One long-ago review of the Bar of the Gods (BOG) stated: If you want to kick your liver into high gear, visit BOG.” For context, it also talked about the magnitude of the second-hand smoke. There is now no smoking, except on their patio, but the BOG still fits the classic definition of a “dive bar.” While it has disappeared from the list of Willamette Week’s best bars in the last three years, prior reviews give some insight:
2007 – Despite an off-putting goth decor, everyone’s welcome….If you come alone, you’re leaving alone….The clientele is on the youngish side and mostly travels in packs.
2008 – You’d think that a bar dedicated to the Greek Pantheon might be a bit, um, brighter. Just insert “dive” though and you’ve got all you need to know….BOG serves plenty of stiff, cheap-ass drinks.
2009 – The bar is dark and inviting with strings of grape-lights overhead doing little to illuminate the grime left over from the smoking days…The music is as loud as the crowd. Its everything you want a dive bar to be complete with a heated smoking area out back and hypnotizing lights that make it look like fireflies are on.
Portland lawyers, Scott Whipple, Dan Duyck and Dan Peterson from the Whipple & Duyck firm, joined me for this second stop on Thebeerchaser Bar Tour this evening.
The owner for the last 3.5 years, a pleasant fellow named Kip, said that BOG before 1996 was a gay strip club. The grape-clustered lights on the ceiling, the artwork and even the signs on the restrooms, evoked memories of studying Greek Mythology in high school.
Although I don’t still have my Odyssey Cliff’s Notes (at the time, wrapped in brown paper to hide the yellow and black cover), I remember stories of giants and ogres of indescribable horror ranging from such monsters as Medusa, Deimos (God of fear and terror) and his twin brother, Phobos (God of panic).
Odysseus, after seven years captivity by the nymph, Calypso, heads home to Ithaca and encounters a slew of these on his fabled tour of Greek bars and taverns chronicled by Homer in the eighth century. His journey was prior to legislation against second-hand smoking in pubs, which added to the hazards.
For example there was Charybdis, once a beautiful mermaid, who took “the form of a huge bladder of a creature whose face is all mouth and whose arms and legs are flippers. She swallows a huge amount of water three times a day before belching it back out again, creating whirlpools.” (Wikipedia)
The whirlpool or vortex brought back unpleasant memories of “the blind whirleys” from college – appropriately Greek-related from fraternity parties. The cure for this whirlpool-type condition was to lie down with one foot on the bed and one on the floor – it did not work if you were already lying on the floor….
And The Sirens – “Their song, though irresistibly sweet, was no less sad than sweet, and lapped both body and soul in a fatal lethargy, the forerunner of death and corruption.”
Fortunately, the music at BOG was so loud that we overcame any lethargic tendencies when a Van Halen tune belted out from the juke box at a 120 decibel level.
The Theme – You probably won’t find another Portland bar with the pervasive Greek mythology theme – even to the point of the signs on the restroom doors:
The Food – Since we had already eaten at another bar, we just topped it off with some delicious home-made chips and salsa and a chicken quesadilla, but Kip asserted that the BOG food is distinctive. Their chili is home-made as are all their soups. The menu on the blackboard does seem unusual for pub grub:
Kip also told us that there are eleven bars in the eastern environs of Hawthorne Street and they are known as The Bar-muda Triangle. Since this seemed relevant to Charybdis, the Vortex and Blind Whirleys, it required some research. In fact, there were 2,910 Google entries for “Portland Bar-muda Triangle”, and Kip may be right:
The Urban Dictionary – this user-generated website pinpoints its location as “an area of bars that collectively saturate the SE Hawthorne Arts District at the base of Mt Tabor.”
The Portland Tribune – In a July, 2008 article entitled, “Drop anchor in Bar-muda Triangle,” there is a bar review of “The Tanker” with a subheading stating, “Setting a course for spirits, sports? Navigate to Hawthorne’s Tanker.”
To the contrary, there is a Willamette Week article from May, 2011 captioned, “Douchebags Not Allowed: Bar-muda Triangle’s Ankeny Car-Free Zone Is a Go.” According to WW, Portland’s Bar-muda is located in the Old Town neighborhood on the west side, near Voodoo Donuts where one block of Southwest Ankeny Street was converted to a car-free zone with outdoor tables for diners.
Perhaps the dilemma is resolved based on info gleaned at the “wise-geek” website stating: “ A Bar-muda Triangle is an area where the concentration of bars is especially high. The number of bars located within an area known as a bar-muda triangle may be greater than three, of course, and sometimes an area with only two bars may be colloquially termed a bar-muda triangle. You may also hear a bar-muda triangle referred to as a beer-muda triangle.”
It appears that “Bar-muda triangle” is used by many towns to refer to particularly alcoholic intersections and the term is garnered from elsewhere or invented independently.
Since BOG has five beers on tap, eleven bottled beers, five in cans and champagne, let’s hoist a Hypotenuse IPA and agree that everyone is correct!
BOG has four video poker machines and a spacious area to play pool. The crowd was an interesting mixture of locals and those cruising the Hawthorne District, although I did hear one guy shout, “I’m part of the 47%…
Try the Bar of the Gods, but take your GPS and don’t disappear in the confines of the Bar-muda Triangle. Check out their interesting website on the link below.