Not-So-Secret Meat at Free House

I have a food-loving friend who has a husband who is kind, thoughtful, handsome, and even occasionally dances at weddings, but does not eat meat. Therefore, when we go out for a girls’ night, she delights, nay, revels in eating what she lightheartedly, but with a serious glint in her carnivorous eye, refers to as “secret meat.”

A secret bratwurst with sauerkraut and double (life) mustards

A secret bratwurst with sauerkraut and double (life) mustards

Well, new Free House bar (now residing in the snug NE Fremont Street space occupied by what used to be what we will now call the “old Free House bar”) lived up to its name, because tonight within these four walls, my friend was free to eat as much secret meat as she could, thanks to the tavern’s affiliation with Olympic Provisions. You can’t flick a spoonful of Daiya without hitting an OP frankfurter, bratwurst, pate or salami, but the menu does offer a few nods to the non-flesh eaters–namely the crisp, housemade ranch-smothered wedge salad topped with crispy fried onions and deep ruby “pickled reds”, the grilled vegetable sandwich, and an ethereal smoked cheddar mac n cheese that may have won the space in my heart/stomach (they’re pretty much the same organ at this point) reserved for Best Mac n Cheese ever. Not surprising, considered the man behind it is none other than Free House co-owner and chef Eric Moore , engineer of the now legendary Victory Bar spaetzle.

I too, am destined to become a cheesy, fried allium-topped legend!

I too am destined to become a cheesy, fried allium-topped legend.

Put fried onions on it, too!

Put fried onions on it, too!

The House Libations list has a dozen simple, expertly-mixed drinks, we contemplated the Flying Elbow (gin, Fernet, Maraschino) and sure-to-be-a-good-time Dog License (tequila, Campari, agave, chocolate bitters) and settled on the Third Planet (rum, lime, honey, Angostura bitters) and Froghair (aquavit, lemon, Swedish punsch, orange bitters), neither of which came adorned with friend onions, somewhat to our disappointment.

freehouse cocktail

The beer and wine list is short and sweet, and speaks of a happy hour between the hours of 4 and 5:30 pm that repeals a dollar from everything except cans of Old German, because they are already only $2 and selling Old German for a dollar is just asking for trouble.

freehousebeerThe tavern’s decor is equally unfussy, just mentally fold the below picture over like the fingerpaint-symmetry butterflies you excelled at in kindergarten to imagine the missing half of the restaurant (plus a few cool front window tables, and of course, the bar), which boasts its own portrait of Honest Abe, because as everyone who’s ever won some serious Old German money making bets with a trick penny knows, two Abraham Lincoln heads are way better than one.

freehouse interior

Why does this picture make me crave a PS: I Read Your Diary?!

And for those of you who still hold hope that summer is nigh, Free House keeps a roomy back patio just beyond Abe No. 1′s noggin, where you can drink your ale and eat your secret meat in the fresh Northeast Portland air, safe from prying eyes.

Free House * 1325 NE Fremont St. * 503.946.8161 * Daily 4pm-midnight * Patio open until 10pm nightly