The Standard – It Redefines the Meaning of the Term


You last read about one of Portland’s fabled bars in the most recent post of Thebeerchaser – that being The Dockside Saloon and Restaurant.   Located in an historic building, this classic bar has been owned by the same family since 1986.  Well, the following narrative will tell you about another legendary bar you should visit – this one a dive bar in Northeast Portland.

Now when you see the term The Standard, (I’m choosing to capitalize both words throughout the post) you might automatically assume it references the Portland-based life insurance company.  Indeed, “The Standard” is a marketing name for Portland’s own Standard Insurance Company, which was chartered in Oregon in 1906, now employs about 2,500 individuals and owns several high-rise buildings in downtown Portland.

Not a sparkling exterior

But The Standard you will read about below is a bar which, even with a great reputation, has been below the radar in an inconspicuous location on NE 22nd Avenue – just off Burnside.  And some might assert that with the dark wooden fence with a dumpster in the middle, fronting the bar, it looks like a recycling center.

Opened in 2007, it doesn’t have the long history of some other classic bars, but demands recognition.   Why would you travel here and struggle for parking rather than hit one of the city’s many sparkling breweries or taprooms – some relatively close by including Upright, Laurelwood, Alameda and Culmination?

A spacious interior

The 2018 Edition of “The Bar Guide.”

Well, one of Thebeerchaser’s trusted resources during the seven years of this tour of bars, taverns and breweries is Willamette Week’s Annual Bar Guide.   The 2018 Edition) “Portland Bars and Happy Hours – the 101 Best Bars in Portland,” sums it up succinctly in a wonderful review written by the weekly’s former Project Editor, Matthew Korfhage:

“But the thing that made me treat this bar as an extension of my living room for seven years, what makes it different from every other bar with cheap drinks and a pool table and a covered patio in winter, is the simple decency of the place.  

The Standard is one of Portland’s last true neighborhood bars, a ramshackle version of Penny Lane decorated in shattered CDs and corrugated metal……More than any other bar I know in Portland, it is a sodden vision of an ideal society.”

And, in fact, going back and reviewing past issues of the Bar Guide, The Standard, unlike most Portland bars, has made the list of top bars – usually around 100 establishments – each of the last five years.   Now this may be in large part due to Korfhage’s long tenure at the weekly paper.

*Note:  Since he wrote a majority of the reviews in the Bar Guide, he is an expert and has written the piece on The Standard each year.   And you can see below that his favorable opinion has not changed.  Whether The Standard will hit a sixth consecutive year in 2019, may be in doubt since Korfhage wrote his last column for WW in April.

Korfhage – writing will be missed.

This reporter, who in 2017, was awarded first place for his columns on food writing by the American Association of Alternative Newspapers, has lived in St. Louis, Chicago, Munich and Bordeaux.

He just moved to Hampton Roads on the East coast to become the Food Editor for the Virginian Pilot. It’s Virginia’s largest daily newspaper.  His excellent writing will be missed in Portland. 

As can be seen by viewing his first two months of columns in Virginia, he continues his interesting and creative, if not somewhat unhealthy lifestyle, writing about bars and restaurants on the East coast. For example, his May 26th column was entitled and ends the first paragraph with this sentence.  “I sacrificed my own health to try hot wings at 22 spots all over Hampton Roads and picked the best.”

But you can see below, his praise of The Standard was unwavering through the years:

Bartender Tyler checks the reflection…

2014: “The Standard is what it says it is, ‘A neighborhood standard.’”

2015: “But The Standard is pure of heart, from its owner through its bar staff through the longtime patrons who took up a collection to buy a scooter for the retiring cook and bartender…” 

Friendly staff appreciated by the regulars.

2016: “It’s the best little bar in Portland, and I won’t hear otherwise.”

2017: “The bar is cheap, no-nonsense fun in a way that takes all comers and yet is loving towards its long-time regulars.  These days in Portland that makes The Standard not very standard at all.  It makes it a GD treasure.”

The Standard has a wide variety of games and was even recognized in the website “Four Square Lists” as one of “The Best Fifteen Places for Bar Games in Portland.”   And it has a bunch ranging from Big Buck Hunter to the traditional Pac Man to pool tables to classic pinball games including Terminator 3.

Classic pin-ball machines to Big Buck Hunter

Last Call – Not in the Top 50 but…..

It even has a video puzzle arcade game named “Last Call.”  While not on the list of the Top 50 which includes classics such as Trash Panic, Tetris Attack and Super Scribblenauts, it will probably keep you interested and occupied??!!

Or you can pick one of the many “treasures” in a vending machine that has everything from old Playboy Magazines to heart-shaped sunglasses to Nutter Butter candy bars to a mystery package which says “Porn Pin – Probably.”  

(The only similar machine I’ve seen in eight years and visiting 120 Portland bars, was at Slab Town – a NW PDX dive bar with a once stellar reputation as an old-school rock and roll venue visited by Thebeerchaser in 2013).

Unfortunately, it became one of the classic Portland bars which poured its last PBR and hosted its last concert in 2017.  In the Slab Town vending machine, you could even buy guitar strings and drum sticks – not the kind you eat……!

On the left “Porn Pin – Probably”

You can also have your picture taken in one of those old-fashioned photo booths.

 

 

 

Visiting The Standard that day with me were Beerchasing regulars, Jack Faust and Jim Westwood, both former Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter based on their compelling stories. They did outstanding appellate work during their careers at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt and Stoel Rives respectively.

From left – Shannon, Charlie, Chuck Jack and Jim

In addition, three other friends added to the late afternoon gathering – Charlie Faust, a mortgage loan consultant and Jack’s son; Chuck Mitchell, another retired attorney and a trial lawyer who showed skill in the courtroom and Shannon Asato, who works in the Accounting Department at the Oregon Food Bank.

Shannon was the only Beerchasing neophyte and her good humor and competence when she worked with me for a number of years at the Schwabe law firm, made her a welcome addition to our crew.

“Standard” would not be an apt description for the exterior of the bar, and you might drive or walk right past it if you weren’t deliberately seeking it – in fact, Jack Faust was focused on joining us and drove past anyway.  He then called his son to find out where we were and took static for his lack of punctuality when he got there.  (Of course, he parked, before dialing his cell….)

A great covered patio for all seasons….

You walk in through the covered patio, which is vaguely reminiscent of the days before Oregon’s smoke-free legislation passed in 2008 and the interior of every dive bar had a hazy, smoke filled environment, which would be hazardous for anyone without pristine lungs. (The smoke was pretty minimal, however.)

Individuals and groups sit at the picnic tables chatting or working on computers – often accompanied by their dogs and drink cheap beers or stiff well drinks.

“Abbreviated” shuffleboard

The inside of the bar is also spacious and filled with the type of stuff which endears us to this type of venue.  Besides the old-style pinball machines and games, a pool table and a curiously-short shuffleboard, there are old beer signs, tacky art, an idiosyncratic (or bizarre) cracked mirror the full length of the bar behind it and, well, just a lot of stuff that makes you feel at home….

Careful – they sneak up on you….

There are too many features at The Standard to name them all including Jello Shots for $1, alcoholic Slushies, Sunday craft beers for $3, and a Crappy Book Club – “Bring your crappy books, and trade them for other crappy books!” 

And like a number of storied watering holes, the bar is a community unto itself.  For example, there’s traditional Christmas decorations in season (also Santa Claus horror movies), an annual Chili Cooking Contest – the proceeds in 2018 went to Friends of the Columbia River Gorge – a Kentucky Derby Party and occasional golf tournaments – the proceeds last year went to the Oregon Food Bank.

Call for schedule of Santa horror movies

Another distinguishing characteristic is a noticeable affinity for Hamm’s Beer.  This is manifested in its Wednesday all-day $1 Hamm’s pints, numerous logos and a notable stuffed “Hamms’ Bear” over the bar wearing a Portland Trailblazer jersey.

Trailblazer fan from Wisconsin

An affinity for Hamms

Don’t forget the sign on the two unisex bathrooms stating, “One at a Time,” possibly a concern that those imbibing in the $1 brews or jello shots may think they can join the “Mile High Club” without leaving terra firma. 

And I don’t think you will ever see The Standard take the appalling route of one of Portland’s other bars – Saraveza.  In 2015, perhaps to be trendy as quoted in New School Beer on 11/5/15:

“‘For seven years we have honored the world of domestic beer by always pouring a pint of Hamm’s alongside some of the best craft beers in the world.

It was important to me to acknowledge the industry that created a springboard for our recent craft beer revolution,’ said Sarah Pederson, owner of Saraveza Bottle Shop & Pasty Tavern. ‘Breakside’s Wisco Tavern Beer does the same thing for us, but with a new twist that we are proud to stand behind.’” (emphasis supplied)

Really???  (Maybe you want to change, Sarah, but don’t suggest that Breakside can replace Hamms!)

Founded in 1865 as compared to 2010….

The last time, I had a draft Hamm’s on tap was at a wonderful bar – The Coyote Road House, in Door County, Wisconsin.  That’s right next to the “Land of Sky-Blue Water” which is home to the Hamm Brewery, founded in 1865 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Another place to get Hamms on Tap

Now, when Faust and Westwood first got to The Standard, the practice ingrained in them for so many years — each worked in  different high-rises owned by Standard Insurance — got the best of them.  Both took out legal pads and started billing time as they drank their $1 Hamm’s.

The Standard Insurance Center – home for Westwood at Stoel Rives

Since Chuck Mitchell worked in a small plaintiff’s firm in Clackamas County, he took a more relaxed approach and talked the other two into just considering this a pro-bono engagement.

Mitchell on the left advocates pro-bono

And Jack always gets a kick each time the famous French opera bearing his name comes to Portland.  This time it was Portland Opera’s three and one-half hour rendition of French composer, Charles Gounod’s, “Faust,” in June.

In a deal with Mephistophele’s – the Devil, (a baritone in the opera), the protagonist, Faust, trades his soul for a chance at a second youth and the prospect of seducing a beautiful young maiden,

Mephistopheles is a baritone…

Charlie Faust became worried when he heard his father, quoting some lines from the opera, to wit:

“When will death free me from this burden?  I curse happiness and knowledge, prayer and faith.“ 

We had to convince the younger Faust that his dad was not depressed, but just showing his erudition and cultural refinement in addition to his tendency to share his philosophy on the human condition, temptation, redemption, Goethe and the Oregon Supreme Court’s latest opinion on the Gun Control Initiative.

But we digress….The Standard is not going to be your go-to place for quality pub food.  It’s line-up is limited and confined to items such as chips and salsa, a few sandwiches, mini-corndogs and fried ravioli(?)

Limited but cheap selections

They also have a drink special every day which includes the aforementioned Hamms’ special on Wednesdays.

Daily Drink Specials

The Standard was a great addition to the bars I have visited and all of us gave it a thumbs- up.

And you have to look hard for a social media review which is critical.  Almost all reviewers love the character, sense of humor and charitable heart of this saloon.  The few critical ones seem to be malcontents who didn’t like the service – kind of an anomaly when it is a self-service bar or maybe a bartender wasn’t as friendly as they would have liked.  Or take this one going back to 2012.  (I guess that’s not too bad…..):

“I have a hard time with this review. The location is really good and the people seem really cool. On the other hand their well rum was by far the worst rum that I have been in near proximity with.”  (Yelp – 4/9/12)

Now Portland has over 700 bars, breweries and taverns, but if you haven’t been to The Standard, you should remedy that.  And it does redefine the meaning of the word “standard” as there is nothing ordinary or typical about it.

While they have some good craft beer on tap, in the interest of history and honoring the character of this bar, belly up to the bar and ask Tyler for a draft Hamms’.   If it’s Wednesday, it will only set you back $2 – a buck for the beer and a buck for Tyler. 

The Standard         14 NE 22nd Ave.     Portland

Jello Shots – Even better with pop rocks on top…

 

Mad Sons (Pub) with Happy Daughters…

A resurrected venue in Southeast Portland

A resurrected venue in Southeast Portland

You won’t find Madison’s Bar and Grill in any of the past Willamette Week Bar Guides even though it operated from 1997 until February 2014.  The Bar Guide is the weekly paper’s annual review of about 100 favorite Portland bars and one of the ongoing resources for this blog.

WW described the predecessor, Madison’s B & G, in their review of its resurrection, of sorts, Mad Sons Pub, in its 8/26/14 review of the remade bar: “(Madison’s Bar and Grill was) a bar that looked like a Denny’s in West Virginia and attracted the same clientele.”

The sign with a minor change

The sign with a minor change

The most noticeable change is on the bland exterior of the bar  – the large neon sign near the entrance now has the “I” taped over, purportedly so it would not shine at night although some say that it just burned out and the name change then saved the owners money on signage. The real story is below.

2016-08-15-17-02-34I definitely liked the décor of the remade bar on our recent Beerchasing trip to its location at 1109 SE Madison. The large lot with free parking in an area where vehicle resting spots are at a premium was another plus.

WW speaks favorably of the new bar including the capital invested by the new owners:

2016-09-06-15-55-44“The new Revolutionary War-themed bar is a beautiful hardwood affair complete with 13-star flags, a hearth, a giant blue-felt billiards table and a picture of the signing of the Declaration of Independence burned into the wood of the bar’s service gate.” 2016-08-15-17-05-31

And like some of the other “treasures” – bars or pubs I have discovered in the five-year Beerchaser Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs, I would not have had the pleasure of raising a mug – this time with great companions – if I had not initiated this idiosyncratic but interesting retirement hobby.

Jack Faust contemplates the beer menu

Jack Faust contemplates the beer menu

Joining me was one of the most frequent Beerchaser “regulars,” Portland appellate lawyer and former moderator of the award-winning public affairs program, Town Hall.

Jack Faust has joined me at visits to The Buffalo Gap, Bailey’s Tap House, the Rookery, Kelly’s Olympian, the Marathon Taverna and the lackluster Yard House. (use Thebeerchaser search function above to read reviews of these bars).  He was also one of the more colorful Beerchaser-of-the-Quarters , which highlighted his notable legal (mostly at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt) , broadcasting and civic career (see post on 9/2/14)

Jack Faust

Jack Faust

Speaking of the Schwabe firm, where I spent twenty-five years of my legal management career, Faust, a Portland native, joins two other former Schwabe partners as three of the Jefferson High School’s “Outstanding 100” – their most distinguished alums named at the school’s Centennial in 2009.

Retired US District Court Judge and decorated Viet Nam Veteran, Ancer Haggerty, and the late Congressman, Wendell Wyatt were also honored.ancer

 

The late Congressman, Wendell Wyatt

The late Congressman, Wendell Wyatt

Faust maintains he garnered the honor based on his accomplishments playing quarterback on the Democrat’s six-man football team, but I countered that it was the notoriety achieved by his home-brewed “Raspberry Red Ale” which contributed to Portland’s designation as a SuperFund site by the EPA.

As has been the case on several previous bar visits, members of the Faust clan – in this case son, Charlie, and daughter, Amy, were Beerchasing with us in addition to Charlie’s wife, Kristen, a first-time Beerchaser.

2016-08-15-17-59-11The final two companions that afternoon were the youngest – my daughter, Laura and her fiancé, Ryan Keene, slated for September 17th nuptials at Vista Hills Vineyard and Winery west of Dundee – the home of one of my favorite dive bars – Lumpy’s Landing.

While we did not spend too much time trying to mentor and advise the young bride and groom to-be, they couldn’t go wrong listening to some words of wisdom, given that the cumulative total years of marriage for their elders was an astounding 139 years as follows:

An amazing couple

An amazing couple

Jack and Alice Faust                         60 years

Don and Janet Williams                     36 years

Amy Faust and husband, Kevin        24 years

Charlie Faust and wife, Kristen         19  years

Charlie Faust, being a numbers guy, pointed out to Ryan and Laura that since the average time of marriage for those above has been 34.8 years while the median is still an impressive 30 years, they would do well to invite members of this group out for beers in the future to seek advice on marital bliss…..

Thebeerchaser with his daughter and soon to be son-in-law

Thebeerchaser with his daughter and soon to be son-in-law

Although Charlie and his dad have a great relationship, they agreed to pose while I took the picture below in an effort to get the pub’s owners to adopt it as a logo for their new moniker. In fact, in a moment of sentimentality, Charlie gushed:

“You know, I owe a lot to my parents – especially my Mom and Dad.”

It should also be noted that both my daughter, Laura, and Jack’s daughter, Amy, seemed to be pretty happy with their dads that afternoon and not just because we paid for the beers (I think….)

A new logo for Mad Sons??

A new logo for Mad Sons??

Not only does Mad Sons have some interesting décor including multiple US Presidential portraits but the spacious game-room upstairs includes a billiard table racked for free pool, some nice booths to relax and some additional historical memorabilia.

I had a nice conversation by telephone with General Manager, Lavender Davis, who is one of five partners in Mad Sons.  The remodeling took six months and was done by craftsman with the historic items throughout the bar coming from a variety of sources including estate sales.   Some of the drapes are from her living room…..

She stated that the reason for the name change and blacking out the “I” in the Madison’s on the sign, was because of restrictions imposed by Portland’s Sign Ordinance (Perhaps a skilled lawyer could have overcome that challenge but the name change is a good thing.)

2016-09-06-15-56-45

Blue felt and free

The upstairs has a long shelves filled with impressive volumes ranging from philosophical classics such as Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, Milton’s Paradise Lost  and perhaps appropriately, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King  to novels by Nobel Prize winners such as Steinbeck and Hemingway.  Don’t plan to use the space as a reading room while you’re enjoying a mug, however.

2016-09-06-15-56-56

The expansive volumes on the shelves are all firmly glued together. This is too bad because there was some fine literature on these shelves.

An impressive faux library...

An impressive faux library…

Realizing these books were glued together and untouched, along with the thought of beer readily available, also brought back some unpleasant and possibly repressed memories from my freshman year at Oregon State.

The freedom to have an under-aged brewski at Price’s Tavern with the bros in Corvallis was like a Siren call while my freshman physics and calculus texts sat essentially glued together.   Although they might have indicated an impressive academic regimen, at least part of the quarter, they mostly gathered dust.

Fortunately, my Navy ROTC advisor informed me in a direct manner that if I did not start putting some wear on the pages, I would not only lose my scholarship, but the Navy’s travel agent would be happy to book a free flight on one of its planes headed for the other side of the International Dateline.  The motivational speech worked.

Limited but adequate patio

Limited but adequate patio

Mad Sons is a spacious, interesting and warm space to gather with friends on a fall or winter day – you might also want to take advantage of the limited but adequate patio during the spring and summer months.

The afternoon we were there, the bar was not hopping with patrons and WW alluded to the same situation in their multiple visits. And that’s too bad because Mad Sons also has a good selection of beers and a robust and very reasonably priced food menu described by the Oregonian  shortly after it opened in 2014:

“A little New England, a little Old England with sandwiches, stews and other hearty plates of varying quality.”  Oregonian 10/31/14

A nice selection of beers

A nice selection of beers

There are eleven beers on tap, a rotating seasonal and nitro and a local craft draft root beer. (Our party had Priem IPA, Double Mountain IRA and Upright Pilsner.)

Kristin had a Grapefruit Shandy, which Thebeerchaser had never been exposed to previously.  I learned that a Shandy is a combination of beer and either a soft drink or juice in approximately a 50/50 mix.  Kristin approved of the Mad Son’s version.

Recent Yelp reviews looked very positive including these two:

“Clean with great vibes and plenty of space! Awesome selection of booze with excellent service at Mad Sons Pub. Free pool, pinball, games and a huge outdoor patio – (Thebeerchaser does not agree with this description) for summer! Definitely check this place out! No kids and parking for all. Love it!!!”  7/2/2016

2016-08-15-18-13-46

and

“This place is quality.  Super chill, nice staff, good food and drink, their brisket is awesome.  I really appreciate the ambiance here, they’re always playing good music, it’s nice and dark with the look of an old style pub, but a more modern vibe.” 7/23/2016

Also good comments on their Saturday and Sunday brunch (from 11 AM to 3 PM), which according to Lavender is “very popular” and one where those who prefer not to have children affecting the ambiance, can gather.  The Chicken and Waffles looked promising as did the Beef Brisket Hash as well as the “You Build It” combinations.

2016-08-15-17-00-25This sign describes Mad Son’s pretty well.  They have a DJ every Friday night and a nice Pandora selection otherwise.

As a departing note, Laura and Ryan’s wedding at Vista Hills near Dundee was a wonderful event, notwithstanding this particular Saturday being the only day with precipitation in the ten-day period preceding it. And was it rainy – which can be problematic in an outdoor venue.  Fortunately, we had tents and a crowd with a great NW attitude.

Now while my wife may not think that it is appropriate to post some of the first photos of their wedding in a blog about bars and beer, I think after 36 years, she will probably let the proud Father-of-the-Bride go with this indulgence, given how much I love this young couple and want to show them off.

Rainy but a wonderful occasion

Rainy but a wonderful occasion

2016-09-20-13-37-452016-09-17-15-57-24

 

 

 

 

 

 

The old marrieds there that day talked to Laura and Ryan about the importance of good communication and listening, which opened the door to some of Thebeerchaser’s favorite quotes on that general topic:

“Don’t speak, unless you can improve the silence.”

“Light travels faster than sound.  This is why some people appear bright until they open their mouths.”

“A single fact can spoil a good argument.”

vista-hills

The beautiful Vista Hills setting

Mad Sons Pub              1109 SE Madison