Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Portland pubs

Lucky Lab
Lucky Lab bike rack
photo by vj_pdx
The Lucky Lab is my favorite restaurant in Portland. Their three-cheese meltdown is the thing in Portland that has consistently made me hungry for the near-decade I've known about it. It's basically a cheese sandwich, but it has mushrooms, great salsa and pepperoncini, which remind me of the much-missed sandwich shop I worked at in college. Another thing that has more to do with ambience than food is super-relaxed outdoor seating that almost always has enough space, even on the nicest day in Portland. And it's almost never too crowded indoors, either, making it comfortable to have a table all to yourself, or to invite your eight closest friends. I attended a gathering there of the Lewis and Clark Law School Democrats with my fiance, and we were joined semi-accidentally by some gals who'd come for Drinking Liberally at the overcrowded next table. Finally, Lucky Lab hosts the yearly Worst Day Of The Year bike ride, often the first time my bike spends much time on the pavement after a rainy winter has successfully crushed my spirit and put me on the bus.

Lucky Lab's beer suffers slightly by comparison to the Deschutes and Bridgeport that flow like rivers through the streets of Portland. But it's not too far behind in sheer delectability. Their dark beers are suitably thick and tasty, and their pear cider is absolutely dreamy.

The theme is Labrador dogs (not a fortunate science lab), so dogs are encouraged on the back patio. Sometimes the back patio smells like dogs and/or cigarettes (ew), but that's easily escaped inside.

BridgePort Brewing
I haven't gone out looking for new microbrews for five years or so, but I still suspect BridgePort has the best beer in Portland. The Black Strap Stout puts Guinness to shame. Their IPA rakes in awards.

As for the food and ambience, there are two locations, not at all alike. The downtown(ish) location is roomy and comfy, but the food is stale slices of pizza that probably wasn't great to begin with. The Hawthorne location, on the other hand, offers plate-licking-good ravioli and salmon prepared in many to-die-for configurations. But it's a little fancy-schmancy. You couldn't bring kids here, and I always feel a little frousy among the recently-dyed black-clad yuppie-to-the-max patrons.

The Hedge House [Yelp]
The Hedge House has a frequently-changed menu of delicious beer. A good bet is always the Proletariat Red, but their special selections have never let me down. The food is also fantastic. They have Reuben sandwiches that are repeat orders in both their Gardenburger and corned beef forms. Their pulled pork and portobello burger are also popular with the fiance and me.

Horse Brass [Yelp]
Lucky Lab bike rack
photo by devlyn
This photo almost perfectly captures the essence of Horse Brass. Dark dark dark with disgusting English food. If there were three shiny darts and the beer was glowing deliciously, it would be nailed. I recommend it because I enjoy darts and great beer and this place has both. Meat eaters also seem impressed by the Scotch egg, which is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage and deep-fried, I think. Gah.

Barley Mill
The Barley Mill is a really comfy place to hang out. It's never crowded, so you can hang out as long as you like, playing some Scrabble or cards. It's strange that this is my favorite of the McMenamin's restaurants, given that it is Grateful Dead-themed and two consecutive jobs spent working with people who only listened to Jerry Garcia killed the Dead for me forever. The food is slightly above average, unlike at other McMenami, where it's slightly below. McMenamin's beer is better than 99% of what you can buy in the rest of the country, but in Portland it almost doesn't measure up. Like the food, it seems a bit watered-down. The beer has devoted fans, though, and if you ever work in Portland, you will go to McMenami for work functions at some point.

Shanghai Tunnel
The Shanghai tunnels were used to kidnap drunk or drugged people to work on ships. Apparently, this restaurant has one such tunnel. I wouldn't know, as I missed the point by staying outside the whole time the only time I went to this pub. And then I got so drunk that I left my bike overnight. And it got stolen. So I haven't been back. But I guess I was made a victim of my own vice at the Shanghai Tunnel, so perhaps I didn't miss the experience entirely. (I've also taken the Shanghai tunnel tour on another occasion, which is interesting, but mostly consists of wandering around in dark, dirty underground rooms.)

Holman's Restaurant [Yelp]
Holman's has a great garden Reuben and a good jukebox. Well drinks are cheap, and the french fries are popular. That said, it's grimy enough that I feel a little funny recommending it.

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