The Bantam Tavern – Something to Crow* About


Many traditional dives and neighborhood taverns have disappeared from the Portland bar scene and those remaining are at risk given the economy and the tendency to transition the space into higher paying commercial tenants such as condos.  It’s  thus refreshing that a number of Portland entrepreneurs are willing to invest in both traditional and new watering holes.

Rather than the corporate franchises who offer sterile environments such as the Yard House, one can still find quaint environments reflecting individual character thanks, in part, to the efforts of two partnerships – Dan Hart and Chris Navarra and there’s also Warren Boothby and Marcus Archambeault.

A Boothby and Archambeault bar in SE

The latter are responsible for establishments such as Gold Dust Meridian, the rejuvenated Sandy Hut, the Lay Low Tavern and the recently opened Vern, which saved the former Hannigan’s from oblivion.  (the latter two, not yet reviewed by Thebeerchaser.)

Hart and Navarra are co-owners of some of my favorite Beerchasing experiences over the last seven years including Prost, Stammtisch and Interurban, all of which had great beer, outstanding food, wonderful bartenders and servers and an environment that makes one want to return on a regular basis.

Getting the Boot at Prost

They have done it again with the opening of the Bantam Tavern on NW 21st.   Other than to a limited extent in the Pearl District, the concentration of bars – especially good traditional bars – in the NW quadrant, pales in comparison to the Eastside.

The space, formerly occupied by one of the Laughing Planet healthy-food restaurants, which moved across the street, is small and appropriately named as stated by Hart:

“It comes from a bantam, like a small bird or chicken,” he says.  “It’s that ‘small in stature but big in heart’ kind of idea.”

And the Bantam may be diminutive in total size, but packed with the kind of stuff that draws you to a bar.   First, the building in which it’s located is an attractive brick building with an engaging entrance.

Typical Phoenix Brewery – good beer, but strip mall ambiance at Helio Basin.

After recently spending a week in Phoenix in which it seems that about 90% of the bars and breweries – although they had good beer – are located in strip malls and have the ambiance – well….of Phoenix!

The  interior of the Bantam is attractive with only a few tables/booths, but a great bar and backbar. The art and interior décor is distinctive and there’s one TV that is tucked in a back corner, so not overly distracting.  

The idea to hit the Bantam emanated from my friend Steve Oltman, who works only a block away at Sealy Mattress and had said we should make a visit.

In doing preliminary research before the visit, I saw quite a number of really bad social media comments such as this one from Yelp:  “I keep wanting to love it and make it my local bar of choice.  Unfortunately, every experience I have had is just mediocre.”

Steve is a classy guy and I was incredulous that he was so positive — then I realized — I was looking at reviews for the Bantam Pub in Atlanta!

This was Steve’s second Beerchasing event after hitting the Salty Rhino last December, which is a new bar in West Linn that is close to both of our homes.   He’s, a Minnesota native and Moorhead State grad, has a contagious grin and is a good drinking buddy – besides his other great traits!

Besides being a great mixologist, Ollie Gahlsdorf (right) is a very amiable person

They have robust Happy Hour options and each of us had a good Flensburger Pilsner for $4.50 – the first time I have tried this authentic German beer – a good option.   Otherwise, they have eight taps – with some excellent Northwest microbrews including Newburg’s Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery’s Helder and a cider tap.

Also ten diverse bottled beers, including Ranier and Budweiser for traditionalists and more esoteric options such as Tillamook brewery de Garde’s Framboise at $29 for a 750 ml bottle – “an average age of approximately 18 months, and refermented the blend with fresh Oregon red raspberries.”  (Untapped)  There are also eight wine options.

Ollie Gahlsdorf, who previously managed Interurban, is the bar manager and stated that he loves the neighborhood and the patrons trying out the new establishment and “business since we opened has been great.”   He garnered great reviews for his cocktails at Interurban and now has “designed the house cocktails, including the Lions,Tigers and Bears, a Jamaican rum sour with apricot syrup and allspice dram.”  (Oregon Live 10/19/18).

“Oh My!!” Jamaican rum sour with apricot syrup and allspice dram.

There are fifteen interesting options – helpfully broken into sections such as “Strong,”  “Not Too Sweet,” (includes a jell-O-shot, “Hot Drinks” and “Sweet.”  They range from $10 – $12 with steep discounts for the Happy Hour options such as an Old Fashioned.

We did not have time to eat, but the menu is typical of Dan Hart’s establishments and food presentations we saw looked really good:

“Stammtisch chef Grahman Chaney plays more towards the sensibilities at Interurban than those at his day job.

Salty drinking snacks like jerk-seasoned chicken thighs and a Dungeness crab dip with friend wonton chips (both $9 during happy hour) star alongside hearty, meal-sized sandwiches, like a prime rib dip ($15) and a tavern burger ($14) so juicy the first bites caused it to ooze like a punctured water balloon.”   Willamette Week review 11/21/18

And where can you find a bar menu that allows you to have an entrée like Steak Diane for $18 and yet try a Spam Slammer (grilled Spam with teriyaki, mustard, pineapple, hoisin aioli & shaved cabbage on a sweet Hawaiian bun) for $4.   Ollie said the slammers are “a real adventure.”

Both Steve and I are ready to try it when we return – probably in good weather so we can enjoy the nice patio and assuming our wives don’t accompany us….By the way, they also have a worthy assortment of munchies such as olives, popcorn (dressed in Parmesan & espelette pepper) and chicken legs that almost had me reaching over to the plate of the guy next to me at the bar for a sample.

The fourth of Dan Hart’s establishments I’ve visited lived up to the experiences of the others and this bright, attractive bar has everything you want for either a casual beer or a night out.  Steve’s recommendation was spot on.

Both the print and socal media reviews are virtually all positive and I was impressed that Dan Hart personally responded to the one Yelp review that was negative.  Perhaps the best summary is:

“Outstanding happy hour dinner and drinks tonight!.  Great cozy atmosphere, engaging staff, really excellent food (don’t miss the chicken confit, standout fries and a burger, a perfect Old Fashioned and well-curated draft list.  Highly recommend.”  (Yelp 11/14/18)

Bantam Tavern Logo

Bantam Tavern          922 NW 21st 

*   And by the way, Bantam chickens do crow……

Beerchaser Miscellany – Five Years of Thebeerchaser

The first bar on Thebeerchaser Tour in August, 2011

The first bar on Thebeerchaser Tour in August, 2011

The Bars in Portland

Measuring Up Against a Standard

My retirement hobby – Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs started in August 2011.  The original intent was to restrict my visits and review of watering holes to Portland venues (after all, there are over 750 establishments and more breweries per capita than any other city in the world) but retirement travel opened new options.

Thebeerchaser with Janet - a supportive spouse.....

Thebeerchaser with Janet – a supportive spouse…..

The hobby is successful, in part, because of my wonderful and supportive spouse, Janet, especially when we have traveled.  Posts on Thebeerchaser include saloons in Europe, Alaska and Hawaii and many other states within the Continental US and, of course, some great bars in Central and Eastern Oregon plus those on the Oregon Coast.

After five years, the count of Portland bars is 78 and those outside of Portland number 97 for a grand total of 175.

An invaluable Beerchaser resource - the Annual Willamette Week Bar Guide

An invaluable Beerchaser resource – the Annual Willamette Week Bar Guide

 

The annual Willamette Week Bar Guide has been an invaluable resource and to demonstrate the potential future grist for this blog, I have compared the Portland venues in the 2016 WW Bar Guide to those I have reviewed in the last five years.  Keep in mind that each review requires at least two visits in addition to my on-line research before the blog posts (150 to this point) are published.

The 2016 Bar Guide has brief descriptions of the reporters’ 167 favorite Portland bars.  I adjusted downward to eliminate strip clubs, wine and cider bars, and restaurants that have bars such as Higgins – none of which I include when I select bars (exceptions were made for two of the McMenamin establishments with historic bars – the White Eagle Saloon and the St. John’s Pub and the memorable Buffalo Gap Saloon) Thus, the 2016 net figure of potential Beerchaser options in the Bar Guide was 135.

Exception made to recognize historic establishments

Exception made to recognize historic establishments

Of the 78 Portland area bars I have reviewed, there are very few I did not like or wouldn’t recommend e.g. The Yardhouse in Pioneer Place (for a host of reasons, it didn’t ‘measure up….”) and the Pearl District’s Low Brow Lounge, which had a surly staff.  Yet only 57.7% of my bars made the Willamette Week list.

The Yard House - Ambiance of an Olive Garden......

The Yard House – Ambiance of an Olive Garden……

Perhaps I need to accelerate my visits in the second five years.  It is obvious that there are still plenty of opportunities for Beerchasing without return visits to those seen from 2011 to 2016!

To see the list of bars featured  both in Portland and outside the Rose City, check out the tab entitled “List of Bars” in the header at the top of this page. There is one post for bars outside of Portland and another for those in the Portland metro area.

Are Dive Bars Disappearing?

Seattle dive bars bookIn an April 15, 2016 article in the Seattle Times, reporter, Bob Young, asserts: “Seattle’s dive bars are becoming an endangered species.”  He justifies his premise by citing the fact that, “Thirty-one of the 100 in Mike Seely’s ‘Seattle’s Best Dive Bars’ have shuttered since the book’s 2009 publication.” 

Some have expressed the same sentiment about Portland.  For example, a December 2014 article in Willamette Week entitled, “Closing Time” with a subheading,2014 Was Barmageddon in Portland.”  The article maintained that the closing of the historic bars such as Slab TownTiga, the Matador and others is the “canary in the coal mine.”  It quoted one bartender as stating, Every good bar, everything you see is going under. Everything is going straight to shi%#.”

Slabtown - gone but not forgotten....

Slabtown – gone but not forgotten….

The Portland Mercury also did an article on March 9, 2016 entitled “The Portland Dive Bar Preservation Society.” on the same theme and summarized brilliantly with this excerpt:

“Portland’s lost a bunch of dive bars recently. A few were absolute shitholes that deserved to disappear, but most were victims of circumstance and change. A number of other bars have changed ownership and been fancied up to suit the modern market. Dive bars, if not endangered, are at the very least under threat.” 

The article lists thirty-eight bar 2014 closures including institutions such as Slab Town,  the Grand Café (Frank Peters’ former establishment), the East Bank Saloon, Tiga, Pal’s Shanty and the Matador.  Although it was more of a restaurant than a bar, the picture below shows what is left of the long-term establishment the Macadam Bar and Grill which closed last year and was razed last week.   

The Grand Café is gone but back as Pour Sports Bar

The Grand Café is gone but back as Pour Sports Bar

(I mention this one only because it used to be a Mazzi’s Restaurant and my wife and I went there for our first dinner date in 1979!)

Macadam Bar and Grill - the remnants.....

Macadam Bar and Grill – the remnants…..

However, I would suggest that the concern is not as dire as it appears.  In Portland, we are fortunate to have entrepreneur’s such as Marcus Archambault and Warren Boothby who have totally renovated the historic Sandy Hut (or Handy Slut if you are a regular) and the Double Barrel.

There was concern that the wonderful Skyline Tavern would be razed and replaced by condos, but fortunately the owner invested additional capital and it was Willamette Week’s 2016 Bar of the Year.

Produce Row closed for about a year, but reopened and is thriving in the Eastside Industrial District.  Joe’s Cellar, one of my favorite NW dive bars, closed and like the proverbial Phoenix, rose again the next year and is pumping out draft PBRs like there is no tomorrow.  Both the Grand Café and Eastbank Saloon reopened as new bars (Pour Sports and the Bit House Saloon, respectively.)

New Copper Penny will turn into apartments....

New Copper Penny will turn into apartments….

But consider the recent loss of the venerable New Copper Penny in Lents, which after many years is closing as part of the Portland Development Commission’s ambitious goal to make Lents into a thriving mixed-use community.

New Copper Penny - history goes to auction

New Copper Penny – history goes to auction

What can you do?  Continue to patronize the many establishments which are truly bars and avoid the “fashionable” trend to get a beer at Starbucks or retail establishments ranging from ski shops to bicycle stores which put in a tap or two and attempt to reinvent themselves as a watering hole —-They’re Not!

Similarly, if you fly on one of the airlines now offering microbrews such as Virgin America (San Francisco’s 21st Amendment BreweryDelta (Sam Adams) or Southwest (New Belgium’s Fat Tire) and have a beer, you don’t have to tell your spouse that you stopped at a bar on your way home.

Not to be considered a dive bar or a pub......

Not to be considered a dive bar or a pub……

That said, don’t make the mistake of one Luke Thomas Watts (27) who on an Alaska Airlines flight from Sacramento to Seattle, locked himself in the bathroom and threatened to become violent if the flight attendants did not serve him a beer. The plane landed in Portland and Luke was removed.  He was indicted and went to trial in July!)  http://koin.com/2016/05/11/feds-man-locks-himself-in-airplane-bathroom-after-he-wasnt-served-alcohol/

These Brews Made the Cut….

While this blog, notwithstanding the name, is primarily about bars rather than trying to articulate the subtle taste differences between the hundreds of IPAs or analyze how hoppy a microbrew with an IBU (international bittering unit) of 60 is compared to a similar beer ten units lower, I do periodically mention beers.

Ryan popped the question - and a bottle of champagne at the summit of the South Sister in 2015

Ryan popped the question – and a bottle of champagne at the summit of the South Sister in 2015

My youngest daughter, Laura, and her fiancé’, Ryan Keene, are tying the knot on September 17th at Vista Hills Winery, right outside of Dundee. (My suggestion that the reception be held at one of my favorite Dundee dives – Lumpy’s Landing – was understandably rejected.) 

Rejected as wedding reception site....

Rejected as wedding reception site….

 

While Vista Hills has wonderful wine, there will be a few canned beers available and some family members recently got together for dinner and a blind tasting test to determine which brews would be offered during that celebration.  We tasted about ten beers that night and the following made the cut:

Oakshire Watershed IPA       Worthy Easy-Day Kolsch    Good Life Sweet As Pacific Ale

There will also be one cider – that being Portland Cider Co.’s “Hop’rageous.”

The tasting group and Wesley - making critical wedding decisions!

The tasting group and Wesley – making critical wedding decisions!

I told Ryan that his favorite professor at the University of Portland (where both of them graduated), Dr. Sam Holloway would be pleased since he sits on the Board of Eugene’s Oakshire Brewery.  Sam is also an internationally known expert on the business of brewing as documented when he was named Beerchaser of the Quarter for this blog – see link)

            ——————

What Would George Washington Think?

Thebeerchaser generally stays away from politics although the 2016 election cycle has made that more difficult.  Suffice to say that because of Beerchasing in Europe, at least unlike the Republican Presidential Nominee, I know that Belgium is a country and not “a beautiful city…..

But regardless of how tiresome the political rhetoric becomes, nothing will irritate me more than the opinion piece in Oregon Live on 2/26/16 written by the Executive Directors of the Oregon Student Association and the Bus Project entitled, Buying Postage is a Burden for Many Would-be Voters.” (click on link to see the narrative)

Usps-vanMario Parker-Milligan and Nikki Fisher, in their youthful wisdom and with righteous indignity, assert that voting by mail, “……assumes ample free time and a drawer full of stamps to get that ballot turned in….But there is a real – sometimes prohibitive (emphasis supplied)  cost getting to a post office during regular business hours….the last thing you should have to do is sacrifice needed income or time with your children to vote.”

Well Mario and Nikki, Thebeerchaser also doesn’t accept the premise that this situation is tantamount to a poll tax and suggests that rather than having urged the 2016 Oregon Legislature to enact Senate Bill 1586 to provide return postage for your ballots, that you just take your completed ballot and WALK to your nearest library or City Hall where you can return it without charge.

Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_by_Emanuel_Leutze,_MMA-NYC,_1851

Washington crossing the Delaware. They were concerned about a Stamp Act far more significant than Senate Bill 1586!

And while you are in the Library, you might want to check out a book (it’s free unless you don’t have time to return it before the due date) and read about the sacrifices that George Washington and his Revolutionary Army made when they were fighting the British from 1775 – 1783.  I’m not sure they would have agreed with you on the definition of “burden.”

(It appears that SB 1586 was enacted on 4/4/2016 with an emergency clause, although according to the Secretary of State’s Election Division, the provision for postage was deleted from the final bill.)  Since the financial impact was estimated at $1.2 million annually if every registered voter took advantage (would obviously not be the case) that is fortunate.  Perhaps these funds can be diverted to civics education in the high schools!

And Finally Since we are Talking About Elections….

Thebeerchaser’s first full-time job in 1974 after naval service was as a clerk in the Clackamas County Elections Department, where we administered and conducted both the Primary and General elections in addition to numerous school and special district elections for bond issues, levies and board-of-director contests.

Although Mario and Nikki would be appalled at how onerous the burden, that was before Vote-by-Mail and each voter, unless they cast an absentee ballot, would vote at one of the approximately 120 polling places throughout the county.

Obsolete in Oregon, but not in many states

Obsolete in Oregon, but not in many states

Each location was staffed from 8:00 AM until 8:00 PM by four very dedicated and hardworking poll workers and one lead person who collectively reviewed the voter’s eligibility, had them sign the poll book and handed them the appropriate ballot.

They were generally retired ladies who worked for less than minimum wage and these great citizens were also responsible for ballot security since they returned the ballots and supplies to the Data Center in Oregon City after the polls closed.

Poll workers in an election polling location

Poll workers in an election polling location

In reviewing (and recycling based on the mandate by my spouse to “get rid of some of those outdated and unnecessary documents you have in multiple file cabinets in our garage,”) I came across one that also showed how conscientious these ladies were.

The letter below was written by Alta Bluhm, lead poll worker, at Clackamas High School during the Special School District Election on July 27, 1976 and signed by her co-workers:  Dora Burnwalt, Priscilla Coffa, Barbara Aldrich and Betty Jo Partridge:

Opal  L. Johnson (not her real name) entered Clackamas High School, became antagonistic toward the board, signed poll book  #1409, looked through poll book, received ballot #73, asked how to vote but was told we didn’t give out that information.  She hesitated a minute and then tried to leave building with (the) ballot in hand.

Our fourth clerk tried to stop her from taking the ballot from the building.  Opal Johnson then attacked her by striking her with her purse and transistor radio.  Ballot was retrieved and marked spoiled or void.”

I have a feeling that George Washington and other Founding Fathers would be justifiably proud of these five ladies and perhaps even Mario and Nikki would also share that sentiment….

Cheers - a Moretti at the Devil's Forest Pub in Venice in 2012

Cheers – a Moretti at the Devil’s Forest Pub in Venice in 2012

 

The Double Barrel Tavern – Take a Shot!

Have a Shot!!

Take a Shot!!

Marcus Archambeault and Warren Boothby are no strangers to the Portland bar scene….or Beerchaser followers.  They are the owners of two previously reviewed watering holes – Gold Dust Meridian (GDM 10/2012) and Club 21 (9/2014)  And for that matter, the prior count should be raised to three since they are “remaking” the classic dive bar Sandy Hut – more affectionately known to regulars of this historic bar as “The Handy Slut” – reviewed by Thebeerchaser in February of 2014.

And the Double Barrel, like their other establishments, has its own character and ambiance, differentiating it and making one want to return.

The Double Barrel - has its own identity

The Double Barrel – has its own identity – and so does Dave Hicks….

Joining me for my visit was Beerchaser Regular, “West Coast” Dave Hicks, Princeton undergrad, who went on to get his law degree and is now a San Francisco-based consultant in the legal industry.

The Double Barrel opened in February of 2014 in the historic building which previously housed the Seven Corners Bar and Grill and before that K.J’s, Wynner’s  and Dilly’s.  This excerpt from Portland Bar Fly.com describes the change well:

Formerly, Seven Corners, the GDM/Club 21 boys got themselves a new toy and man, are you gonna want to play with it!  An extensive remodel of the long malingering premises reveals the hundred year-old store front’s charming old bones, and dresses them up with a clever neo-vintage take on a Wild West saloon. Horseshoe bar with whiskey kegs holding up the booze and a rustic lodge-style fireplace add to the ambience. 

Named for Whiskey Barrels not the shot gun...
Named for Whiskey Barrels not the shot gun…

 And the two entrepreneurs also take into consideration the neighborhoods of their venues when making changes:

Consideration of both the interior and exterior of the bar

A great fireplace and mantle in the remade interior

“(One neighbor) was pleased with what the two had done with the Double Barrel bar at 21st and Division, and how they reverted the property back to some of its original luster. ‘We got a lot of inspiration from the old-schoolers in that neighborhood,’ says Archambeault. ‘We wanted to pay homage to the old Division by making a place that is a local place, an old-school place.'”

This is not just rhetoric based on a telephone conversation I had with Marcus about the work on the Double Barrel.  For example, the design in the floor is a septagram (seven-pointed star – a mural of sorts with seven stars surrounded by a circle).  “We wanted to honor the tradition and history of the Seven Corners – the name of the neighborhood based on the seven streets intersecting division in that vicinity.”

Recognizing the history of Seven Corners
Recognizing the history of Seven Corners

And then there’s the menu.   Each of their venues has it own specialties.  For example, at Club 21, we feasted on their “Build-a-Burger,” and at GDM we ordered seconds on the “Classic mac.”  The review from the Neighborhood Notes publication (3/27/2014) describes what holds court at the Double Barrel:

“Expect salads, snacks (tater tots, onion rings, hush puppies and gator bites), wings six ways, and eight signature burgers and sandwiches (including one called the Triple Threat that’s made with roasted pork loin, pulled pork and—because why not?—bacon)……”

Absolutely outstanding wings when we were there

Absolutely outstanding wings

Most of the social media reviews are positive such as this one from Yelp last December:  The juiciest (real meat not processed) hamburger cooked to perfection on the softest bun. The onion rings were so tasty and crispy. A 9 out of 10 – must try place…..” 

Menu specialty items...
Menu specialty items…

Not to belabor, but the $5 Single Barrel Burger was heralded during “Portland Burger Week” by the Portland Mercury in August 2014:

“…. a charred Painted Hills ground chuck patty with proper 80/20 juiciness. They throw on tender bacon and deep-fried jalapeño rings, then douse it with their killer creative masterstroke: a house-made spicy Southern pimento cheese that gets all the other ingredients in a line and creates a marriage ceremony “in your mouth.” 

Our own experience sampling the Happy Hour (an expansive 2:00 until 7:00 every day) options was really positive except for the Hush Puppies, which were soggy and flavorless.  That said, the fried cauliflower bites with pimento dip and the “little smokies” were scarfed up immediately and the delicious wings were already addressed.

10170744_682077521837835_1545290694_n facebook barSince Thebeerchaser’s passion is investigating the history, background and context of the bars visited, it is worth spending some more time on the thought process of Archambeault and Boothby in their work on the Double Barrel the end result of which is summarized aptly below in Willamette Weeks 2014 Bar Guide:

“But a month in, Double Barrel is classic in form, dim of light and somehow already aged into its space. It feels like yours the first damn time you walk in. Order a bourbon….. and drink to dear old dad.”

 I followed up with a telephone conversation with Marcus Archambeault on some of the specifics:

P1030232Beerchaser: “How did you come up with the name?”

MA: “Our corporate name is Double Barrel Inc. (May 2011 incorporation).  We also liked the double entendre – it references both the shotgun – consistent with the western theme of the bar and the barrels in which whiskey is aged and which are a feature in the bar.”

Beerchaser: “The long horseshoe bar is amazing and the whiskey barrels are a great touch.  Where did you get them?”

MA“We let the building speak to us.  We took the original bar and all the paneling and wood when we removed the dropped ceiling and restored to the original height.  It’s largely recycled from the original building.”

P1030241The whiskey barrels were obtained from the liquor store in Sellwood and we had to open up the slats to put them around the support beam and then put them back together – a tedious process!”

The games are a nice touch (darts, Big Buck HD and old-style pinball  – and DB is probably the only bar in town in which you will see an chicken and egg vending machine.

A prize inside??

A prize inside??

And since it is a bar, we should at least briefly address the beer, described by Willamette Week – again in its 2014 bar review:

“Double Barrel’s insistence on carrying not only Pabst and Oly, but also Hamm’s, Coors, Rainier, High Life and Tecate seems like an almost ham-fisted statement (Thebeerchaser strongly disagrees with this premise!), though there are also eight taps spouting local standards like Migration and Boneyard.” 

P1030242Dave Hicks had a Heater Allen Pilsner and I enjoyed a Commons Farmhouse Ale (Willamette Week’s 2013 Beer-of-the-Year) after I first hoisted a draft Hamms – in a “hamm-fisted” and rebellious manner!  They also had a cider on tap.

The Double Barrel is a great bar and another testament to Archambeault’s and Boothby’s vision and creativity – expect to see that imagination in the revitalized Sandy Hut when it reopens in May.

Dave Hicks and friendly bartender, Jesse - worked at the DB since its opening

Dave Hicks and friendly bartender, Jesse – worked at the DB since its opening

And finally, since it has been quite awhile since you have seen a bar joke in a Beerchaser post, it is only fitting with the theme of the Double Barrel that you are offered these to old western gems (with apologies):

A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says, “Hey, why the long face?”

 A three-legged dog walks into a bar and says to the bartender, “I’m looking for the guy who shot my paw!”

Bars and Taverns – the center of stories and jokes for centuries

 

The Double Barrel Tavern

2002 SE Division Street    Portland

 

Gold Dust Meridian – A Nugget on SE Hawthorne

“Brady Bunch” – Mid-Century Modern Exterior

If you’re cruising along SE Hawthorne Blvd., you might not notice Gold Dust Meridian (GDM).  That’s because they “stuck a bar in a mid-century accountant’s office,” or as stated by The Portland Tribune, “If you hanker to party again in the basement of your parents’ suburban ranch house, GDM will joyfully recall those halcyon years.

According to co-owner, Marcus Archambeault, the 1955 office building formerly occupied by Gearhardt & Sons Accounting Firm, looked intriguing  – “mid century, modern style – kind of ‘cold war pristine with glass in front!”

“Perhaps a juke box would look good in place of this desk….”

So why should you want to frequent a bar where CPAs once calculated double-declining balance depreciation and bemoaned the impact of the alternative minimum tax?

???????

Well, it’s because GDM gets many superlative reviews, including that of thebeerchaser and his group – three lawyers from the Portland law firm of Whipple & Duyck P.C.  GDM has even received plaudits from Playboy Magazine as one of the Twelve Top Late Night Spots in the Nation in 2011:

Naomi affirms legacy of great servers at GDM …

After Midnight, compiled by the editors of Playboy, provides a coast-to-coast glimpse at some of the most coveted late-night watering holes in the nation.  At these legendary spots, after-hours thrill seekers will have no problem catching live music, enjoying generous cocktails, hobnobbing with eclectic crowds, savoring scrumptious late-night eats, and in some cases, learning a bit of local history.”

———————–

The Portland Mercury has also named it one of the best happy-hours in Portland in multiple years.  (Seven days a week from 2 to 8 PM) Keeping in mind the insightful quote:  “You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a sing only you can hear,” let’s discuss the melody emanating from GDM when you walk into the bar:

————————

Distinguishing Characteristics

Dan Duyck at the spacious bar – that’s native Oregon hardwood…

The Interior – While the exterior doesn’t beckon, walking in GDM reveals in their own words, “large comfortable booths, slanted teak ceilings, a custom bar built with reclaimed Oregon timber, and a dimly lit brick and wood façade.”

Another review summed it up well: The past and present rarely collide so nicely.”   Unlike a lot of bars, conversation is promoted because there are NO televisions, pool tables or video poker machines –  a very refreshing touch.  You can get a deck of Trivial Pursuit to tap your brain, however. They have live music on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and DJs on weekends.

The Art –  it is truly distinctive as evidenced by the two photos below.  A number  of pictures such as “Bird of Prey” are oils on canvas by local artist Hickory Mertsching (I set out to create a peaceful contemplative setting, paintings that illustrate the relationship between man and nature, a reminder of our state of being and the simple aspects of life.”)

Local Art by Hickory Mertsching

ASCII Art – Who is Mandroid?

There was also a large computer-generated “pop art” piece on the south wall, which was very unusual.

The Food and the Cocktails – Naomi said that management seeks ideas for cocktails from the bartenders and servers and Marcus affirmed, “We change our classic and champagne cocktail menu with the seasons to make it more dynamic.”  They have about ten classics ranging from a Marionberry Margarita to a Root Beer Cowboy (WL Weller Bourbon, Apple Jack, Fee’s Old Fashioned Bitters and Root Liqueur) and ten more champagne cocktails such as Death in the Afternoon (Champagne,Trillium and Absinthe). 

Scorpion Bowl – because it stings when you don’t expect it….

And there are the three Family Bowls – also known as “Scorpion Bowls described by one who imbibed as,“A sixty-ounce drink served in a huge bowl, garnished with fruit and hanging monkeys and enough straws to share with you friends – these things are dangerous – the zombie tastes just like punch.”

Being somewhat reserved, we ordered some very good Oregon Beers (GDM has ten bottled beers and eight on tap) – Apocalypse IPA from 10 Barrel Brewery in Bend and Double Mountain IPA from the brewery of the same name in Hood River. 

Oly Country….

The one exception was Dan Duyck who ordered a $1.50 Olympia.  When asked for an explanation, Dan, who hales from the rural area of Washington County stated, “It’s beer to bale hay by…..To this day, whenever I catch a whiff of beers such as Oly, Blitz, Rainier and Heidelberg, I am reminded of my youth and that beer is the true reward for hard work  no matter what your age.” 

They also have a number of “Whiskey Flights” where one get shots of three different whiskies ranging from $15 to the more rare at $28.

The food, ranging from appetizers to salads to sandwiches, is also very good and not traditional “pub grub.” –  “It’s 1950’s Trader Vic style with sharable plates”I had a superb oyster poor boy sandwich and one of the lawyers had macaroni and cheese which he described as, “with a wonderful crust and rich and creamy throughout…..”  We then talked about the trend where good Mac & Cheese seems to be ubiquitous on quality pub menus these days, which led one of us to ask:

Available in Fine Bars and Goes Well With Beer

Q: How prevalent is Mac ‘n Cheese on pub menus these days?

A: “Well, it’s more prevalent than Portland Mayoral Candidate Jefferson Smith’s license suspensions.”

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The Mac ‘n Cheese Candidate?

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The Patio – With the ban on indoor smoking, most bars have patios these days, but many are just stuck in surplus space.  While the outdoor tables in front of the GDM are right on Hawthorne and noisy, the patio areas in the back and at the side have nice vegetation and are spacious.

Marcus and his partner in the bar, Warren Boothby, have a philosophy that to compete and draw patrons, “a bar has to be more than just a bar.”  Even the name Gold Dust Meridian is different.  Marcus said it was developed five years ago, “After a few beers and the (Prime) Median was starting place, of sorts, just like our new venture….”

They recently opened a sister bar – The Club 21 – on NE Sandy and 21st. 

Gold Dust Meridian stands out as a quality bar that distinguishes itself in a number of ways.  Prime yourself for a visit.

Gold Dust Meridian         3267 SE Hawthorne