Don’t “Sniff” at Quimby’s

Quimby's - formerly known as Cheers
Quimby’s – formerly known as Cheers

If you glance at the new Beerchaser map (see link below), you will see that most of establishments visited on Thebeerchaser Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs, commencing in August 2013, are located on the southeast side of Portland – in what includes the infamous and beloved Barmuda Triangle.

Sniff -- Anyone for a Hair of the Dog IPA??
Sniff — Anyone for a Hair of the Dog IPA??

It is thus fitting, to hit a Northwest venue – the last one was Slabtown last October – especially when two are located in the same block.  And Sniff Cafe may be accurately labeled a “unique” watering hole in Portland in that it appears to be the only one that is integrated with a canine day-care and hotel.

My initial reaction was to harken back to Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Eastern Oregon last summer when I witnessed the antithesis of Sniff at the entrance to two different taverns – one in Burns and one in Prineville.  Take a look at these two signs greeting patrons at the doors of these bars.

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P1010724

Non-ambiguity re. furry friends.....

Non-ambiguity re. furry friends…..

To the contrary at Sniff, if you stop in for a glass of beer or wine during the Happy Hour times of 5:00 to 7:00 P.M., you get a $1 discount on beer and wine — plus, your pooch gets a free romp in the pet indoor play area – even getting occasional personal attention by one of their attendants.  You also get to view not only your pooch, but the other dogs cavorting in this puppy play pen.

One wonders if they may be playing, "Duck,  Duck -- Goose!"

One wonders if they may be playing, “Duck, Duck — Goose!”

____ serving a beer.

Taylor serving a beer.

Sniff is a neat little bar – it does not have hard liquor, but beer, wine, coffee and snacks ranging from pastries to pizza to wraps.  According to our bartender Taylor, who has been at Sniff for two years, it has been successful since it opened in 2010  – even to the extent of recently expanding as can be seen from the picture below.

Expanded bar areas at Sniff

Expanded bar areas at Sniff

Instead of hard-boiled eggs, pickles or other unhealthy stuff placed on the bar for snacks, Sniff had dog biscuits!!

Healthier than Pickled Pigs Feet....
Healthier than Pickled Pigs Feet….

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I did not have the guts to ask Taylor if he had heard the joke about the dog who walked into the bar and asked the bartender, Have you seen the guy who shot my paw??? ” 

Sniff also has some rules for their pet guests that might be a good idea for some bars to institute as well – especially dive bars with a rough clientele.  For example, check out these guidelines below.  Substitute “you” for the canine equivalent in the following and you’ll see what I mean:

We want all our guests to play nice. That’s why we pick and choose which guests will socialize the best…..Call ahead and schedule your free temperament evaluation.

 

Leaving an  impression...

Leaving an impression…

WHAT IF MY DOG DOESN’T PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS?  If your dog is not social, or requires one-on-one attention, for the safety of our guests, he or she is required to stay in a private suite and participate in private play sessions and/or walks; additional fees will apply.”

Artwork to keep the guests comfortable...
Artwork to keep the guests comfortable…

To further the above premise, they also have special rules for females in heat, because they “can stress our male guests…” 

Sniff has only four beers on tap (inexplicably no Hair of the Dog Brewery products) but seven additional bottled beers.  Also three white and three red wines to try.

To momentarily digress, Sniff also reminded me of my favorite Beerchaser regular, Portland lawyer, John Mansfield.   He tends to view phrases literally and on one of our bar trips after he saw a sign stating, “Temporary Dog Play Area,” commented, “Given my scheduling constraints, I would be interested in getting one of those temporary dogs.”

Okay, so let’s assume you either don’t have a dog or you just dropped off Fido at the Sniff Hotel and want to have a nightcap in the vicinity.  Just walk one block to a neat little neighborhood bar at 19th and Quimby.

The bar at Quimbys.

The bar at Quimbys.

Quimby’s prior to 2011 was named Cheers, which allows mentioning one of my favorite quotes from Cliff Clavin – intrepid regular at the beloved television bar:

“Well Norm, it’s like this.  A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo.  And when the herd is hunted, it’s the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first.  This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole….because the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.

Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:American_bison_k5680-1.jpg) US Department of Agriculter

The beer vs. buffalo analogy as framed by Cheers’ Cliff Clavin (Wikimedia Commons – public domain)

In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first.  In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That’s always why you are smarter after a few beers.”

Quimby’s is a quaint and typical neighborhood bar – with seven beers on tap.  Although they have a decent menu including sandwiches, pizza, good soups and more, the bar has a partnership, of sorts, with six food carts immediately adjacent to the back entrance and patrons can bring their cart cuisine inside while consuming their favorite beverage.

The patio and adjacent food carts

The patio and adjacent food carts

According to Steve, the affable bartender, who has been in the business 16 years, although he had just started at Quimby’s that day, their specialty is Buffalo Wings – we verified that they were really good.

They also serve reasonably priced breakfast all day, although when I tried to order one of the breakfast combinations in the early afternoon of my second visit, was informed that they had run out of eggs.

I had heard that the bar could be rather sparsely populated although the late afternoon of my first visit with my daughter and her boyfriend, Ryan, on a Thursday, we had to scramble for a table because it was Trivia Night and people came early for what is usually a big and raucous crowd.  The neighborhood is growing by leaps and bounds and patronage at the bar will continue to grow – especially in the summer with the patio area available.

Laura and Ryan with Thebeerchaser logo

Laura and Ryan with Thebeerchaser logo

There is both a free pool and ping-pong table plus darts, pinball and three big screen TVs which have PAC 12 and Big 10 broadcasts – evidently Ohio State and Michigan State fans frequent the bar to root for their teams.  Happy Hour is every day from 3:00 to 6:00 and they have specials each night such as Taco Tuesdays, Whiskey Wednesdays, etc.        P1020008

A recent Yelp review summarized pretty well by stating:

“The service is rather impeccable.  Attentive, kind and respectable bartenders round out an overall enjoyable experience.”   

     

So the next time you’re in Northwest Portland, give both Sniff and Quimby’s a visit.

P1010965

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Sniff Café             1528 NW Raleigh Street

Quimby’s                   1502 NW 19th

(To view the map with all the bars reviewed by Thebeerchaser, click on the “View Larger Map” link at the bottom of the map below)

Road Trip — To the Skyline Tavern

The Historic Skyline Tavern

The Historic Skyline Tavern

There are many bars – most notably in what is known as Portland’s Barmuda Triangle in Southeast Portland, where the setting for many bars is a busy urban intersection on Powell or Belmont, or one walks out into a strip-mall along a the busy street.  The attraction is thus, the interior design, the selection of beers and the character/clientele of the bar – not the setting.

The Skyline Tavern is the antithesis – an historic building that looks like a road-house in the woods on Skyline Drive near Forest Park – 9.7 miles from downtown Portland.  There are only four beers on tap – and the Terminal Gravity IPA was gone on that August evening we visited.  They do, however, have a bunch of bottled and canned beers, but no cocktails or hard liquor, and the only food is essentially microwave faire.  And by the way, bring cash or you may end up washing dishes – no credit or debit cards at this venue.

TrinketsThe saloon does have a few interesting antique trinkets and signs.

Oh Schlitz, where have thy gone when we need you now......

Oh Schlitz, where have thy gone when we need you now……

Unless your commute takes you by the pub, however, it would be best to save your visit for a cloudless day when you can take advantage of the expansive patio, the wonderful view of the Willamette Valley and the fire-pits where you can grill your own food and eat at one of the picnic tables in the beer garden or play Ping-Pong on the porch.  They also have a good juke box.

Of course, some readers would point out that waiting for a cloudless day in Oregon limits the opportunity to about 47 days per year.

Old - growth timber is improved over a brewski

Old – growth timber is improved over a brewski

I hit the Skyline with Beerchaser regular, Portland lawyer, Scott Whipple, the same afternoon we visited  another historic Portland bar – Slabtown last August.  Scott was still on an adrenaline high from our intense Pop-a-Shot competition in the back room at Slabtown, and immediately suggested we play pool – I might add that it was harder trying to hold a cue stick with buttered micro-wave popcorn on our hands, but Scott probably knew that.

Still riding an adrenaline high from Hop-a-shot at Slabtown
Still riding an adrenaline high from Pop-a-Shot at Slabtown
The chalk was only partially helpful in absorbing the popcorn butter
The chalk was only partially helpful in absorbing the popcorn butter

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We talked to friendly bartender, Diane, a Scappoose High School graduate, who has worked at The Skyline for seven years.

Diane and Thebeerchaser with the old logo

Diane and Thebeerchaser with the old logo

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This excerpt from an October 2012 review in Portland Monthly Magazine, describes the venue perfectly:

“The Skyline is like a summer camp for casual drinkers:  The metronome of ping-pong balls clacking on the back porch, the clang and thunk of horseshoes thrown in the pit, the smell of burgers sizzling on the BYO – meat community grill, all played out in front of a tree-lined view of the Willamette Valley that’ll put a lump in your throat……”                                                                   

"The metronome of Ping-Pong balls....."

“The metronome of Ping-Pong balls…..”

Diane said that their biggest seller is 16 ounce PBR Tall Boys and that if you come on a summer evening or weekend, you will probably encounter a bunch of cyclists or motorcyclists at the end or on a break on their road trips.

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Not much in the way of draft beer, but plenty of bottles and cans. Have a PBR tall-boy
Not much in the way of draft beer, but plenty of bottles and cans. Have a PBR tall-boy!

The Skyline was pretty laid back and we were the only ones there besides Diane and a “regular.”

Scott did spice up the evening on the return trip by pointing out a forested spot on the off Thompson Road that “used to be the site of some memorable Sunset High School keggers…

I might add that since our Beerchaser Trip to Slabtown and The Skyline, Scott has shed ten of a planned forty-five pounds on his New Year’s diet – “I am shooting to lose 45 pounds by the time I turn 45..”  – some of which can be attributed to the stress of coaching The Sting his sons’ basketball team.

Stay tuned for a more svelte and conditioned Whipple - both mentally and physically

Stay tuned for a more svelte and conditioned Whipple – both mentally and physically

Some might object to the “minimalist” approach of the bar. This October 2013, Yelp review excerpt from a woman, whose initial paragraph in the review expressed shock that when she exited the bar, there were two guys inspecting a rifle that was pointed right at her votes for the status quo:

“But let’s be real here , I’m not a mans man. I am a lady who loves a nice game of horse shoes, pool or darts. I am also a lady who loves porch chillin’.

Skyline has an amazing back patio. Every time I’m here I have this horrible thought ‘If they just cut down all these trees, they would have any amazing view.’ You can, however, peek between the trees to enjoy a breathtaking view.  

As others have mentioned this bar is Cash Only – talk about no frills. If you’re reading this Skyline, don’t you change a f…ing thing. You keep it real, and I like it.”

And perhaps on a cloudless day in June, Scott and Thebeerchaser will return and toast his successful diet….??!!!

The Skyline Tavern    8031 NW Skyline Blvd.

Thebeerchaser’s 2013 Annual Report

Thebeerchaser raising a mug in Amsterdam during our Rick Steves' Best of Europe Tour

Thebeerchaser raising a mug in Amsterdam during our Rick Steves’ Best of Europe Tour

During the twenty-five + years I worked before retiring in 2011 at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt, accountability was “part of the gig,” – the case at most large law firms.  The New Year started with a review of prior year statistics and accomplishments and setting performance goals for the current year.

A Beerchaser tradition at each stop - a photo of the logo - Shelby and Dave Booher at the Solstice Brew Pub in Prineville
A Beerchaser tradition at each stop – a photo of the logo – Shelby and Dave Booher at the Solstice Brew Pub in Prineville

While Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland bars, taverns and pubs, initiated in August of 2011, does not have to worry about billable hours worked, improving client relations or analyzing merger possibilities, the habit of reviewing benchmarks from the past year(s) will take additional time (and more brewskis consumed) to depart my cerebellum.

Slabtown - An important institution in an historic neighborhood

Slabtown – An important institution in an historic neighborhood

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In this spirit (and in preparation for audit….),  I submit the following “Beerchaser Year in Review,” which includes an interesting graphic display by WordPress, the blogging software used.  For those who want to drill down for more detail (there are after all, several tax lawyers who are followers of this blog), you can click on the link below the graphic.

The final part of this posts includes a listing of establishments visited in the last 2.4 years by year and category i.e. dive bar, neighborhood pub, etc and Thebeerchasers-of-the-Month or Quarter who have been “honored” with this recognition.

Brewmaster and Beerchaser-of-the-Month, Jonny Brose and bartender, Camas, with Thebeerchaser logo

Brewmaster and Beerchaser-of-the-Month, Jonny Brose and bartender, Camas, with Thebeerchaser logo

I was pleased that, in 2013, there were approximately 15,000 views of this blog from 143 different countries – primarily the result of my effort to “tag” the names of places visited, individuals, or topics I cover, so people searching on Google, etc. may decide to check out the link.  This compares with 6,700 views from 96 countries in 2012 – so the audience has grown.

Beer with attitude - er, I mean altitude..!  The James Bond Bar at the summit of the Schilthorn in Switzerland

Beer with attitude – er, I mean altitude..! The James Bond Bar at the summit of the Schilthorn in Switzerland

H. G. Wells warned, “Satan delights equally in statistics and in quoting scripture….” and notwithstanding that admonition, the following provides some grist for the number-crunchers – note that I am not including bars visited on our Rick Steves’ Best of Europe Tour, but do count the wonderful venues visited on the four-day road trip to Eastern Oregon.   

The bar at the Central Pastime. Patty was camera shy but impressed with the city slickers passing through.

The bar at the Central Pastime Tavern in Burns. Patty, the bartender,  was camera shy but impressed with the city slickers passing through.

Thebeerchaser reviewed 20 bars in 2013, compared to 24 in 2012, which equates to one bar every 18.3 days – slightly less ambitious than the 15.2 days in 2012 and the 17.1 during the partial year of 2011 with eight establishments.

This averages out to a non-weighted mean of 16.9 for the three years with a respectable, albeit somewhat mundane, standard deviation of 1.563 days to accomplish the review of 52 establishments.  And remember, many required more than one visit for the due diligence.

Note for the accountants – this figure does not include “accruals,” if  you will, i.e. the two bars and one brewery that were visited in 2013, but not yet reviewed and posted (will occur in January.)

The Sasquatch Brewing Company from our August visit

The Sasquatch Brewing Company from our August visit

Shown below the WordPress report is a compete listing of the watering holes – by category visited since inception.  Of course, bearing in mind the case of the man who drowned crossing a stream with an average depth of six inches, one should be cautious about using averages.

For example, our European Tour of 21-days was a respite from Portland taverns and thus the 2013 work ethic should not be demeaned.

New City Club Executive Director, Sam Adams, at the entrance to the Tug Boat Brewery - right in Downtown PDX

New City Club of Portland Executive Director, Sam Adams, at the entrance to the Tug Boat Brewery – right in Downtown PDX

Here’s an excerpt from the WordPress report:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Twenty Establishments Visited in 2013 *

A nice part of the de'cor at Beer - a bar with an appropriate name

A nice part of the decor at Beer – a bar with an appropriate name

Neighborhood Bars – Sidecar 11, Belmont Inn , Belmont Station, Beer

Beerchaser and Big Buck-Hunter David Dixon at the Belmont Inn lamenting, "If only I had spent more time shooting and less time studying in Palo Alto...."

Beerchaser and Big Buck-Hunter David Dixon at the Belmont Inn lamenting, “If only I had spent more time shooting and less time studying at Stanford….”

Dive Bars – Slammer, The Tanker

Historic or Classic Bars – Slabtown, Horse Brass Pub,

Grand Cafe

Portland appellate lawyer and former Town Hall Moderator, Jack Faust, with Frank Peters - "proprietor and cook" at the Grand Cafe

Portland appellate lawyer and former Town Hall Moderator, Jack Faust, with Frank Peters – “proprietor and cook” at the Grand Cafe

Bars that Defy Classification – Davis Street Tavern, Church

Breweries/Brew Pubs – Tug Boat Brewery, Sasquatch Brewery,

Bars Outside of Portland – Solstice Brew Pub and Horseshoe Tavern (Prineville), Hideout Saloon and Long Branch Saloon (LaGrande), Bull Ridge Brewery and Mt. Emily Ale House (Baker City) and Central Pastime Tavern (Burns)

*  Does not include European Bars

The Horseshoe Tavern in Prineville
The Horseshoe Tavern in Prineville

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Twenty-four Establishments Visited in 2012

Clearing the Air - Tanya, our Waitress and 4 Environmental Lawyers at County Cork

Clearing the Air – Tanya, our Waitress and 4 Environmental Lawyers at County Cork

Neighborhood Bars – County Cork, Muddy Rudder Public House, Hawthorne Hideaway, Laurelthirst Pub

Dive Bars – Ship Tavern, Bar of the Gods, Dixie Tavern       

The Ship Tavern in Multnomah Village - an outstanding dive bar
The Ship Tavern in Multnomah Village – an outstanding dive bar

Historic or Classic Bars – Claudia’s, White Eagle Saloon, Lutz Tavern, Cheerful Tortoise, Mock Crest Tavern, Goose Hollow Inn and The Twilight Room

Beerchasers-of-the-Month, Jim Westwood and John Terry with former Mayor and Goose Hollow owner, Bud Clark

Beerchasers-of-the-Month, Jim Westwood and John Terry with former Mayor and Goose Hollow owner, Bud Clark

Bars that Defy Classification – 1856, Gold Dust Meridian, Bottles, Interurban, Ash Street Saloon

Beerchaser, Chuck Mitchell with bartender, Matt at 1856
Beerchaser, Chuck Mitchell with bartender, Matt at 1856

Breweries/Brew Pubs – Migration Brewery Pub

Beerchaser Dave Booher enjoys a draft and a bucket of fries at the Desdemona in Astoria

Beerchaser Dave Booher enjoys a draft and a bucket of fries at The Desdemona in Astoria

Bars Outside of Portland – Embers Brew House (Joseph), The Desdemona and Wet Monkey Café (Astoria), PourHouse (Port Townsend, WA)         

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Eight Establishments Visited in 2011 (August – December)

The Brooklyn! -The very first stop on Thebeerchaser Tour

The Brooklyn! The very first stop on Thebeerchaser Tour

 Neighborhood Bars – Brooklyn Park Pub, Gladstone Street Pub,

Dive Bars – Yukon Tavern, Joe’s Cellar

The Yukon Tavern - one of the proverbial Dive Bars visited in the first year of The Tour
The Yukon Tavern – one of the proverbial Dive Bars visited in the first year of The Tour

 Historic or Classic Bars – Buffalo Gap Saloon

Bars that Defy Classification – Prost

Getting the Boot from Emily the Bartender at Prost in 2011

Getting the Boot from Emily the Bartender at Prost in 2011

Breweries/Brew Pubs – Amnesia Brew Pub, Coalition Brew Pub

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Beerchaser Honorees

Several times during the year (we fell down slightly on this goal in 2013), Thebeerchaser names a person, group or organization as Beerchaser-of-the-Month or Quarter.  These may or may not have any relevance to the primary goal of this blog, but deserve to be “honored” or recognized in some manner.  They are shown below and we can all be confident that they do not update their resumes to reflect this acclaim.

Lt. Jud Blakely USMC in Viet Nam in 1965

Lt. Jud Blakely USMC in Viet Nam in 1965

2013 – Jud Blakely (Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient in Viet Nam War), Johnny Brose, (OSU Graduate and Brewmaster at Bull Ridge Brewery in Baker City), Jim Westwood (Portland lawyer, civic activist and former captain of the GE College Bowl Team from Portland State College).

Jim Westwood, Coach Padrow and the PSU College Bowl Team

Jim Westwood, Coach Padrow and the PSU College Bowl Team

                 

Former OSU and NFL start, Craig Hanneman on successful Mt. Everest climb in 2012

Former OSU and NFL start, Craig Hanneman on successful Mt. Everest climb in 2012

             2012 – Forrest Green (Musician and consultant), Coach Mike Riley and the 2012 OSU Football Team, Craig Hanneman (retired Willamette Industries executive and former OSU and NFL football player), The Crew of the USS Constitution, Dr. John Walker (Professor of Finance at Portland State University), John Terry (retired history columnist and reporter for The Oregonian) and Dr. Harry Frankfurt (Emeritus Professor of History at Princeton University and author of the book On Bullshit)

Late crime novelist and beer drinker, James Crumley

Late crime novelist and beer drinker, James Crumley

2011 – James Crumley (late crime novelist from Montana), Harold Schlumberg (retired chemical engineer), Phoebe, Emily, Dave and Natasha (bartenders at the bars the Brooklyn Park Pub, Prost, the Twilight Room and the Gladstone Street Pub.

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I appreciate the followers of Thebeerchaser for their comments and suggestions and am especially thankful to Janet – Thebeerchaser’s spouse of 33 years for letting me indulge in this retirement hobby.

Thebeerchaser and Janet in Paris - summer of 2013

Thebeerchaser and Janet in Paris – summer of 2013

While reviewing 52 establishments in 2 years and five months is noteworthy, the fact that Portland has approximately 750 bars, taverns and pubs is somewhat overwhelming and begs the question as to whether retirement should have started while I was in my twenties…..Convey your suggestions regarding future venues in the blog comments.

Happy New Year

Slabtown – A “Slice” of Portland History

An important institution in an historic neighborhood

An important institution in an historic neighborhood

After six posts on pubs and taverns in Europe based on our Rick Steves’ Best of Europe Tour, Thebeerchaser takes comfort in returning home – to the roughly 700 watering holes in Portland.  And what better way to regain the origins of this blog than reviewing a Portland classic dive bar – Slabtown.

External character in a manner of speaking

External character in a manner of speaking

As evidence of its status, it is the only bar other than the recently Beerchaser reviewed Slammer Tavern (September 2013) that has been named one of the favorite bars in the ”hallowed” – at least in my eyes because of its value as a reference source – Willamette Week Drink Guide (Favorite Bars) for the last six  years.

And as we walk you through our visit to this NW Portland institution, we will provide some highlights from the WW past reviews:

2013“Old-school rock and roll venue, Slabtown is, as ever, a play-town for putative grown-ups (with occasional all-ages shows served up from the back entrance) with pinball, air hockey, Skee-ball and Pop-a-Shot.”          

Old School venue with traditional bar competition
Old School venue with traditional bar competition – Air Hockey, etc.

I was pleased to have Portland lawyer, Scott Whipple, a Beerchaser regular and esteemed graduate of Iowa’s Grinnell College (where they still talk about his accomplishments on the basketball court) accompany me both to this bar and our second stop that night at the Skyline Tavern.

Fred and Scott - A character in a bar with character(s)
Fred and Scott – A character in a bar with character(s)

We sat at the bar next to a great old guy with a white beard, overalls and a baseball cap named Fred, who while I talked to the friendly bartender, Dave, wanted to engage Scott on topics such as “quality trading” in the stock market,  World War II and the global economy.  Ben, another quality barkeeper who has worked there for 4 1/2 years was there working with Dave on my second visit.

Two Class A Bartenders - Dave and Ben

Two Class A Bartenders – Dave and Ben with Thebeerchaser Logo

Dave was very helpful, has worked there for 18 months, is a Wilson High graduate and the grandson of John Howard,  the former and very well-regarded President of Lewis and Clark College.

2011 “….Slabtown has changed, man.  But don’t freak out – it has changed for the better.  

The owners booted the video poker machines for more pinball and video games (this place is like a Chuck E. Cheeses for adults) upgraded the sound system a bit and incorporated a wider range of music into the schedule….The building seems further from collapse than ever before….”

Old style pinball machines replaced Video Lottery --- Good Move!!

Old style pinball machines replaced Video Lottery — Good Move!!

Distinguishing Characteristics

Its History – Slabtown has been around since the ‘70’s under three different owners   It was originally a strip club and was also known as “Cal’s Fort.”   It has an interesting “altar” near the entrance, paying tribute to fabled rock musicians Wendy O’ Williams and Freddie Mercury.  The bar was also used as a set for two scenes from the “Portlandia” show.

The "alter" at the entrance.

The “altar” at the entrance.

The Slabtown neighborhood is also one of Portland’s most historic neighborhoods and oozes with history as evidenced by this excerpt from the July 13, 2013 The Oregonian

“For a century, Wallace Park was the site of trading for Native Americans, (Tracy) Prince writes in “Portland’s Slabtown.” The book (published by Arcadia Press) traces the Slabtown neighborhood’s history……when Native Americans outnumbered white settlers 1,000 to 275, through its blue-collar decades, and into its current “Trendy-third” reputation for its Northwest 23rd Avenue boutiques…..

It was a working-class neighborhood home to marginalized groups — Native Americans, Chinese and European immigrants, gypsies, and black Portlanders.”

Timber is a key to the "roots" of Slabtown.

Timber is a key to the “roots” of Slabtown.

Why the name “Slabtown?  “….back in the industrial days of lumber milling, the slabs of the rounded tree edges made good fuel and were to be found all over this area.” (KGW.com 9/7/2010).  The slices of wood piled up at the George Weidler Lumber Mill on NW Northrup Street commencing in the 1870’s.

The Menu – It’s entirely vegan since last June!  This is the first time Thebeerchaser has encountered this situation although it was not a problem.  Neither Scott nor I could tell the difference between the excellent large order of vegan french fries we had that night versus what we are used to……..

A very positive change initiated in July 2012 was the introduction of Falafel to their kitchen with a new chef.  You can see the reviews are superb:

Yelp 6/6/13:  “Dive BAR! but right now they are renting the kitchen out to an amazing FALAFEL CHEF… So good you must try…”

Although a limited menu, the food gets high marks.
Although a limited menu, the food gets high marks.

Yelp 5/9/13:  “Best falafel sandwich I’ve had in Portland and quite surprising to find it at a dive bar.”

Yelp 10/12/13:  “Lover’s of delicious food: this is a serious find. It is a serious dive……But the people who make the falafel are serious about their craft. I’ve never had a better gyro, and I’ve been to Greece and eaten them there, so I feel like I am qualified to speak to Gyro power.”

Drum sticks and guitar strings - A unique feature

Drum sticks and guitar strings – A unique feature

The Vending Machines – It may well be that Slabtown is the only bar in Portland where one can purchase both guitar strings and drumsticks (not the kind one eats) from a vending machine.

You can also see Scott waiting in anticipation at the kissing booth, which, understandably,  did not get any participants when we were there.  There are also a number of old classic pinball machines, air hockey and skee-ball and Pop-a-Shot that did see a lot of action.

"Better not give up  your day job, Scott."
“Better not give up your day job, Scott.”

2010 “…You can order a basket of French fries and  play pinball for three hours and no one is going to try to grab your boobs…”

Pop-a-Shot - The score reflects Whipple regressing to his college days at Grinnell...

Pop-a-Shot – The score reflects Whipple regressing to his college days at Grinnell…

But perhaps the machine that ended up with more than several of our dollars in its belly, was Pop-a-Shot.

Scott immediately gravitated to the machine and we played no less than five games in which he marginally came out on top in four of them. Scott sang the Grinnell Fight Song as he shot.  After we went back into the bar, Dave the bartender, said to me, “He’s a competitive guy, isn’t he?” (If  you only knew, Dave….)

As a Concert and Performance Venue – When I asked Dave and Ben how they would best describe Slabtown i.e. Dive Bar, Neighborhood Bar, Music Venue, Ben stated, “It’s something different to each person and can be each of those.”  Dave, however, chose the Performance Venue option because of the history and the percentage of the bar’s receipts resulting from these shows.

Indeed, check out the calendar on the Slabtown Website or Facebook page – a full calendar with different types of music – live and otherwise – some with cover charge – some free – almost every night.  They also have all-ages shows to open it up for more patrons and obviously, closely control the alcohol for underage folk.  Also Bingo and Industry Night events on Tuesdays.

2008“….Slabtown strikes a near perfect balance between style and scum with dirty rock and plenty of breathing room to relax over cheap food and plentiful beer…A fine after-work drinking spot if there ever was one.”           

Scott at the "Bar" - making a closing argument to himself

Scott at the “Bar” – making a closing argument to himself

As a sign by the entrance said at one time, “This isn’t the Pearl – It’s  Slabtown!  You’ve been warned.”

So noted!  And that’s a good thing.  Check them out while you have a gyro….

Slabtown       1033 NW 16th

If You’re Good, You May End Up in The Slammer……

One of Portland's Classic Dive Bars

One of Portland’s Classic Dive Bars

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land: it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”

The most recent Beerchaser posts have been on pubs and sights encountered on our Rick Steves’ 21-day Best of Europe Tour.  In light of a recent reading of famed British philosopher and author, Lord Chesterton‘s above quote, however, it was a vivid reminder that Portland’s bars, taverns and pubs are second to none in both the US and the globe!

Oozing with character and history......

Oozing with character and history……

And The Slammer is a Portland classic.  As evidence,  Willamette Week publishes a “Best Bars” or “Drink Guide” supplement each year.  Thebeerchaser has kept printed copies of these going back to 2007 and they include 100 to 125 of the approximately 700 total Portland bars each year.  They are an invaluable resource for this blog.

Well, The Slammer (and Slab Town – visited already and to be reviewed next month..) appear to be two of the few, if not the only, establishments to make the list each of the last seven years.  Let’s look at a few excerpts:

“…The Slammer is maybe the friendliest bar in town ……It is a family-run dive bar of the old school, an after-softball hangout….and a place that will suffer fools but never assholes, one of the few places in town where widely disparate strangers talk to each other……It is a heartening place, and its very bad for your liver.”  (2013)

A great group of regulars and memorabilia from the '70's

A great group of regulars and memorabilia from the ’70’s — that’s a Tonka Truck…….

“…the Slammer’s core clientele of square-jawed stalwarts with uncomplicated wardrobes (Eagles jackets shelved at the first flush of Slammer Softball jerseys…) that once typified the East Side Industrial District.”  (2012)

“Walk into the Slammer and be transported back into a reassuring hybrid of your uncle’s basement den and freshman-year college parties. Intimacy presides in this former speak-easy. A cigarette vending machine, pinball and Big Buck Hunter offer ample distraction…. Escape the no-man’s land of industrial Southeast Portland and be welcomed home to a strange, rowdy and delightful den of locals.” (2011)

I was fortunate to have my friend and Beerchaser regular – Portland attorney, John Mansfied, join me for the visit and he could have been a regular based on the way he commandeered the old Skee Ball machine – one of the few in Portland.

Beerchaser followers may remember John as the skilled intellectual property lawyer who has a propensity to interpret language literally.   For example, at the Mock Crest Tavern (May 2012 blog post), the menu stated, “Breakfast Served – Any Time.”  John asked for French toast from the Renaissance Era…..To see another one of his “literal” stories, see the end of this blog post.

Mansfield  - His victorious expression has an inverse relation to his score at Skee Ball

Mansfield – His victorious expression has an inverse relation to his score at Skee Ball

“…..it’s safe to say the Slammer was pulled from somebody’s dive-bar fantasy and realized with a hasty affection. The bar has a cozy, funky atmosphere….filled with a mix of old regulars and neighborhood youngsters.”  (2010)

“….. but the Slammer is a corner bar so enchanting you may be moved to stand on an outdoor table and sing along to “Rocket Man” playing on the loudspeakers. After which the regulars will come outside and congratulate you.”  (2009)

P1010590Chris, the bartender, maintained the tradition of just about every one of the fifty-plus bartenders I have interviewed on Thebeerchaser tour of Portland bars and taverns – he was extremely friendly and helpful in giving us information about their bar.  He’s the son of the female owner.

Bartender Chris and John Mansfield with Thebeerchaser logo

Bartender Chris and John Mansfield with Thebeerchaser logo

——–

The Slammer opened thirty-four years ago and Chris’s mom bought it eighteen years ago.  He thought that one of the distinguishing characteristics is the great mix of clientele – WW agrees with him.

“Plopped on the weird convergence of Southeast Stark Street, 8th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard, Slammer’s the kind of place that’s slightly different every time you go in…..one thing’s certain—the door on the bathroom is still nonexistent, and you’ll probably hug the bartender before leaving.”  (2008)

The sign says a lot about the character of this quirky establishment.

The sign says a lot about the character of this quirky establishment.

Based on our visit, Slammer was a great bar with friendly regulars and a solid and endearing character, but it has not always been this way.  In fact, one of my friends – a former Portland police officer who has been on Beerchasing visits, advised me to avoid it for our own welfare based on his experience as a cop.

When queried for specific examples, he stated, “The guy who did a car prowl and ran into the bar to hide.  Noise complaints not uncommon.  The occasional bar fight we were called to suppress – usually a boyfriend/girlfriend argument when they had too much beer.

Honestly, probably not any more incidents than a bar of comparable size.  The patrons more often got in trouble walking home and peeing on the side of the building or passing out on the sidewalk.”

Chris noted that a number of years back, they had a few “burps,” but those are from days gone by.  A group of regulars sitting at the tables on the “patio” right outside the door stated, “Slammer is the best (and friendliest) bar in Portland.”  

"The Friendliest Bar in Portland."

“The Friendliest Bar in Portland.”

Slammer doesn’t have a bunch of beers on tap or an expansive menu (essentially sandwiches, tacos, chili and sides), but the food and beer is cheap and they have a reputation for strong drinks and friendly bartenders.

This old, red Victorian house with two renovated apartments up-stairs, the small bar on the ground floor and a bunch of Christmas lights strung all over the exterior is worth a visit.

I will conclude by stating that it is always a treat to drink beer with attorney Mansfield.  Besides being honored as an Oregon Super Lawyer since 2009, he is a talented musician and in his younger days played in a rock band.  Another example of his tendency to analyze and interpret language literally is evidenced by this communication with the police dispatcher when he was at the U of O and a wild and crazy guy:

Dispatcher:  “Eugene Police Department”

Mansfield:  “I’d like to report a theft at our residence.”

Dispatcher:  “What is your street name?”

Mansfield:  “Bubba”

The Slammer  500 SE 8th Street       

Bar to Exterior