(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)
I recently discovered The Basement Public House – a wonderful neighborhood bar in SE Portland and in starting to convey the reasons for that evaluation, embarked on two side trips on TheBeerchaser posts:
Initially, I reminisced about five of the Portland basement bars I’d been to during the eleven years since I started Beerchasing. https://thebeerchaser.com/2023/02/22/a-cellars-market-of-subterranean-portland-bars-part-1/
That led me to explore other subterranean watering holes – unfortunately none in which I had raised a mug but were interesting: https://thebeerchaser.com/2023/02/27/down-to-earth-at-the-basement-pub-part-ii/
These establishments ranged from two in Germany to a Fort Worth, Texas dive to an upscale joint in Brazil.
The photos above show a sample of pubs mentioned in these two posts. (Clockwise – Life of Riley Tavern and the Grand Cafe in Portland; Mary’s Basement in Schwabach, Germany; The Basement English Pub in Blumenau, Brazil and Basement Bar in Fort Worth, Texas. #2 – #4).
As an aside, according to Wikipedia:
“(Blumenau) has a cultural agenda focused on parties based on the daily life and habits of European immigrants, with emphasis on German heritage, including the second largest Oktoberfest in the world, which takes place during 17 days in October.”
Rooftop Bars could generate great tunes such as The Drifters unforgettable “Up on the Roof,“ but there are understandably, not many songs about basements. I did, however, find one on YouTube entitled “The Basement Song” by a somewhat obscure British indie rock band named The Bluetones.
And finally, another British group, Basement – stylistically described as “melodic hardcore punk.” (#5 – #7)
But Without Further Digression….
Why was I so enamored by Portland’s Basement Public House? As I stated in the previous posts, while the moniker might connote visions of a dark, musty, cluttered dive bar, The Basement Pub – actually at street level in the basement of an historic home in SE Portland – is like a entering a living room.
A few Yelp reviews below catch the flavor quite well, but the highlights for me were:
It’s clean and there’s a quiet, but upscale ambiance that is comfortable and friendly. The bar is horseshoe shaped and attractive This is heightened by the affable and competent bartender, Elizabeth, who was there on both of my visits.
Some of the tables have game boards built into the glass tops and there’s also an alcove with gameboards which are used for events such as cribbage contests and Trivia Night. People sit at some of the tables with computers while others are involved in animated conversation both at the bar and at the tables.
There are Christmas-type lights of various colors which provide a nice touch and complement a few old-fashioned neon signs such as one for Rainer Beer.
The don’t offer an expansive tap list, but have a good variety of NW beers with seven (including PBR) and one cider on tap plus an additional selection of bottles and cans. The prices are very reasonable.
And one of the unique features is an Olympia Beer tap which actually dispenses water for thirsty patrons.
There’s some nice art and photos on the walls – nothing fancy, but the historical photos are interesting. Two old-fashioned pinball machines contribute to the character as does the expansive, heated patio a few steps from the bar.
To further my contention that The Basement is not a dive bar I discovered another unique feature in my Beerchasing travels. This is the only watering hole I’ve ever visited where they had a book of matches in the bathroom – a courtesy to subsequent users to mitigate lingering odors.
I would suggest that no dive bar would ever think of this remedy!
“This place is so authentic that the bathroom even looked like my Grandpa’s basement commode. What a strange trip down memory lane that was.” Yelp 10/26/08
In my reviews, I try to emphasize distinguishing features of each establishment I visit. Now the aquarium at The Basement Pub was not unique in my experience: however………….
It’s the only one that I remember besides the epitome of that phenomenon at the Dive Bar in Sacramento we visited in 2016. Only four blocks from the California Sate Capitol, patrons can see the 40 foot long saltwater aquarium over the long bar.
Dive Bar has a head mermaid and mermaid trainer and you can even hire the mermaids for your own party:
“Stunning Professional Mermaids and Mermen with years of swimming and underwater performance experience are available to enchant your guests with their playful spirits, beautiful acapella siren songs, water performance, prop work and so much more!”
Check their website: (https://www.gigsalad.com/dive_bar_mermaids_sacramento1)
Fortunately, it appears that the pandemic did not dampen the spirits of the aquatic performers and they are still going strong. It’s open from 3:00 to 2 AM seven days a week. (#7 – #8)
But I Digressed — Again!
Below are excerpts from a few Yelp Reviews which do a great job of capturing the essence of the The Basement Pub.
“This is the epitome of a perfect neighborhood bar. It’s so comfortable here, the staff is friendly, the back patio is awesome, and the customers sitting out front on warm days just always seem to be so nice and friendly. When you just want a beer (alone, or with friends), this is your spot. At least its mine.” (5/11/18)
“Not much to say. This a great local bar with a cool laid back vibe. Not a dive bar in my mind, it’s a kick ass bar!” 9/30/19
“The Basement Pub is a spot you want to go regardless how it feels outside. This is the spot you should be a regular at because of how cool, calm, and collected this pub is. It is LITERALLY a basement in a 4-story home right off of the street.” 10/10/22
Now during good weather, there’s some nice tables in the front, but the heated patio is a great place to relax during any month. (#9)
Those who follow this blog know that I treasure the get-togethers that Beerchasing provides and The Basement was no exception.
The first time, I met my former two bosses from the law firm – President, Dave Bartz and Managing Partner, Mark Long. The three of us served as an Executive Committee for the firm’s Board of Directors.
They were not only distinguished lawyers in their specialties, but had remarkable management instincts – and they complemented each other artfully. Sharing the leadership of the firm rather than relying on a single chief was an untried concept when they were asked by the firm to accept the positions in 2001.
The length of their tenure in these roles (16 years) belies the respect of their lawyer colleagues and that of all firm personnel. They are both recently retired and honored with Emeritus status. (From left: Long, Bartz and Williams)
I enjoyed the first visit so much that I succeeded in putting together a larger group for my return. This one – five retired friends. As my acquaintances often remind me, “Dirt, you are still under the curse, ‘May your life be filled with lawyers,'” since five of the seven on the two visits fit that profile.
Jim Westood – semi-retired lawyer who followers of this blog know is one of the most frequent Beerchasing colleagues and a former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter. His education, etc. have been well documented in previous narratives.
Larry Frank – retired and a graduate of the University of Iowa and Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College in Portland. He joined The Standard in Portland in 1988 and was promoted to lead the legal staff of its Insurance Service Group before federal and state regulatory agencies, legislative bodies and industry associations and managed litigation until he retired in 2016.
John Kelly – Educated at Georgetown University and then a masters degree in City and Regional Planning from the Harvard Kennedy School before earning his law degree at Northwestern (Lewis and Clark).
His focus was planning – specializing in land use and transportation. He had stints for the State of Oregon, but much of his career was for consulting firms on highway, streetcar and bus rapid transit projects for ODOT, Metro and TriMet.
Tom Kelly – Twin brother of John Kelly and his career may best be summed up by this August 2022 headline lead sentence in the Portland Business Journal:
“A Portland Construction Icon is set to Retire……Tom Kelly built the company his father started into a regional powerhouse that’s, by one measure, the country’s largest remodeler of its kind.”
He graduated from the University of Oregon, joined the Neil Kelly company, became owner and retired forty-four years later.
Dr. Doug Walta – I highlighted Doug in a previous blog post. He received his medical degree at the University of Minnesota and a degree in Health Care Management and Leadership at the Harvard Wharton School and also a Master of Endoscopy.
He subsequently founded the Oregon Clinic and served as CEO of Clinical Services for Providence Health and Services in Oregon. He is a pioneer in fiber optics diagnostic techniques. (Clockwise: Williams, Westwood, Walta, Frank, John Kelly and Tom Kelly)
I might add, one of the refreshing things about being around this group is recognizing the commitment to civic, charitable and professional activities which each one exemplifies.
We must have been a spectacle to the other regulars as we consumed multiple mugs, told stories and bemoaned the advanced state of technology, the challenge of getting to our health clubs and what has happened to our beloved City.
(We agreed to do it again soon – something which is a good idea given the median age of our group.)
What About the Food?
None of my two groups had food while at The Basement Pub and that factor is not one of its strengths. It’s essentially limited to Indian food and snacks (pickled vegetables and chips/chutney – each only $3). You have to like curry as all of the six “small plates” feature it, but they’re only $6 to $8 and served over rice.
I’m not sure these prices are current as they don’t have a website and their Facebook page has not had a new post since the end of 2021.
The few comments on the food were mostly positive although somewhat dated:
“The menu consists of a few curry and pickle options that are nice for snacking on. Definitely not a dinner destination but this type of small plate spice does pair well with the cold beer.” Yelp 8/15/19
“The menu is inexpensive and tasty.” Yelp 3/18/09
“The modest daily food menu serves as a staple for those who just want a snack to continue with the task of drinking or to tide them over until reaching their nights end.” Yelp 2/4/13
I did have to laugh at this one, however:
“This is a decent neighborhood night cap spot, however, smells strongly of curry. (We didn’t experience that.) Last night, I gained the courage to try the illustrious curry and much to my detriment, I can fully say 10/10 would not recommend, unless you’re doing a bowel prep for a colonoscopy the next day.” Yelp 5/10/19
If that had been the case, at least you could use the matches in the bathroom…….
Mixed drinks are definitely an attribute – both quality and price and how about that “Dirty Bird” – (Shot of Old Crow and a Pint of Pabst!)
“The cocktails are affordable, using straight forward, quality, simple ingredients. On happy hour they are great value for money.” Yelp 8/15/19
I loved everything about The Basement Pub and will be returning. It’s a community and epitomizes the type of establishment which makes this hobby so fulfilling. Try it!
External Photo Attributions
#1. The Basement Pub Website Photo (http://basementpub.com/?fbclid=IwAR3JVSUJTKFsutTnOuUxsMYg8WaiqNVtaAqWHCL0sAh08j5YjsZgCggmzzk)
#4. (http://(http://Photo Basement Dive Bar in Stockyards – Review of The Basement Bar, Fort Worth, TX – Tripadvisor)
#5. Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.By Sry85 – Own work, CC BY 3.0 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Bluetones.jpg)
#6. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Drifters#/media/File:The_Drifters.png) This advertisement (or image from an advertisement) is in the public domain because it was published in a collective work (such as a periodical issue) in the United States between 1928 and 1977 and without a copyright notice specific to the advertisement.
#7. Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basement_(band)#/media/File:Basement) By Stephanie Hahne – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74055061)
#8. Dive Bar – Sacramento – Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=477376944403648&set=pb.100063940396138.-2207520000.&type=3)
#9. Dive Bar – Sacramento – Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=467811825360160&set=a.467811778693498)
#10. Yelp Photos (https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/basement-pub-portland-2)