Dispatches from P-town

A few choice spots for beer, vintage motorcycles and elk burgers for your enjoyment

Because I am aware that your small lives reach new levels of inconsequence when I'm gone, I feel it necessary to explain my absence this past week.

I spent 10 days in Portland.

Not very dramatic, I know. But I rarely leave the friendly confines of the Rogue Valley much these days, so I was in need of some time with traffic and concrete.

I crashed at a friend's pad in the Old Town/Chinatown district just off downtown.

Old Town is a sharp contrast to the Pearl District, which sits just up the street like the shining jewel that is its namesake.

Old Town/Chinatown most certainly is not a shining jewel. My friend's pad is sandwiched in a groove of strip clubs and organizations dedicated to helping the homeless.

Across the street is the Spyce Gentlemen's Club. Down the block is the Dixie Tavern, recently the scene of a brutal shooting.

Homeless junkies sleep in my friend's doorway. A cheesy nightclub pounds mind-breaking techno music at 9 in the morning.

As soon as I arrived, I knew this was a neighborhood I could happily spend a week exploring. My friend is grinding her way through law school, which left me with hours alone to prowl the scene.

Here are some impressions of a few places I hit. Feel free to dig them if you're in town, or leave them alone. It's up to you.

Upright Brewing

The Oregon Brewers Guild says there are more than 40 breweries in Portland. I wanted to visit roughly half of them in the 10-day period.

That didn't work out. Neither my liver nor my bank account could withstand that hit, so my friend and I narrowed the tour to a few choice spots.

Among them was Upright Brewing, located across the Broadway Bridge near the Rose Quarter. Upright Brewing's funky hours and unique beer-tasting experience is made for only the most dedicated craft-brew swillers.

The place is buried deep in the ground under a multiuse, commercial structure. To get there, you walk through what looks like a bank lobby and then take the elevator to the beer cavern beneath.

Upright Brewing offers few amenities besides picnic tables, wooden kitchen chairs. And beer. Very, very good beer.

The tasting area sits in one small corner, where the server poured pints while spinning a Bill Monroe record on a vintage player. You are not limited to the tasting area, however, as the staff allows you to wander the production area with pint in hand.

My friend and I sat next to a nest of dripping hoses and a massive fermenter. The place has the ambiance of the methamphetamine-production hideaway in "Breaking Bad."

Compared with BridgePort Brewing's posh, state-of-the-art digs in the Pearl, Upright Brewing is austere and bare as bleached whale bones.

That's precisely what I liked about it. I was hoping to score a pint of Oyster Stout, which is brewed with oyster liquor and whole oysters, but none was pouring that day. Instead, I threw back a pint of dark saison and nodded along with Monroe's twang that echoed through the beer cave.

For location and hours, see www.uprightbrewing.com.

Kelly's Olympian

Kelly's Olympian was the best bar I visited for two reasons. First, it has a dozen vintage motorcycles hanging from the walls and ceiling. Second, it's connected to an intimate music venue where I watched a solid Portland-based band called ioa.

The beer at Kelly's is cheap, and the bar staff is friendly. Also, there were a lot of Chicago Bears fans hanging around there, and I felt right at home.

If you're walking downtown in the early evening, it's worth ducking into Kelly's for a quick drink, if only to check out the motorcycles suspended above your head.

Kelly's is located on Southwest Washington Street, where it crosses Fifth Avenue.

Besaw's

I was a little groggy from the previous brew-pub night when we ventured to Besaw's for breakfast. After hammering down a plate of their huevos rancheros and a pile of the honey-cured bacon, all was right in my world.

Besaw's dates back to Portland's storied logging boom of the early 1900s. Apparently, the place was a popular spot with the sawblade crowd, outlaws, longshoremen and other denizens that would have killed and eaten the hipsters that inhabit the city today.

Next time I go, it will be for dinner. I will have the elk burger because it's served with blue cheese, and you can request an over-easy egg slopped on top of it. The loggers would be proud.

Besaw's sits on Northwest 23rd (aka "Trendy Third"), and for your money is the premier breakfast spot. It's crowded and loud, and you will have to wait for your food. Deal with it.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.


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