(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser. If you are seeing this post 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. External photo attribution is at the end of the post. #1)
Well Beerchasers, I’ve hit the jackpot with my recent visits to bars The Basement Public House (eastside) and the Jolly Roger at John’s Landing (westside) – both independent neighborhood establishments owned and operated by Portlanders. And now I’ll tell you about another outstanding neighborhood tavern.
I first visited the Tabor Tavern in 2022 with my colleague on the Abbey Foundation of Oregon Board, John Limb and returned this February with a former Schwabe Williamson law firm colleague, John Mansfield, who is now working as a Deputy County Counsel in Washington County.
And as will be the case with the other two establishments, I’ll return again notwithstanding the internal pressure which is my constant companion — knowing how many watering holes I haven’t visited and still await Thebeerchaser with anticipation.
In researching the Tabor and it’s opening in 2012 by Ken “Zig” Naffziger, I was not surprised by its longevity and success. And the welcoming ambiance radiates when one walks in the door.
The problem with some of the newer hospitality venues which were short-lived – especially with the impact of the pandemic – the owners and management often didn’t “learn the ropes” before they ventured out on their own. The COVID related issues challenged even the most experienced manager.
Two good examples of how long-time successful bar owners worked their way up and were fully aware of the commitment and grit required are the Jackson family – owners of the Sports Page in Beaverton and the Jolly Roger bars – the most recent reviews on this blog.
The other is Zig Naffziger – owner of the Tabor Tavern.
“In 2012, after 25 years in the industry — including stints with Portland pub icons McMenamins, Lompoc Brewing and the Horse Brass Pub — Ken “Zig” Naffziger decided to set out on his own.
Inspired by Zig’s travels and love of pub culture, his goal was to create the kind of place fellow tavern fans could congregate to enjoy high-quality food and drink in a warm, welcoming and unpretentious environment.” (Tabor Tavern website) (#2)
Zig learned the industry before he opened the Tabor Tavern
Let’s look at what has made the Tabor Tavern a favorite eatery and bar on the northwest edge of the Tabor Neighborhood.
And based on the reception it got from the time it opened until the present, his first establishment allowed Zig and his wife, Kristen Siefkin, to open a second neighborhood tavern and restaurant – Swift and Union in 2015 – less than ten miles away.
It had been his life-long dream of Naffziger to open a neighborhood pub. He was smart about how he went about it – getting advice from experts including his wife:
“‘I am an avid fan of pub culture and hope to create the kind of place fellow fans would like to congregate.’ Naffziger brought in restaurant consultant, Sean Herron of Big Idea Group as advisor on this project (and) food and beverage PR executive, Kristen Siefkin.” (https://brewpublic.com/oregon-beer/tabor-tavern-to-open-this-spring/)
Now the outside of Tabor Tavern does not portend what awaits you inside. It’s a plain wooden one-story building with a red roof in a semi-commercial residential area on a busy street.
There are a number of small picnic tables that share the sidewalk for Portland’s months when outside seating is an option.
Not to be forgotten – also not available at many watering holes these days is plenty of off-street parking with more available in the Tavern’s lot. (#3)
But one walks into a quaint one-room interior which is a wonderful throwback to the diners of the 60’s or 70’s. In fact, along with historic Portland photos and an attractive chalkboard display showing beers on taps, there’s a large wood poster entitled “Back in 1972.”
It has 1972 statistics such as the cost of a house ($27,550), the average annual income ($9,697), cost of a gallon of gas (36 cents) and cultural items like popular songs (American Pie), movies (The Godfather) and TV shows (All in the Family).
Also – famous people born that year including Gwyneth Paltrow – who didn’t know then that in the future she should stay away from both ski slopes and courtrooms…….
The welcoming, rich interior has wood tables of various sizes located throughout with dark-colored wooden booths with padded seats by the windows along the front.
And one of the most iconic features is a long-reclaimed wood bar with twelve old drugstore counter-type stools. All give an impression of high quality and care. The floor is refinished cement and there are antique rugs providing a nice contrast.
The Food, the Beverages and the Service
Tabor Tavern gets an A grade on these three categories. Each time I visited or followed up with a call, the staff was friendly and helpful – including offering to take pictures of us for the blog and even posing in one of them.
Besides eight varied Northwest beers and one cider on tap, one can also get cans and bottles including a non-alcoholic beer. Of course, I was pleased to see the old standby – $3.50 Rainer Tallboys.
Wine is also available, and they get good reviews on their seven cocktails which go for $12. I was intrigued by the Drunken Botanist – “Wild Roots raspberry vodka, muddled arugula, honey, lime juice, served up” – but didn’t have the courage to ask what “muddled arugula” is. (#4)
But it’s the excellent upscale pub food which beckons me to make a return visit. I was surprised that the annual Willamette Week Best Bar Guides, I’ve collected for the last ten years didn’t have Tabor Tavern in any of its editions.
Take a look at these two reviews from the weekly newspaper, however, and you’ll get a flavor for the quality of the cuisine:
“This casual, bustling neighborhood joint always miraculously has at least one table available whenever we roll up. Its adult menu is exceptional pub grub: a perfect beet salad (with quinoa and pepitas) and a fried chicken sando that my partner orders every time and will not shut up about.
It also has a small kids’ menu, which includes the coveted grilled cheese and fries for $7. Hell yes! Tabor Tavern is perfect for cool families, although a passerby would hardly even know it, which is the ideal aesthetic.” Willamette Week 8/18/21
And I can personally attest to the accuracy of the effusive review of the fried chicken sandwich ($16) – I had it and my friend, John Mansfield relished the Spinach and Warm Bacon Salad. ($14)
Perhaps that’s why we looked so happy in this photo – taken after we finished lunch – although some people assert that I’m always happy when I have a meal with a lawyer……..!
However, when I return, given the description in the review below and seeing it first-hand when my Beerchasing companion, John Limb tried it in 2022, I will, without hesitation, order the Tabor Burger as described in the 2017 article “The 16 Best Bar Burgers in Portland.”
“The Tabor Burger ($16.50 with fries, soup or salad) is precisely what would happen if a hamburger got attacked by an episode of Frasier: arugula, brioche bun, blue cheese and bacon jam.
But it comes together better than expected—a balance of fat against salt and bitterness, rather than acidity. But is it weird I sometimes feel I’m eating a Cobb salad?”
Our friendly server agreed to have his picture taken with John.
I told John’s story in a prior post about Chuckanut Brewing. Before retiring in 2017, he was the publisher of the Oregon Catholic Press.
The OCP is a non-profit national leader in Catholic and faith-based music publishing and worship resources. During his tenure, OCP became the nation’s leading publisher of Catholic worship material. He continues to serve as Publisher Emeritus.
And it was a remarkable coincidence that as we ate our lunches and drank our beers on a nice April afternoon at the outside tables in front of the bar, that John looked at two guys inside – sitting adjacent to us – with just a window separating us. John and both of the guys started smiling and waving simultaneously as they recognized each other.
In the photo below, the guy on the left is Rudy Lopez who works at OCP and is a very talented musician and composer as is Bro. Rufino Zaragoza – a Franciscan friar (monk) from California.
He collaborates with OCP including efforts to serve the Vietnamese community both here in the U.S. and in Vietnam. (Click on the above links on these individuals and you will be impressed with their work and dedication.)
John had not seen Bro. Rufino since 2001 when both traveled to Viet Nam and facilitated the development and publication of a Vietnamese National Hymnal which is now available internationally.
And Because it Bears Mentioning
After looking at the photos again, I commented to John in a recent phone call, “John, you have an amazing resemblance to comedian Stephen Colbert.” His reply was:
“Yes, I’ve been told many times that I look like him — more so in the past, when he still wore wire-rimmed glasses like my own. There have been times when people were actually convinced that I was him, and I was just trying to avoid them by saying that I wasn’t. My fifteen minutes of fame, so to speak.”
Well, you judge for yourself! (#5 – #6)
Well, that’s John Limb on the _______??!!
I laughed and reflected that John should feel pretty good about the comparison. The only famous person friends have said that I resemble is former Senate Majority Leader – Republican Trent Lott from Mississippi. (2001) And no, I’m not going to show you the picture! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trent_Lott
You should make a point to try Zig’s ” dream that became a reality,” and he created a place that is “warm, welcoming and an unpretentious environment.” I plan to visit Swift and Union as well. But I’ll leave you with this brief 4/15/23 Yelp Review. It sums up most of comments very well:
“I’d never been to Tabor Tavern before. Wow! The food is excellent!! Everything delicious. I split the beet salad and burger with blue cheese, bacon jam & arugula . SOOOO delicious!
A table mate had the fish and chips and another had the Tabor burger. All outstanding – as are the fries. Highly recommend this eatery!!”
And if you want to see the breadth of the food and cocktails Zig Naffziger offers and the outstanding presentation, just check out the photos on the Tabor Tavern Facebook Page. (#7)
External Photo Attribution
#1. Tabor Tavern Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/TaborTavern/photos/pb.100063643386983.-2207520000./3778581502237497/?type=3).
#2. Linked-in (http://Ken (21) Kenneth “Zig” Naffziger | LinkedIn)
#3. Tabor Tavern Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/TaborTavern/photos/pb.100063643386983-)
#4. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eruca_sativa.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Whut – 6 October 2010.
#5. Abbey Foundation of Oregon 2020 Annual Report (https://abbeyfoundationoforegon-annualreport.org/annual-report-2020/)
#6. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Colbert_(character))
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stephen_Colbert_on_set_cropped.jpg This file is a work of a U.S. Army soldier or employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_of_the_United_States_Government – Author Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade
#7. Tabor Tavern Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/TaborTavern/photos/pb.100063643386983.-2207520000./774050192690658/?type=3)