The Big Game
Everyone’s got their own ritual on Game Day. Some people watch at home in the comfort of their own den, where they can shout, scream, howl, sulk and then retreat to their garage to “fix something” aka “cry alone.” Others like to plunk down on a barstool, order a frosty pint of liquid merrymaking and a cheeseburger with fries or giant plate of nachos, and share their team spirit and passionate opinions with friends, bartenders, televisions, maybe even the empty barstool next to them. If you’re seeking a place where everybody might not know your name, but they know your pain, er, joy, check out one of these sports-friendly spots around town.
Just place to scratch your Belgian beer itch, Hilda Stevens’ immaculate Hawthorne bar is a classy sort of place to watch some football (the kind you actually play with your feet) over a Saison Dupont and a chutney burger or Flemish stew.
When my dad’s in town and there’s an important game on, sometimes we’ll all be walking along doing one of those touristy family things you do when your parents are in town, a streetcar will whistle by, and Dad will disappear faster than Nightcrawler. We don’t worry much, because we know where to find him–upstairs at Bridgeport Brewpub, watching the game on one of the bar’s televisions and munching a Bridgeport Burger, a cool pint of Blue Heron at his right hand. And we know he can’t get lost, because Bridgeport is right on the streetcar line, which is also handy if you’d like to celebrate your team’s win with vigor and not have to worry about driving home.
I have yet to walk in or by and see this big, boisterous Pearl District brewhouse not packed to the gills, thanks to the abundance of good beer, hearty pub grub, upbeat energy, and some seriously gorgeous woodwork. If you’re here to watch the game, try and score a seat at the bar for best visibility, plus you’ll definitely get your drinks faster that way, especially in times of maximum occupancy.
Grand Central Bowl
“Grand Central Bowl is good. Big portions. Dude Food.” This was my friend Heather’s reply when I put out an inquiry as to favorite local game-watching destinations. Teeming with more plasma than a Ghostbuster’s containment unit, at any given time Grand Central’s probably playing any game you want to watch, whether it’s good old American football or fancy footwork football. Watch the game at the bar or make an event out of it and reserve a private dining room. The menu’s got your standard pub grub needs covered, there are a dozen beers on tap, and a full bar awaits in case your pint of Rogue Dead Guy Ale just isn’t strong enough to drown your losing sorrows in.
With nearly 100 beers on tap, a frozen drink rail to keep them cold, upscale pub grub to prevent your growling stomach from drowning out game day chatter, and flat screen and plasma TV’s strategically positioned so you’ve got a view of the game from the bar or the booth that cute group of Pearl Girls invited you to share with them, you’re pretty much in ballgame heaven at this grand new-old Pearl District tavern, especially on Sundays, when happy hour runs all day long.
Big bowls of steaming hot mussels, a Chimay Grand Réserve, and a seat at the bar makes for a pretty good game day at this popular Alphabet District “travel pub.” The internationally-influenced menu runs the gamut from raw oysters on the half shell and spicy oyster sambal glazed green beans, to seven kinds of mussels, to robust pub grub like the smoked gouda burger, accompanied by an exceptional selection of Belgian beers, and a lot of whiskys. And since they are open every night until at least midnight, you’ll have plenty of time in which to sample them all.
I have to state up front that this Pearl District sports bar isn’t listed here for the food, no sir. But they know how to pour a pint, the nachos are tasty enough for me and UTTWJ Special Correspondent April to have once wolfed an entire order down faster than Michael Phelps swims the 100-meter butterfly (granted, it was nearly 1am, and you don’t always make your best decisions at that time of night), and the televisions are big and full of ballgames. And, as their name would suggest, they also possess one of the largest and nicest outdoor terraces in Portland, so slap on the sunblock in the shape of your team’s logo, don your best tube/tank top, and give the surrounding high-rise condo residents an excuse to get some use out of their fancy telescopes.
Pacific Pie Company
While our knowledge of savory pies here in America is largely confined to the supermarket frozen food section, savory pies are huge in Australia, land of Vegemite, Shrimp on the Barbie, and Hugh Jackman. So we Portlanders are bloody fortunate to have this spunky Southeast pie shop filling the culinary void with warm golden fresh-baked Australian-style pies–beef and stout pie, roast lamb pie, Moroccan chickpea pie, creamy chicken pie, PLUS deliciously savory sausage rolls and a whole lineup of carefully crimped pasties. Like your pies sweet? The Blueberry Anzac pie, peanut butter chocolate pie, and cherry whiskey tarts should do, especially paired with some sparkling Australian wine and a rugby game on the bar telly. So, sorry my dear Hugh Jackman, you’re lovely and everything, but I’ve decided that pie is Australia’s tastiest export.
Those of us, er, you, who think nothing of stealing restaurant menus for their grubby little harissa and olive oil-spattered scrapbooks best bring your big handbag to this stylish Mississippi Avenue bar and dinner den, where the placemat-sized cuisine crier offers up three large-font columns of signature cocktails, beers, “non beers”, and creatively seasonal small plates like roasted radishes with brown butter and beef cheeks with Orca beans. After dinner, hone in on the housemade frozen dessert delicacies—it’s hard to pass on the salted licorice ice cream or grapefruit tarragon sorbet. Fútbol fans–there’s always a match playing on the telly above the bar.
Reel M Inn
Don’t be surprised if you spot a few of Portland’s top chefs at this lovable, kitsch-spattered Division Street dive, nursing a beer and perhaps a basket of the highly acclaimed fried chicken ‘n jo-jos after a long night in the kitchen; it’s a popular hangout for lots of the city’s most discerning food folk. There are also a few televisions here and there, if you’re less into chef-stalking and more into game-watching.
Saraveza is THE place to watch the big game–if you’re a Green Bay Packers or a Milwaukee Brewers fan, that is–fiercely loyal Saraveza broadcasts nothing else in their laid-back, kitsch and memorabilia-laden North Portland pub. Whatever your own loyalties may be, you might want to consider joining the Cheesehead ranks for the afternoon, if only to view the brilliant bottle cap art and partake of Saraveza’s fist-pump-inducing selection of beers–there are over 200 different kinds in the old-fashioned coolers and 10 rotating beers on tap. Graze on beer-compatible snacks like pickled deviled eggs, summer sausage, and the spud melt, and nothing goes with a cold Schlitz quite like a The Nater–a hearty golden half moon-shaped pasty stuffed with Porter braised beef and root vegetables. Fun special events abound, Tuesday nights are Quizaveza, and every second Monday is Free Bacon Night…enough said.
Spirit of 77
‘Twas never a hipper place to sip a bottle of Miller High Life or cocktail, nosh on “gourmet stoner food” like Reuben fritters and pork confit tortas, and gather with your most attractive and coolest friends to watch the Blazers/Timbers/etc game. If you’re inspired to take up a sport yourself, but want to ease into things, there’s pop-a-shot, pinball, skeeball, and foosball available. Parking is bad enough to warrant mentioning, so ride your bike instead–they’ve thoughtfully installed indoor racks for two-wheeled patrons.
Widmer Brothers Brewery
In spite of its off-the-beaten-path location, this local brewing behemoth’s North Portland pub is perenially packed with brew lovers enjoying fondue pretzels, Amber Ale-braised kielbasa, and of course, lots of beer, especially on game nights, given its proximity to the Rose Garden. If you prefer watching the game on tv to actually being there, sit at the bar and cheer your team from the comfort of your stool.