Pausing for a MoMo of Reflection……

P1040442

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.

Counselor Westwood

Counselor Westwood

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)

P1040446MoMo’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…..)

Some who don’t remember the days when the interior of any bar had enough second-hand smoke to fully populate an emphysema ward, criticize the patio for the heavy concentration of smokers:P1040444

“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).

Dating back to 1794

Dating back to 1794

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.

Tim and Sara

Tim and Sara

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.”  Haslach-Timothy Schwabe

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.

1937257_1164769799603_7033498_nIn 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.” 

The Gaffney Team after the successful swim of the English Channel.  Tim first in the back row and Karen Gaffney in the front.

TeamGaffney after the successful swim of the English Channel. Tim first in the back row and Karen Gaffney in the front.

 

13557897_1086988388016951_6531069354180020794_n

http://www.riverviewcemeteryfuneralhome.com/obituary/Timothy-Tim-Francis-Haslach/Portland-OR/1637990

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/some-reflections-tim-haslachs-professional-brad-biddle

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.

David at Brookhaven

Dr. David Westwood at Brookhaven National Lab

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.

___ the friendly bartender at work

Aaron, the cordial and helpful bartender at work

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:

P1040448

“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.

A young Jim Westwood with College Bowl teammates and coach Ben Padrow

A young Jim Westwood with College Bowl teammates and coach Ben Padrow (Portland State Magazine, May 2, 2005)

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)”.  

Portland Streetcar - A Drunk Delivery Device??

Portland Streetcar – A Drunk Delivery Device??

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:

Grotto like with spacious booths

Grotto like with spacious booths

“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.

final picture of Tim

MoMo Bar Maximo        NW 10th Avenue  Portland

The Yard House – Does it Measure Up??

Is this the entry to a bar or a Fortune 500 corporation?

Is this the entry to a bar or a Fortune 500 corporation?

The Yard House (hereafter “YH”) in downtown Portland is one of sixty-six establishments (mostly west of the Mississippi) in this national chain.  Thebeerchaser’s affinity for dive bars and neighborhood taverns would keep him a distance from this type of bar, but it provided a convenient gathering place for several Beerchaser regulars to hoist a mug, so we gave it a try.

Westwood, Kevin and Amy, Jack Faust and Thebeerchaser

Westwood, Kevin and Amy, Jack Faust and Thebeerchaser

The company included lawyers Jack Faust and Jim Westwood, in addition to local radio icon, Amy Faust and her husband of twenty-four years, Kevin – more about this interesting couple below.

And while YH had an impressive selection of beers, I will not be hitting this or another YH again for the reasons set forth below.

P1040027

Now when I step into what is usually the dim and cluttered entry to a bar, a quick scan of the environment will reveal some regulars who look interesting, a few alcoves with some old Schlitz or Olympia signs above them to elicit good memories.  Also expect either a stuffed animal head or a sign that says something like, “Our beer is colder than your exe’s heart.”

Décor at the Club 21 in NE Portland

Décor at the Club 21 in NE Portland

Don’t expect that at the Yard House.  As you enter the sterile, corporate-like lobby area, you will be greeted by what one Trip Advisor reviewer aptly described as a “…..snooty, ‘I’m too sexy for this podium host.'” 

The host(s) – there were actually three when I entered – probably recent Portland State University Communications majors, aggressively steer you to a table in the massive basement-level space.  They don’t want to hear that you just want to sit at the bar or seat yourself.  

Environmentally safe transport from the source....

Environmentally safe transport from the source….

The large bars are impressive and the overhead tubes trans-porting one of the approximately 100 beers on tap (shown on an illuminated digital display) from the overhead kegs are visually stimulating and kind of cool:

“Our glass-enclosed keg room is the pulse of the operation. Each keg room houses as much as 4,000 gallons of beer kept at an ideal 36-38 degrees, and delivered to our island bar through five miles of individual beer lines stretching overhead. Every draught is fresh and perfectly chilled.”

But the YH has the ambiance of an Applebee’s or a suburban branch of Citibank. In fact, since the YH bars are owned and operated by the Darden Restaurant chain, I should change the named restaurant comparison to The Olive Garden – the chain’s flagship brand!    P1040029

Perhaps a Yelp reviewer on a visit from Seattle, in an effort to be positive, made my case more succinctly than anyone when he stated, “This place is like Red Robin but an upscale, classier and better version. I really enjoyed this.”  Really!!??

Affable and competent server, Jason.

Affable and competent server, Jason.

Now I will admit that Jason, our server, was a very personable and helpful young man, who knew the beer list well even though he had only worked there two months.  He suggested a Six-Pack Sampler with six different beers which was great – although we traded in the Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourban Barrel Stout for a second sample of the excellent Fort George 1811 Lager from Astoria. I had a pint of the Green Flash West Coast IPA – a very nice beer.

One of the distinguishing highlights at the YH is the option to buy a half-yard of beer – delivered in a very tall and impressive glass (see the picture below).  And you can see why the recipients of that mug are smiling……

A good option at the Yard House

A good option at the Yard House

It was no surprise to us that Jim Westwood volunteered to be our half-yard participant.  You may remember from prior posts on this blog that both Westwood and  Faust are past Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter. (see posts of 3/28/13 and 9/2/14

Westwood - Ben Padrow would be proud!!

Westwood – Ben Padrow would be proud!!

 Westwood was the captain of the legendary Portland State College team that captured the hearts of the nation when it went undefeated in the 1964-65 GE College Bowl television quiz in what NBC producers labeled as, “the most outstanding team performance in College Bowl history.”

He’s so smart that he converted the half-yard height of the mug into the metric system while taking the first gulp – 42.75 centimeters…!

Distinguishing Characteristics

Despite the somewhat sterile atmosphere, one does have to applaud the variety of not only beers (over 100 drafts in nine broad categories ranging from “hoppy/floral” to “strong/spiced”) at the YH, but they also have an impressive list of cocktails (21), house martinis (10) and even five different sake drinks for those who are adventurous. (Try the Snow Maiden which is tozai, junmai and nigori.)

We drank rather than ate at the YH.  Given the Dresden Inc. ownership of the Olive Garden along with the YH, I expected to see a menu which included unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks, but the YH does appear to offer a good selection of edibles ranging from appetizers, soups and salads to steaks, burgers and ribs to seafood and deserts.

Scads of TVs if youre not into conversation

Scads of TVs if you’re not into conversation

The tacos drew good comments in the reviews such as this one on Trip Advisor in November, 2014:

“(the taco was amazing…..with rice and beans on the side and the rice is the best Mexican rice I have had in a long time. It’s spicy, but not what I expected from a bar food joint. They also had a long list of desserts, I think we tried most of them. Very tasty.”

What if these guys were around in 2016?

What if these guys were around in 2016?

Drinking beer while hearing Westwood and Jack Faust debate the implications of the 1783 Treaty of Paris (negotiated by John Adams, John Jay and Benjamin Franklin in which the British agreed that the thirteen US Colonies were free, sovereign, and independent states) was stimulating.

And it grew more animated when they theorized that these statesman could have achieved more favorable terms than Secretary of State, John Kerry, in his negotiations with Mohammad Javad Zarif in the US/Iran Nuclear Deal of 2016.

However, I was more interested in chatting with Amy and her spouse, since this was Kevin’s first Beerchasing adventure.  Amy is the female half of the popular Mike and Amy Show on KWJJ – The Wolf (see Beerchaser post on 8/14/2015).   Kevin is a fascinating and transplanted East Coaster who met Amy when they were living in New York.   mike and amy

August will see their 24th wedding anniversary after they originally met in Brooklyn at a party in a loft in what was once an Ex Lax factory.   As Amy recalls, “It was called the Ex Lax building and things have been going smoothly ever since……”

BillboardKevin taught architecture in Ireland after teaching on Long Island and worked for architects in NYC and in Dublin as well.  He graduated from Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, established in New York City in 1859 and which is among the nation’s oldest and most distinguished institutions of higher education.

At his graduation, our fellow Beerchaser gave the valedictory speech from the same stage on which Abe Lincoln delivered  what has become known as his “right makes might” address” in 1859.

And there is a connection with Westwood, who is also a long-time coach of the former National Championship, Grant High School Constitution Team.  Kevin and Amy’s daughter, Alice, was selected for the team and will participate in the competition this coming year.

 

Abraham Lincoln speaking in Cooper Union's Great Hall February 27, 186

Abraham Lincoln speaking in Cooper Union’s Great Hall February 27, 1859

Notwithstanding my outstanding drinking companions, the aseptic ambiance of the YH was as pervasive and cloying as Jan in the Toyota commercials.   It made Thebeerchaser yearn for a dive or neighborhood bar environment.

For example, the YH highlights its art collection:

The stunning, original art featured on our walls is a major contributor to the very special vibe of every Yard House. The Yard House Original Art Gallery Collection has been created by artist Jerome Gastaldi.

Each piece is uniquely handcrafted to reflect the regional environment, the energy within the Yard House restaurants, and the core values of the company.”

Commissioned art by in the Portland Yard House

Commissioned art by Gastaldi in the Portland Yard House

Now, while neither the wonderful Nest Tavern in SE Portland nor the Low Brow Lounge in the Pearl have famous artists on retainer, their “works” reflect an underlying character and personality that will keep yours truly seeking this type of establishment on Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars, Pubs and Taverns.

Original art at the Nest Tavern in SE Portland

Original art at the Nest Tavern in SE Portland

So while the ambiance of the Yard House was like being buried three-feet under, you might check it out the YH for its beers or cocktails if you want a convenient place in downtown Portland.  But I would harken back to the Sandy Hut, the Ship Tavern or Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage or another dive bar for a fulfilling experience. (All reviewed on Thebeerchaser.com)

While these classic bars don’t have a “glass-enclosed keg room that keeps the beer at an ideal 36-38 degrees,”  you can get an ice-cold draft $2.50 PBR to die for!

Creative work at the Low Brow Lounge

Creative work at the Low Brow Lounge

 

                    The Yard House  

                  Pioneer Place

                        Portland, Oregon