Sunday morning, I woke up with berry jam in my hair. At first, I lay there rolling the seeds between my fingers, perplexed. We don’t have any jam in the refrigerator at the moment, it’s too full of green smoothie fodder. Had I had begun sleepeating, like those poor Ambien victims who wake up gripping a ravaged package of hamburger buns?!
I wasn’t completely opposed to this idea, however; using my eight otherwise unproductive sleeping hours to collect foodstuffs seemed efficient. What else had I hauled in last night?! Maybe there was a half-eaten jar of Biscoff somewhere. Or an already-seeded pomegranate!
Then paranoia set in. Was someone creeping around the house at night, smearing jam in people’s hair?! What else had they gotten into?? Hopefully not the chocolate canister marked Stamps, or God forbid, the Paris Fund.
“It’s from that ham and cheese sandwich you inhaled last night,” my bf piped up out of the gloom, then went back to snoring.
Ah, right. It was all coming back now. The Tannery Bar. A Monte Cristo. A small ramekin of marionberry preserves.
To be fair, I in no way inhaled that sandwich. I ate it reverently, with long, reflective, jam-dipping pauses, and I even shared some of it with my friend Erin, who happened to pop into the bar that evening too. We traded for a piece of her Gleaners Tart—polenta piled with roast yams, Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue, hazelnuts, arugula, and crème fraiche.
But back to the Monte Cristo, one of the finest things I’ve eaten in a while, and that’s saying a lot because I’ve been on a bit of a restaurant bender lately. With classic, timeworn dishes, you tend to adopt assumptions over the years, and in the case of the Monte Cristo, mine was that of a dismayingly decadent, oozing, fried gutbomb advisable only once every two years or just after a good artery-scrubbing.
But this particular rendition defied all stereotypes. It was, as the barman most accurately described it, a “game-changer.” Constructed with feather-light slices of Fleur de Lis’ Pullman loaf, layered with thin strips of smoked ham and turkey, and of course, Gruyére, then lightly griddled, dusted with confectioners’ sugar, and served with a small puddle of marionberry preserves, this Monte Cristo was nothing short of perfection. I honestly think you should drop all your best laid dinner salad plans and go try one this evening. I broke every resolution in the book eating it, and I have zero regrets.
In fact, I can’t wait to go back to The Tannery Bar in general, it was a bit magical this time around. When it was Skin & Bones, I hadn’t thought much of it. I loved the space, the thick cinder block walls that would have been ugly if they weren’t somehow chic, the narrow candlelit dining room that could have been cold and standoffish but was warm and welcoming. But the food had disappointed, and seeing as the location is somewhat obscure, squatting on the corner of 55th and East Burnside, bathed in the yellow glow of a QFC sign, I’d sort of forgotten it was there.
This past November, chef/owner Caleb McBee re-imagined his bistro bunker into a boozy bunker, emphasizing craft cocktails and a simple but well-executed bar food menu, with bites like Oregon anchovies on crostini and thick meaty Russet fries, cheese and charcuterie plates, heartier fare like the grassfed beef stroganoff, and for dessert, Fernet and chocolate pots de creme.‘Twas a very good idea, as I now love the corner of 55th and East Burnside. Now, it’s the sort of place where you can get jam in your hair and not even know it. Because you’re too busy licking the sides of your Hot Buttered Pisco glass.
Hot Buttered Piscos were the evening special, and although I was agonizing between A Pear In The Forest (Clear Creek’s Pear Brandy & Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir, lemon, orgeat, Amaro, egg white, $11) and The Bee’s Knees (Plymouth Gin, lemon, honey, $8), I jumped at the offer of something toasty, since we’d just finished watching Chasing Ice at the Hollywood Theater, and I was both cold from staring at calving icebergs for an hour and 14 minutes, and depressed that we’re all probably going to drown in melted icebergs before I’ve even half-filled my Paris Fund.
Over at Erin’s table, happily untouched by worries of retreating glaciers, they were sipping a bracing, puckery, icy Moscow Mule, and the crisp Daddy’s Rootbeer—Blackstrap Rum, Root Liqueur, Absinthe, and egg white, which I’ll order next time; it was exactly what grown up root beer should taste like.
As though things could get better after all that, when we approached the bar to get our check, it happened to be happy hour (Mon-Sat 5-7pm), which meant everything was a dollar off. And that is even better than finding an unexplained jar of Biscoff under your pillow. Maybe.
The Tannery Bar * 5425 E. Burnside * Mon-Sat 5am-1pm * 503.236.3610 * Facebook page