Williams aka Thebeerchaser

Cheers!

I have to admit that when I read about bars that have a dual function e.g. a tap room and also serve as a cycle or record shop, etc. it evokes reservations.   The bars and watering holes I love (all 367 in the last eight years) are almost always characterized by patrons – especially the regulars in dive bars – engaged in active discussions and interaction.

At home in a tavern…..

Two quotes by Samuel Johnson reinforce this idea although I have used the first on this blog before:

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”

and

“’As soon,’ said he, ‘as I enter the door of a tavern, I experience an oblivion of care, and a freedom from solicitude : when I am seated….wine there exhilarates my spirits, and prompts me to free conversation and an interchange of discourse with those whom I most love.’”

Philosopher opposed nukes….

Would a book pub be one where patrons immerse themselves in 500-page volumes of Tolstoy or quietly ponder philosopher and historian, Bertrand Russell’s views on nuclear disarmament with only an occasional sip of a brewski while deliberately refraining from any typical barroom banter?

Thus, I had some skepticism about the announcement of the new Rose City Book Pub (hereafter RCBP) when it opened in November, 2018. Part of that was from the fond memories I had at a Beerchasing event in 2012.

I joined colleagues who were members of the Schwabe Williamson law firm Environmental and Natural Resources group when County Cork was located in the same space on NE Fremont.  It’s a charming space in a wonderful old building built in 1927.

Schwabe Environmental lawyers toasting the EPA in an Irish Pub

We had both cheerful and weighty conversations and we liked the pub’s Irish theme.  Brien Flanagan, who is now the leader of that group, a Notre Dame undergrad before law school, even told the joke about the Irish boomerang: “It doesn’t come back. It just sings songs about how much it wants to.”

Why Should You Visit the Rose City Book Pub?

After three visits and a great interview with the cordial and interesting owner, Elise, however, my reservations disappeared and I will return.  The concept works quite well.

And since on two of the three visits to the new establishment were also with lawyers who are Beerchasing regulars (former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Jim Westwood – and Bernie Stea), the company was equally stimulating at both County Cork and RCBP.

Elise, Bernie and Jim

I say this as a non-attorney who worked with lawyers for forty years and as one family member said, was a victim of the curse, “May your life be filled with lawyers.”  I loved my career in legal management, however, and as evidenced by these three examples, still spend a lot of time Beerchasing with lawyers – voluntarily…..

The RCPB has a very nice physical layout and ambiance.  And in spite of my concern that it might tend to be a bunch of bibliophiles burying their faces in books, it was exactly the opposite.

Although there are some nice niches where one can cozy up with a book, most people are reading, socializing or working on computers at tables or booths which are an  integral part of the large comfortable and bustling room or chatting at the bar.  The book shelves on each of the far sides provide nice “bookends,” if you will, sitting against walls which are attractively painted.

And the bar with about ten barstools fronts the kitchen where the jovial staff has ongoing interaction with customers.   There’s also some nice art by local artists scattered throughout.

Bar opens to kitchen

What About Elise?

We should talk a little bit about Elise, who based on her outgoing personality, her entrepreneurial spirit and her interesting background deserves accolades.

Elise – “temporary” hiatus in LA….

This Portland native, who attended Grant High School, and then Whitman College, where she majored in Education.   She graduated during the recession and there were no jobs teaching Latin in the NW – her career choice – so she moved to LA in 2001.  She then worked at an elite K-12 private school in which the annual tuition was $40,000.   Her second week as a teacher started with the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City.

The neophyte educator tutored and taught Latin, which started a great conversation since Jim Westwood’s mom, Catherine, was both Jim’s and my Latin teacher for two years at Oregon City High School in the ‘60’s.   I threw out the only two Latin words I remember – “pulchra puella” which means beautiful girl.

Caeser – Bloody in Canada…

So Jim and Elise started talking about the Roman Empire and to keep it in context he informed us that a Bloody Caesar is the Canadian version of a Bloody Mary except it includes clam broth.

Her goal was always to return to Portland and after seventeen years, a friend, Matan Gold, had an conceptual idea about a “book pub” in Portland and she thought, “I could do that!”   After a six-month search, she found the building “which perfectly matched my parameters.

Is this used book store and pub the only such combination in Portland?  Well, according to critic Michael Russell in Oregon Live:

As noted by Eater PDX, which broke the bar news last week, this will be Portland’s first such establishment, joining Boston’s Trident Cafe, the Spotty Dog in Hudson, or Afterwords in Washington, D.C.”

They opened on November 3, 2018 and after starting months that saw packed houses,  the first part 2019 “was pretty lean.”  Since that time things have gone very well.  (With that said, Elise, who goes by the title of Book Publican, like any small business owner is concerned about the long-term economic impact of the Corona Virus.)

So does the RCBP have the feel of a typical pub or of a bookstore that just offers some alcoholic beverages.   Let’s look at Willamette Week’s well-stated description in January, 2019:

“It has all the makings of a Portland cliché: craft brews, staged poetry readings, rows of old, obscure books. But don’t be deterred by appearances. The simple bar manages to fuse two of the city’s trademarks—beer and used books—without a drop of pretension…..

This isn’t a bookstore you enter seeking something specific. It’s a humble, well-curated selection, presented for carefree browsing and happenstance discovery. Plus, the bar’s inviting atmosphere and free-flowing beer taps are a recipe for a rare Portland occurrence: chatting with strangers.” (Emphasis supplied)

What’s to Drink?

They have fourteen rotating micro and two nitros on tap in addition to two ciders and Kombucha.  As you can see from the image below, the beers are diverse and comprise 3 IPA’s, a couple amber ales, a Kolsch and Pilsner and a sour ale.  Elise reports, however, that her top single seller is the house red wine – one of four.

You can also have a cocktail as well. And the next time I go back, I will definitely supplement my beer and with a root beer float for $5.

Bernie Stea, a member of the elite law school honorary, Order-of-the-Coif and not to be outdone by Westwood’s erudition in his reference to the Roman Empire, made a point of ordering one of Camas, Washington brewery Grains of Wrath‘s beer.  He then quoted  John Steinbeck – thinking we might see the connection:

“There is nothing in the world like the first taste of beer.”

And his preference for beer from the Camas brewery is understandable since Bernie and his wife, former Portland radio personality, Debb Janes, have a successful high-end residential real estate practice there – View Homes of Clark County.

Grains of Wrath – A good Camas brewery option…..

What’s to Eat?

Elise on her website describes their menu as, “….cafe and bistro style with hearty, whole ingredients and bold flavors.” 

And while I didn’t eat there, it appears to be pretty robust and offers more options than one would expect ranging from sandwiches, salads, appetizers and even some entrees such as roasted chicken and pork shoulder – the latter at reasonable prices of $12.50 and $16.00 respectively.   Also deserts and a kids’ menu.

One Yelp reviewer commented that they should have more vegan options and Elise replied:

Our vegan options are Mediterranean Sandwich, Quinoa Bowl, Pasta Puttanesca, Hummus Plate, Fries made in our gf and vv fryer.  One of the rotating soups is always vegan, and several of our snacks are vegan, including olives, Chex mix, gf pretzels, hummus and carrots, apples and peanut butter, and ants on a log. 

The term “pub crawl” doesn’t apply to this snack.

Elsie asserted the need for diversity in her menu by also stating, “Vegans have friends who are not vegan.”

(BTW,I didn’t know what “ants on a log” were and was relieved when I learned the snack is made by “…spreading cream cheese, peanut butter, ricotta cheese…..on spreads of celery and placing raisins on top.” (Wikipedia)

For those put off by the title, it’s better than one of the variations “ticks on a stick” – substitute black olives for the raisins.  Elise asserted that ants on a log goes very well with a shot of whiskey.

She and her staff (Christine, Amy and John, the cook) are very friendly and helpful in explaining the food options and a very impressive tap list for a small, new establishment.

Christine and Amy are great ambassadors for the pub

One thing I have noticed in the eight years of my watering hole travels is that the bars that appear to be successful and radiate a welcoming vibe are those that have become a “community” of sorts, not only within their neighborhood but for those who gather socially from other parts of the City.

Elise promotes this approach stating:

“We host all kinds of events: readings and live music, book clubs, fundraisers, and stuff for kids, We aim to build a community, and become a hub of sharing, discussion, and good times.”

Stuff for kids…

And the Calendar-of-Events on their website is filled with gatherings such as Trivia Night every Wednesday from 7:00 to 9:00, affirms it.  Live music also brings in patrons on the evenings its offered.

They also have a very nice back patio.

What’s to Read?

The inventory of books on the shelves and in niches throughout the large space is about 5,000 (with about another 100 boxes in storage)  and Elise’s specialty is literary fiction.  They also have kids’ books.

How are the Reviews?

Certainly, one way to get a feel for how things are going besides personal visits and talking to the owner, is checking out social media reviews.   I always try to see if there are themes and if their are trends to the comments.  Also, if there are any crazy reviewers which is often the case.

My son-in-law, Ryan Keene orders from Christine

In the first year of operation, one would expect some negative reviews but other than one reviewer who complained that she thought it was too loud and another that he thought that it was too quiet and they needed music, many of the reviews were almost effusive (see below).

I was impressed that whenever there was a comment with even a mild criticism or some suggestions for improvements, Elise always responded – a smart move for any business owner.  And I did find one from 12/7/19 that seemed at least at little bit crazy:

Everyone here seemed nice, but snobby. I found myself to be the only one of 7-8 people grooming the book shelves in search of a life changing event. Most people keyed away on their laptops or tablets.

I really just didn’t like the kind of people in this place. Maybe it’s that I don’t fit in. I felt like I was surrounded by angry feminists and judgmental leftists. I was wearing business attire and the glares I got were uncomfortable. I just didn’t feel like I fit in. Otherwise this would be a 5/5”

I hope this person had a life-changing event other than the one all of us have experienced in the last few weeks, but in contrast, the comments below describe the ambiance of the pub:

“This place feels like a comfortable mix of a Powell’s and your favorite corner bar. People were sitting alone reading and sipping beer, playing games with family, meeting up with a friend or having a glass of wine while they worked on their computer.  I got lucky enough to meet the owner, Elise, who is as charming as this pub. She has made a place that everyone can feel welcome.”   (Yelp 12/29/19)

Beautiful space with friendly ‘barbarians’ and a warm atmosphere. Will definitely be back!” (Yelp 3/11/20)

“I stopped in for the first time on my latest trip to Portland and absolutely fell in love!  This place is basically Portland in a pub.”    (Yelp 9/12/19)

“Only in Portland will you find a place as cool as this. Where east meets west, the place that defines PDX. If you thought Powells was cool, this place trumps it in all aspects.”   (Yelp 7/22/19)

What’s Holding You Back?

And finally, another one that is more evidence that you should drop by and say “hello” to Elise and her staff:

“This place is pretty awesome! Do you ever have a book and want to read? Do you ever want to read with beer and or wine, maybe a cocktail? Not a bar, not some scene place, but some place where you can actually read. I’ve long wanted one and this is it.

It’s a mash up if you’re favorite small bookstore had food and drinks, this is what would happen. We came here for bookclub and it was so fun. We had a great discussion, their selection of beers on tap is extensive and they have several food options.”

And if you feel so inclined, you can even bring in and post some original writing or poetry for patrons to view which occupy one wall and add another nice community touch.  This photo  shows  their  “Take a Poem/Leave a Poem” feature.  Some are original works, some are copies of published works.  Another nice touch. (And by the way, if you want to help, the RCBP also takes donations of books.)

Rose City Book Pub     

1329 NE Fremont

 

Okay Beerchasers – This is No Bar Joke!!


(Cheers to my wonderful sister-in-law, Pam Williams, for doing the calligraphy and graphic above.)

Those who follow this blog, know that it started as a hobby after I retired in 2011 as the COO of Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt – a large Portland law firm where I had worked over twenty-five years.  The whim to visit and write about bars and breweries came after a lunchtime drop-in to Lumpy’s Landing in Dundee on the way to the Oregon coast.

While the plan was initially to confine my exploits to just Portland area establishments, our retirement travel combined with my wife, Janet’s, discovery that she liked IPA’s rather than confining her beverage selection to strictly Oregon Pinots, offered the opportunity to expand this “journey” to Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, many regions of the US and throughout Oregon – from the coast to the Cascades to Eastern Oregon.

Raising a mug at the historic Dirty Nelly’s Tavern in Boston

So at the end of 2018, my count of reviews – all of them except when traveling, consisting of at least two visits, was at 287.  Of these 111 were in the Portland metro area with the remaining 176 watering holes, scattered throughout the aforementioned localities.  The post below – published in January provides a complete list by year of those venues:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/01/17/hey-have-you-seen-thebeerchaser-during-the-last-seven-years/

A week-long trip to Phoenix in March this year for Spring Training, hikes and Beerchasing upped that count by eight and reviews of four Oregon establishments, The Gemini in Lake Oswego, Old Town Brewing and the Bantam Tavern in Portland and Beachcrest Brewing on the Central Oregon Coast, raised the tally to 299.

The “living wall” at the unique Pigtails Bar in Scottsdale.

The threshold of this significant milestone, begged the question of the appropriate bar or brewery to “honor” as # 300 as well as which Beerchaser regular to ask to join me for that momentous occasion.

The Leaky Roof  (hereafter “The Roof”) – a wonderful and long-time SW Portland neighborhood bar or gastro pub – founded in 1947 – originally as a food cart and one that survived a devastating fire, seemed fitting.  It had been a convenient (two blocks away) and cherished gathering place for many after-work brewskis with my colleagues when I worked at the Oregon State Bar from 1979 through 1985.

I returned there after an absence of 33 years in June 2018, with Janet and some good friends and Beerchaser regulars (David and Kate Dickson and Roy Lambert and his spouse Mary Maxwell).  We had a great meal and sampled their good tap list and I vowed to return for my second review and subsequent blog post.

The 2018 return visit

That occurred on May 6th and it was absolutely appropriate that my long-time friend, Dennis B. Fergson accompanied me.   I first met Fergy in 1979, when I started at the Bar Association and the firm for which he was President and Chairman of the Board – JBL & K Insurance, served as the Bar’s benefits consultants.

After “retiring” from insurance and since he knows everyone in Portland, he has worked at Portland State University – first as Assistant Athletic Director and currently as Senior Philanthropic Advisor.  (That means he knows who to approach in the Rose City to donate to the City’s excellent university – of which both my wife and I are alums in the graduate Masters in Public Administration program.)

I will return to Denny later in the post, but we had a great lunch – Fergy had one of the many – perhaps hundreds – of cheeseburgers he has consumed during lunches over our forty-year friendship. I had a great Reuben sandwich, which rivaled what former Mayor Bud Clark’s Goose Hollow Inn down the street claims as the “Best Reuben on the Planet.”
I was surprised that The Roof has not been named as one of Portland’s go-to bars in Willamette Week’s Annual Bar Guide – an excellent and comprehensive resource for Thebeerchaser since starting this hobby in 2011.

2017 Willamette Week Annual Bar Guide

Other than a brief reference in one article on pub crawls  and a short review by legendary former WW Arts and Culture Editor, Mathew Korfhage in 2013, the only other hit from a Goggle search with WW and the name of the bar in the search terms is a 2017 WW article entitled:

“Portland Woman Sues State Senator Rod Monroe for $3 Million After a Leaky Roof in His East Portland Apartment Building Allegedly Left Her Disabled”.  (emphasis supplied)  It is unknown whether beer or any other alcohol was involved in this incident…..

Korfhage’s revew states, in part:

“The bar serves its once-blue-collar Goose Hollow crowd with triflingly cheap happy-hour food ($4.95 for a one-third-pound burger, 3-6 pm) and costlier dinners, including an excellent lamb shepherd’s pie ($14.50) so spiced it’s almost curried.

Great food besides good whiskey, beer and wine…

The website promises ‘the largest selection of Irish whiskey available in Portland,’and while we can’t verify the claim, the list doesn’t disappoint, with 24 marks and vintages of uisce beatha (the name for whiskey in Irish) in its tiny hearth-and-hardwood space. Dirt-cheap, triple-shot whiskey flights are available….”

 

I did not sample The Roof’s whiskey inventory – Irish, Scotch, Bourbon and Blended – extensive as you can see from their menu – and only had a few of the nine beers on tap – which I was glad to see included both Guiness and PBR

The picture below shows that they have a classic bar set-up which attractively houses the various hard liquors for which the bar has developed a reputation.  They also offer a nice selection of wines.

Another surprise in doing additional research on the bar, is the breadth and excellent quality of their menu – deserving of their claim to be a gastro pub.  It ranges from a robust weekend brunch menu, a good selection of lunch options, to standard starters, sandwiches, salads and seven very reasonably priced dinner entree’s ranging from fried chicken to Shepherds Pie (Korfhage raved about this) to Pecan Crusted Trout to Stuffed Meatloaf – which could be topped off by Crème Brule’e or fried ice cream for dessert.

Great dessert options as well!

Sabrina, our personable and competent server with Denny

And I am sorely tempted to return for their Happy Hour – during certain hours every day of the week in which you could get a bowl of Guinness Irish Stew for a mere $4 plus a buck off your alcohol preference.

I have to admit that as I stated in one previous bar review, having lunch (or breakfast at The Dockside) with Fergy is like winning the lottery, but notwithstanding the character and personality of this remarkable gentleman, it did not influence my positive reaction when reconnecting with The Roof.

Dennis Ferguson, who was one of the Few and The Proud, during his service with the US Marine Corps, is also an outstanding athlete and family man.

We still laugh about the time in the early 1990’s when I walked into a lunch at Huber’s during some stressful law firm merger negotiations.  After a few minutes of conversation, he said to me “Williams, you need to shape up.  Quit slouching and get rid of the monotone and be a leader.”

A few cheeseburgers back……

He has always been motivated, but I think his tendency to be a mentor was born when he was allegedly on a business trip to Keokuk, Iowa in 1985.  He left a message with the hotel front desk to give him a call at 6:30 and when he answered the next morning, the clerk said, “Mr. Ferguson, this is your wake-up call.  What are you going to do with the rest of  your life??”

When I told my wife that I was going to lunch at The Roof with Denny, she said, “Don, you better change.  Denny always looks so classy!”   To top that off, as we walked in, a well-known Portland investment adviser who knows both of us and walked in right before us and came over to our table, looked at Fergy and said, “You never age, do you?”

So to say the least, being around Dennis B. Ferguson ups one’s game, but regardless of whether you have the pleasure of his company in the future as I will, you should give the Leaky Roof a visit – and not just for a drink, but for lunch or dinner.

Perhaps it doesn’t get the publicity or accolades of The Goose because of the well-deserved fondness Portlanders have for Bud Clark, but it scores as one of the premium neighborhood gastro pubs in Portland.

The Leaky Roof       1538 SW Jefferson

 

The Bantam Tavern – Something to Crow* About


Many traditional dives and neighborhood taverns have disappeared from the Portland bar scene and those remaining are at risk given the economy and the tendency to transition the space into higher paying commercial tenants such as condos.  It’s  thus refreshing that a number of Portland entrepreneurs are willing to invest in both traditional and new watering holes.

Rather than the corporate franchises who offer sterile environments such as the Yard House, one can still find quaint environments reflecting individual character thanks, in part, to the efforts of two partnerships – Dan Hart and Chris Navarra and there’s also Warren Boothby and Marcus Archambeault.

A Boothby and Archambeault bar in SE

The latter are responsible for establishments such as Gold Dust Meridian, the rejuvenated Sandy Hut, the Lay Low Tavern and the recently opened Vern, which saved the former Hannigan’s from oblivion.  (the latter two, not yet reviewed by Thebeerchaser.)

Hart and Navarra are co-owners of some of my favorite Beerchasing experiences over the last seven years including Prost, Stammtisch and Interurban, all of which had great beer, outstanding food, wonderful bartenders and servers and an environment that makes one want to return on a regular basis.

Getting the Boot at Prost

They have done it again with the opening of the Bantam Tavern on NW 21st.   Other than to a limited extent in the Pearl District, the concentration of bars – especially good traditional bars – in the NW quadrant, pales in comparison to the Eastside.

The space, formerly occupied by one of the Laughing Planet healthy-food restaurants, which moved across the street, is small and appropriately named as stated by Hart:

“It comes from a bantam, like a small bird or chicken,” he says.  “It’s that ‘small in stature but big in heart’ kind of idea.”

And the Bantam may be diminutive in total size, but packed with the kind of stuff that draws you to a bar.   First, the building in which it’s located is an attractive brick building with an engaging entrance.

Typical Phoenix Brewery – good beer, but strip mall ambiance at Helio Basin.

After recently spending a week in Phoenix in which it seems that about 90% of the bars and breweries – although they had good beer – are located in strip malls and have the ambiance – well….of Phoenix!

The  interior of the Bantam is attractive with only a few tables/booths, but a great bar and backbar. The art and interior décor is distinctive and there’s one TV that is tucked in a back corner, so not overly distracting.  

The idea to hit the Bantam emanated from my friend Steve Oltman, who works only a block away at Sealy Mattress and had said we should make a visit.

In doing preliminary research before the visit, I saw quite a number of really bad social media comments such as this one from Yelp:  “I keep wanting to love it and make it my local bar of choice.  Unfortunately, every experience I have had is just mediocre.”

Steve is a classy guy and I was incredulous that he was so positive — then I realized — I was looking at reviews for the Bantam Pub in Atlanta!

This was Steve’s second Beerchasing event after hitting the Salty Rhino last December, which is a new bar in West Linn that is close to both of our homes.   He’s, a Minnesota native and Moorhead State grad, has a contagious grin and is a good drinking buddy – besides his other great traits!

Besides being a great mixologist, Ollie Gahlsdorf (right) is a very amiable person

They have robust Happy Hour options and each of us had a good Flensburger Pilsner for $4.50 – the first time I have tried this authentic German beer – a good option.   Otherwise, they have eight taps – with some excellent Northwest microbrews including Newburg’s Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery’s Helder and a cider tap.

Also ten diverse bottled beers, including Ranier and Budweiser for traditionalists and more esoteric options such as Tillamook brewery de Garde’s Framboise at $29 for a 750 ml bottle – “an average age of approximately 18 months, and refermented the blend with fresh Oregon red raspberries.”  (Untapped)  There are also eight wine options.

Ollie Gahlsdorf, who previously managed Interurban, is the bar manager and stated that he loves the neighborhood and the patrons trying out the new establishment and “business since we opened has been great.”   He garnered great reviews for his cocktails at Interurban and now has “designed the house cocktails, including the Lions,Tigers and Bears, a Jamaican rum sour with apricot syrup and allspice dram.”  (Oregon Live 10/19/18).

“Oh My!!” Jamaican rum sour with apricot syrup and allspice dram.

There are fifteen interesting options – helpfully broken into sections such as “Strong,”  “Not Too Sweet,” (includes a jell-O-shot, “Hot Drinks” and “Sweet.”  They range from $10 – $12 with steep discounts for the Happy Hour options such as an Old Fashioned.

We did not have time to eat, but the menu is typical of Dan Hart’s establishments and food presentations we saw looked really good:

“Stammtisch chef Grahman Chaney plays more towards the sensibilities at Interurban than those at his day job.

Salty drinking snacks like jerk-seasoned chicken thighs and a Dungeness crab dip with friend wonton chips (both $9 during happy hour) star alongside hearty, meal-sized sandwiches, like a prime rib dip ($15) and a tavern burger ($14) so juicy the first bites caused it to ooze like a punctured water balloon.”   Willamette Week review 11/21/18

And where can you find a bar menu that allows you to have an entrée like Steak Diane for $18 and yet try a Spam Slammer (grilled Spam with teriyaki, mustard, pineapple, hoisin aioli & shaved cabbage on a sweet Hawaiian bun) for $4.   Ollie said the slammers are “a real adventure.”

Both Steve and I are ready to try it when we return – probably in good weather so we can enjoy the nice patio and assuming our wives don’t accompany us….By the way, they also have a worthy assortment of munchies such as olives, popcorn (dressed in Parmesan & espelette pepper) and chicken legs that almost had me reaching over to the plate of the guy next to me at the bar for a sample.

The fourth of Dan Hart’s establishments I’ve visited lived up to the experiences of the others and this bright, attractive bar has everything you want for either a casual beer or a night out.  Steve’s recommendation was spot on.

Both the print and socal media reviews are virtually all positive and I was impressed that Dan Hart personally responded to the one Yelp review that was negative.  Perhaps the best summary is:

“Outstanding happy hour dinner and drinks tonight!.  Great cozy atmosphere, engaging staff, really excellent food (don’t miss the chicken confit, standout fries and a burger, a perfect Old Fashioned and well-curated draft list.  Highly recommend.”  (Yelp 11/14/18)

Bantam Tavern Logo

Bantam Tavern          922 NW 21st 

*   And by the way, Bantam chickens do crow……

The Gemini – Maybe Not Your Sign – But Perhaps Your Bar!

There is a dearth of good neighborhood bars in West Linn and Lake Oswego.   Just before the end of 2018, however, I found a terrific new one less than three miles from my house in West Linn.

The Salty Rhino is a small, no frills, but superb neighborhood pub on Highway 43.   John Lyons and his business partner, Alan Blackwell, are doing a good job of establishing a clientele of regulars since it opened in 2018.

Lake Oswego is a different story.  While there are a few bars, the Gemini Bar and Grill (hereafter “Gemini”) stands out as one that has a lot to offer with an inviting environment.

As Portland Barfly, a credible authority on Portland area bars, states in its review:

“Really the only proper bar in Lake O with a local draw of friendly, mostly younger folks and the occasional monied types on the slum. Remodeled a few years back, ceilings raised, fire place alight. Outdoor seating. Pool x3, sports on multiple screens. 24 beers on tap.” 

While admitting that I’ve gone to this watering hole on State Street in the center of Lake O for years, I have essentially taken it for granted – occasionally just going in for a casual beer with a friend and then forgetting about it.

A gathering of brothers – (albeit old ones…)

It was only in the last fifteen months after attending two gatherings (the most recent two weeks ago) of my SAE fraternity brothers – a bunch of old guys who graduated from Oregon State in the early ’70’s and listening to their comments, then doing some research and afterwards talking to the owner and manager that I came to really appreciate it.

And these frat guys, having started their Beerchasing exploits while in college at legendary Corvallis bars such as Don’s Den, Prices and the Peacock, have strong credibility when it comes to evaluating such establishments..

Corvallis – the start of a life-long educational process…..and the Peacock is still thriving

The Gemini has a long history in this same location and before it was opened by Jerry Casey (whose astrological sign was Gemini) in 1982, it was a bar called the Open Seas.

Casey’s son, Shawn, now owns the building and sold the business to Lordean Moran seven years ago.  She is an attractive and personable lady who lives in West Linn and started as a bartender and then manager at the Gemini.

So why is the Gemini recommended and what distinguishes it as a good neighborhood den?

Besides having ample parking, which can often be a problem at Portland establishments, it’s spacious yet has a cozy atmosphere (two great gas fireplaces), an attractive long bar, two pool tables, a number of smaller spaces or niches to provide some privacy, if desired, and a variety of tables from small rounds to a long community table as well as a larger space in the rear for groups and for weekend music.

It has a kind of funky décor with holiday-type lights illuminating the exposed duct work and ample televisions to see the game you want, yet which don’t overwhelm and detract from the environment.

And don’t forget the deck at the rear, which appeared to be a sure bet in fair weather.

Besides the physical attributes, they have a good selection of beers and ciders on tap (15), specialty cocktails and some favorites which draw great social media reviews (Bloody Mary, Moscow Mule and Margarita).

Good selection of drafts – including PBR, of course.

Lordean also told me they are now offering CBD Soda – a hemp infused soda – the first time I had heard of this offering at a Portland bar although it is becoming more common.  The Gemini sells a lot of it and why not – it’s supposed to:

“…aid sleep, reduce nausea and vomiting, relieve anxiety and reduce contractions in the small intestines,” among other remedies….!

CBD Soda – Medicinal Qualities??

Perhaps this drink has redefined the meaning of the term “On the ropes…”

Then there is the good bar food, the friendly and competent staff, and weekly events including trivia night and popular Texas-holdem tournaments.  The Gemini is also well know for its weekend music.

I guess I could end the review here, but some amplification is fitting.   The first SAE function was in November, 2017.  About twenty-five of us were gathered including some spouses and April, the manager reserved the back room to accommodate us.

Our server was efficient and friendly in handling that size crowd and it was perfect for having a few beers and snacks and catching up after a number of years.

The most recent gathering…

Our most recent get-together was small – only six of us and we all fit at one table.  Grace, our server, was superb and based on the experience of several who make regular visits to the Gemini, she always reflects that customer-service attitude making us feel like we were the only customers in what was a busy bar. (see below for more about Grace)

Unlike many of the establishments I cover, I found no newspaper articles on the history of the bar or reviews by print media such as Willamette Week or The Portland Mercury.   Most of the social media reviews, however, are very positive.

Cozy cubby-holes and niches….

One can go back a number of years and see a few complaints about the sound system or the interior but they have remodeled a number of times over the years and upgraded the sound-system.

There now seems to be little room for complaint. (Yeah, there was one idiot on Yelp who was miffed because they didn’t have Pear Vodka…..)

And Fridays and Saturdays when they have live music, are the nights to hit the Gemini if you want a party-type atmosphere.

The space where the bands play can get filled up pretty quickly and you can reserve a table for a fee which essentially becomes a credit against your bar tab.  I liked this admonition by a Yelp reviewer (1/13/18):

“Plan ahead, save a space by the dance floor, live music is always the best depending on your likes, very talented musicians.  Food is good, service is good, but be patient on busy nights.  And don’t just sit yourselves down like you’re in a five star restaurant and expect to be pampered — not that place. This place  is a fun low key place with great music and a wonderful owner who really cares!

In January, the groups below had weekend Gemini gigs and although my knowledge of this topic is severely lacking, they appear to have good followings and play at some credible establishments in the Portland music scene:

Wild Heart, Kevin Selfe, singer/songwriter Jacob Westfall, Acoustic Minds.

Dancehall Days, My Happy Pill, Will Kinky

Curtis Salgado

Lordean explained that the history of music at the Gemini is rich and such premier NW musicians including Curtis Salgado and Linda Hornbuckle – the late matriarch of the Portland blues and gospel scene – made regular appearances in years past.

When asked for one of the distinguishing characteristics of the bar, the owner said without hesitation, “Safety for our women customers – especially on weekends.”

This assertion was affirmed at least in one of the more unusual Yelp reviews – especially since the bar is in the burbs and Lake Oswego is not the most menacing unless you are intimidated by BMW sedans…..

It makes a valid point, however, about an important issue for bars these days whether in the burbs or in the urban center.  It also helps differentiate the Gemini from many of its competitors:

“I was greeted by the general manager, April, and watched after, the security is watching for creepy guys and actually offered to walk me to my car, the excellence of taking care of female clients, more bars should take this precedent! Absolutely the highest level of personal safety for women!”  (11/24/18 – Yelp)

And Grace, who was effusively praised by the aforementioned fraternity bros. is mentioned specifically in three of the more recent reviews from 2017 and 2018, the most ebullient and yet succinct of which was: One word… GRACE!”  (11/12/17).

One Word — “Grace!”

April also draws additional kudos from social media plus the SAE’s as well and when I chatted with her, it was obvious that she takes pride in the bar she manages and has a great relationship with her customers.

April

Now without getting too compulsive on the Yelp reviews, this one (3/6/2018) sums it up pretty well:

“This place is the BEST! GREAT food, service, and a comfortable place! I recommend this place. You’re NOT going to find a better bar/restaurant in downtown Lake Oswego. I enjoy the dignity and service that is given to me. IT’S IMPORTANT TO FEEL GOOD, WHEN YOU GO OUT.”

Two parting notes:

First, when I saw the shelf of gnomes or trolls shown below in the wall opposite the bar, I initially thought it was kind of weird and tacky and not consistent with the setting.   But after talking to Lordean, it reinforced the idea of this bar as a “community” of sorts, as was the case with the aforementioned Salty Rhino and other great neighborhood bars.

Gnome Contest – perhaps garrish, but a great benefit to Children’s Cancer Association

She said that this “Gnome Program” started five years ago when a little girl named Lexie was diagnosed with cancer.  Lordean came up with the idea of buying the gnomes and having a contest to paint them.  The Gemini brings in “judges” to determine the winners, and all the proceeds go to help Lexie through the Children’s Cancer Association.

The program has continued and they have raised significant funds.  They also support fundraisers for Camp Millennium – a free camp in Roseburg for children who have received a cancer diagnosis.

Secondly, one of the six SAEs who was at the Gemini recently was not in the group picture because he volunteered to take it.  I remedied that by having someone else take the photo at the end of the post.  Craig (The Dude) Hanneman was a roommate for several terms at the SAE house in 1968.

Thebeerchaser and The Dude in 1968

The amazing story of this former farm boy from Turner, Oregon can be viewed in Thebeerchaser post I published in 2012 when he was named Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.

Up to last week at the Gemini, the Dude and I were kind of even i.e. in 1969, I coached him through Dr. Edward G. McGrath’s upper-division political science seminar.

We plodded through topics such as the political economy of development and underdevelopment, social change, democracy, authoritarianism and regime change, nationalism and constitutional design.  (This was substantively different than him having to learn how to defend the Triple-Option Flexbone Offense when he was an All-American defensive tackle for OSU.)

Defending the Triple-option flex…..

In return, he taught me how to appreciate the lyrics, tonality and meter of Dean Martins’ Greatest Hits album, most notably what became my favorite song in college – “Thirty More Miles to San Diego.”

But that day at the Gemini, he inspired me with a new technique when toasting with a friend for which I am grateful and owe him.  It’s wise advise for all drinkers.  He said:

“Dirt, typically when people propose a toast, they look at the ceiling or have no focus with their eyes. 

From this day forward, whenever you toast, you should  adopt my practice of looking the other party(ies) straight in the eye when you say ‘Cheers.’  That way they know you mean it and it’s not an empty gesture.”

Astute advice from an old buddy…..

Make a point to hit the Gemini in the near future, if not for a musical group on the weekend, just to drop in for a beer and to say hello to April and Grace.   Tell them that Thebeerchaser sent you….

The Gemini Bar and Grill         456 State Street        Lake Oswego

Hunt Down the Salty Rhino…

Michael Lammers and Steve Oltman

Since the commencement of Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs in 2011, I have visited many watering holes not only in Oregon, but all over the US and a few in Europe.   While I tend to search out dive bars, my last review was on a wonderful upscale SE Portland Cuban bar specializing in daiquiris.  Indeed, Palomar, was designated Oregon Live’s Bar-of-the-Year for 2018.

The bar at Palomar

But in trying to maintain equilibrium in this hobby, I decided it had been too long since I featured a neighborhood bar in the Portland area.

So I contacted two friends and we decided to hit the Salty Rhino Pub – a relatively new neighborhood bar just a few miles from our houses in West Linn.  Steve Oltman and Michael Lammers joined me for my first visit to this pub which opened in April, 2018.

John Lyons with Steve Oltman

John Lyons and Alan Blackwell are the co-owners and it is a delightful neighborhood establishment with great ambiance, friendly staff, good beer selection and what should be a bright future.

I did not have the chance to meet Alan, but John is the epitome of a good bar manager – outgoing, helpful and a wonderful deadpan sense of humor – also a native Bostonian and New England Patriot fan.

The pub space has good roots, having been the former Cask and Keg Public House, which moved to larger quarters – also on Highway 43 in West Linn to a former Starbucks.  Before that, what is now the Rhino, was an OLCC liquor outlet.

The co-owners, both of whom have construction backgrounds, worked together for years building condos for Pulte Homes in San Diego.

John Lyons – looking good in an ugly sweater, but how would it look on Belichick??

They did the remodel work on the pub themselves and the walls, tables, beautiful dark bar and game rooms are a great blend which furthers the ambiance of the place.   And John also pointed out with a straight face that “We have the best women’s bathroom in West Linn.”

Commendable Commode!

John, whose wife is from West Linn, moved to Oregon before his partner and went to work tending bar at the predecessor pub.   Alan moved up when the opportunity to partner in the new bar arose.

Their good relationship is evidenced by the fact that Alan and his wife and have lived for the last year in the basement of the Lyons’ house.  That will continue until the Blackwell’s new house being constructed on Nixon Ave. in West Linn is completed.

Lived on Nixon Avenue in West Linn….

That street name took me back and long-time Portland Trailblazer fans may remember that Nixon Avenue housed the A-frame where legendary center, Bill Walton, lived when he first joined the Portland NBA team in 1974.

Given the former President’s recent demise and asked why he chose that street, Walton said something to the effect of “Well, they didn’t try to impeach the street!”  

What did the street know and when did it know it???

Note:  I thought the A-frame might have been scraped as it was somewhat unorthodox and in a nice section of West Linn by the Willamette River. If you look on Google Earth , however, and do a search on Nixon Ave., it appears that you can still see the house.

Of course, my curiosity got to me and I had to return to see if the house was still where I remembered it from years ago.   It appears to be with some additions to the original structure.

“That’s what makes it so fun to be on a team. You’re sitting at your house, thinking up this wild, crazy stuff as to how it’s going to go, and the other guys are sitting at their houses doing the same thing.” Bill Walton – Brainy Quote.com

But I digress….

The Beer Selection

Besides a good selection of red and white wines, the Salty Rhino has fourteen rotating beers and two ciders on tap.  When asked how they select their sixteen offerings, John replied that based on his bartending in the prior pub and his ongoing interactions with customers, he has a good feel for what they like and what gives the Rhino a diversified and popular tap list.

Steve Oltman is a Coors Light guy.  and I experimented with two new micro-brews – at least they were for me.

On the first visit I had the Night Owl Pumpkin Ale by Elysian (6.7 ABV):

“Ale brewed with pumpkin & pumpkin seeds & fermented with spices. Our original pumpkin ale is brewed with over 7 lbs. of pumpkin per barrel and spiced in conditioning with nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger and allspice.”

And on the next day’s return visit, I enjoyed a spectacular Snow Cave Wintertime Ale (10 ABV) by Crux Fermentation Project in Bend.

Snow Cave A great winter ale

“Boasting an alluring spice character from Belgian yeast and suggestions of seasonal dark fruit, Snow Cave is a nuanced sipper you can cozy up with around the fire pit.”

Both had nice aromas and great spicy tastes which made the cold night/day warmer with the color of the Snow Cave a rich mahogany that made it even more inviting.

Now to be fair to Steve, I should also provide a comparable rating from RateBeer.com on Coors Light 4.2 ABV – to wit: “Draft. Very light, golden straw, snow-what foam. Light aroma: corn, pilsner malt, a little apple. Taste: light, very watery, a little malt, corn and yeast, very tasteless.” 

While the alcohol content was much lower than my beers, so was the price of the Coors at $3 – 100% less than my micro-brews…..Steve also enjoys an IPA “from time to time.”)

John and Alan are wise in being very generous at letting people have a taste to ensure they get a brew they like. He said that one of their most popular drafts is Astoria’s  Fort George Fields of Green – a limited batch “evolutionary” IPA at 7.6 ABV.  (Michael got there late and opted for a small glass of this beer.)

Now, while Steve’s Coors Light is one of the taps, he did not try what is advertised as John’s Super Secret Beer“A beer combo you’ve got to love although you may be asked to face the wall while he pours.”  (John revealed that it’s one-half Coors Light and the other half their rotating cider.)

What Gives with the Name Salty Rhino?

No memories of the hunt, but a great design.

While John initially tried to convince us that the name was derived from a wound he received from the horn of a wild rhino he was photographing on safari, he admitted that they spent hours trying to come up with a name, but had trademark issues that precluded many options they wanted.

His wife designed the logo and they got a “go” with “Salty Rhino.”  And unlike most bars, a Google search reveals no similarly named watering hole – not the case for many that I have been to.

Michael joined us a little later in the evening and a crowd was watching the Trailblazers lose to Houston Rockets on one of the large-screen TVs.  It was fun to watch the interaction between John and the regulars who lined the twelve or so stools at the long bar.

And Beerchasing with Michael and Steve was enjoyable.  Michael, a Michigan State alum who got his MPA at Cal State – East Bay, was Vice President of Finance and Facilities and worked with my wife in the days when Marylhurst University was thriving under late President Dr. Nancy Wilgenbusch

He now works for the Oregon Department of Education.  He and his wife, Pat,  are good friends and have been Beerchasing previously, but this was Steve’s first “expedition.”

Steve, is a very affable guy who is always smiling and grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota.  (“I am a die-hard Viking fan, by the way and they are killing me right now..!”)

Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins is smiling, but Steve is not…..

He has excellent training for Beerchasing having worked at establishments ranging from a dive college bar to the best high-end restaurant in town and also tended bar both in his home town and while attending college at Moorhead State University in Minnesota, a school with roots going back to 1888.

He and his wife, Lorrie, have been married thirty-six years and have two grandkids. And besides talking about football, the Blazers and a little politics, Steve and I advised Michael on the joy of having grandchildren (Janet and I also have two).  This also allowed me to show them pictures of the cardboard box fort I built with our two, the last time they were in West Linn.

Steve has worked for Sealy Mattress Co. for thirty years describes himself as a “simple peddler,” but is an excellent salesman.

 

But I digress…….

Food Options

At this point, the food choices are not robust, but there are options ranging from their own “munchies” to a partnership with two neighboring restaurants which will deliver to you at the bar – Round Table Pizza and the Asian Kitchen.

Their own faire ranges from popcorns, nuts, hummus, chips and salsa (good review on social media) to a cheese plate.  All are reasonably priced.

The Salty Rhino as a Community

John and Alan are trying (and evidently showing signs of success) to make the pub a community gathering place.

The game rooms have shuffleboard and darts and they are on the verge (January, 2019)  of establishing various leagues. 

The night of my second visit they had an “Ugly Sweater Contest,” and besides the prospective leagues – bunco, bingo, trivia and darts the pub is planning Tap Takeovers and other events where neighbors can come and practice the Salty Rhino’s motto: “Keep Calm and Drink Beer!”

Like many neighborhood bars I have visited, I was also impressed with their charitable spirit.  Prominently displayed was this sign to support  Fort Kennedy and they had a barrel to accept donations.

The Salty Rhino is a great addition to what is a paucity of neighborhood pubs in the West Linn area.  And although it is not as big as some of the others, the attractive space, friendly owners and good selection of beer and wine make it one where you should join the hunt.

Given the short time in operation, there have been few social media reviews, but all I saw were positive.  This one from a gent who visited from Lake Oswego sums it up quite well:

“Great owners, great furnishings, great beer list, darts and shuffleboard – need I say more?”  (Yelp 9/30/18)

Salty Rhino Pub         

19335 Willamette Dr.           West Linn

 

Bar 33 (Brooklyn) and Then???


What draws a person to watering hole?   Having visited over 250 bars, taverns and breweries in the last seven years of which about one-half were in the Portland area, I feel reasonably qualified to opine…..

Multnomah Whiskey Library

In some cases, it might be the extensive tap list or whiskey labels.  Examples might be Bailey’s Tap House (24 rotating taps) or the Multnomah Whiskey Library (1,500 different labels) both in downtown Portland. (Click on the link to see Thebeerchaser review of all bars mentioned in this post.)

I would suggest, however, that when one confronts more than fifteen or so drafts or ten labels of Scotch, the incremental magnitude of the drink menu becomes somewhat irrelevant (as long as PBR is one of the drafts….).

Bailey’s Tap List – how many drafts does one need?

In other cases, it might simply be economics.  A good Happy Hour with $1.50 PBRs or cheap but strong cocktails can garner a loyal group of regulars.

At Gil’s Speakeasy, their claim to be “The Nicest A-holes in Town,” might just be correct, and the cheap beer is supplemented by a daily food special such as a $3 chili dog (Saturdays) or three tacos for a buck on Mondays — that’s also Dirty Bingo Night!.

Or maybe it’s just the attraction of an ice-cold Hamms on tap for a buck  – all day each Wednesday.  That’s the case at The Standard.  It’s a NE dive bar which Mathew Korfhage, the fabled (and now former) bar reviewer at Willamette Week in the WW 2017 Portland Bar Guide described as:

“….cheap, no-nonsense fun in a way that takes all comers and yet is loving towards its long-time regulars.  These days in Portland that makes The Standard not very standard at all.  It makes it a GD treasure.”

The Standard – “A GD Treasure.”

While I could go on for pages on other criteria drawing one to a bar, I will complete this list by adding the critical factor of ambiance or character.  It’s where an establishment as you walk by beckons you – like the Sirens in Homer’s Odyssey.

Odysseus and the Sirens from Homer – tied to the mast…..

Maybe it’s the engaging and cordial staff or the friendly regulars that radiate a welcoming atmosphere that pervades the place like smoke from the Taylor Wild Fire in the City of Grants Pass.  (And before Oregon’s Smoke Free law passed in 1981, most dive bars had the same Air Quality Index reading…)

My favorite Portland examples are the Dockside along the Willamette River in North Portland or Cracker Jack’s Pub in NW.  As you walk out the door, you are already planning your next return trip…..

The Dockside – a hidden gem

Or perhaps its the idiosyncratic layout with an eclectic mix of red booths and scattered tables, classic pinball games and memorabilia including old beer signs, deer antlers, tacky but “timeless” art and placards with quotes such as these two from the historic Bay Haven Inn in Newport:

“I’ve been fishing so long, my worm is getting Social Security.”      

“Soup of the Day — Whiskey”  

The Bar at the Bay Haven Inn – established in 1908

One of the most memorable examples is the Tank of Death at the Tide Pool Pub in Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast where Vicki, the owner, will tell you about going to “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” in Iowa, when her dad worked in a slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant.

Vicki and Thebeerchasing crew in 2014 – she also makes the best pizza on the coast

The Tank of Death is graphically described by former coastal bar blogger, (“Letitpour.net”) Matt Love, as:

“A salt-water glass coffin called the Tank of Death.  It is packed with all manner of marine creatures caught by local fishermen who bucket in their curious finds and dump them in.  Eels, crabs, sea bass, perch, Dick Cheney, octopi and urchins all end up in the mix……….

The Tank of Death – a “Roman arena of savagery and merciless predation….

According to the bartender, aquatic creatures regularly stage a battle royal to the death and the tank serves as a Roman arena of savagery and merciless predation  – with bets slapped down and accelerated drinking when the water turns a creamy, cloudy red.”   

But I digress (considerably) with this 700 word introduction to Bar 33 – Brooklyn.  Perhaps, it’s my frustration with a bar that looked like it might be a very interesting site to meet some new people and experience the engaging climate that has typified a majority of the barrooms I have frequented on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs.

However after three separate visits, I left with the sentiment:

“Visit it for a mug of one of the ten drafts and to hear a good Van Morrison song from a decent juke box.  But then move on to an establishment where you will want to return – maybe even invite your mom to visit.”  (And a number are not far from Bar 33 – see below) 

Now it’s not because of lack of amenities – the bar is pretty spacious and has an attractive back bar.

There are a number of games such as Big Buck Hunter and even two Skee Balls, an electronic juke box, a number of big screen TVs, a pool table and an expansive albeit unspectacular patio with a fire pit that would be nice for a summer afternoon – dogs are welcome.  There’s also a large parking lot.

Most of the social media comments are above average although there are not that many reviews.  But on my visits, the bar had no vibe or energy – admittedly a subjective judgment and I might make a return trip on a weekend night to see if that helps.

Part of the problem is they have no web site – nor does their sister establishment Bar 33 – Gresham.   And their Facebook page has very intermittent material.  For example, besides a post on September 2nd announcing, “Thursday Night Football is Back,” the most current posts were on June 20th and April 18th – both for free comedy line-ups.

And evidently they have Karoke on Saturday nights and Trivia Nights, but unless you are a regular or see their sign, that information probably passes you by.

The last “events” advertised on Facebook were from December 15, 2017 launching their new menu and happy hour (no details were included) and live music by the Still River Drifters on October 14th. (The last entry on Bar 33 – Gresham Facebook page was posted on 2/27/17.)

A person answering the phone on 9/3/18 said, “We don’t have live music any more, but we’re looking into it.”   Since they had an empty popcorn machine in the bar, I also asked about this and he responded, “We no longer have free popcorn.”

The bartender on my visits was efficient, but preoccupied even though there were few people in the bar (you order food and drink at the bar).

The background info I got on the bar came from on-line research where I learned that the building’s predecessors were a Chinese restaurant named Yummy Garden  and more recently a Salvador Molly’s. (Sellwood Bee 12/24/18)

I assume that like the Nineteen 33 Taproom in the Willamette section of West Linn – a great pub Thebeerchaser reviewed in February 2017 – the name of Bar 33 is derived from the monumental year in US history, when Prohibition – the 18th Amendment was repealed and replaced by the 21st Amendment after a failed fourteen year fiasco.  However, one would never know otherwise the derivation of the name.

And the co-owners evidently have a hospitality background:

“After years of working in the bar, brewery and restaurant industry, Owners Jeff Pochop and Jake Whitney decided to work for themselves. 

Opening Bar 33 Gresham in 2011, Jeff and Jake are now on their fourth location.  Including Pastimes Sports Bar & Pizza in Fairview, Oregon and a small deli in Lebanon, Oregon.”

Besides the good Backwoods Copperline Amber I had, the other redeeming factor on one of my visits to Bar 33, was raising a mug with Larry Frank.

Larry Frank – outstanding lawyer and great guy…

Larry is a recently retired VP and Associate Legal Counsel for Standard Insurance.  A Lewis and Clark Law grad and University of Iowa alumnus, he is an outstanding lawyer and a great guy.

We can applaud Pochop and Whitney as entrepreneurs, but Bar 33 – Brooklyn has a lot of unrealized potential in Thebeerchaser’s humble opinion.   If you want to check it out it’s located at 4729 SE Milwaukie Ave – just north of Sellwood.

And maybe you will find a different environment than id did; however, I would suggest that after a quick beer there or one of their cocktails which seemed reasonably interesting, you spend the bulk of your time at one of the following:

The Brooklyn Park Pub, (2 minutes or .7miles) the first stop on Thebeerchaser’s Tour in 2011, where one of Portland’s best bartenders, Phoebe Newcombe will serve you beer in a Mason jar and make you feel very welcome.  You can also ask her about the Brooklyn’s iconic Whiskey Club.

Phoebe at the Brooklyn Park Pub – a class act..

Or you could check out The Muddy Rudder (6 minutes or 2.1 miles) on the east side of the Sellwood Bridge, which definitely does have live music and a great environment.

Chart a course to the Muddy Rudder

 

 

Then there’s the Ancestry Brewery’s Taphouse (5 minutes or 1.9 miles) at 8268 SE 13th Ave where you can have a pint of their flagship beer – Best Coast IPA and some outstanding beer-battered fish and chips.

Ancestry Tap House

 

And if you want some exercise, just south of Bar 33, you can take the trail for 1.1 miles along the Oaks Bottom Wild Life Refuge to the Lompoc Brewing’s Oaks Bottom Public House.

You will walk through an urban wetland popular with bird watchers and full of other critters including beavers, otters and cranes (not the construction kind although there are plenty of those in Sellwood lately.)

Urban Wetlands in the Oak Bottom Wildlife Refuge

A “must” at the Oaks Bottom Pub

In the living room environment of the Pub, you can have a fantastic Cobb salad and a pint of their outstanding Proletariat Red Ale.

Now, there’s even a new brewery only 3.3 miles away – Ruse Brewing, whose co-owners and brewers, Shaun Kalis and Devin Benware, at least from their website and some early reviews, seem to have the passion which appears to be missing from the aforementioned co-owners:

“We brew small batch, flavorful, and thoughtfully-crafted beers. We work with local artists and musicians to design beers paired with their art for concept events and beer releases. Our community is a major inspiration for our company vision, we will do what it takes to be involved and support other businesses and organizations.”

Ruse will be a stop on Thebeerchaser’s Tour in the next few months.

Now this is the first review of over 200 blog entries, in which I have set forth more words talking about other establishments than the focus of the post.   I can defend that, however, because all of the others mentioned above, captivated the imagination regardless of what time the visit or how many people were in the bar – not the case with Bar 33.

Bar 33 pool table and games

Bar 33 Brooklyn      4729 SE Milwaukie     Portlan

Walk on the “Wilder” Side

The late playwright and author, Thornton Wilder wrote the play and subsequent film, “Our Town” about a fictitious New Hampshire Town – Grover’s Corners.  Portland’s Wilder Bar Cafe (known simply as “Wilder”) is not named after him, nor is the Wilder Bar in Fort Lauderdale, but I have a feeling, the Wilder Bar in Portsmouth, New Hampshire may be.

In an historic brick building

Nevertheless, Portland’s Wilder in an historic brick building, which has housed at various times a craft shop, tattoo parlor and stationary shop, on NE 30th and Killingsworth is definitely worth an outing(s) for the food, the beverages and the ambiance.

While we liked the last establishment we visited and posted on the blog – The Woodsman Tavern (https://thebeerchaser.com/tag/the-woodsman-tavern/), Wilder surpasses the former in all respects and our first two visits will be reprised multiple times in the future.

Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, “……illustrates the importance of the universality of the simple, yet meaningful lives of all people in the world in order to demonstrate the value of appreciating life.”  (Wikipedia)  And perhaps this theme, reflects the environment, décor and attitude of the staff in this bar opened in 2014.

Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Thornton Wilder

As examples, examine the following excerpts from several print media reviews:

“A homey little bar more interested in maple buttermilk pie, kale Caesar salad and a local-leaning tap list (only one of eight offerings wasn’t from Oregon) than in ethically iffy foie gras or distantly sourced seafood.”  (Rebecca Jacobsen 1/7/14 )Willamette Week)

Or this one, a month later, from Oregon Live (2/26/14) :

Yakuza, Beast, D.O.C., Cocotte(other Portland restaurants) have brought a steady stream of well-heeled Oregonians and visitors (to that intersection) but they’re not the sort of establishments likely to be frequented by their neighbors who have long awaited a pleasant, affordable place to watch the Beast-bound limos roll by. Wilder, a new corner bar with culinary ambitions, seeks a more local audience with a suave atmosphere and an inexpensive, if not exactly groundbreaking menu.” 

Meet bartender, Bertrand, an artisan!

So, what has made this small bar so attractive.  Well, the staff was wonderful.  On our first visit, Janet and I sat at the bar and started talking to the bartender, Bertrand.  He mentioned that he is a photographer and trying to move up the level of his craft by attending Pacific Northwest College of Arts.  The interaction among Bertrand, the servers and the cook was low-key and very positive and the customer service was A+.

One advantage of sitting at the bar, is the ability to view the essentially open-kitchen which was hopping and interesting to watch.  And the servers told us, “We love Colby.”  He’s one of the two cooks.  (After excellent meals on two occasions, we were also enamored with Colby…)  

Because seating is somewhat limited by the overall size of the establishment, we had to wait a bit on our second visit when we were joined by our daughter, Laura, and her husband, Ryan.

We hit right at dinner time and there were no unoccupied tables, but the servers were very accommodating and suggested we go for a drink to nearby Yukuza Lounge which has a great bar.  When we returned, our table was ready and our server was superb.

Bertrand was effusive about his cocktails and we had read about Wilder’s excellence in this category, so we tried both the Powers’ Punch (Gin, Combier, Benedictine, Dolin Rouge, Absinthe and Lime) ($9) and the Bourbon Sprawl (Whiskey, Pomegranate, Lemon, Angostura). ($9)

We hope that he continues his bartending when he graduates from PNCA, because besides photography, he is an artisan at combining distilled sprits.

When we returned we had two of the eight beers they had on tap – both from breweries we had not tried before – Royale Brewing, which is nearby in NE Portland and 54-40 Brewing in Washougal, Washington.  Wilder tries to feature Northwest beers on tap and they did a good job with these.

Wilder in the evening is pretty dark – candles on the table and minimal lighting – but it enhances the cozy ambiance of the bar, which is very attractive with slatted lath wood walls, exposed-beam ceilings and a dark wood floor.   With the limited capacity of the bar and the positive vibe from the staff and patrons, it creates an intimate atmosphere that is not easily found in Portland establishments.

Now, let’s talk about the food.  The Oregon Live article described their menu as “not exactly groundbreaking.”   The 2015 Willamette Week Bar Guide calls it accurately, “Elevated comfort food.”  Well, it may not be the most expansive menu you’ll find, with five starters and seven main courses including two outstanding salads, but the finished product from their kitchen is truly “elevated” based on our experience – admittedly limited, but check out some of the other comments below.

We split the hamburger and each of us had the large roasted squash salad with arugula and plenty of walnuts.  The burger surpassed our expectations and the meal, which was both excellent and filling was a total of less than $30 without tip ($11 burger and two salads $16).

Although social media reviews on the mussels, fried chicken, the white bean burger and the blackened chicken sandwich were also very positive, we ordered the identical meal when we returned and our companions had the kale and kidney-bean Caesar salad with their burger.   (They thanked us for the recommendation.)

Besides the newspapers, I try to look at a number of reviews from different social media sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Urban Spoon and Zomato to discern trends or identify specific strengths and weaknesses.   And while there were a few who had complaints about a specific food item, these two typify Wilder patrons’ sentiments:

“Fried chicken is the best! Burger is awesome!  Service staff are prompt, friendly and knowledgeable. Beverages are delicious. A gastronomic adventure to be enjoyed.”  Trip Advisor 2/27/17

And this from Zomato within the last six months:

Great drinks and one of the best burgers in town.  Wonderful ambiance and good service.  This is one of my favorite local community bars that has a real neighborhood feel to it.  Highly recommended.”

“One of the best burgers in town….”

I did chuckle because one of the only really negative (and almost hostile) reviews was from February, 2018, by a woman on Yelp who raged about the “control freaks” at Wilder because she disagreed with their policies – one was to comply with OLCC regulations and the other two seemed very reasonable.

What was humorous, is that she went ballistic after her three visits – each where she encountered these policies developed by somebody with a “sad, little mind.”   It obviously begs the question, “Why did you keep returning??”

She gave Wilder only one star which was a real departure from the guy on Yelp who only one month earlier stated, For the best burger and cocktails in town, I wouldn’t recommend any other space. If I could borrow someone else’s thumb, I would give this place 3 thumbs up.”

Co-owner, Raquel

The co-owners are Raquel Bournhonesque and Ben Preacher.   Raquel, shows on her Linked-in resume that she has been with Upstream Public Health and a community coach, health advocate and food enthusiast.

She and some friends formed Upstream as a non-profit to further health and equity advocacy issues.  It has done some great work in the public health arena. While with Upstream,  she worked on the unsuccessful effort to fluoridate Portland’s water in 2013.

Raquel happened to answer the phone when I called before Wilder opened on a Sunday with several follow-up questions for the blog.   She has an upbeat and affable personality and we had a nice chat.

In the six years since I started this blog, I have found that the owners of the small bars and breweries, for the most part, are entrepreneurs who have a passion about beer or food, risk a lot to make their dreams come true and then work inordinate hours to make it successful.  Raquel and Ben are typical and make one feel a lot better than, as a contrast, having a brewski at the Yardhouse in Portland’s Pioneer Square.

 

(See Beerchaser review on 4/4/16)  https://thebeerchaser.com/2016/04/14/the-yard-house-does-it-measure-up/

So instead of having a beer and/or a meal at The Yardhouse and adding to the profits of the same giant corporation that owns the Olive Garden,  you should enhance Raquel’s and Ben’s 401(k) by dining and drinking at Wilder.  Tell them Thebeerchaser sent you!

Wilder Bar Cafe               5501 NE 30th     Portland

 

 

 

 

The Woodsman Tavern Strikes a Chord

Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs has resulted in visits and reviews of over 200 establishments since its inception in 2011 – not only in Portland, but all over Oregon, the US and even a few in Europe.   Therefore, its logical that the Woodsman Tavern – a Portland icon, of sorts, would make the list.

That said, I try to avoid venues that are primarily restaurants with a bar as kind of an ancillary feature.  It’s not that these establishments don’t have good beer or cocktails or attractive bars.  They just don’t have the character and ambiance of a stand-alone watering hole, especially that evidenced in dive bars!

The McMenamin’s bistros generally fall into the former category although I have made a few exceptions.  Beerchaser visits to The Fulton Pub, the White Eagle Saloon and the St. John’s Pub were splendid.  These all, however, had historical significance or distinguishing features.

For example, The Fulton was the site at which Hammerhead Ale was originated (and I consumed my first beer with the late NW author and Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Brian Doyle) and the White Eagle is on the National Historic Register – its history is replete with tales such as a prostitute being murdered and it being haunted by ghost-like apparitions on the second floor.

Notwithstanding its title, the Woodsman Tavern is an example of the former category i.e. more restaurant than bar.   While our two visits were well rewarded, it had the look and feel of a high-end restaurant.  That said, let’s look at why it is getting great reviews – it has a new chef, an expansive menu of cocktails and whiskeys and the food – most notably, the fried chicken is superb.   (Note also that most taverns do not have a “chef” per se’.)

The Woodsman is also one of the few places that I’ve visited where the Oregonian’s food critic, Michael Russell has authored a detailed review.  (He’s probably never been in the Reel M’ Inn – twenty blocks down Division Street and also known throughout the Northwest for its fried chicken. According to one article, it fried up an estimated 52,000 pounds of chicken in 2016.  But it’s a completely different ambiance….)

The Woodsman is in an old building in Southeast Portland and has a bright and attractive entrance with classy dark wood interior.  When opened in 2011, it was evidently a hot spot in the Portland food culture – known for its high-end dishes such as roasted trout.

Eateries run in cycles.  Social media reviews until recently started trending negative on the food and service.   That appeared to change late last year evidently because one of Portland’s noted chefs, Doug Adams, temporarily took command of the kitchen and menu:

“Suddenly, the Woodsman Tavern is once-again among the hottest restuarants in town.”   (1/1/18 Review by Martin Cizmar of Willamette Week.) Adams made his mark at Paley’s Place among other restaurants and is waiting for a new restaurant in downtown Portland to open.

The Bar Itself

The dining room is separated into two large rooms with booths and tables.  The bar is a long L-shaped counter with about twelve stools at the back of the east section.

It has an impressive display of hard liquors and twelve cocktail options ($12) with names such as “Dog Will Hunt” and “Married in a Fever,” and includes their trademark “Old Fashioned.”

For the bourbon and whiskey connoisseurs, I counted 120 options on the menu ranging from a pour of Jim Beam for $7 to Wild Turkey Tribute 15-Year Bourbon that will set you back $180.  (Perhaps this is economic validation of the distillery’s 2011 ad campaign entitled, “Give’em The Bird.”)

They have a nice selection of wines and fifteen beers on tap including five by one of my favorite breweries – Block 15 in Corvallis.  On our first trip to the Woodsman when we had dinner, I had a pint of Block 15 Double IPA and on the second trip, where we just sat at the bar for drinks during Happy Hour, I could not resist a cold Rainier for $2.

The east side of the restuarant

Let’s get back to the food, which should be the guiding rationale for a visit.  I will talk more about the food critics’ reviews below, but The Oregonian stated, “For food fans, this might be Portland’s best sports bar.”

Since there are only two televisions over the bar – both with sporting events when we were there, I guess this is his subtle way of promoting the Woodsman’s Double Cheeseburger and implying that the food in most Portland sports bars, sucks! 

An outstanding starter

The side dishes are ala-carte and either $3 or $5 and the bucket of chicken was $19, so we started by splitting what is a boring option in most places – a wedge salad.  And while a little spendy at $11, it was wonderful (bacon, big croutons and superb blue cheese dressing!)

I love fried chicken – that’s how I persuaded my wife, Janet, to go with me to the Woodsman.  It was a late birthday present.   There was no question what I was going to order. And it’s a fantasy – your own metallic bucket filled with five large pieces.  I am appalled that I was so enthralled that I forgot to take a picture!

Now let’s look at how some experts describe this one of six entr’ees.  Martin Cizmar, who for the last seven years has been the Arts and Culture Editor at Willamette Week, is succinct, but on point.  (I am sad to see him leave the weekly this month.  He wrote great reviews of not only restaurants, but every kind of bar, tavern or brewery in Portland and always creatively captured the character of the place.  (He’s moving to Washington D.C. to write for an on-line publication.)

You should read his entire review of The Woodsman:  http://www.wweek.com/restaurants/reviews/2018/01/02/the-woodsman-tavern-is-entering-a-new-golden-age-under-chef-doug-adams/

Martin Cizmar – will be missed….but will still drink PBR (Photo courtesy of Willamette Week

He is a an outstanding writer and seems a lot less pretentious than his counterpart at The Oregonian:

“….the best fried chicken in town….(Adams’) ultra crispy recipe in which the honey is drizzled onto just out-of-the-fryer batter.”  (WW 1/1/18)

Now compare that to the more ostentatious description by Michael Russell:

“…..Adams’ fussed over bird , each crunchy piece wearing a shaggy brown coat reminiscent of a teddy bear’s fur, drizzled in honey and served with a clear glass bottle of hot sauce on the side.” (Emphasis supplied !??)

And not to get overly compulsive, but this one from a Thrillist ranking of the top 15 fried chicken places in Portland by Andy Cryza (9/2/15 – before Adams arrived…)  Woodsman was the top-rated option.  (Reel M Inn was #3.)

“…..Perfectly fried, with the juices locked into the premium bird, which is cut up into five generous pieces…..And the breading – occupying the zone between crisp and light – is kissed with a smack of honey which, when mixed with the salt, takes it into a danger zone hovering near meat-candy perfection.”

But if you don’t like chicken there are other worthy choices. I was able to persuade Janet, if I gave her a little bit of my chicken, to get the Double Cheeseburger ($16).  It was immense and the Canby, Oregon, Laney Family Farm’s beef scrumptious.  The fries were a perfect complement.

I described Michael Russell’s writing above as somewhat pretentious e.g. he started his review with the following: “…the restaurant has languished of late (last year) behind food that seemed to have lost its sense of place.” 

I changed my opinion – a little.  He was a little more down-to-earth when he wrote this about one of the Woodsman’s twelve starter options:

“Take the bologna sandwich.  It’s impressively thick cut of pink meat seared gently, surrounded by melted American cheese like fondant on a wedding cake and topped with sweet pickle on a sesame-seeded bun.  It’s a borderline obscene take on the classic….I’ve ordered it on every visit.” 

Fried chicken – “each piece wore a shaggy brown coat….”

At least he shied away from the toy creature analogy he made above with the fried chicken and didn’t compare the bologna to the Porky Pig stuffed animal he got at Disneyland……

And to affirm that this menu option may be worth the seemingly steep price ($12), let’s look at a non-foodie’s view – just your typical Yelp comment on 1/17/18:

“Now I know what you’re thinking, what the hell is in Bologna anyway, but this (sandwich) was freaking delicious.  I don’t know what’s in Bolgna, I probably don’t want to know.  But I’m on board.” 

Finally, while the bistro is also known for its chilled seafood and a seafood tower for $95 along with “Oyster Hours” all day Monday and from 5:00 to 6:00 on other weekdays, I loved our meal there because the food was good but also plentiful.  The picture below shows the box that we took home with our leftovers (It was filled and some of which survived to lunch the next day…) 

As another Yelp review who shares similar views succinctly stated:

“The food big.  Big food.  Platters….Reminds me of a place when I was a kid.  Logger means, man.”  (Yelp 1/15/18)

Most of the recent social media reviews are very positive although some question the prices especially since it is an ala-carte menus.  Another complaint which rang somewhat true with us on our first visit was the physical spacing:

“I don’t mind sitting at tables or booths, but why does anyone think that being 6 inches from a stranger is comfortable.”  (Yelp 1/14/18)

However, if someone is going to do a hatchet job on the Woodsman Tavern, they will have to come up with something of more substance than tables being a little too close.  Besides, you should check out their fried chicken……….

The Woodsman Tavern

4537 SE Division Street