“The Ship isn’t anything to write home to Mom about . . . heck it probably isn’t even a place I would tell my Mom I went . . . but it knows what/who it is.” (Yelp/9/17/11)
I wanted to hit a tavern on the west side for the next stop on Thebeerchaser tour. My Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt colleague, John Mansfield, and I were meeting former Schwabe lawyer, Chris Lewis, and Multnomah Village seemed to be a good location. I was drawn to The Ship Tavern (hereafter “The Ship.”)
A little due diligence almost resulted in a veto, however. Jay Waldron is also a Schwabe lawyer – one of the best environmental and energy lawyers in the NW and a man of varied interests. When I was the COO at Schwabe, he used to motivate me with quotes such as that from Scottish writer and essayist, Thomas Carlyle, “A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.” (The quote seems appropriate for a post about this bar…..)
Waldron is a director of the U.S. Rugby Foundation and has played, coached and broadcast rugby on a regional, national and international level. He has also been on whitewater rafting expeditions (successfully tackling the Upper Yangtze River in China) and motorcycle adventure trips on six continents.
Jay is a follower of this blog and was very positive about The Ship even noting that it had been a long-ago hangout, of sorts, for Portland Rugby Club players. This raised some initial concerns on my part as I wanted to drink from a glass rather than eat one……A little more research, however, uncovered the fact that their impact was relatively mundane – the site of the Rugby Club’s “Book and Brew” discussions which will be addressed below.
The Ship is the epitome of a dive bar. Quoting from one of Thebeerchaser’s posts (September, 2011) and the notable reference book, “Seattle’s Best Dive Bars,” this 70 + year Multnomah Village institution fit the definition to a tee:
” “Some dives have vomit-caked toilet seats in the bathroom; others have cracked vinyl booths in the barroom. Some have nicotine-stained murals dating back to the Depression; others have drink prices that seemingly haven’t wavered since then……..But really, no collection of characteristics can be melded to truly define what makes a bar a dive…..The term ‘dive’ is bestowed with a spoonful of love….What they have in common aren’t so much attributes, but a state of mind — you just know one when you see one.” (Seattle’s Best Dive Bars by Mike Seely – pages 9-10)
In the words of one Portland patron: “The Ship is simply your quintessential dive bar……It’s an ultra local joint with good history…….that dark and dank local bar with a handful of guys in trucker hats and grey mustache’s…..”(Yelp 2/29/12)
Da Bears…..The Ship is a Chicago hangout as evidenced by the fact that any time The Bears, the Cubs or the White Sox play, Pabst Old Style Beer – A Chicago favorite – is $1.50 per can and margaritas and blood mary’s are $3.50. Debbie, the friendly bartender, emphasized, “This doesn’t apply to Blackhawk games – we’re not big on hockey.”
And for Bear fans, every Sunday during football season they “offer meals that are themed after the opposing team.”
For example, on a recent Sunday when they played the Minnesota Vikings, the special was “Tator-tot Hotdish” and Caesar Salad for $5.50. According to Wikipedia, “Hotdish is a variety of baked casserole that typically contains a starch, a meat or other protein, and a canned and/ or frozen vegetable, mixed with canned soup. The dish is popular in Minnesota and North Dakota.”
What do You Mean Credit??? The Ship may be one of the few bars or pubs in Portland to totally disdain credit cards. It’s cash only and no tabs – pay as you imbibe! Times change, however. Last year was the first time The Ship offered liquor and Candace, the Manager, (who was also very helpful) said they might consider credit next year.
Peanut Demolition Day – Each Thursday – the day we were there – each table has free peanuts in the shell all day. The shells hit the floor when you discard them……..
Other Interesting Fixtures – You will see five TVs, a bunch of video poker terminals, one old-fashioned pinball game (“Medieval Madness – King of Evil”) and while many bars have video games, the one at The Ship was particularly interesting and fitting i.e. “Big Buck Hunter.”
The rules on the two pool tables are also worth noting. If you drop a cue, the fine is 25 cents and 50 cents if a ball goes off the pool table – according to Debbie, the bartender, it is a “maintenance fund” for pool table repairs.
You will find no menus at The Ship. The food, which is what you would expect at a dive bar – that’s a compliment – is on a blackboard above the bar.
The Juke Box at many bars will reveal a little about the regulars. When you want to play it at The Ship, you inform the bartender so the stereo can be turned off. The “hottest plays” were the following:
Neil Young and Crazy Horse – “Get a Job”
Bad Company – “Bad Company”
The Raconteurs – “Steady as She Goes”
Waylon Jennings – “Good-Hearted Woman”
And the Rugby Club’s past “Book and Brew” discussions??? As an example, there was heated debate on the non-fiction classic, “The Iron Man – How Shelby Donovan Revolutionized the Chicago Dry Cleaning Industry” and some awkward moments when former Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh’s presentation, “What Can Your Rug Be?” was not quite what the rugged jocks expected…….
My apologies to Jay Waldron for the above, although he deserves legitimate credit for his perfect delivery of one of Thebeerchaser’s favorite bar jokes at the City Club of Portland when he was a presenter on Metro area transportation planning two years ago:
“A traffic engineer walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm and says to the bartender, ‘Give me two beers – one for me and one for the road.”
The Ship has been in the same location since 1946 and this site of a former garage has big-time history and character. Visit The Ship and remember the intent of James Lawrence’s (skipper of the USS Chesapeake) famous last declaration in 1813 – paraphrased – “Give up the Ship??? — Knot!!”
The Ship Tavern 7827 SW 35th Ave Portland