I ‘ve been to a number of sports bars in the five and one-half years since starting Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs. Some such as the historic Claudias in southeast Portland stand out and have some character and interesting sports memorabilia – like the picture of my Oregon City High School basketball coach, Dale Herron, who played for the legendary Claudia’s AAU team, after starring for the U of O Ducks in college. (He played for Claudia’s from 1961-7 during which time they won three NW AAU Championships.)
But many others such as the Marathon Taverna, which purports to be a sports bar doesn’t live up to the label – just a number of big-screen TVs. That was also the case with the On Deck (downtown location), the immediate predecessor of The Independent. Prior to that, the Silver Dollar II, another sports bar occupied the space.
However, The Independent – on Broadway near the historic Benson Hotel, is a great sports bar with a theme dear to the heart of most Portlanders – the legendary Portland Mavericks Baseball Team.
The Portland Mavericks have a fabled history as documented in the award-winning documentary, The Battered Bastards of Baseball, produced in 2014.
The team, formed in 1973 by Hollywood notable, Bing Russell, was the only independent baseball team in America at the time. As described in the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) summary:
“Bing operated without a Major League affiliation while playing in a city that was considered a wasteland for professional baseball. Tryouts for the Mavericks, which were open to the public, were filled with hopefuls who arrived in droves from every state in America, many of whom had been rejected by organized baseball. Skeptics agreed it would never work………
The Mavericks’ in your face attitude was contagious to fans, and during their short reign, they – and Bing Russell – basically held up their middle finger to the sports establishment and said we’re playing this game on our terms, not yours. They were the real life Bad News Bears.”
Joining us for beers that day, wearing his Portland Mavericks jacket, was a man who was integrally involved in that history – Beerchaser regular and retired Portland appellate lawyer and broadcaster and most importantly, a former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Jack Faust. https://thebeerchaser.com/2014/09/02/john-r-jack-faust-fall-2014-beerchaser-of-the-quarter/
Jack appears in the movie and you can read about his role as Bing Russell’s lawyer in the underdog legal victory in his suit against the Pacific Coast League in the Beerchaser post.(Russell was awarded $206,000 in a final arbitration – the League had made a final pre-arbitration offer of $5,000!):
Besides the interesting sports memorabilia, The Independent is spacious, has a cool wrap-around bar, a good selection of beers (20 on tap, which include five rotating and a $3.50 PBR Tall Boy) and a host of wide screen TVs (32) with various sporting events:
“Come catch a game on one of our 32 flat panel TV’s and a projection system for big games. Your team will be on!
You’ll also find …..vintage hockey masks, boxing gloves, baseball bats ad a vertical collection of USA Men’s Soccer jerseys dating back to the ’70’s on loan from Nike.”
And we were fortunate to have an outstanding server that day. Corey Lewis was personable, very helpful on beer selection and background of the bar while also having an interesting story (see below)
The others enjoying The Independent’s beer and environment that day were Jack’s wife, Alice, son Charlie, his daughter, Amy, lawyer Jim Westwood, Denny Ferguson and Thebeerchaser’s spouse, Janet. (Denny stuck to his values and ordered a cold Coors Light draft.)
As usual, the company on these Beerchasing events is always a highlight regardless of how good or bad the watering hole in which we raise a mug(s). Such was the case at The Independent in which Jack Faust refreshed us with some Mavericks’ lore including the antics of his friend, Frank Peters.
We also heard the amazing story of Alice Faust’s experience when she personally witnessed the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack. As a 7-year-old living in Honolulu near Pearl Harbor, she heard and saw Japanese bombers and fighters flying over their house and heard the bomb blasts from the harbor as Japan launched World War Two in the Pacific. Her father, a naval reserve officer recently called to active duty, drove off in a Chevrolet to war at the base.
And who could resist the dialogue between two of the smartest Constitutional experts I know – Faust and Westwood (the latter, also a former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter and a coach of this year’s Grant High School’s Oregon Constitution team on which Amy Faust’s daughter, Alice, is a member and will soon depart for the national competition in Washington, DC.)
Their discussion focused on the next step and the likelihood that the White House would prevail after a federal district court and then the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Trump’s first travel ban.
(“The three judges from the 9th Circuit flatly rejected the government’s argument that suspension of the order should be lifted immediately for national security reasons, and they forcefully asserted their ability to serve as a check on the president’s power.”)
Note 1: The President, learning from his first mistake and in an effort to have the “terrible judges” reconsider, issued a revised Executive Order in March, which just last week was also frozen by a Federal District Court Judge in Hawaii.
Note 2: Faust’s amazing legal career includes serving at Richard Nixon’s lawyer in Oregon for his 1972 re-election campaign.
Since it opened only in 2015, The Independent does not have scads of social media reviews, but most are very positive based on its location near Portland hotels, the food, the ambiance and the service.
As expected, there were some early negative reviews complaining about the service, but if our example was typical, they have addressed the issue. And one thing that was impressive was the fact that the negative comments, when they were reasonable, often generated a response by Linda Addy, Director of Operations for Independent Restaurant Concepts, who either apologized or offered to rectify the problem if the complainant contacted her. I also chatted with Linda by phone and she is a real pro, interested in providing a great experience at her firm’s venues.
As always, there were some interesting critical comments – ranging from the gratuitous such as the typical whiners who didn’t get to see their specific sports team or wanted every television in the place to broadcast the Duck’s game…. to the irritated (and probably older) guy who was irate: “Had to change the place to 1 start – a sports bar with 1 urinal!!! What an oxymoron!!!”
(At first, I laughed at this comment, but considering that many of the reviews talk about the great crowds at the bar, perhaps this is something that management may need to address although there are two bathrooms in the bar.)
The bar is locally owned according to a June, 2016 announcement in Portland Eater: “Brandon and Brian Anderson own the 225 SW Broadway Building and they’re teaming up with IRC – the restaurant group behind Produce Row Care, Circa 33 and others.” (See Thebeerchaser review on the impressive resurrection of the historic Produce Row Cafe) https://thebeerchaser.com/2015/12/07/produce-row-cafe-take-a-hike-and-have-a-brewski/
The menu is pretty typical with some good bargains at happy-hour which is 3:00 to 6:00 each weekday – a buck off on all beers, a cheeseburger for $5 and both nachos and a Coney dog for $6 and a $2 salad which got a favorable review.
I mentioned that Corey, our server, has as interesting story. He is a native Montanan and trans-planted Texan who is both an actor and musician. He told us about his four-piece rock band, The Misery Men, in which he plays a mean rhythm guitar and does vocals in addition to being “Chairman of the Board. “
According to one 2016 reviewer: http://doomedandstoned.com/post/138441988863/themiserymen
“Corey G Lewis is a man of many names, A.K.A. “Mr. Misery,” “Vortex Conductor,” “Snakecharmer,” “The Magician,” and (my personal favorite) “Viking Jesus of the Utopia.” Corey claims responsibility for the band’s vocals, screams, growling, lyrics, and riffs.
He’s a jack of all trades, counting among his specialties: vortex conductor, time traveler, quantum theorist, worshiper of cats, crow whisperer, and aficionado the quantum world! A well-travelled dude, he’s called Missoula, Denver, NYC, NOLA, L.A., and Austin his home and, since 2011, Portland, Oregon.”
The Independent also has some interesting cocktails and this led to my only disappointment that afternoon. I was anticipating with relish their “go to” cocktail – the Maverick but was denied that experience because they actually ran out of Old Overholt:
“A shot of Old Overholt + icy-cold Rainier 8 (Old Overholt is the oldest of The Olds, a relic you can drink. This famous Straight Rye Whiskey has a distinctive flavor and appeal that after Prohibition, made it the most popular spirit in the country…)”
Fortunately, I had a great Fort George Vortex IPA (this and the Breakside IPA are their most popular beers) which eased the psychological trauma. More importantly, it gives me an excuse to make a another visit to The Independent – a sports bar that merits a return. Besides, I want to check out the featured “Man Cave” (Leather couches, wingback chairs, and things like vintage medicine balls and a punching bag.)
And when you go, say “hello” to Corey and find out where his band is playing next.
Note: I paid another visit to The Independent on St. Patrick’s Day and it was rocking. 1080 – The Fan was broadcasting and the bar was filled with revelers.
And the Man Cave was impressive with the party in the picture above enjoying more nachos than I think I have ever seen in one confined space previously.
I still need to return for The Maverick Cocktail as I couldn’t resist having another Ft. George beer.