Barlow Artisanal Bar – where the cocktails are a craft!

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Barlow Artisanal Bar, an upscale cocktail bar opened in September 2014, is right across from the Arlington Club and the Schnitz on the corner of Salmon and Park Avenues in downtown Portland.  Now admittedly, Thebeerchaser is generally more inclined to hit a good dive bar, but my first two encounters with this young bar – over a year apart were both positive.  It is perfectly suited if one is trying to impress your date or your spouse after dinner and the theatre or a concert in the heart of Portland’s Central Business District.

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And from the description in the Portland Tribune a few months after it opened, the assertion was validated:

“…….Barlow has been raking in the late-night, dressed-up, theater-going crowd.”

I enjoyed having a cocktail on the second visit with good friend, businesswoman and Portland civic all-star, Sharon Van Sickle-Robbins, with whom I served on the board for the City Club of Portland – a great organization.

Sharon VanSickle Robbins - civic all-star

Sharon VanSickle Robbins – civic all-star

She served as City Club President, in addition to her stints on the University of Portland Board of Regents, the Planned Parenthood Board and the American Electronics Association/Oregon board and she was also Public Relations Society of America/Portland Board President.

In addition, she chaired the Regional Arts & Culture Council Board and was President of the Public Relations Society of America/Portland – a list of service that could be for three people!  Sharon has been an effective, savvy and conscientious board member and also has a great personality as I found out the first time that we Beerchased together – near the commencement of Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs in late 2011.

Great dive bar and hangout for UP Students

Great dive bar and hangout for UP Students

We hit the Twilight Room in North Portland, which brought back memories to Sharon because it was a favorite bar when she was an undergraduate student at University of Portland  (obviously after she turned twenty-one!)

My first foray at Barlow was in late 2014 with lawyer, Jeff Jones, when he visited from the East coast on a trip after his stint at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm, where we both worked.

Jeff, after graduating with both an MBA and his JD or law degree from Willamette University worked for several years as an associate at the SWW firm.  He was known as a gifted lawyer and for his sense of humor.   The latter was only marginally appreciated by me as the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, because management was usually the target of his jokes.  Part of the issue may also have been the legal expense we incurred from outside counsel trying to extricate both Jones and the firm from the results of his quirky and irreverent humor.

Jeff Jones during his visit in 2014

Jeff Jones during his visit in 2014

It was a trait appreciated by most folks albeit primarily out of a sense of morbid curiosity.  After several years at the firm, he abandoned a partnership-track position to pursue his dream as a stand-up comedian in Atlanta and write a book.

He succeeded in both goals.  His success during four years as a stand-up comic at the Whole World Improv Theater was honed in Portland by the number of times the judge and jury both laughed hysterically at his closing argument during trials.

His book, A Crash Course in American Law, published in 2015, for a time was #1 on the Amazon e-book legal and legal humor categories.  Having helped him with some of the editing, I knew the book was interesting and funny, but was amazed at the overwhelmingly positive reviews by those who read it (4.5 out of 5 stars) including:

“I was laughing–I mean snorting tea out through my nose and onto my Kindle screen laughing–before I even got to the first page.”  SPR Reviews

“Using his unique brand of fact-driven and often humorous interpretation of law, Mr. Jones acts as our quirky and lovable, if not overly-peppy, tour guide on a behind-the-scenes look into the American justice system. 4/23/15

Clarence Darrow would be proud....

Clarence Darrow would be proud….

Of course, based on a sense of retribution, I first turned to the four (out of 69) critical reviews because potential buyers should be aware of this sentiment:

”  ……I also got the feeling the author really doesn’t care for the American Judicial system or Americans for that matter. (emphasis supplied) 8/16/15

“…….or, in this case, it’s like listening to the incoherent and frankly stupid ramblings of someone who claims to have passed the Bar….this is an utter waste of time…don’t waste your time, or money.”  5/19/15

In the interest of fairness, it should be disclosed that the last review was submitted by a former client in one of Jeff’s trials in Multnomah Circuit Court – I think it was a case about a horse…..

He now has a big-boy job as a lawyer for IMERYS, a multi-national company headquartered in Paris, specializing in the production and processing of industrial minerals.

  But we will return to Jones later — now back to Barlow.

Rather than me trying to describe the space at Barlow – a highlight of the bar, let’s look at a few good descriptions by various print media sources:

“Walk through a door….and you’ll be greeted by the larger-than-life bedroom eyes of silent film star Janet Gaynor, elaborate chandeliers, dark textured walls, swanky etched mirrors, and a Gatsby vibe that aims to distill the roaring 20s into a single night out.”  Portland Monthly 9/4/14

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“In a long room decorated with aviation chairs, shimmer screens, tucked away seating and a menu that hearkens back to an earlier time, Barlow Artisanal Bar plans to bring a slice of old Hollywood to downtown Portland….Barlow was designed to look and feel like being inside a black and white movie.”   Samantha Bakall The Oregonian/OregonLive 8/ 8/14.

“The elegant, but not-too-stuffy, space — with seating at the bar, at the picture windows and in private curtained booths.” Portland Tribune 1/15/15 

Curtained booths

Curtained booths

“(Barlow) aims to feel like a black-and-white movie, which explains the gunmetal-gray upholstery, the dark, flocked wallpaper and the giant image of silent-film star Janet Gaynor on a back wall, presiding over the room like a doe-eyed goddess…….Willamette Week 2015 Bar Guide  

More privacy

More privacy

And it is fun at Barlow to sit by the large windows and watch people walk by as you partake.

Now while they have only three beers and Guiness on tap, it makes sense that one would order a cocktail at Barlow rather than a beer,  just as it makes sense to down a PBR at a dive bar rather than a vodka martini (up with olives).

Meet Nathaniel - a craftsman...

Meet Nathaniel – a craftsman…

Nathaniel, the bartender and Mariah, our waitress, were both very nice people and helpful in explaining the cocktail lineup described in the bar’s website:

“The cocktail program…..brings a modern twist to the classics of the early 20th century. The carefully-curated list celebrates classic Hollywood allure with an emphasis on modern craft cocktail methods, including liquid nitrogen-chilled glassware, clarified syrups and juices, and hand-engraved ice cubes. 

Nathaniel explained that the Glasgow Smile, was the most popular drink which has a base of Scotch and the Draper Daiquari, which is the most potent.   And let’s again rely on some media images which described their mixed drinks –  there are ten on the menu ranging from $10 to $11.

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The Glasgow Smile

“The chic yet playful Prohibition-era space offers a play on the classic Gibson, a martini with traditionally nothing more than gin, vermouth and a pickled olive. Barlow’s Gibson, however, is a punch in the face — a mouthful of red onion flavor that’s been clarified in a centrifuge so that the pulp separates from the juice.   The red onion juice is shaken with Boodles Gin (a British brand) and Dolin Blanc Vermouth, from France.”   Portland Tribune 1/1/15

Sharon had a glass of wine (six on tap ranging from $8 to $12) and then I tried the Glasgow Smile, which lived up to its billing by Mariah although as Thebeerchaser, I still ordered a Double Mountain Kolisch as my first drink.  The beers are $6. Happy Hour prices are $5 for the beer $6 for the wine, well drinks $6 and cocktails $8.

If you want a full dinner, better head to the Picnic House next door, which shares a kitchen with Barlow, because the bar’s menu is pretty limited consisting primarily of appetizers-type offerings.  The chef at Barlow might not agree with that assessment, but the eleven items on their “nosh” menu are confined to selections such as brussel sprouts, greens, onion dip and a burger, if you want to pay $10.  And I would have a little problem paying $13 for a grilled-cheese sandwich even though it’s accompanied by tomato soup.

The owners of Barlow are social activists and entrepreneurs, Jessica and Aaron Grimmer, who also own the adjacent Picnic House Restaurant (which also has a more extensive menu),  the just opened Chk Chk on NW 23rd which specializes in fried chicken and High Noon, which has a southwest menu and specializes in frybread on NW 2nd.

P1040088How did Barlow get its name? Some commenting on social media were miffed because the name was already claimed by the Barlow Tavern, a dive bar in North Portland and there is also the Barlow Trail Roadhouse in Welches (named for the Oregon Trail pioneer, Sam Barlow) and even the Barlow Room in Dayton for wine tasters.

Or you can travel to Boston; Tucker, Kentucky or Crowley, Texas (Barlow’s First and Last) where there are also Barlow Taverns.  If that doesn’t satisfy you could try Barlow, Kentucky, except you might have to travel a few miles to the Silver Bullet in nearby Paducah, since Barlow has a population of only 675 and no notable dive bars.

But we digress.  Both Nathaniel and Mariah echoed the sentiments of Portland Monthly Magazine which stated that the bar’s name is a slang term for “flapper” – the dancing girls way back in the Roaring “20’s, an era when the Arlington Club next door didn’t even admit women members —- Oh wait!  The staid institution waited until the 1990’s when it finally deigned to allow females on the roster…..   P1040093

Barlow is also referenced as an “Artisanal Bar” –  a reference to the craftsmanship of the bartenders.  This led one critic on Oregon Live to comment:

“What the hell is an “Artisanal” bar? Already this place is sounding very pretentious. Will the wait staff be required to undergo plastic surgery to make them resemble Hollywood stars of the bygone era?”

We’ll leave the trademark issues to the lawyers and speaking of lawyers, Jeff Jones deserves a few more comments. One review described Barlow as “elegant, but not-too-stuffy,” perhaps that is why I invited Jeff to join me at the then newly opened tavern when he was on a trip from the East coast. Because that may be an apt description of the Jones’ sense of humor when he was at the firm as evidenced by the examples below:

Jones - now having to wear a tie - again.

Jones – now having to wear a tie – again.

One day in June, 2004 at 10:40 AM,  one of the firm’s secretaries (she worked for Jones and several other attorneys and as difficult as it is to understand, she also appreciated his humor) sent this frantic e-mail:

“I have lost my ring that my grandmother left me.  It is white gold, band style with 6 diamonds in a row.  Please, if anyone finds it, please return to me.  It has great sentimental value….”

Two and one-half minutes later, this e-mail was sent by Jeff Jones.

“Ring for sale:  Antique, white gold, band-style with 6 diamonds in a row.  Must sell fast. $50 or best offer.”

Those who left their black-berrys unattended might also find an e-mail they purportedly sent (authored by Jones) with a question such as “Can someone tell me how to get to the Courthouse?” (From a sixth-year litigation associate) “Does anyone know where I can buy a Thanksgiving turkey and how to cook it?”  or “Does anyone have some super-glue laying around?”

And finally (at least for this post), the firm urged legal secretaries to assist others if they were light on work.  One very good secretary sent out this e-mail inquiry:

“Let me know if I can help you?”

One minute later, the Jones’ response was”

“Can you build a wine rack?”

Jeff and his wife, Winslow, married in 2015.

Jeff and his wife, Winslow, married in 2015.

In a high stress environment, having outstanding lawyers who did not take themselves too seriously is one factor that made Schwabe Williamson a great place to work and why it repeatedly on the Oregon Business Magazine’s list of “The Top 50 Best Employers.”

————–

Nathaniels workbench!

Nathaniels workbench!

 

 

To conclude, Barlow, while it may be a little expensive and limited on the culinary side, is a creative and welcome addition to the Portland bar scene.   If you don’t want to just be satisfied with one of the downtown hotel lobby or restaurant bars, try Barlow Artisanal Bar.

It has a nice decor, personable and knowledgeable staff and some great cocktails.  And take a friend along like Sharon Robbins or Jeff Jones so the experience is even better.

Barlow Artisenal Bar 737 SW Salmon Street

Tall Tales and Highballs (okay-beer!) at the Low Brow Lounge

 

The Low Brow and the Pearl District - An Inherent Contradiction in Terms??

The Low Brow in the Pearl District

Perhaps there should be some recognition for a watering hole that was voted, “Best Portland Dive Bar” back in Willamette Week’s 2005 Readers’ Poll and still, amidst the burgeoning high-rise condos and pretentious shops and eateries in the Pearl District, retains its reputation as a dive bar in 2015.  (Note: The Sandy Hut and Marathon Taverna, both reviewed by Thebeerchaser were second and third place in 2005.)

Note this review from Willamette Week’s 2015 Bar Guide:

“Low Brow Lounge didn’t land in the Pearl, the Pearl landed on Low Brow Lounge. Once just another dive proudly declaring its lack of pretension, the bar has, somewhat miraculously, survived long enough to take up the mantle as an oasis of indelicacy freaking out the nouveau-riche squares filling the condos that have sprouted up around it in the last decade.”    

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A dive amidst the high rises…..

Thebeerchaser ended up at the Low Brow Lounge at the suggestion of his daughter’s boyfriend, Ryan Keene, who established some credibility in bar discernment by previous Beerchasing events at Sniff Cafe, Quimbys and Club 21.  Ryan is a very good athlete and enterprising young man as well as a good drinking companion.

Ryan, Ron (in the shadows) and Sam with Thebeerchaser logo

Ryan, Ron (in the shadows) and Sam with Thebeerchaser logo

 

Also joining us were Dr. Sam HollowayUniversity of Portland professor and his dad, Portland attorney, Ron Holloway, who first crossed paths with Thebeerchaser in his freshman year at Oregon State University, when Ron, a junior, was his room-head in the SAE fraternity house.  (More on that chronicled history below.)

The student reviews of Dr. Holloway are overwhelmingly superb and Ryan, enjoyed his interesting lectures.  He was also reassured after a conference with Sam in which the good professor admonished him, “Remember, 50% of all students are below average….”

P1030256Ryan had been to the Low Brow before and it was close to the senior Holloway’s digs in the Pearl.   Arriving on a Friday afternoon, we passed on the their signature dish – chicken breasts and tater tots – they label them , “Tits and Tots,” and ordered beers and the more mundane but equally unhealthy  – tots and mini-corndogs.

The Low Brow fits the general definition of a dive bar (see Beerchaser post “Analyzing Dive Bars Head First.”) and it reminded both Ron Holloway and me of similar venues in which we matriculated while in college in Corvallis – Price’s Tavern, The Peacock and Don’s Den, to name the most popular, but certainly not all the bars.

An Ashley Montague mural

An Ashley Montague mural

The Low Brow was not totally absent of class and the mural on the external west wall by Portland artist Ashley Montague  was distinctive.  (His work consists mostly of commissioned murals on authorized walls, like the side of Lowbrow Lounge or the wall at Chapter 24 Vineyards)

 

Otherwise, it was the typical dive environment including pinball machines, a Wonder Woman mural, some memorabilia and a curious four-foot high Miller High Life bottle with thousands of bottle caps in it.

Bartenders to busy to tell the story behind this artifact

Bartenders to busy to tell the story behind this artifact

The reviews of the Low Brow often have comments about surly bartenders and it appeared that those working that day fit the mold – also one reason that I have no explanation for the Miller bottle cap collection.  In almost every watering hole visited by Thebeerchaser – even in the grungiest dive such as the Yamhill Pub, the bartenders are friendly and willing to share some stories or chat about their bar.

Not so with the Low Brow, which is one reason this blog post is written after just one rather than the customary two or three visits.

Others agree as evidenced by the following:

“…..bartenders so perfectly surly they must be coached in unpleasantness.”  Portland Barfly

“……the bouncer—who looks about one phone call away from being arrested for loitering.”  Willamette Week 2014 Bar Guide

Surly bartenders.....

Surly bartenders…..

“The new, extremely rude, bartenders have ruined this once great dive bar destination and as a result this place is now the most uncomfortable bar in the city.”  Yelp review 3/9/15

That said, any time one can drink cheap PBR, stuff down fried food and share tales (both true and concocted) with old (and in Sam’s case) new friends, is memorable.  Thus, I’ll end this post by focusing on the company.

Sam Holloway

Dr. Sam Holloway

Dr. Sam Holloway

Sam Holloway (who in an unprecedented early disclosure by Thebeerchaser, will be featured in June as the 20th Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter) is a well-educated gent.  His first degree was in physics from Willamette University, followed by an MA in teaching from Pacific University and finally his Ph.D. at the U of O.  This excerpt from the summary of his credentials at University of Portland conveys the breadth of experience for a young guy:

“Professor at the University of Portland’s Pamplin School of Business Administration. Prior to completing his Ph.D. in management, Sam’s professional appointments spanned a wide array of industries, countries, and areas of expertise. These positions include being an estimator in the U.S. highway bridge construction industry, teaching advanced physics in Prague, Czech Republic, and teaching secondary mathematics in Beaverton, Oregon.

 He has received several teaching awards, including being named the outstanding graduate student teacher at the University of Oregon.”  

Sam was awarded tenure at UP in 2015 and as mentioned earlier, was Ryan’s favorite professor during his undergraduate days at UP – an outstanding educational institution.   He played a key part in the recent implementation of a Master Crafting Strategist Certificate – a graduate level curriculum to give craft beer industry professionals specific business training and wisdom.  800px-University_of_Portland_entrance_sign

Thebeerchaser in the forthcoming post will also discuss Sam’s reputation in the craft beer industry including consulting both nationally and internationally as a principal in his company Crafting a Strategy.

 

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Sam Holloway’s Consulting Company

 

With typical humility, Sam defers praise and said while consuming his PBR:  “I give all of the credit for my success to my parents – especially my mother and father.”

There is consensus on Sam’s genetic make-up among those of us who know both Ron Holloway and his college sweetheart and now spouse, Dinda.  While Sam may have received some of his aptitude for higher education from his dad, (Ron served for several years as Assistant Dean at Willamette University) but his intelligence, interpersonal skills and good personal appearance all emanate from his mother’s side of the family.

Ron Holloway

Ron was my room-head for several terms at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house in my freshman year at Oregon State, where “Ronnie Clyde” claims he molded me and laid the foundation for all of my future accomplishments.   He was also nicknamed “Root Beer” because to his credit, he did not drink alcohol until he was 21 (I told his son it was because he had an affinity for A & W).    He served as President of the fraternity and player-coach of our intramural C-League basketball team.  His leadership-coaching style was kind of a bizarre combination of Rutherford B. Hayes and John Calipari.  The SAE’s won the all-university championship in all three intramural leagues that year (1967).

Ron Holloway as SAE President in 1969.

Ron Holloway as SAE President in 1969.

Portland attorney, Ron Holloway

Portland attorney, Ron Holloway

Root Beer went on to law school and served as an Assistant Dean at Willamette before entering the private practice of law and in 1996 co-founding the firm of Sather, Byerly & Holloway, a successful twenty-lawyer litigation firm in Portland. 

(It should be noted that the firm’s website reference which sites the co-founders’ concern at their prior law firms for “….soaring overhead costs and the inefficiencies of an overgrown bureaucracy,” is not a reference to Thebeerchaser when he served in firm management while Ron practiced at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt.)

The SAE house was loaded with ahtletic talent that year (where future OSU basketball starter, Mike Keck, and former all-state round-ballers, Bob (BA) Allard (also Pac-8 Golf Individual Champion in 1969) and South Salem’s Chris Haag made up part of the A-League squad.  The B-League roster also had several former high school all-league basketball players.

Ron and I along with teammate Craig (The Dude) Hanneman (Defensive tackle for OSU -1968 to 70 – where he was 2nd Team All American and First Team All Pac 10 and All Coast in addition to playing in the East-West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, the All America Bowl and the College All-Star Game) showed our hardwood talents in the C League.   Ron and I regaled Ryan and Sam at the Low Brow with tales of legendary exploits in high school basketball where both of us lettered in the old TYV League  – Ron at McMinnville HS and Dirt at Oregon City HS.

1966 TYV League Champions - coached by Dale Herron (Beerchaser is #10)

1966 TYV League Champions – coached by Dale Herron (Beerchaser is #12)

C-League teams were  rated low in finesse, but high in belligerence.  (Hanneman’s  personal experience in those games ingrained him with the grit for his successful post NFL business career.)

More so, the games imbued him with what he needed to become the first former NFL or NBA player to scale Mt. Everest – he accomplished that in 2012 and “Run with the Bulls” in Pamplona the next year –  he was showcased as one of the 2012 Beerchasers of the Quarter)

The Dude (right) on Mt. Everest climb

The Dude (right) on Mt. Everest climb

 ——–

It also attests to Ron’s motivational skill when as a coach, he channeled the rage Hanneman expressed during the championship game when a competitor showed poor sportsmanship and Mike Tyson-like behavior.  (Hanneman called a time-out because he was bleeding and said in the huddle,“That Beta SOB, just bit me in the shoulder.”)  The Dude went on to a triple-double in the game besides making sure the offender looked over his shoulder when he walked on campus for the next month.

Thebeerchaser and Craig Hanneman at OSU

Thebeerchaser and Craig Hanneman at OSU

Ronnie Clyde, inspired by Mike Keck’s no-look passes in the A-League games, developed his own version “the no-pass look,” where he established records – probably still standing – for most shots taken in one season. (Also the inverse record – shots taken verses shooting percentage.)

Ryan Keene

Ryan - athlete and enterpraneuer

Ryan – athlete and enterpraneuer

After graduating from the University of Portland, Ryan joined O’Neill Electric as a project manager and demonstrates his work ethic by part-time work on the weekends at Artleta Library and Bakery Cafe as well as serving as an assistant coach for the track and cross country teams at Clackamas High School.    He is an accomplished runner and was a member of the Gonzaga University Cross Country Team his first two years in college.

Laura Williams and Ryan Beerchasing at Quimbys

Laura Williams and Ryan –  Beerchasing at Quimbys

In 2013 he ran a 50K that’s 31.1 miles – ultra-marathon in Bend on the Flagline Trail. He finished 3rd overall with a time of 4:15. – that’s essentially an eight minute mile for the distance!

The first time I met Ryan’s mom, Nancy, I talked to her about his running and the conversation went something like this:

Beerchaser:  Ryan is a good athlete and his running is amazing.  How did that happen?

Nancy:  Well Ryan liked to run when he was little and in the ninth grade, he decided he was going to focus on this sport so he started running ten miles every day that summer.

Beerchaser:  Wow, ten miles every day.  That’s really dedication for someone that young.

Nancy:  Well, it sounds impressive, but it wasn’t all good.

Beerchaser:  What do you mean?

Nancy:  Well in the fall when it was time for him to start high school, we had no idea where he was……

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Another mural – this one of Wonder Woman inside the bar

We enjoyed our time at the Low Brow in spite of the environment.  Perhaps one visit is not enough to appreciate its idiosyncratic ambiance, but this comment in City Search seems to be typical.

It also explains why Thebeerchaser will look for options with more amiable staff when checking out Portland dive bars in the future.

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Used to be a decent place to wind down…A long, long time ago, in a far, far away dream.  To say the service is poor would be a compliment.  Dive bars are supposed to be nice for their local feel and charm. The Low Brow is now anything but.”

——–

Old-fashioned pin ball machines

Old-fashioned pin ball machines

Typical dive bar memorobilia

Typical dive bar memorobilia

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Low Brow Lounge    1036 NW Hoyt Street