It is not the typical practice of Thebeerchaser to feature bars that are more of an ancillary feature of a restaurant. There have been only several exceptions in the five years of this blog – three McMeneman establishments (White Eagle Saloon, Fulton Pub and St. John’s Pub), and the Buffalo Gap Saloon – all worthy of this distinction based on their rich histories. (For Thebeerchaser reviews, click on the link of each name.)
Well Mummy’s has a much lower profile than those above – it’s a subterranean chamber on SW Columbia Street – right across from the now empty high rise that once housed what is now a dying organization – The Oregonian. Stay tuned, or better yet, try it and I think you will agree as do my two Beerchasing companions on my last visit to this venerable place that it is a Portland treasure.
And before telling the Mummy’s story, as per tradition, I will brief you on my colleagues who shared martinis with me while listening to the great music in Mummy’s. Brian (Brain) King’s (pictured on the left) first Beerchasing expedition – to Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive Bar was memorable (as you can see from the picture) and deserved a return invitation.
He also is noted (at least by me) for his profound suggestion after he joined the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt firm as a litigator and skilled environmental lawyer.
Based on his experience while practicing in Idaho, he insisted on my 2004 sabbatical road trip to Idaho and Montana, that I visit the Stanley Road and Gun Whitewater Saloon in Stanley Idaho. (I returned with my wife this summer so she could gain the experience.) https://thebeerchaser.com/2016/09/08/beerchasing-in-idaho-part-ii-stanley-and-the-sawtooths/ The initial visit was a key factor in ultimately starting this blog.
Joining us on her first Beerchasing expedition although not her first visit to imbibe in Mummy’s martinis with me, was another one of my favorite lawyers at Schwabe – Margaret Hoffman.
Besides being honored in her profession as a top product liability litigator (Oregon Super Lawyer and named as one of the Best Lawyers in America), Margaret is an outstanding human being. She is also skilled at fly fishing and in her “spare time, ” spends additional court-time playing pickle-ball.
I might add that my own background with Mummy’s is extensive and why I invited my colleagues to join me. I used to frequently walk the two blocks from our PacWest Center office for lunch or an after-work drink and say hello to the proprietors described by Portland Bar Fly as, “Hyper-hospitable brother-owners (who) man the small, square bar.”
And an undated article in the Portland Mercury by Denis Theriault, sums it up well: “When he’s not slinging Middle-Eastern staples or mixing up a surprising variety of tiki-inspired blended cocktails, longtime owner, Ghobvial Mounir, is perfectly willing to sidle up to the rail and tell you everything you ever wanted to know about his homeland. And yours.”
The brothers emigrated from Egypt and originally opened their establishment in NW Portland, but felt they would be more successful in their current location – they moved to it thirty years ago!
Before retiring in late 2011, I would frequently invite several of the firm’s summer associates to lunch – they were the best and brightest law students from schools all over the country working at Schwabe during the summer in the hope of landing a job when they graduated and passed the Oregon State Bar exam.
Since we were competing with other law firms to recruit them, they were typically wined and dined at most of Portland’s finest restaurants – Higgins, the Heathman Grille, Jake’s, etc. To our Recruiting Director’s initial horror, I would take them to either the Lotus Café or Mummy’s – that is until without exception, they would tell her that they loved the “tomb experience,” – the ambiance, Pyramid Beer, the brothers’ hospitality and the good Egyptian cuisine:
“Mummy’s serves the best falafel sandwich in Portland. It’s delicious, huge, and a great value for only $5 during lunch. Plenty of other yummy vegetarian and non-veg options are available.” (Yelp 5/20/13)
And the Schwabe managers and my family surprised me after hosting my retirement dinner at nearby Nel Centro, with an after-dinner reception at Mummy’s – it was memorable – in fact, there is a video someplace in the Ethernet of me reluctantly sharing the floor with a belly dancer, who was performing that night.
We dodged Max trains and commuter traffic on SW 6th Ave. and walked by the mausoleum-like remnants of The Oregonian – which seemed to have images of talented past columnists such as Steve Duin, David Sarasohn, Margy Boule, Richard Read and political cartoonist, Jack Ohman staring out the windows wondering what happened……
Although it did not take us forty-years wondering through the desert, we reached our Promised Land – Mummys – forthwith and descended to a “mysterious and venerable place…….True to its name, Mummy’s is filled with Egyptian artifacts much like you’d find in an actual crypt. (It’s) weird, tomb-like, but lovable space.” Portland Mercury
“As I waited, I noticed something. Hieroglyphics are on the bench, hieroglyphics are in a painting on the wall, the cocktails have ancient Egypt themes, the napkin is a pyramid and artifact replicas are in the waiting area.” Yelp 2/13/16
Even though it had been five years since I had been to their establishment, when I walked in, Ghobvial immediately exclaimed, “Schwabe!” and pointed towards what had been my favorite booth.
Ghobvial and Phillip kindly acceded to my request for photographs and the former mixed two excellent gin martinis and a vodka martini for Margaret.
Note: Besides a great martini, they also have a number of very inexpensive and creative cocktails such as The Cleopatra (Amaretto, Bailey’s, Irish Cream and coffee) or Ramses (Southern Comfort, peach schnapps and orange and cranberry juice).
We did not order any food on this visit although during the many times I had lunch while working at Schwabe, without exception, the food was always very good.
That said, a number of the comments on Yelp and social media are not overly positive about the food. My sentiments, however, were shared by a recent Yelp reviewer (2/13/16) who stated:
“…………When the veal came, it’s a cutlet, it was splendid. The taste was rich and the rice was outstanding, not a word we usually use for rice. My carrots and mushrooms, vegetables nonetheless, were pleasant to eat. Surprisingly, the command of how to invoke spices was second to none.
The sauces were spectacular. It was a bit pricy, even for the medium portions, but a lot came with my meal, that being the salad and bread too, and this chef should be famous, perhaps on Food Network.”
I would also suggest that to garner the Mummys’ “experience,” make your initial trip and if you are not sure about an entrée, just have some drinks and order an appetizer such as the delicious hummus or baba ghanush (a dip made from baked eggplant). The three of us all think you will return.
And besides, one also has to be careful about the substance of social media reviews. Let’s look at a couple interesting ones on Mummy’s as evidence. Although this July 2011 Yelp review was positive, one wonders whether the author needed a geography lesson or some history of the Middle East:
“…….the happy-hour is cheap. They have cute Egyptian-inspired drinks. I was feeling Gaza Stepish, so I ordered a Pyramid Brewing Hefeweizen.” (emphasis supplied)
Not to be nitpicky, but perhaps someone should tell this person that the “Gaza Strip“, has it’s southern boundary along the border of Egypt and is not in Egypt. Although there has been some involvement by Egypt in the past including some periods of occupying the territory, Gaza has primarily centered around the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. And, oh yes, the primary Egyptian pyramids are located near Cairo and are not the Gaza Strip.
Perhaps more curious was this enthusiastic – presumably female Mummys customer, who in addition to appreciating the ambiance, lauded an unusual supplemental feature:
“The place is run by two old Egyptians brothers who still use typewriters. There is plenty of seating in the cool booths engraved with various Egyptian gods and goddesses. Bonus perk: the women’s bathroom has office equipment from the late 80’s.” (Emphasis supplied)
Note: It is beyond the scope of Thebeerchaser blog to further research or verify this issue.
Because Margaret had to return to the office for an evening client meeting, Brian and I decided to have one more martini – that’s when this Phi Beta Kappa from Colorado State University demonstrated again, why he has the erudition to be an outstanding drinking companion.
As an aside, Brian runs Schwabe’s Corvallis office which works out well because his wife is a tenured professor at Oregon State University. He was recently described as the most interesting man in Corvallis and rumor has it that he is still the life of many fraternity parties that he does not even attend.
Whether it was the admonition by a judge at one time that his motion for summary judgment was like trying to read hieroglyphics, the fact that his surname is “King” and might have some ancient link to Egyptian pharaohs or just his enthusiasm over our plans to visit Mummy’s, Brian was a wealth of information.
His pre-Mummys research, with emphasis on parallels in history, was focused on one of the ancient Pharoahs – Sankhkare Mentuhotep III – who reigned for twelve years during the Middle Kingdom.
Known for his small fingers, protruding abdomen and intellectual shallowness (he never read the scrolls) Mentuhotep was principally known for his journey to the Land of Punt and efforts to build a defensive structure called the “Walls-of-the-Ruler” in Nubia and also to rebuff Canaanite immigrants.
Fortunately, we finished our martinis before Brian had the opportunity to factor in more recent developments relating to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s term…….
We “wrapped” up our visit, waved goodbye to the two brothers and vowed to make a return trip to what one reviewer labeled, “a gem hidden in plain sight..”
Drop down into this unique Portland venue. You will assuredly make a return trip. Tell them Thebeerchaser sent you!