A Good Way to Get Back to Your “Roots”…..

Roots is a new establishment that had its grand opening May 18th in the Palisades Marketplace in Lake Oswego.   This not-for-profit public house has interesting and unusual trappings, but is not unique in Oregon.

The Oregon Public House reviewed by Thebeerchaser in a 2015 post asserted that it was the world’s first non-profit pub when it commenced operating in 2013 and even got national publicity on their mission.

Shortly after that in 2014, Ex Novo Brewing, opened its doors claiming to be the country’s first nonprofit brewery.

A Willamette Week article, described the two as follows:

“The nation’s first nonprofit brewery opened around the same time as the nation’s first non-profit beer pub in a rash of Obama-era do-gooderism, at a time when people could make a difference without braving tear gas.  Even if you didn’t know these were pints with a purpose, you’ll love…..” (Willamette Week 3/2/17)

Now in these days of intense competition in the micro-craft industry, there are a lot of establishments that are not making a profit – albeit not intentionally – so let’s distinguish the objectives of the those above and the new Roots Public House in Lake O founded by Derek and Katie Abbott.

Their goal is to make a profit – just that whatever financial returns are derived, are directed to select charitable (or sometimes governmental) organizations.   The model allows the patron to select the organization which garners the overage on his or her pint.  (You place a token in the appropriate jar.) Katie Abbott said that the Oregon Public House (OPH) was an inspiration for their plans.

Roots has identified four areas in which their efforts are focused:

  Education          Hunger          Arts          Literacy

The four recipient organizations when we visited this month are below.  These may change at some point in the future but will be restricted to local causes:

Lake Oswego School District Foundation          Lakewood Theater

Tualatin  Food Pantry          Lake Oswego Library

Customers have a choice which worthwhile cause to support.

Those who are suspicious or possibly have a cynical view of human nature, may dismiss this benevolence based on creative accounting.  For example, do the owners get a substantial salary which would be considered an expense and deducted before the bottom line figure.  Roots pledge is “We give 100% of our profits to local charities.  You GATHER, we GIVE.”

OPH is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit while both Ex Novo and Roots are LLC’s which allows them to maximize deductions.  Katie and Derek currently do not take salaries although all of their staff are obviously compensated – former Lake Oswego or Lakeridge High School students who are now college seniors or graduate students and work during the summer or part-time when school is in session.

Regardless of the manner in which they accomplish their motto – for OPH it’s “Have a Pint – Save the World”) and at Roots, it’s “Gather and Give”  – Thebeerchaser’s position is that the individuals behind these establishments, even if taking a salary, are working for far less than they otherwise would be taking home in order to promote worthwhile philanthropic endeavors.

A great looking family…..

Katie and Derek Abbott have a good story – Texas natives who moved to Oregon in 2002 to complete graduate studies – they both have backgrounds in education and Derek is a math and AP statistics teacher at nearby Lakeridge High School where he has taught for fifteen years.  Katie at one time worked for Marylhurst University.  Falling in love with the Northwest, they decided to plant their Roots here.

A homebrewing hobby ultimately led to the desire to have their own pub.  They built out the bar area (about 250 square feet)  themselves including the attractive woodwork starting in April which “took us about six weeks to complete – generally two hours per evening and on weekends about five hours per day.”

Woodworking is a family venture….

Their are plusses and minuses to their location.  The bar itself is tucked into a niche one sees to his left when walking into Palisades.

There are five tables and the bar has four seats to drink one of their beverages – a cozy environment but one which can also accommodate a community gathering.

Cozy ambiance with the Lammers

Some pub enthusiasts might prefer not to have their favorite watering hole in a grocery.

Palisades Marketplace, however, is a cherished community store with long-term and friendly staff that has a tradition of supporting the community.

It has a great deli and bakery within shouting distance of the bar and an excellent selection of wines. Katie stated that they have been a great partner.

Big enough for a community gathering

Palisades Marketplace – a community tradition in Lake O

Besides, there are subtle, but practical advantages to picking up a growler of your favorite beer or just having a pint at the bar when you make the trip to pick up a quart of milk or the organic veggies you forgot for your stir-fry dinner.

Roots has an impressive lineup on tap for a small operation with14 diverse micro-crafts, two hard ciders, a hard seltzer, two wines, three Kombuchas and a few non-alcoholic offerings.

There is certainly a case to be made for Katie’s assertion, “We have the best selection of draft beers in the area.”  And at $5 and $6 their pints are very reasonably priced. ($1 off at “Happiest Hours,” which are from 6:00 to 8:00).  Don’t be surprised to see a special whenever you pop in including some nights when wine is featured.

Currently, their food selection at the bar itself is limited to snacks such as pistachios, chips and salsa, chex mic and Bratwursts. (However, remember you can get that corn dog or macaroni salad by walking a few feet to the deli…..)

I have to admit, Thebeerchaser will return for a Happiest Hour when a beer and a Brat can be rung up for only $10.  Roots is open every day from 2:00 to 8:30 although they may cut back slightly during the winter months.

Janet and I joined our good friends, Michael and Pat Lammers, on a Saturday afternoon and I had one of my favorite IPA’s – Sticky Hands IPA (8.1%) from Block 15 Brewery in the great town of Corvallis.   

Michael – a dark beer aficionado opted for the Great Notion Double Stack Imperial Stout notwithstanding that “…it is fermented with an irresponsible amount of maple syrup…” and it has an 11% ABV…

Janet and Pat both enjoyed a pint of the Breakside Sugar Cube Hazy IPA (5.6%) because they wanted to try a hazy brew and to assuage some of Michael’s guilt for the sugar consumption in his beer…..

Derek and Katie are striving to make their establishment a community gathering place with events such as trivia nights on Tuesday for which they have regularly drawn 30 to 45 people.   It’s family oriented and minors are welcome.

They have also partnered with the Ceramics Dept. at Lakeridge for a “Plants and Pints Night” where for $20 participants consume their favorite beer, get a hand-made ceramic with a class taught by Nicole Forbes from Seven Dees Landscaping and chose the appropriate succulent plant to take home. All proceeds go to the school.

 

We were served by Sophie French, a delightful young woman who works at the pub during the summer while attending the University of Portland where she will be a senior and majors in Human Biology.

She is also a member of the notable UP Women’s Soccer Team and has had an outstanding record in both high school and intercollegiate soccer.  Her one year at the University of Idaho, she made the Big Sky All-Academic Team.

An amazing scholar athlete

Sophie and her twin sister, Lille according to a 12/3/15 article in the Lake Oswego Review “Twin Sisters Pull Off Rare Athletic Feat,” were well known for their diverse achievements in sports.

“Growing up, Lakeridge twins Sophie and Lillie French played virtually every sport that was available to them.  There was basketball, soccer, swimming, water polo, baseball, softball, tennis and track in their childhood.”

Not only a great athlete, but an academic all-star

And by the way, if you check out Roots’ website, which is very well done, don’t get confused in your Google search — there is a Root Public House in Flagstaff, New Mexico that looks interesting, but requires either a road trip or some airline tickets……

So how has the first three months gone for the two young entrepreneurs?   In response to this question, Katie replied, “Well there hasn’t been one time when Derek and I both wanted to quit on the same day!!”  

She stated that their intent is to expand to more locations so other communities have the opportunity to support their local community and share the fellowship a public house provides.  This  has been an ongoing faith journey for them.  “We love the way this helps us give back to the community and the community has loved it to this point and given back to us.”

Regardless of whether you are running low on foodstuffs and need to resupply your pantry at Palisades Marketplace, you should make a point to hit this new venture. Show your support for this wonderful couple.  They radiate enthusiasm and their efforts to “Gather and Give” and make their community and state a better place are commendable.

Besides, when doesn’t a Bratwurst fit into the plan……..?

Roots Public House      Palisades Marketplace    1377 McVey Ave.    Lake Oswego

 

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