Thebeerchasers’ Best Portland Dive Bars

As I mentioned in my 2018 Annual Report, after pursuing this somewhat unusual hobby for a little over seven years, some might wonder which bars of various types or which breweries are my favorites.  Conversely, which would I not recommend although there are not many in the latter category.

So over the next few months, while still doing blog posts about bars I visit in 2019, I will try to identify my favorites to this point by category i.e. dive bar, neighborhood establishment, sports bar, brew-pub, etc. – without paying undue attention to defining the criteria for the categories.

As one can see by the first logo pictured above, I was originally  going to confine my journey to just Portland watering holes; however, given our robust retirement travel, it has expanded to cover bars in Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, a number of regions in the continental US and throughout Oregon from the High Desert to the wonderful and scenic Oregon coast.

I’ll divide each category into separate posts covering Portland establishments and those outside the Rose City.  For each bar, I will provide a brief narrative on my rationale for it being on my “all-star” list.

I might add that one of the joys of this undertaking – especially on our trips, has been sharing the experience with my wife of 39 years.

Janet has transitioned from almost exclusively drinking wine, to enjoying IPAs – especially the hoppy ones.  That said, she demurs when I suggest hitting a dive bar — there have been one or two exceptions when we have been traveling.

I welcome your comments and opinions.  It should be also noted that I am not ranking these within the all-star categories, although I might feel inclined to indicate one that supersedes the others in each specific group.  Most of the narrative about each bar was applicable when I reviewed them.  Things may have changed since then, but hey – with 286 bars down and a lot more to go, I don’t have time to go back and update!

If you want to see the original post for the four I highlight below, you can click on the purple link in the name of the bar which precedes its story.

Cheers and Go Beavs!

Best Portland Area Dive Bars

 The Ship Tavern – December 10, 2012

The Ship, located in nearby Multnomah Village, could make the all-star list just from its unique mural on the exterior front wall, but this bar is a “must visit” for those who appreciate the ambiance of a good dive.

One could assert that it gets some competition as an iconic watering hole from Renners’ Bar and Grill, another great dive just around the corner and reviewed by Thebeerchaser in August, 2017 – unfortunately, now closed because of a disastrous fire.  However, even when both were operating The Ship clearly anchored the exceptional bars in the Village.

It’s aptly described by this Yelp reviewer who wrote: “The ship isn’t anything to write home to Mom about…..heck it probably isn’t even a place I would tell my Mom I went….but it knows what/who it is.”  (Yelp 9/1/17)   

The Ship has been in the same location since 1946 and this site of a former garage has big-time history and character.   If you go on Thursday, your table will have free peanuts in the shell – the shells go on the floor when you are done.

There’s also a great juke box with the favorite plays when I visited in 2012 as follows:

Neil Young and Crazy Horse – “Get a Job”

Bad Company“Bad Company”

The Raconteurs “Steady as She Goes”

Waylon Jennings“Good-Hearted Woman”

When you want to play a song in the juke, you tell the bartender who turns off the stereo. The old-time pinball machine is also great.

Da Bears, Da Cubs and Da Sox! – Now there are several bars in Portland which purport to be Chicago Bears’ bars – these  include the Buffalo Gap and the Hob Nob Grill, but The Ship Tavern is very passionate about their favorite NFL Team.  They also like the Cubbies and White Sox.

The Ship can be considered a Chicago hangout as evidenced by the fact that any time the Bears, Cubs or the Sox play, Pabst Old Style Beer – A Chicago favorite –  is $1.50 per can and margaritas and Bloody Mary’s are $3.50.

Debbie, the friendly bartender, emphasized, “This doesn’t apply to Blackhawk games – we’re not big on hockey.”   

Furthermore, every Sunday during football season they “offer meals that are themed after the opposing team.” The Sunday after my first visit, they played the Minnesota VikingsThe special was Tator-tot-Hotdish and Caesar salad for $5.50.  

According to Wikipedia, “Hotdish is a variety of baked casserole that typically contains a starch, a meat or other protein, and a canned and/ or frozen vegetable mixed with canned soup.  The dish is popular in Minnesota and North Dakota.”

Part of the lore was also supplied by former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Jay WaldronThe bar was a hangout for the Portland Rugby Club (of which Waldron is a charter member) and they had their Book-and-Brew discussions at The Ship.  (I didn’t ask what percentage was brew and the allocation of book, nor the nature of the literature purportedly dissected.)

The overall character and décor make this bar the epitome of a good dive bar including the pictures and memorabilia – and the stories surrounding each one of them.  In the words of one patron:

“The Ship is simply your quintessential dive bar……It’s an ultra local joint with good history…….that dark and dank local bar with a handful of guys in trucker hats and grey mustache’s…..”(Yelp 2/29/12)       

Candace, the friendly bartender

The Ship Tavern        7827 SW 35th Ave.  Portland (Multnomah Village)

Gil’s Speakeasy – May 9, 2017

When they named it a speakeasy, they weren’t kidding.  There is no sign with the name and other than a few innocuous beer signs in the front windows, no indication that this is actually a bar.

It’s on the ground floor of a multi-story apartment building and based on the surrounding structures, you could walk right by it if you didn’t know it was there.  Perhaps that’s why PDXbars.com described it as, “Small, hard to find bar, with a huge personality.”

A viewing slot like a traditional speakeasy

And this is okay with Brett Gilhuly, who bought and renamed the bar in 2004 – it’s been around since 1939.  He stated in a media interview, “If you could find it, you were more than welcome. And if you couldn’t, – find something else.”

Brett also originated their advertising slogan, “The nicest assholes in town!.”  Gil’s wife, Katie is the co-owner and bartender and a very nice person….The dingy, although spacious bar, is also distinguished by its collections of signs, old bottles, photos and memorabilia.

 

Katie and bartender, Judd – “the best bartender in town!”

It features one of the few full-length shuffleboard tables remaining in Portland bars and has a great juke-box with a slew of albums ranging from Otis Redding and Sam Cooke to Pearl Jam and Guns ‘N Roses.

Although possibly a little inconsistent with the preferences of the typical dive bar regular, they even have “Teenager in Love,” by Dion and the Belmonts – it hit #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959.

Dion and the Belmonts!!

But the best feature is their daily food special – you’ll have to go to my original blog post to see all of them, but to give you an idea, on Monday – which is also Dirty Bingo Night, you can get three tacos for a buck and on Friday (when I ate there) – a Sloppy Joe with chips – also for $1.

The Friday special for $1

The large pool table with red felt is a nice touch and is in a comfortable adjacent room.  They have a good tap list and beer is cheap.

Even the coin-operated breathalyzer is a nice feature and one which is not found often in Portland Bars.

Summed up in a dated, but still very accurate Yelp review on 4/17/14:

“In my top 5 dives in Portland. this place is great. drinks are reasonable, strong pours, and the food is great and affordable. check out their turkey dinner. delicious, home made, cant be missed. place is cozy.”

Gil’s Speakeasy         609 1/2 SE Taylor

Mock Crest Tavern – May 23, 2012

The Mock Crest is definitely a classic and borders on being a neighborhood establishment rather than classified as a dive; however, although it has some great features, it’s characterized by the wonderful environment of a dive bar.  Perhaps, this Yelp comment summed it up best although the reviewer equivocates to some extent:

“Hmmmm…I cannot classity this as a Dive Bar.  I’ve been to a generous handful in my day, and this is upscale divey, if not a classy dive bar.  It is a gem.”

Yep. It’s a dive albeit a classy one…..

So what are some of the distinguishing factors of this historic establishment which has operated for about 70 years and was named after North Portland entrepreneur and philanthropist, John Mock.

North Portland icon

A pharmacy and butcher shop/meat market occupied the building before the bar.  A picture of Mock hangs on the wall as you go out to the bar’s outside patio – not fancy, but a great place to contemplate the God’s gift of beer!

Mock Crest has eight rotating draft beers and about 21 bottled and cans.  Happy Hour is twice each day – from 3 to 6 P.M.and 11 PM to close.

Good food can be an exception to the rule at dive bars, but the bar has a good menu (including fried pickles) and gets favorable comments about its food including breakfast.

When we were there six years ago, the menu stated, “Breakfast served – any time.”   My colleague, Intellectual Property lawyer, John Mansfield, decided to be coy and stated, “Okay, I’ll take French Toast from the Renaissance Era.”  I see that they now serve it only until noon on weekdays – probably so they never have to listen to that comment ever again…..

Mansfield – he’s welcome back provided someone else orders the food!

Live Music –  Although the size of the bar is pretty limited, it is well known for its long history of good live music.  Their website states:

“(We) play host to NoPo’s best live music every Thursday thru Saturday. From Rock ‘Roll and Country, to Jazz, Pop, Blues and R&B, you’ll enjoy local legends, touring artists, as well as up and coming stars.  Best of all there never a cover charge – ever.”

The evening we were there we got to hear the Eagle Ridin’ Papas featuring legendary musician, Johnnie Ward, who was described as “a living study of Northwest Roots and Blues Movement with nearly 40 years of performance art to his credit.”  You are close up to the musicians and they like to interact.

At least one reviewer (Yelp 10/7/16) objects to the space constraints although most patrons (including John and I) like this intimate set-up:

“Want to have a conversation with some friends?  Forget it.  Want to use the bathroom?  Forget it, unless you don’t mind making direct eye contact with the lead singer while you squeeze through the drummer’s floor tom and the bass amp.”  (I guess Johnnie Ward realized how old I was because he smiled and nodded empathetically when I made the trip…..)

Johnnie Ward – up close and personal..

Mock Crest describes itself with several nice slogans – all of which are apt:

Home of the North Portland Blues

Easy to Find – Hard to Leave

Where Friends Meet

And in far North Portland, it’s a bit out of the way, but well worth a visit – one of the classics to which I will look forward to returning.  The character is best described by this one succinct review.

 “Small, hard to find bar with a huge personality.”

Mock Crest Tavern       3435 N Lombard Street     Portland

The Standard – June 26, 2018

While with the Mock Crest Tavern, one can make an argument that it is not a traditional dive bar, that is not the case with The Standard.  The entrance, shown above, confirms before you enter, that you are arriving at a true dive – and this is affirmed when you see the interior.

You walk in through the covered patio, which is vaguely reminiscent of the days before Oregon’s smoke-free legislation passed in 2008 and the interior of every dive bar had a hazy, smoke filled environment, which would be hazardous for anyone without pristine lungs. (The second-hand smoke during  the times I was there was pretty minimal, however.) 
Individuals and groups sit at the picnic tables chatting, smoking and working on computers – often accompanied by their pets. And they drink cheap beer.

It’s a bar, which even with a great reputation, has been below the radar in an inconspicuous location on NE 22nd Avenue – just off Burnside.  And some might assert that with the dark wooden fence with a dumpster in the middle, fronting the bar, it looks like a recycling center. Opened in 2007, it doesn’t have the long history of some other classic bars, but demands recognition.

It’s replete with old-style pinball machines and games, a pool table and even a photo-booth.

There’s also a curiously-short shuffleboard – with empty kegs underneath,  old beers signs, tacky art, an idiosyncratic (or bizarre) cracked mirror – the full length of the bar – and well, a lot of stuff that just  makes you feel welcome.

Another distinguishing characteristic is a noticeable affinity for Hamm’s Beer.  It’s manifested by its Wednesday all-day $1 Hamm’s pints, numerous logos and a notable stuffed Hamm’s Bear over the bar wearing a Portland Trailblazer jersey. The Standard, like a lot of dives, is not the go-to place for quality pub food.  Its line-up is confined to items such as chips and salsa, a few sandwiches (micro-waved), mini-corndogs and fried ravioli(?)

They also have a drink special each day which includes the aforementioned Hamm’s special on Wednesday.

I don’t know why I loved this watering hole so much.  Was it the overall environment, the sense of community – reflected by such features as their Crappy Book Club“Bring your crappy books and trade them for other crappy books,”  the annual chili cooking contest, the Christmas decorations and showing of Santa Horror Movies?

Or was it just the people with whom I experienced the bar – a group of some of my favorites Beerchasing regulars.

But The Standard ranks as my favorite dive bar to this point in the seven and one-half years of this pursuit.  Perhaps it’s best conveyed by former Willamette Week Project Editor, Matthew Korfhage

In 2017, he garnered first place for his columns on food writing in the American Association of Alternative Newspapers.  Matthew has reviewed establishments while living in St. Louis, Chicago, Munich and Bordeaux.   He wrote the following in the annual Willamette Week Best Bars Guide.

2016It’s the best little bar in Portland, and I won’t hear otherwise.”

2017: “The bar is 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.”

So take in The Standard experience.  And while they have some good craft beer on tap, in the interest of honoring the character of this establishment, belly up to the bar and ask bartender, Tyler, for a draft Hamm’s.

The Standard        14 NE 22nd Ave.     Portland

Well that’s it folks and stay tuned in the coming weeks for a similar all-star list of dive bars outside of Portland.  And remember when you are contemplating this topic, the wisdom of Seattle author, Mike Seeley in his book Seattle’s Best Dive Bars:

“But really, no collection of characteristics can be melded to truly define what makes a bar a dive…..The term ‘dive’ is bestowed with a spoonful of love….What they have in common aren’t so much attributes, but a state of mind — you just know one when you see one.” (Pages 9-10)

 

Roll Out the Barrel at the House of Sour..

Cascade Barrel House is kind of an unassuming structure on SE Belmont Street  – a plain rectangular building with a large row of windows on the front and an awning over a patio accommodating a number of picnic tables in front.

It has essentially no ambiance, but that was offset because I was having another lunch with my favorite group of tax lawyers – not a group which you would expect to demand a rich environment – just one which allows a break from interpreting provisions of the Internal Revenue Code

The interior is also kind of stark – a few round wooden tables with steel stools and a bar which faces a bunch of taps ingrained in six barrel-type housings.  Two big screen TVs are available for watching sporting events.

A bit of a stark interior

To be clear, this is not a review of the Raccoon Lodge and Brew Pub, which is the primary Cascade Brewing facility – located in SW Portland.  http://raclodge.com/

While we had no expectation of an intriguing interior – typical of most dive bars (like the recently reviewed and nearby Gil’s Speakeasy) and many breweries, at least the beer at Cascade does have interesting and unusual characteristics.

Gils Speakeasy – no sour beer, but dive bar ambiance!

As one enters, a large barrel-end  displayed on the wall with the words “House of Sour” in large black letters greets the customer.  A majority (about 12 or 13 of the 18 beers on tap) are considered sour beer. 

According to their website: “A sour beer is one that has been deliberately brewed to achieve high levels of acidity. This elevated acidity delivers a predominantly sour flavor to the beer as opposed to the bitter or sweet flavors found in standard ales and lagers.”  (But there’s a lot more to sour beers – see below)

Cascade Brewing was founded in 1998 by Art Larrance, who has been involved in Oregon’s craft beer industry since its inception.  In fact, Cascade has a long-term reputation – even nationally,  for its sour beer.  “Cascade Brewing makes a variety of ales, but has made a name for themselves as pioneers of very distinct sour beers……distributed in eight states across the country.”  (Cascade web sight)

“After tasting twenty different sour, wild and farmhouse beers from all over the country ……..Cascade’s 2014 Kriek, a (barrel-aged) sour cherry beer brewed in the Belgian style …… was the best sour beer of them all……in a national survey conducted by New York Times on sour beer.”   Willamette Week 9/9/16

How was our lunch at Cascade Barrel House? (hereafter CBH)  Well, there’s a limited menu – a few decent sharable appetizers, four sandwiches – kind of expensive with most at $10.50 and $11.00 not including a side dish – three were available ala-carte for $1.50 to $2 extra – and four salad options.

Reuben sandwiches not a strength although at least they weren’t sour!

Coincidentally (and maybe because of the lack of choice), all five of us had a pork pastrami-Reuben sandwich ($10.50), which I thought was somewhat mediocre especially for the price, and would not order again.

Goose Hollow’s Claim

For example, compare the Reuben at former Portland Mayor Bud Clark’s Goose Hollow Inn, which advertises it’s sandwich as “The best Reuben on the Planet.”   Based on Thebeerchaser’s experience several times, this may not be an exaggeration and it is available with sides for $9.95 and $10.95.

Small glass of Oblique Coffee House Blonde

Three of the five of us had beers – all Cascade’s own – Oblique Coffee Blonde Stout – 6.5% ABV  (This blonde coffee stout features 1-1/4 lbs per barrel of single origin coffee beans from Colombia called El Corazon, roasted locally by Oblique coffee roasters.

Aromas of sweet, bright, fruity coffee with hints of caramel percolate from the glass. Smooth caramel, cream and coffee notes dance on the palate and lead to a soft, creamy caramel finish.”  (Rate Beer.com)  

And the dark Sang Noir – a whopping 9.5% ABV (“This deep, dark double red was aged over a year in Pinot and Whiskey barrels, then blended with a barrel of Bing cherries.” – Beer Advocate.com)  Reaction to both was very good – they were unusual and not available at most pubs.

The Sang Noir

And when I asked retired Schwabe Williamson lawyer, Pete Osborne how he liked his Cascade IPA – 5.7% ABV, he replied, “It was okay, but I’m not a good judge.  The only bad beer, in my opinion, is an empty glass!”

Prices for the beer are on the high side – eight ounce sour mugs run from $6-8 with pints of non-sour about $5 or $6.   I had one of the small glasses for $2.50  – this is one place, given the characteristics of the beer, where the small glasses of beers may be a good idea to hone in on one that comports with your taste in sour beer – provided you have one.   If not, you can always try the Cascade IPA, which also gets good reviews.

And the staff was very efficient and helpful – both our server and bartender, who answered some questions about the history of Cascade.

Friendly, helpful staff

Now before you lose your pucker, let’s talk a little more about the concept of sour beer.  I tried to gain a rudimentary knowledge after visiting CBH and admit, there’s more involved in brewing this type of beer than meets the palate – like a bunch of chemistry, microbiology and technical brewing stuff.  But remember, notwithstanding the name, this blog is primarily about bars – not the beverage served……

According to an article in the March 19, 2015 edition of Paste Magazineentitled “The Beginner’s Guide to Sour Beer”: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/03/beginners-guide-to-sour-beer.html

A Yeast Cell

Sours get their trademark tartness and sourness from bacteria and wild yeasts – Lactobacillis, Acetobacter, Brettanyomyces and other critters that you wouldn’t find in other styles of beer. 

Each type of bacteria gives its own trademark flavor and aroma…..For some of the sour styles, the wild bacteria and yeast come into the beer during an open or spontaneous fermentation (something that sounds like a college date…..) with open vats of wort exposed to natural air. 

As the barrels get older, the more sour the beer gets, which leads to the common practice of blending beer from several different barrels, young and old to get a consistent beer.”

And its tricky and uncertain because evidently rather than the sterile environment of modern brewing, wild yeast and bacteria are introduced rather than pure yeast cultures and because the beer can take months to ferment and years to mature.”  (Wikipedia

Our bartender emphasized how long it takes to age the sours and this may be one reason that while the tasting room at CBH is very small, according to their website, they have another 5,000 square feet where sour beers are aging in barrels.

And boy do they have a wide range of bottled fruit beer selections – enough for your quota of fruit for the month and possibly tempting you to plant the bottles in your yard to see if they might grow at your home i.e. tangerine, apricot, strawberry (3 different years), blackcap-raspberry, raspberry, blueberry (3), cranberry (3) and elderberry (2).

If you just want a good pub or bar experience, the Cascade Barrel House isn’t necessarily a great option.  And if you decide to try it, you might want to check them out on “Tap It Tuesday” nights at 6:00 when they tap a new creation which gets good reviews.  Happy Hour is Monday-Friday from 4:00 to 6:00.

But if you want to explore sour beers or if you are a real fan of the concept, the CBH is a good bet.

Gils – after your sour beer and to quench thirst for a PBR

And maybe another option is to have a good (albeit expensive) sour beer and then walk just five blocks to Gil’s Speakeasy for a great environment and a $1.50 happy hour PBR nightcap. You can.even listen to Dion and the Belmonts sing “Teenager in Love” on the classic juke box!

Cascade Barrel House      939 SE Belmont Street

 

 

Gil’s Speakeasy – “We’re the nicest a-holes in town……”

Gil’s Speakeasy – A classic dive at the bottom of an apartment building with no sign…..

Since January 1, 2017, Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs has featured nine venues consisting of two breweries or brew pubs, four neighborhood bars, a sports bar and the Multnomah Whisky Library which really defies classification. You may have noticed that there are no dive bars in this categorization..

This is typical of a “sparkling” new brew pub.  Breakside in the Pearl

The above does not count six additional brewpubs/breweries visited, but not yet posted including the relatively new digs at Breakside’s and Ten Barrel’s Pearl District facilities and Flyboy’s new location in Tigard.

Also included is our visit to three enjoyable and classy breweries on the North Oregon Coast – Astoria’s Fort George and Buoy and the Seaside Brewery in late April.  Stay tuned in the next few months for narratives on all of these.

This (Club 21) is typical of a dive bar

One of Thebeerchasers favorite (former) dive bars – RIP Club 21

So it is fitting, and possibly imperative, to return to my favorite type of watering hole – the classic dive bar.  And the latest bar visited needs no rationalization why it fits that description.  Gil’s Speakeasy has been around since 1939 and derives its moniker from the Prohibition saloons which weren’t identified by signs or external labels.

These places that served alcohol had to stay hidden.  The regulars (and usually the cops) knew where they were, but admission was selective.

The current status of the Club 21 building – yes, that’s graffiti….

Note:  This blog has previously shared the concern about the disappearance of some of Portland’s most sacrosanct dive bars.  In this case, take a look at both a past and a more recent photo of the iconic Club 21 as the historic structure awaits demolition.  With development in SE Portland, Gil’s Speakeasy could see the same future.

Former City Club of Portland’s Interim Executive Director and now consultant, Greg Wallinger, and I visited Gil’s on my first trip to the saloon.  Greg was also on a previous successful Beerchasing event at The Rambler – one of my favorite neighborhood bars.

Our plan was to meet for a brewski at the Charlie Horse Saloon – also a dive bar which is on SE Morrison, but we were greeted with a locked door and a sign stating, “Closed for Remodeling.”

Closed for remodeling

Parking in that vicinity is a challenge and based on the picture below, which is typical of ongoing development, it’s not going to get better.

As I walked the three and one-half blocks to the Charlie Horse from my car, I remembered seeing what looked like it might be a bar on the ground floor of a large, three-story apartment building on SE Taylor.

How many parking spaces do you think will accrue to this SE PDX apartment building???

We made the return trip and I was correct.  Though it had no sign with the name of the place and only a slit-type peephole in the door, a classic neon Pabst and a Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum sign indicated that this wasn’t a coffee shop and we walked into what PDXbars.com’s Best Bars” succinctly (and accurately described) as,  Small, hard to find bar with a huge personality.”

“Small, hard to find, with a huge personality.”

Followers of this blog understand how a dive bar earns the label (and can be reminded by examining the following post) https://thebeerchaser.com/2011/09/18/analyzing-dive-bars-head-first/— but one characteristic of which I’m fond are the signs and bric-a-brac lining the shelves and much of the interior of dive bars.

In Gils’ case our favorite was, “The consumption of alcohol may actually cause pregnancy.”

As you walk in, you’re greeted to a spacious, albeit appropriately dingy, space divided by the large bar into two sections.  The bar has a wonderful and very typical collection of signs, old bottles, photos and memorabilia throughout.

On the right side is an old pool table with red felt and what is a pretty good juke box, a Big Buck Hunter video game and a classic pinball. (The Sopranos)

Big Buck Hunter included

Albums ranging from Otis Redding to Dion and the Belmonts…..

And I might add, that while dive bars have their faults, one item which seems to fit in well in most, is a good juke box.  In this case, it had a slew of albums ranging from those by Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, to Pearl Jam, Guns N Roses and even the popular vocal group from the ’50’s, Dion and the Belmonts. (The last one seems a little counterintuitive as I don’t think any of the regulars would appreciate hearing the group’s main hit, Teenager in Love even though it hit #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March,1959.)

The focus on the bar’s left side is a large shuffleboard game described by Willamette Week in its “2015 Best of Portland” issue:

“Shuffleboard is no longer only the sport of septuagenarians on cruise ships. With its crowded floors, greasy snacks and affordable beer, Gil’s Speakeasy has all the necessary components for a great shuffleboard experience.”

One of Portlands best shuffleboards

Another distinguishing factor is the ceiling at Gil’s which is filled with chalked comments, drawings and signatures (reminiscent of The Twilight Room visited back in 2011 – a month after I started this journey).

The ceiling at Gil’s

I asked the bartender, who was a nice woman named Katie, (or it might be KT) “Who’s Gil?” and she replied that he is the co-owner of the bar (since 2004) and her husband – Brett Gilhuly.  The couple also own the Twilight Cafe and Bar at 14th and Powell, which is a bar that hosts rock groups most evenings.

Bartender and wife of the owner, Katie, with Judd, who in one review was called, “The best bartender in town.”

When interviewed by the Portland Tribune in August 2012, about the historical lack of signage, Gil stated:

The door at Gil’s – You won’t see a sign…..

“If you could find it, you were more than welcome to come in, and if you couldn’t, find something else.” 

He followed by asserting that when he took over the bar he never gave a thought to the lack of a sign. 

Unless it was in the woman’s bathroom, I could not find the old foosball table that was referenced in some reviews. (Katie told me in a subsequent phone call that it broke down and they took it out about a month ago).

 

The Men’s Head at Gil’s

 

But speaking of toilet facilities, the men’s head was a tribute to dive bar “climate” (although not comparable to that found at the Yamhill Pub which should have been declared an environmental hazard.)

Yamhill Pub – envir.  hazard?

We ordered two beers after reviewing the twelve on tap which, of course, included PBR and Rainier, and Greg opted for Santiam Brewing’s Pirate Stout, while I had a Seaside Brewing ESB – my first of a number of future encounters with this excellent pale ale.

The beer list is certainly adequate and like most dives, at a very reasonable price.  For example, you can get a pint of PBR or Rainier for $2 or $1.50 if its Happy Hour (small pitchers are $3!)  The most expensive pint if it’s not at HH is $4.50 for quality beers such as Boneyard, Lagunitas or Oakshire

Now the regular menu at Gil’s is what you might expect at a dive bar – a few salads, chili and nine different sandwiches ranging from $7 to $9, but the really distinguishing factor is their daily specials, which are notable enough to require itemization:

The Sloppy Joe and chips – What a bargain for $1.50 on Fridays

Saturday –  Chili Dog  – $3

Monday  –  Three Tacos  $1 – also Dirty Bingo night…

Tuesday – Turkey and Mashers with Salad – $6.50 or Turkey sandwich – $5

Wednesday – Pork sliders – $1.50

Thursday – Prime Rib – $10   from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM (See note below) or French Dip – $5 all day

Friday – Sloppy Joes – $1

Tell me where you can score a better deal and the past reviews are good.  For example, this one from Yelp on 4/17/14, “In my top 5 dives in Portland. this place is great. drinks are reasonable, strong pours, and the food is great and affordable. check out their turkey dinner. delicious, home made, cant be missed. place is cozy.”

As we look at the prime rib special, take a look at this quote on dive bars:

“Some dives have vomit-caked toilet seats in the bathroom; others have cracked vinyl booths in the barroom.  Some have nicotine-stained murals dating back to the Depression; others have drink prices that seemingly haven’t wavered since then….”  (Seattle’s Best Dive Bars by Mike Seely – pages 9-10)

Now while the price may not be the same as in Depression days in the quote above, look at the price of the prime rib special from this review in 2010:

Been here 10+ times. Best prime rib in Portland. Thursdays prime rib with salad and bread $10.00.”

Well, if you walk in Gil’s on a Thursday from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, you can still get a 6 1/2 ounce of prime rib at Gil’s for $10.00 (for which Gil is the personal cook) or up to a 16 ounce slab for $25.  (There were no recent reviews commenting on the prime rib.)

From Gil’s Facebook page

And to conclude, I asked Katie if she knew who had originated their motto, since Gil’s slogan asserts that they are “the nicest a%$ holes in town.”  She didn’t know and I thought the people I met at Gil’s were quality individuals, but to digress for a moment on a more scholarly note on what is becoming a more compelling, contemporary issue, you might want to check out a recent New York Times best seller by philosopher, Aaron James, entitled “Assholes – A Theory.”

James presents a theory of the asshole that is both intellectually provocative and existentially necessary.  What does it mean for someone to be an asshole? The answer is not obvious, despite the fact that we are often personally stuck dealing with people for whom there is no better name.

Gil’s – great dive bar ambiance

Try as we might to avoid them, assholes are found everywhere and in multiple iterations: smug assholes, royal assholes, the presidential asshole, corporate assholes, reckless assholes. The list goes on.   Asshole management begins with asshole understanding. Much as Machiavelli illuminated political strategy for princes, this book finally gives us the concepts to think or say why assholes disturb us so….”   

The above could be an absorbing topic of discussion especially while swilling a $2 pitcher of PBR with a friend.   And while you’re at it and considering the current political environment, you might want to reflect on a related best-selling tome by former (January, 2012) Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Dr. Harry Frankfurt, Princeton Professor Emeritus and author of the brilliant book On Bullshit.” 

Dr. Frankfurt in his 2005 book asserts:

The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.

In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.  And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us.  In other words, we have no theory.”

Dr. Harry Frankfurt – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in 2012

To remedy this sad state of affairs, Dr. Frankfurt proposes (and brilliantly succeeds):

“……..to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory analysis…..My aim is simply to give a rough account of what bullshit is and how it differs from what it is not.”

And in what will remain as one of the treasured pieces of correspondence related to this blog, I offer Dr. Frankfurt’s response when I informed him that he had received the title of Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter:

From: Harry G. Frankfurt

Sent: Monday, January 30, 2012

To: Williams, Donald

Subject: RE: Hello Dr. Frankfurt

Dear Mr. Williams,

First of all, thank you for the honor of naming me the January 12, 2012 Beerchaser of the Quarter.  I have looked at the blog in which you announced my receipt of this distinction, and I was impressed by its wit, its charm, and its erudition.  Also, I enjoyed the pictures.  I intend to follow your blog regularly.  Anyhow, thanks very much for writing.  Sincerely,  Harry Frankfurt

________________________________________

From: Williams, Donald [DWilliams@schwabe.com]

Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Subject: Hello Dr. Frankfurt

Dr. Frankfurt, during your distinguished career as a professor and an author, you have undoubtedly received many honors and much acclaim. I would like to inform you about one additional plaudit, although it pales with those previously received. You were named the January 12, 2012 Beerchaser of the Month on my blog www.thebeerchaser.com<http://www.thebeerchaser.com

One of my lawyer friends in the firm gave me a copy of your book, On Bullshit a few years ago and I loved it. While I could be described as a purveyor of bullshit at times during my tenure at the firm, I did not often have the opportunity to write creatively. Memos regarding law firm statistics, strategic planning and operational issues tend to be on the dry side. My blog has been a wonderful chance to remedy that and I wanted to share some excerpts from your book with my followers in the context of an essay, which I tried to relate to my bar tour and the presidential election cycle.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of your works now that I am retired and thank you for the hours of enjoyment I got from reading your book and sharing its wisdom with others.  Sincerely,   Don Williams

“Blow Before You Go”

And if you get too enthused in your discussion and are concerned that you drank too much beer in too little time, there is a breathalyzer right by the door to determine whether you need to catch a cab for the ride home. (“Wait 10 minutes after last drink for best results….”)

Regardless of whether you want to talk about a best seller, mingle with friends, have one of their daily specials or just have a pint of Rainier and reminisce about the good old days, you should drop by Gil’s Speakeasy, one of Portland’s venerable watering holes.

Gil’s Speakeasy         609 1/2 SE Taylor