You won’t find Madison’s Bar and Grill in any of the past Willamette Week Bar Guides even though it operated from 1997 until February 2014. The Bar Guide is the weekly paper’s annual review of about 100 favorite Portland bars and one of the ongoing resources for this blog.
WW described the predecessor, Madison’s B & G, in their review of its resurrection, of sorts, Mad Sons Pub, in its 8/26/14 review of the remade bar: “(Madison’s Bar and Grill was) a bar that looked like a Denny’s in West Virginia and attracted the same clientele.”
The most noticeable change is on the bland exterior of the bar – the large neon sign near the entrance now has the “I” taped over, purportedly so it would not shine at night although some say that it just burned out and the name change then saved the owners money on signage. The real story is below.
I definitely liked the décor of the remade bar on our recent Beerchasing trip to its location at 1109 SE Madison. The large lot with free parking in an area where vehicle resting spots are at a premium was another plus.
WW speaks favorably of the new bar including the capital invested by the new owners:
“The new Revolutionary War-themed bar is a beautiful hardwood affair complete with 13-star flags, a hearth, a giant blue-felt billiards table and a picture of the signing of the Declaration of Independence burned into the wood of the bar’s service gate.”
And like some of the other “treasures” – bars or pubs I have discovered in the five-year Beerchaser Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs, I would not have had the pleasure of raising a mug – this time with great companions – if I had not initiated this idiosyncratic but interesting retirement hobby.
Joining me was one of the most frequent Beerchaser “regulars,” Portland appellate lawyer and former moderator of the award-winning public affairs program, Town Hall.
Jack Faust has joined me at visits to The Buffalo Gap, Bailey’s Tap House, the Rookery, Kelly’s Olympian, the Marathon Taverna and the lackluster Yard House. (use Thebeerchaser search function above to read reviews of these bars). He was also one of the more colorful Beerchaser-of-the-Quarters , which highlighted his notable legal (mostly at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt) , broadcasting and civic career (see post on 9/2/14)
Speaking of the Schwabe firm, where I spent twenty-five years of my legal management career, Faust, a Portland native, joins two other former Schwabe partners as three of the Jefferson High School’s “Outstanding 100” – their most distinguished alums named at the school’s Centennial in 2009.
Faust maintains he garnered the honor based on his accomplishments playing quarterback on the Democrat’s six-man football team, but I countered that it was the notoriety achieved by his home-brewed “Raspberry Red Ale” which contributed to Portland’s designation as a SuperFund site by the EPA.
As has been the case on several previous bar visits, members of the Faust clan – in this case son, Charlie, and daughter, Amy, were Beerchasing with us in addition to Charlie’s wife, Kristen, a first-time Beerchaser.
The final two companions that afternoon were the youngest – my daughter, Laura and her fiancé, Ryan Keene, slated for September 17th nuptials at Vista Hills Vineyard and Winery west of Dundee – the home of one of my favorite dive bars – Lumpy’s Landing.
While we did not spend too much time trying to mentor and advise the young bride and groom to-be, they couldn’t go wrong listening to some words of wisdom, given that the cumulative total years of marriage for their elders was an astounding 139 years as follows:
Jack and Alice Faust 60 years
Don and Janet Williams 36 years
Amy Faust and husband, Kevin 24 years
Charlie Faust and wife, Kristen 19 years
Charlie Faust, being a numbers guy, pointed out to Ryan and Laura that since the average time of marriage for those above has been 34.8 years while the median is still an impressive 30 years, they would do well to invite members of this group out for beers in the future to seek advice on marital bliss…..
Although Charlie and his dad have a great relationship, they agreed to pose while I took the picture below in an effort to get the pub’s owners to adopt it as a logo for their new moniker. In fact, in a moment of sentimentality, Charlie gushed:
“You know, I owe a lot to my parents – especially my Mom and Dad.”
It should also be noted that both my daughter, Laura, and Jack’s daughter, Amy, seemed to be pretty happy with their dads that afternoon and not just because we paid for the beers (I think….)
Not only does Mad Sons have some interesting décor including multiple US Presidential portraits but the spacious game-room upstairs includes a billiard table racked for free pool, some nice booths to relax and some additional historical memorabilia.
I had a nice conversation by telephone with General Manager, Lavender Davis, who is one of five partners in Mad Sons. The remodeling took six months and was done by craftsman with the historic items throughout the bar coming from a variety of sources including estate sales. Some of the drapes are from her living room…..
She stated that the reason for the name change and blacking out the “I” in the Madison’s on the sign, was because of restrictions imposed by Portland’s Sign Ordinance (Perhaps a skilled lawyer could have overcome that challenge but the name change is a good thing.)
The upstairs has a long shelves filled with impressive volumes ranging from philosophical classics such as Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, Milton’s Paradise Lost and perhaps appropriately, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King to novels by Nobel Prize winners such as Steinbeck and Hemingway. Don’t plan to use the space as a reading room while you’re enjoying a mug, however.
The expansive volumes on the shelves are all firmly glued together. This is too bad because there was some fine literature on these shelves.
Realizing these books were glued together and untouched, along with the thought of beer readily available, also brought back some unpleasant and possibly repressed memories from my freshman year at Oregon State.
The freedom to have an under-aged brewski at Price’s Tavern with the bros in Corvallis was like a Siren call while my freshman physics and calculus texts sat essentially glued together. Although they might have indicated an impressive academic regimen, at least part of the quarter, they mostly gathered dust.
Fortunately, my Navy ROTC advisor informed me in a direct manner that if I did not start putting some wear on the pages, I would not only lose my scholarship, but the Navy’s travel agent would be happy to book a free flight on one of its planes headed for the other side of the International Dateline. The motivational speech worked.
Mad Sons is a spacious, interesting and warm space to gather with friends on a fall or winter day – you might also want to take advantage of the limited but adequate patio during the spring and summer months.
The afternoon we were there, the bar was not hopping with patrons and WW alluded to the same situation in their multiple visits. And that’s too bad because Mad Sons also has a good selection of beers and a robust and very reasonably priced food menu described by the Oregonian shortly after it opened in 2014:
“A little New England, a little Old England with sandwiches, stews and other hearty plates of varying quality.” Oregonian 10/31/14
There are eleven beers on tap, a rotating seasonal and nitro and a local craft draft root beer. (Our party had Priem IPA, Double Mountain IRA and Upright Pilsner.)
Kristin had a Grapefruit Shandy, which Thebeerchaser had never been exposed to previously. I learned that a Shandy is a combination of beer and either a soft drink or juice in approximately a 50/50 mix. Kristin approved of the Mad Son’s version.
Recent Yelp reviews looked very positive including these two:
“Clean with great vibes and plenty of space! Awesome selection of booze with excellent service at Mad Sons Pub. Free pool, pinball, games and a huge outdoor patio – (Thebeerchaser does not agree with this description) for summer! Definitely check this place out! No kids and parking for all. Love it!!!” 7/2/2016
“This place is quality. Super chill, nice staff, good food and drink, their brisket is awesome. I really appreciate the ambiance here, they’re always playing good music, it’s nice and dark with the look of an old style pub, but a more modern vibe.” 7/23/2016
Also good comments on their Saturday and Sunday brunch (from 11 AM to 3 PM), which according to Lavender is “very popular” and one where those who prefer not to have children affecting the ambiance, can gather. The Chicken and Waffles looked promising as did the Beef Brisket Hash as well as the “You Build It” combinations.
As a departing note, Laura and Ryan’s wedding at Vista Hills near Dundee was a wonderful event, notwithstanding this particular Saturday being the only day with precipitation in the ten-day period preceding it. And was it rainy – which can be problematic in an outdoor venue. Fortunately, we had tents and a crowd with a great NW attitude.
Now while my wife may not think that it is appropriate to post some of the first photos of their wedding in a blog about bars and beer, I think after 36 years, she will probably let the proud Father-of-the-Bride go with this indulgence, given how much I love this young couple and want to show them off.
The old marrieds there that day talked to Laura and Ryan about the importance of good communication and listening, which opened the door to some of Thebeerchaser’s favorite quotes on that general topic:
“Don’t speak, unless you can improve the silence.”
“Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until they open their mouths.”
“A single fact can spoil a good argument.”
Mad Sons Pub 1109 SE Madison