What’s A Guy Gotta Do To Get A Drink (after work) In This Town?!

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

     It’s been a while since I’ve done a simple, less-guided entry, hasn’t it? Ever since the move out to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve had to re-establish a few things that I generally took for granted in my daily (and writing) life: favorite dives, favorite restaurants, local bars that I’m pretty comfortable walking home from when I’ve had too many. With Portland’s fairly-excellent public transport, “stumbling distance” can mean a few miles- provided you can keep straight enough to hop the right bus/train combination.

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Hey, you aren’t driving, right?

In general, my favorite places tend to have a couple characteristics-

  • Good food and drink (obviously)
  • Friendly service.
  • Homey or at least welcoming atmosphere.
  • The presence of customers/staff I know and like- particularly professionals.
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Particularly the customers, sometimes…

     Back at home, it was no accident that I regularly sang the praises of The Iron Room, Howell’s Pub, and The Avenue. These were places where I could count on not only good food, drink, and service- but warm companionship when I wanted it, and quiet attention from friends when it was time to work. There are times when I’m out and about, and I’d give just about anything to enjoy the work and company of Chefs Kevin Cronin, Jim Howell, and Joe Muldoon again. I try to keep in touch as best I can, but seeing all the great things they do is a far-cry from tasting it.

     All things change, and we change with them- and I am in Portland now.
Time to explore and find new haunts in my new home.

     Earlier, I found myself ensconced at Mother’s Bar and Bistro. It was happy hour (a good time to be thirsty in Portland), and the young and busy were buzzing in and out on their way home. Chef Lisa Schroeder, the chef-owner of the place, did a certain young baker quite a solid when he had just shown up in Portland a few months back- flying blind in a strange place and begging for work.
    Like so many places, all the chefs in Portland talk to each other- and while Chef Lisa didn’t have a spot for me, she gave me a laundry list of places that I might ask, and even put in a few calls on my behalf. With that kind of person in charge (a Jewish Philly transplant, no less), and a great staff in front and back, it was a good place to sit, reflect, and enjoy some REALLY good lox.

They have really good salmon here- who’d-a-thunk it?

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This man clearly needs some fiber.

     While I was sitting at Mother’s bar, noshing on my tasty smoked fish and sipping a spicy margarita, I realized what I was REALLY missing in the whole move out here.

     Some months ago, back in New Jersey, I was hanging out with a couple other chefs right after we’d finished up a Chaine dinner. A couple things had come a little close to the knuckle- there was miscommunication about the menu, facilities, friggin’ PLATING AND FLATWARE, who was in charge of what. It got a little hair-raising and tempers flared. Everyone was bouncing around the kitchen, but in the end- we did what we were meant to do. The dinner was a huge success. From first to last, the courses came out like magic, and our diners were ecstatic.    Now came the quiet after the storm- we all sat and breathed in the wet, warm air of the late summer rainy night. After a while, we wound up at a local bar. We toasted a job well-done, and I sat back and listened as the older hands shared stories and ideas. 
     Moments like that are one of my favorite things about doing what I do.

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End-of-the-day victory dance

    It’s easy to find a good bar in Portland, and one of my favorite things to do is seek out all the bars where the professionals go- line cooks, chefs, food runners, and all other manner of- as Tom Waits says- “brawlers, bawlers, and bastards.”
    It’s a very esoteric, insular sort of life we live, and the only people who truly understand it are those who live it, or have lived it. Since moving here, I’ve craved evenings like that one in Jersey, and conversations like the ones I’d have with Joe, Jim, and Kevin.

That said…

     You’d think that a city with as many restaurants and as much of a food culture as Portland has, you could find a bar that’s open past midnight? What’s more, with all the food carts and tiny little snackeries in this city, you might find one that’s open after 6 PM?
    Where do the post-shift drinks happen? Or the booze-mop munchies when you’ve had too many? As a baker, I know that I’ll probably be fine- my hours are from 6am to 2pm. My post-shift drink would be LUNCH. All the same, sometimes I whomp up the energy to join at least some of the culinary throng and enjoy an evening out.

    As I write this, I’m sitting in Paddy’s– a pretty solid little Irish pub in Portland’s Old Town, down by the Willamette River. They advertise being open till 2am- the first bar I have found to be open past midnight.

    Maybe I’m being immature or foolish- hell, I’m probably both. I might well also just really be homesick.

    Either way, at the moment, I have beer, whiskey, and a tasty Scotch egg with a chantilly-light deviled yolk.
      It’s not home, but it’s not bad. Not bad at all.

​Stay Classy,