Wait — Did you say “Handy Slut…..?”

The Sandy Hut - A great neighborhood/dive bar - not a restaurant

The Sandy Hut – A great neighborhood/dive bar – not a restaurant

The outlandish and long purple building known as The Sandy Hut, looked intriguing when I passed it several months ago on the way to review another great Portland dive bar on Sandy Blvd. – The Slammer.Entrance

I was also surprised to learn the Voodoo Donuts has a second Portland location – Voodoo Too right across the street.

While the “Handy Slut,” as it is known to regulars and operating since 1923, has been missing for several years from my favorite bar reference guide – The Annual Willamette Drink Guide, the descriptions from these 2008-9 excerpts were still spot on:

2009 – “When people from outside the area—say, writers for The New York Times—think of Portland, they imagine we all look like the eclectic mix of customers at the Sandy Hut. Even post-smoking ban, if you look at the Sandy Hut in the right light, you can still feel the nicotine fog filling every cubic inch of the air.   

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It’s the sort of place you can wear a leather choke collar and no one will bat an eye, but a full suit and tie will lead to exclusion from the bar’s spontaneous bouts of insanity.”            

A great group of "regulars"

A great group of “regulars”

2008  “The Handy Slut, as regulars and the bar’s merchandise call it, is a lurid, windowless utopia. It looks like it once housed the Rat Pack—and hasn’t cleaned since the party ended.

The drinks pack enough alcohol to fuel a racecar, and often mere eye contact constitutes consent. The east side loves you, Sandy—you dirty little slut.”

Mansfield admiring the poster by  on an exterior wall and wondering if it is copyrighted.

Mansfield admiring the Jackie Danger mural on an exterior wall and wondering if it is copyrighted.

———

One of Thebeerchaser’s most frequent and entertaining regulars, Portland lawyer, John Mansfield, (His firm’s slogan is “Smart Law – Smart Clients!”) accompanied me He was also present at The Slammer, Church, The Ship Tavern and Mock
Crest Tavern).

John, who focuses on Intellectual Property law and litigation, and I always have interesting conversations while raising our mugs, and the Sandy Hut was no exception, to wit:

  • He expressed concern about the proliferation of “patent trolls,”  i.e. individuals or groups which buy obscure patents and then threaten lawsuits against hundreds or even thousands of people and businesses to coerce them to pay cash to make what is a specious lawsuit, go away.
These patent trolls may have good costumes but did not graduate from accredited law schools
These patent trolls may have good costumes but did not graduate from accredited law schools

While John deplored the tactics, he did think it would be a kick to attend his next Halloween Party in a patent troll costume.

  • We also talked about innovative, but ill thought out patents, and as evidence, I showed him a news article to demonstrate:

Dr. Calvin Rickson, a scientist from Texas A & M, invented a bra that keeps women’s breasts from jiggling, bouncing up and down and prevents the nipples from pushing through the fabric during cold weather.”  

The article goes on to state that, “At a news conference, after announcing the invention, a large group of men took Dr. Rickson outside and kicked the crap out of him.”

Four beers  on tap and   bottled and canned brews besides wine and cider

Four beers on tap and twelve bottled and canned brews besides wine and cider

We toasted these gents – me with a $2.00 PBR Tall boy (available all day) and John with a Lagunitas IPA, one of the four beers and one cider on tap at the Sandy Hut – they also have   twelve canned and bottled beers.  And don’t forget about the Jell-O Shots for a buck!

Christopher, our friendly and very well-informed bartender, explained their menu, which includes breakfast, a focus on Mexican food and the old pub standards such as burgers, pulled pork, fish and chips, etc.  They also have a “lighter” menu that starts at 5:00.

Christopher the bartender - helpful and competent
Christopher the bartender – helpful and competent
"Breakfast" Burrito - gigantic and delicious...
“Breakfast” Burrito – gigantic and delicious…

—-

I had a very large and delicious Breakfast Burrito and John, thinking he was going to have to lose some weight to make it into a troll costume, chose the Mexican Wedge Salad – a two-thumbs up option.

Christopher also introduced us to the weekend cook, and touted the guy’s original tamale recipe – which is so popular, they have a brisk “to go” business.

One of the highlights of many dive bars – and The Sandy Hut was no exception – is the patrons and this old, but still accurate, Google Review by Andrew summed it up well:

Free shuffleboard and a number of video games

Free shuffleboard and a number of video games

“Is it the dark, windowless dim lighted bar? Is it the jello shots? Is it the shuffle board? Is it the diverse group of people, from hipsters to old locals? (emphasis added) It has to be a mix of all of those factors because this is a great dive bar with a great bar staff and an amazing jukebox. The sum of the parts? A great, great time.”

Kevin – a friendly regular we sat next to at the bar epitomized this.  He welcomed us and stated he has frequented the bar since 1979 when he moved from Phoenix.  He said the bar is filled with people who work nearby or who live in the neighborhood.  “These people take care of you,” Kevin stated – which seemed to include both the staff and the twelve to fifteen people sitting at the bar, including Kevin’s wife.  He said there is a younger group who frequent the bar at night – we were there at about 5:30.

Kevin, John and Thebeerchaser Logo

Kevin, John and Thebeerchaser Logo

I inquired what the NHRA logo (National Hot Rod Association) was on his coveralls and learned that he is a master mechanic at Gibson Auto and Electric (an independently family owned & operated business since 1983).

It’s a full-service shop but Kevin focuses on Porsches and the computer and electrical systems of other autos.  John and I talked about buying Porsches just so we could attest to Kevin’s good work…..

The Sandy Hut makes good use of its roomy, long rectangular environ and has a pool table, free shuffle-board, a number of video games – including an imposing Golden Tee golf game by Incredible Technologies with a 47 inch flat screen.

Not a shirt - but you can test your iron play

Not a shirt – but you can test your iron play

Blazers 40 - Houston 55 in Third Quarter - it didn't get better

Blazers 41 – Houston 55 in Second Quarter – it didn’t get better

—————-

You will also find four TVs including a 100-inch projector screen – which unfortunately amplified the poor play of the Blazers against the Houston Rockets (Lost 101 to 116) when we were there.

And don’t forget their juke box which, “….is internet based, so you can choose nearly any song you want to hear.”

Juke Box is Internet-based so how about some Count Basie or Benny Goodman??

The Juke Box is Internet-based so how about some Count Basie or Benny Goodman??

Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland bars, tavern and pubs which started in August of 2011, has visited some great dive bars and the Sandy Hut ranks up there with all of them.

And don’t forget to check out the interesting mural on the outside (see picture above) by California artist Jackie Danger.  It reflects her “edgy and rebellious presence.”

The Sandy Hut    1430 Northeast Sandy Blvd  (503) 235 7972

Church – Eat, Drink (Pray) – Repent!

Lawyer John Mansfield at the somewhat plain entrance to Church

Lawyer John Mansfield at the somewhat plain entrance to Church

Church is a relatively new bar on 26th and NE Sandy.  Opened in 2013, it has an intriguing interior to mitigate the nondescript exterior and lack of a really viable patio.  Willamette Week, in its review accurately states, “Though it is a neighborhood bar in no neighborhood at all, it’ll likely gather a congregation,” – affirmed on both of our visits – an energetic crowd to complement the friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Mansfield in a margarita toast to the 95 Theses

Mansfield in a margarita toast to the 95 Theses

I was joined by one of Thebeerchaser regulars, Portland intellectual property lawyer, John MansfieldJohn thought he could cause a stir and gain some publicity by emulating his hero, 16th century theologian, Martin Luther, and tacking 95 patents to the door of Church to commemorate Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses at the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg in 1517.

Martin_Luther

Martin Luther

Indeed, besides the physical resemblance one can glean from these pictures, Mansfield and Luther share some other traits.  Luther translated the Bible to the vernacular and Mansfield converts the language of patents and IP procedures into coherent terms that his clients can understand.

The name provides a marketing challenge, of sorts....

The name provides a marketing challenge, of sorts….

A Google search for Church yields 221 million possible hits and for “Church Bar,” a total of 490 million – an interesting fact in itself, but it raises the same question I asked the owner of the recently Beerchaser-reviewed (April 2013 post) bar “Beer.”  How do you market your establishment on-line and help people find it given the generic moniker?

Although there are also bars named “Church” in Webster England, Lakewood Ohio, Portland Maine and Atlanta, our research found that a new trend is also to have Sunday church services in a bar – possibly an answer to the statistical question above.  It’s the case in both Forth Worth and Abilene, Texas.  (Of course, if Rick Perry is your governor, it would motivate one to both drink and pray without ceasing…)

I like answer the Abilene pastor gave to the following question: Will alcohol be served at Bar Church?      

Is it kosher to drink in Church???

Is it kosher to drink in Church???  Ask Sam, the bartender.

“Jesus seemed more interested in connecting with people than he was interested in debating questions like this.  We like Jesus’ approach.  The fact is that we meet in a bar, and some people are probably going to want to order a drink.”

One of the other pastors stated, “If Jesus came in the door, he’d probably laugh.”

———-

Distinguishing Characteristics

The impressive interior

The impressive interior

The Décor – The dark recycled wood panels on the wall have inlays shaped like steeples and catch the light from very large windows at the front of the bar.  Bottles and wood

Medieval trappings integrated into the décor enhance the impact as does one of the other unique  items – a confessional booth which is actually a slick photo booth (see below).       

Bartender, forgive me, for I have sinned. "It has been five minutes since my last Bloody Mary...."

Bartender, forgive me, for I have sinned. “It has been five minutes since my last Bloody Mary….”

Inside the confessional is a high-quality digital camera, which will take about 8 photos of the “penitents” and through a custom-made software program transmit them to social media for posting – pretty slick although not medieval and raising issues regarding the sanctity or confidentiality of this bar sacrament (to be resolved over cocktails…) 

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Catharsis in the booth….

The Food – The menu at Church is impressive with enough Southern standards to make one feel like he’s at a Baptist convention.  Although we did not eat, we met Javier, the chef, and he is proud of the selection and the quality and he was knowledgeable about his craft.

For example, hush puppies, glazed pork belly and corn bread, biscuits and gravy, grits and even their tofu dish has black-eyed peas.  They reportedly have a great burger and their ribs are only $5 during Happy Hour.

Also a selection of oysters and as stated in the Portland Tribune review in June 2013, “A sign over the bar reads, “Eat. Drink. Repent.” It’s a little unsettling, especially when you’re talking about shellfish — but we remained unrepentant.”

Unsettling - when eating oysters.....!

Unsettling – when eating oysters…..!

Mansfield with Brian Block, one of the owners and the traditional Beerchaser logo.

Mansfield with Brian Block, one of the owners and the traditional Beerchaser logo.

The Cocktails It’s an eclectic and creative cocktail menu which adds to a nice selection of nine wines and eight beers, although we were somewhat surprised,  that there were only two beers and a rotating cider on tap. (We had the Pfriem Blond IPA from the Hood River brewery – their rotating micro, which was very good.) John also had an excellent margarita.

An ambitious project would be to work one’s way through the ten interesting cocktails in addition to a “rotating punch.”  Most of the drinks are consistent with the religious theme:  For example, “The Great Fire” is tequila, lime, grapefruit, sugar, dill and cayenne, while “Sunday Morning” is buffalo trace, Drambuie, ginger syrup, lemon, Angostura and bubbles?.  “Death from Above” and “Old World Prayer” were also worthy of a future indulgence.

P1010924Some of the reviews questioned the synergy of the intriguing ingredients.  And the Portland Mercury in its review opined, “As if to make a position statement, the bar offers a Pickleback: a shot of pickle brine that washes away a shot of bad whiskey—an efficient tool for those only interested in one aspect of their drinking. It lives at the end of the cocktail menu, a white flag of capitulation after all that trying.”

The two visits to Church were both good experiences and the bar’s character and décor are worth seeing.  Since Mansfield was noted for the tribute to his historical hero above, it is fitting to quote one of Thebeerchaser’s favorite intellectuals  – Lord G.K. Chesterton, a British theologian, essayist, philosopher, newspaper columnist and novelist, who lived from 1874 to 1936 in London.  He was known for his love of food and drink and sometimes said grace before lighting a cigar.  He once stated:

Brilliant, prolific and humorous theologian, philosopher and author, Lord Chesterton

Brilliant, prolific and humorous theologian, philosopher and author, Lord Chesterton

“No animal ever invented anything as bad as drunkenness – or as good as drink.”

Based on two more quotes, I think he would enjoy the crowd and the theme of Church:

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.”

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”

Stop in at Church (Happy Hour from 4 to 7 and midnight to 2 A.M. every day with $2-$4 drafts and $3 well drinks) and have a chicken gizzard salad washed down with an “Old World Prayer”cocktail (Monopolowa vodka, green chartreuse, pear juice, lemon, green tea syrup and juniper) and then receive absolution in the confessional.

John Mansfield in lawyer mode....

John Mansfield in lawyer mode….

Church                    2600 NE Sandy