My recent visit to MoMo – a bar right in the heart of downtown Portland (on SW 10th Avenue one block north of the Library) made me and quite possibly, my friend, Portland lawyer, Jim Westwood, who joined me, reflect on why we didn’t make more time for this type of cultural pursuit during the earlier years of our careers.
Both of us worked (Jim is still billing hours as an appellate lawyer on a part-time basis at the Stoel Rives law firm) more than twenty-five years at our downtown law firms in high-rise office buildings, yet July was the first time we graced the premises of MoMo Maximo bar. (There is disagreement on the origination of the name of this dive which has been around since 2002 and was previously a tea house.)
And the same is true for me regarding some other wonderful downtown bars within walking distance of the PacWest Center including the Tugboat Brewery, Kelly’s Olympian, Bailey’s Tap Room and the Yamhill Pub. Thebeerchaser has reviewed all of these long-term establishments since starting this “journey” in August 2011. (The links over the names will take you to Thebeerchaser reviews)
MoMo’s is a fascinating venue, which gets mixed reviews in social media – a few very critical of staff and service levels – mostly because of its popularity and the large crowds in the bar especially on weekends.
That said, most are effusive about the expansive back patio which Willamette Week recently even included in its “Best Portland Patio Bars That Are Also Pokéstops” – 7/12/16 W Week. (In my mind this is tantamount to getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick…..)
“The outdoor seating area is great, but the sheer number of smokers out there keeps me from loving this place. The patio (is) pretty large, but with so many people smoking it just fills the area and there’s no escaping it.” Yelp 4/10/16. We thought it was fine, however, and were sorry that we neglected to bring cigars for the occasion (see below).
We began with shots of one of the world’s quality scotch whiskeys – Oban. This fourteen-year old whiskey was described in a review by the Scotch Noob blog as:
“A satisfying dessert dram. Honeyed and full-bodied, it reminds me a lot of white port, but with more bite. It’s hard to imagine anyone not loving Oban 14.”
And it has a great tradition with the distillery in the West Scottish Highlands dating back to 1794. The rationale for the fine whiskey was to toast the memory of our mutual friend, and my colleague for many years at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm, Tim Haslach, who on July 6th lost his long and heroic battle with cancer.
An apt description of Tim as a person is the following: “He had a HUGE heart, was insanely loyal, loved his two kids completely and would have given anyone here, the shirt off his back if needed.”
Tim was also an outstanding attorney and partner:
“…an AV rated lawyer with Martindale-Hubbell, a testament to the fact that his peers considered him at the highest level of professional excellent. He was a pioneer and giant in his field (consortia model for technology standards), known and respected internationally. Equally important to him was his work for non-profits such as the Black Parent Initiative, Oregon Sports Authority and Jamii Moja.”
But besides being a wonderful family man and a respected lawyer, his athletic achievements were notable:
“Tim was an accomplished athlete, having been an Oregon High School State Swimming Champion, an All-American Swimmer, United States Masters Swimmer, and a rugby player at Santa Clara. After graduating law school, Tim added sailing, skiing, body boarding, and golfing to his athletic pursuits.
In 1991, Tim found his way back to the pool and was part of a successful English Channel Relay Swim. He crossed the channel again in 2001 as part of the Team Gaffney Relay, which raised money for The Karen Gaffney Foundation, a non-profit organization headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and dedicated to championing the full inclusion of people with Down syndrome and other disabilities.”
Now while the loss of our friend was a time for reflection and toasting Tim’s memory, we also had an opportunity to celebrate a significant achievement by Jim’s son, David.
David followed his dad’s Ivy League graduate school footsteps (Jim graduated from law school at Columbia) The afternoon we met at MoMo’s, David’s defense of his Ph.D. dissertation was formally approved at Harvard Univeristy. His area of study – Chemical Biology.
No, that’s not biochemistry, but try out this explanation from the Harvard website:
“Chemical biology is a rapidly growing field that combines the rigor and quantitative aspects of traditional chemistry and biochemistry programs with the excitement and medical relevance of modern molecular, cellular, organismic, and human biology.”
This above photo is David at the Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island, standing by the huge X-ray machine that’s about to bombard (and destroy) a microscopic protein crystal he has carefully prepared. The aim is to determine the structure of the protein from the scatter image, the better to use it for application in attacking diseased or pathogenic cells.
Now our toast to David was with PBR-filled mugs; however, I am sure that as his career progresses, he will rate an Oban salute too.
Mo Mo Maximo was a good stop on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Pubs and Taverns. Aaron, the bartender, was a friendly guy, the deck was superb and the maroon interior with spacious booths, pool tables and an interesting bar added to the dive-bar ambiance.
Notwithstanding the fact that Jim and I both partially rely on Medicare as our healthcare delivery system, we were not disappointed in our reception even after the admonition by this October, 2010 reviewer in Portland Barfly:
“This place is just fine to go to if you are in your 20’s or 30’s……Anyone over 40 will probably not be wanting to come here cause its a little young.”
Perhaps this emphasis on the younger crowd explains the puzzling assertion by City Search in its description and reviews of MoMo, that “persons who like MoMo might also enjoy the Sylvan Learning Center.….??!”
And I don’t think our acceptance by the regulars was based on recognition of Jim’s celebrity status from his 1965 gig as captain of the notable Portland State College GE College Bowl team which set records on the nationally-televised program or celebrity-struck deference to his stint as a weatherman for KGW in non-prime time slots during the same era.
And if I might digress for a moment since this is a time for reflection, the accomplishents of the PSC team were notable as documented in this excerpt from the PSU archives:
“The final (championship match) score, 415 – 60 (against Birmingham Southern U.), marked only the second time a team had broken the 400 mark. Along the way to five straight wins, PSC set several College Bowl records:
Most total points scored in five games; most points scored in a single game; lowest total points scored by opponents; and most games in a row over 300. The producer of the GE College Bowl program told team members they had shown “the greatest team effort” he ever had witnessed during the more than 220 previous shows. (“Portland State and the GE College Bowl” by Clarence Hein – PDX Scholar)
Although a lot of the Mo Mo clientele are millennials, the patrons we saw appeared to personify the eclectic description way back when it opened in the fall of 2002 as described by a reporter from the Portland Tribune: “……(the lunch hour when) librarians from the downtown library come in on a break, is busy, too. Early in the evening, happy hour attracts area workers, and later in the night employees from nearby Jake’s Grill stop in for a nightcap.”
Jim used public transportation to make the return trip to his NE Portland home and assured me that he was not going to further his alcohol consumption while making part of the trip by Streetcar, thereby taking advantage of information conveyed in an August 8, 2015 Willamette Week article entitled, “Take the Portland Streetcar drinking tour. (Trolley Drunk)”.
The journey “…..on the slow-moving, easy-riding streetcar is the perfect drunk-delivery device,” and the weekly paper’s recommended eleven stops included Mo Mo and former Beerchaser Pearl District bars Life of Riley (March 2016 review) and the Low Brow Lounge (June 2015 review).
To conclude, while the number has increased, there is still a paucity of good bars in the core downtown area and MoMo’s dark and spacious interior (described in this Portland Barfly summary) complemented by the bright and expansive patio along with friendly bartenders are a winning combination and merit a visit:
“A wondrous, jarring, thoroughly misplaced grotto remains from the former tea house, and Momo’s wisely……. left things alone beyond a few strands of Christmas lights less tacky than rakish given the context – Easter Island lounge as abandoned evidence of a once great culture utterly ignored by the natives currently in residence.”
And if you do drop by, raise a mug (or a shot glass) to the memory of Tim Haslach.
MoMo Bar Maximo NW 10th Avenue Portland