Tabor Tavern – An Eastside Treasure

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser. If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.  External photo attribution is at the end of the post. #1)

Well Beerchasers, I’ve hit the jackpot with my recent visits to bars The Basement Public House (eastside) and the Jolly Roger at John’s Landing (westside) – both independent neighborhood establishments owned and operated by Portlanders.  And now I’ll tell you about another outstanding neighborhood tavern.

I first visited the Tabor Tavern in 2022 with my colleague on the Abbey Foundation of Oregon Board, John Limb and returned this February with a former Schwabe Williamson law firm colleague, John Mansfield, who is now working as a Deputy County Counsel in Washington County.

And as will be the case with the other two establishments, I’ll return again notwithstanding the internal pressure which is my constant companion — knowing how many watering holes I haven’t visited and still await Thebeerchaser with anticipation.  

In researching the Tabor and it’s opening in 2012 by Ken “Zig” Naffziger, I was not surprised by its longevity and success.  And the welcoming ambiance radiates when one walks in the door. 

The problem with some of the newer hospitality venues which were short-lived – especially with the impact of the pandemic – the owners and management often didn’t “learn the ropes” before they ventured out on their own.  The COVID related issues challenged even the most experienced manager.

Two good examples of how long-time successful bar owners worked their way up and were fully aware of the commitment and grit required are the Jackson family – owners of the Sports Page in Beaverton and the Jolly Roger bars – the most recent reviews on this blog.

The other is Zig Naffziger – owner of the Tabor Tavern.

“In 2012, after 25 years in the industry — including stints with Portland pub icons McMenamins, Lompoc Brewing and the Horse Brass Pub — Ken “Zig” Naffziger decided to set out on his own.​

Inspired by Zig’s travels and love of pub culture, his goal was to create the kind of place fellow tavern fans could congregate to enjoy high-quality food and drink in a warm, welcoming and unpretentious environment.”  (Tabor Tavern website)  (#2)

Zig learned the industry before he opened the Tabor Tavern

Let’s look at what has made the Tabor Tavern a favorite eatery and bar on the northwest edge of the Tabor Neighborhood.   

And based on the reception it got from the time it opened until the present, his first establishment allowed Zig and his wife, Kristen Siefkin, to open a second neighborhood tavern and restaurant – Swift and Union in 2015 – less than ten miles away.   

It had been his life-long dream of Naffziger to open a neighborhood pub.  He was smart about how he went about it – getting advice from experts including his wife:

“‘I am an avid fan of pub culture and hope to create the kind of place fellow fans would like to congregate.’ Naffziger brought in restaurant consultant, Sean Herron of Big Idea Group as advisor on this project (and) food and beverage PR executive, Kristen Siefkin.”  (https://brewpublic.com/oregon-beer/tabor-tavern-to-open-this-spring/)

Photo Feb 15 2023, 12 09 53 PM (2)

Now the outside of Tabor Tavern does not portend what awaits you inside.  It’s a plain wooden one-story building with a red roof in a semi-commercial residential area on a busy street. 

There are a number of small picnic tables that share the sidewalk for Portland’s months when outside seating is an option. 

Not to be forgotten – also not available at many watering holes these days is plenty of off-street parking with more available in the Tavern’s lot. (#3)

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But one walks into a quaint one-room interior which is a wonderful throwback to the diners of the 60’s or 70’s.   In fact, along with historic Portland photos and an attractive chalkboard display showing beers on taps, there’s a large wood poster entitled “Back in 1972.” 

It has 1972 statistics such as the cost of a house ($27,550), the average annual income ($9,697), cost of a gallon of gas (36 cents) and cultural items like popular songs (American Pie), movies (The Godfather) and TV shows (All in the Family). 

Also – famous people born that year including Gwyneth Paltrow – who didn’t know then that in the future she should stay away from both ski slopes and courtrooms…….

The welcoming, rich interior has wood tables of various sizes located throughout with dark-colored wooden booths with padded seats by the windows along the front. 

And one of the most iconic features is a long-reclaimed wood bar with twelve old drugstore counter-type stools.  All give an impression of high quality and care. The floor is refinished cement and there are antique rugs providing a nice contrast.

The Food, the Beverages and the Service

Tabor Tavern gets an A grade on these three categories.   Each time I visited or followed up with a call, the staff was friendly and helpful – including offering to take pictures of us for the blog and even posing in one of them. 

Besides eight varied Northwest beers and one cider on tap, one can also get cans and bottles including a non-alcoholic beer.  Of course, I was pleased to see the old standby – $3.50 Rainer Tallboys

Wine is also available, and they get good reviews on their seven cocktails which go for $12. I was intrigued by the Drunken Botanist“Wild Roots raspberry vodka, muddled arugula, honey, lime juice, served up” – but didn’t have the courage to ask what “muddled arugula” is. (#4)

450px-Eruca_sativa

But it’s the excellent upscale pub food which beckons me to make a return visit.  I was surprised that the annual Willamette Week Best Bar Guides, I’ve collected for the last ten years didn’t have Tabor Tavern in any of its editions.  

Take a look at these two reviews from the weekly newspaper, however, and you’ll get a flavor for the quality of the cuisine:

“This casual, bustling neighborhood joint always miraculously has at least one table available whenever we roll up. Its adult menu is exceptional pub grub: a perfect beet salad (with quinoa and pepitas) and a fried chicken sando that my partner orders every time and will not shut up about.

It also has a small kids’ menu, which includes the coveted grilled cheese and fries for $7. Hell yes! Tabor Tavern is perfect for cool families, although a passerby would hardly even know it, which is the ideal aesthetic.”  Willamette Week 8/18/21

And I can personally attest to the accuracy of the effusive review of the fried chicken sandwich ($16) – I had it and my friend, John Mansfield relished the Spinach and Warm Bacon Salad. ($14)

Photo Feb 15 2023, 11 52 37 AM

Perhaps that’s why we looked so happy in this photo – taken after we finished lunch – although some people assert that I’m always happy when I have a meal with a lawyer……..!

However, when I return, given the description in the review below and seeing it first-hand when my Beerchasing companion, John Limb tried it in 2022, I will, without hesitation, order the Tabor Burger as described in the 2017 article “The 16 Best Bar Burgers in Portland.” 

“The Tabor Burger ($16.50 with fries, soup or salad) is precisely what would happen if a hamburger got attacked by an episode of Frasier: arugula, brioche bun, blue cheese and bacon jam.

But it comes together better than expected—a balance of fat against salt and bitterness, rather than acidity. But is it weird I sometimes feel I’m eating a Cobb salad?”  

Our friendly server agreed to have his picture taken with John. 

I told John’s story in a prior post about Chuckanut Brewing.  Before retiring in 2017, he was the publisher of the Oregon Catholic Press

The OCP is a non-profit national leader in Catholic and faith-based music publishing and worship resources. During his tenure, OCP became the nation’s leading publisher of Catholic worship material. He continues to serve as Publisher Emeritus.

And it was a remarkable coincidence that as we ate our lunches and drank our beers on a nice April afternoon at the outside tables in front of the bar, that John looked at two guys inside – sitting adjacent to us – with just a window separating us. John and both of the guys started smiling and waving simultaneously as they  recognized each other.  

In the photo below, the guy on the left is Rudy Lopez who works at OCP and is a very talented musician and composer as is Bro. Rufino Zaragoza – a Franciscan friar (monk) from California. 

He collaborates with OCP including efforts to serve the Vietnamese community both here in the U.S. and in Vietnam.  (Click on the above links on these individuals and you will be impressed with their work and dedication.)

John had not seen Bro. Rufino since 2001 when both traveled to Viet Nam and facilitated the development and publication of a Vietnamese National Hymnal which is now available internationally.

Photo Aug 04, 12 00 52 PM (2)

And Because it Bears Mentioning

After looking at the photos again, I commented to John in a recent phone call, “John, you have an amazing resemblance to comedian Stephen Colbert.”  His reply was:

“Yes, I’ve been told many times that I look like him — more so in the past, when he still wore wire-rimmed glasses like my own.  There have been times when people were actually convinced that I was him, and I was just trying to avoid them by saying that I wasn’t.  My fifteen minutes of fame, so to speak.”

Well, you judge for yourself!  (#5 – #6)

Well, that’s John Limb on the _______??!! 

I laughed and reflected that John should feel pretty good about the comparison.  The only famous person friends have said that I resemble is former Senate Majority Leader – Republican Trent Lott from Mississippi. (2001)   And no, I’m not going to show you the picture!  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trent_Lott

In Closing

You should make a point to try Zig’s ” dream that became a reality,” and he created a place that is “warm, welcoming and an unpretentious environment.”  I plan to visit Swift and Union as well.  But I’ll leave you with this brief 4/15/23 Yelp Review.  It sums up most of comments very well:

“I’d never been to Tabor Tavern before.  Wow!  The food is excellent!!  Everything delicious.  I split the beet salad and burger with blue cheese, bacon jam & arugula .  SOOOO delicious!  

A table mate had the fish and chips and another had the Tabor burger.  All outstanding – as are the fries.  Highly recommend this eatery!!”

And if you want to see the breadth of the food and cocktails Zig Naffziger offers and the outstanding presentation, just check out the photos on the Tabor Tavern Facebook Page. (#7)

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Cheers

External Photo Attribution

#1.  Tabor Tavern Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/TaborTavern/photos/pb.100063643386983.-2207520000./3778581502237497/?type=3).

#2. Linked-in  (http://Ken (21) Kenneth “Zig” Naffziger | LinkedIn)

#3. Tabor Tavern Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/TaborTavern/photos/pb.100063643386983-)

#4.  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eruca_sativa.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Author: Whut – 6 October 2010.

#5.  Abbey Foundation of Oregon 2020 Annual Report (https://abbeyfoundationoforegon-annualreport.org/annual-report-2020/)

#6.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Colbert_(character))

 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stephen_Colbert_on_set_cropped.jpg   This file is a work of a U.S. Army soldier or employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_of_the_United_States_Government – Author Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade

#7.  Tabor Tavern Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/TaborTavern/photos/pb.100063643386983.-2207520000./774050192690658/?type=3)

Ahoy – Get Hooked at the Jolly Rogers!

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(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.  External photo attribution is at the end of the post. #1)

In a January 2023 Beerchaser post, I captured my visit to the iconic Jolly Roger in east Portland with my friend Hillary Barbour.  The current Jolly Roger on SE 12th and Madison was opened in the early ’90’s and Rob and Starr Jackson were partners with the Cheerful Group. 

This group owns two Portland bars previously reviewed by Thebeerchaser – the Cheerful Tortoise and the Cheerful Bullpen.

The Jacksons became the sole owners in 2004 and leased it since; however, the watering hole is short-lived as the landlord plans to develop it as a five-story, 100-plus-unit residential complex.

The bar’s closure and demolition will happen when permitting issues are finally resolved with the City of Portland – probably by the end of the year although the City’s actions have dragged on. So the Jolly Roger – East will have its final voyage in the coming months and be sorely missed. 

As one  2021 Yelp reviewer stated:

“Exactly what you want with a neighborhood place. Regulars who accept newbies, great drinks, good beer selection and some really good bar food.”

Fortunately for Portlanders like myself, who love good bars, the Jacksons still own two establishments – the Sports Page in Beaverton and the Jolly Roger at John’s Landing which is reviewed below.

The Jackson’s business model is built on the premise:

“Nobody has more fun than we do.”  

Although each of the two Jolly Rogers has a distinctly different ambiance, both are “communities” and the Jacksons have promoted activities which draw not only regulars, but people who want to experience the comradery of such events. 

Starr Jackson said that since the pandemic, those gatherings have essentially ceased at the Jolly Roger-East and John’s Landing, but they still continue at the Sports Page which has more expansive quarters. (#2-#5)  

308514632_526974236095181_7011294792121199665_n - sports page

The Jolly Roger at John’s Landing

I was pleased that my Beerchasing companion, Dennis Ferguson, suggested that we try the John’s Landing location and had no idea that he was a regular since he lives in a different part of the City. 

I’ve known Denny since 1979 when he was President of JBL&K Insurance – our employee benefits and insurance broker at the Oregon State Bar.  After he retired from the company, he had a second career as Senior Philanthropic Advisor for the Portland State University Foundation. 

One of my most frequent Beerchasing comrades as you can see from the photos below — we’ve raised mugs at places ranging from the Cheerful Tortoise, Cheerful Bullpen, Yamhill Pub, the Lompoc Tavern, Dockside Saloon and the Leaky Roof – to name just some of the watering holes where he’s joined me.

Denny is probably the most positive and optimistic person I know and a true friend.  For example, when I got to the Dockside Saloon early and told Karen, the server I was meeting him for breakfast, she immediately responded:

“Fergy.” He’s coming in today.  That’s like winning the lottery.”

Dennis Ferguson is so positive that he once started a rigid diet on the day before Thanksgiving.  He is so confident that he fills out his March Madness bracket during football season before basketball has started.  He’s so optimistic that (well, you get the idea…)

(Photos below clockwise – From JBL&K, the Cheerful Tortoise in 2012, the Leaky Roof in 2019 – my 300th watering hole reviewed on this blog), Karen at the Dockside in 2018, the Yamhill Pub in 2015, the Lompoc Tavern in 2015 and the Cheerful Bullpen in 2014).

What’s Not to Like About This Place??

It’s located in a nice, older neighborhood with character, where parking is plentiful (and free) and in a building that also has some interesting history – it used to be one of the two Stanich locations – from 1987 to 2003. 

Note: The eastside Stanich’s also had a colorful history – named by a Thrillist writer in 2017 as making the Best Hamburger in America!  Stanich’s, temporary closed in 2018 – some say caused by the Thrillist story, but most contend, by Nick Stanich’s multiple and complex legal and family problems.

(The bar closed permanently in 2020. Read the fascinating Willamette Week article with the story.) 

Besides the nice external setting, one walks into an upscale, well-lit cafe’-type ambiance with tables and booths of assorted sizes well-spaced and with what appears to be happy and energized patrons seated throughout. 

Starr Jackson and our friendly server, Suzie address the patrons by name – people come back to this place regularly.

The multiple televisions and video poker machines (located in an alcove) don’t interfere with the atmosphere – not the case in many bars in which both are a distraction.  The juke box softly plays a good selection of tunes which enhances the mood. The wood bar is  long and attractive. 

The good news according to a telephone conversation with Starr this week is that they are still investing in the property so they probably aren’t going anyplace….They’re replacing an old garage in the back which provides the storage for the bar.

And speaking of the back of the bar, take a look at their patio and why it is a favorite spot in the neighborhood during good weather.  (#6)

patio (2)

An Example of Community

Shortly, after we sat down for lunch, some older guys walked in incrementally and headed for a long table in the northwest corner.  They were all carrying individual bottles of wine and then ordered lunch which they ate while immersed in conversations. 

Denny told me that Starr let’s these guys bring their own wine in for what is essentially a non-existent corkage fee and they drink it during lunch. 

The last guy to join the five elderly gents was a much younger guy – very tall and athletic – he looked familiar. The younger guy – part of the regular group – is former Portland Trailblazer Center, Steve Johnson

Photo Mar 21 2023, 12 56 40 PM (2)

He starred for the “Orange Express” Team at Oregon State which in 1981 went to the second round of the NCAA Division 1 Tournament.

” A 1st Team Consensus All-America and Pac-10 Player of the Year in 1981, Steve was also a three time selection as All Pac-10.  His 746 field goal percentage was an NCAA men’s basketball record until 2017….

Johnson was inducted into the Oregon State University Hall of Fame in 1993 and now the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.” (Oregon Sports Hall of Fame)

Steve Johnson played ten years in the NBA for a number of different teams including the Trailblazers before retiring.  The group drank wine and stayed talking until after Denny and I left. (#7 – #8)

The Beer, the Food and the Service

The preponderance of social media reviews are very positive (one misfit complained that he could not see the Trailblazer game on any of the TV’s – this could be construed as prudent censorship….).

Many bars have a limited “pub menu” but the JR is the full-mail deal – a diversified assortment of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers a number of macaroni & cheese options, pizza and full plates which include steak, brisket and fish & chips. 

Don’t forget the expansive breakfast menu (served until 3 PM on Saturday and Sunday) – includes omelets, steak and eggs, biscuits and gravy, and corned beef hash (which is going to get me back there – soon….)

And the prices are really reasonable.   Denny had the cheeseburger for $14.  He’ opted for this menu item every time we’ve Beerchased except one bar at which they didn’t have it available during breakfast!) 

My Taco Tuesday lunch at the Jolly Roger meant three beef tacos for $5. (#8 – #9))

Photo Mar 21 2023, 1 19 05 PM

The Yelp reviews focus on the quality of the food – especially the tacos, burgers and mini-corndogs – the friendly and efficient service and the selection of beers and cocktails.  Take a look at these four from which are very representative:

“I love Jolly Roger! They have great drinks and food. It’s very fresh and so tasty! The bartenders are super friendly and always remember you. Highly recommend!” (3/4/2023)

“I’ve visited this bar a couple times since I moved into the neighborhood and it is an amazing spot! I come here to work on assignments for my fellowship as well as drink and eat with friends. Regardless of why I visit the workers always treat me with kindness and camaraderie. Great selection of beers on tap and yummy food.” (12/5/2021)

“My local watering hole. The staff is phenomenal and the food is delicious!!! They have a big selection of food and drinks. They always have daily deals, which is awesome. The food gets better and better every time I go. There’s a lot of TVs also. I would definitely recommend this place.” (2/13/2019)

“I love this bar!! Great quality food! Amazing service! Feels like a family with all the regulars and being in the middle of a neighborhood! Great safety measures being taken here!”  (8/15/2020)

In my Beerchasing travels the last twelve years, I always appreciate the family-owned operations which understandably tend to have a family-type environments.  The Jolly Roger at John’s Landing epitomizes this. 

Stop by and the second time you go in, Starr will greet you by your first name — and you might even see Denny there eating a cheeseburger!

Photo Mar 21 2023, 11 47 48 AM (2)

The Beerchaser’s recommendation for the Jolly Roger might be summarized by one word:

Aaarghh!

And as pirates say when they toast:

“May your ANCHOR be tight, your CORK be loose, your RUM be spiced and your COMPASS be true.”  (#10)

800px-Dale_Clark_poses_as_Johnny_Depp,_in_Pirates_of_the_Caribbean,_24391

External Photo Attribution

#1.  Sports Page Bar Facebook Page (http://(https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=526974246095180&set=a.526974219428516)  

#2 – #5.  The Jolly Roger  Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10101048170669568&set=t.100000625986101&type=3

#6.  Yelp – Back patio (https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/jolly-roger-at-johns-landing-portland-3?select=ZpGOlRyzOucpGzHgUk4MiA)

 #7.   Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Steve_Johnson_OSU.jpg) This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1928 and 1977 inclusive without a copyright notice. Source: Oregon State University Yearbook 1977.

#8.  Oregon Sports Hall of Fame (http://oregonsportshall.org/timeline/steve-johnson-basketball/)

#8 #9.  Taco Tuesday (https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/jolly-roger-at-johns-landing-portland-3?select=cXZbVwS4H253G5gsm0UGAg)

#10.    Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracy#/media/File:Dale_Clark_poses_as_Johnny_Depp)  This work is from the Carol M. Highsmith Archive collection at the Library of Congress. According to the library, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of this work. Carol M. Highsmith has stipulated that her photographs are in the public domain.