Tilt in the Pearl District

A recent addition to the Portland landscape Tilt currently operates two locations.  One on Swan Island in north Portland and another in the Pearl district.  A third location on east Burnside will be opening soon.

I’ve been to the pearl location several times now and I can say that the experience loses nothing by repetition.  Squarely on the corner of 13th and Everett, Tilt is among good company with restaurants such as Hamlet, Oven and shaker and Vault Martini.

Inside the decor is spartan with chrome and black in abundance and the odd piece of industrial equipment squarely situated for flavor.   There is a seating area and a long bar with numerous stools, booths and a ping pong table.

The menu is heavy on the american standards of hamburger, fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, and pie.  Despite the greasy spoon similarities the menu is exquisitely prepare and each portion is of a quality that knocks you off your stool.  The burgers are huge, juicy and filling.  The sides and appetizers are equally robust.  I personally recommend the bacon tots.  The tots are made fresh and each is a tiny wad of deep fried potato that delights and stuffs you like a thanksgiving turkey.  They come in 6, 12 and 18 pieces but beware as they are each huge and stick to your ribs.

Pie is the other serious offering here.  Everything sweet from cinnamon rolls to tarts is on offer but Pie is king and like any good late night diner you can get a slice of just about anything hot, a la mode, or even done up as a milkshake.

Now, you might ask why I would bring all this to my blog.  The answer is simple, they have possibly the second deepest bar I have seen in Portland.  Many places can get by with a smaller selection of more complex items but sitting in Tilt you can start picking out great bottles for ten feet in either direction and still not see everything they’ve got.

The cocktail menu appears to be seasonal, with about 10 unique options every season.  Their winter menu was still on board when I first went and I had the opportunity to drink something made with rum, nocino and lime that gave me new ideas.   In the spring I had a little coupe called a night swim that involved a basic martini splashed with vanilla syrup and creme de violet.  Everything I have had there is complex.  Flavors from bitter to sweet play in a wonderland of presentation and selection.

More tellingly the bartenders are never coy about what they are using and when asked to make a bourbon milk punch for the Hopboxer they gamely took down the recipe and presented an excellent cocktail in reply.

I look forward to their east Burnside location finally opening as I want something closer to my work and home where I can take friends and family.  My downtown options were previously locked in but I think that given the quality of the food and the much better selection I’m moving Tilt to the top of my list when it comes time to pick a restaurant.

Grain and Gristle

Tucked into a quiet and mostly residential neighborhood on NE Prescott is a wonderful example of the modern Portland bar.  I went early in the day for a little afternoon food excursion with the HopBoxer.

The atmosphere is very clean and has a focus on wood grains and fresh artwork.  The live edge bar was interesting to see.


Their cocktail selection was wider than I’ve seen at a number of more complex places and they did something with their menu that I had not seen before.  I typically enjoy going places where there are dozens of bottles on the shelf.  It provides enough selection that you have a reasonable idea that the bartender will know what they’re doing.  Grain and Gristle had only a few bottles in evidence but every one of them seemed selected specifically to fill a role.

A quick look at their cocktail menu shows you that they’re fans of the classics but in such a way that they can showcase local distilleries, rare finds and creative uses of flavor.

All of their cocktails on the list wgng bottle listere $8 which was easy on the wallet.  I didn’t get a chance to try the gristle portion of the name but we did order soup, pickles and olives.  Each of them house made and excellent.  I’ve not had pickle plates many places but the inclusion of apple, garlic and possibly pear were all interesting ways to spice things up between cocktails.

It’s a little out of my way, but given their proximity to a pok pok location it may be worth another trip out that way.

Fireside Grill

Located in an out of the way business park on Hall blvd the fireside grill is one of the few gems of the Beaverton Bar scene.

It isn’t a pub, a beer bar or a strip club and in that it exceeds many of the alternatives this far out in suburbia.

The location used to house one of the many Macmenamins strip locations, pretty similar to a dozen others within a couple of miles.  The Macmenamins menu has seldom been anything to write home about but I am happy to say that the Fireside Grill is everything that Macmenamins isn’t.

The decor is minimal with emphasis on the fire portion of the name.  The patio seats have a gas fireplace in the center which gives the entire thing a lot of natural light after dark.

There are almost a half dozen large televisions on the walls, when  not in use they display a standard yule log type fireplace scene.

The entire place isn’t large but it’s not loud and the television doesn’t dominate like it would in a sports bar.

The bar itself is short, maybe a half dozen seats and their website doesn’t list any particular cocktail list.  What it lacks in size it makes up for in creativity and ardor.

The owner/bartender has a fantastic list of drinks on hand and while he won’t share the secrets of their construction he is happy to mix anything he can make with his selection.  The bar has an admirable amount of liquor on hand, including the first time I’ve seen Galliano outside of a liquor store.  There are even a few things on the top shelf worth exploring if you have the money and taste buds.  We spied a lined wooden case with a bottle of Extra Anejo tequila that runs about $65 a shot.  Other offerings are likely to be just as fantastic.

The drinks were eclectic but not arcane.  They varied in scope from a hot cider rum drink to something at attempted to quite successfully imitate a capri sun.

Alongside the drinks there was a wonderful menu of bar snacks and appetizers.  Like all of the food in the restaurant they were made fresh in house.  From Potato chips with a gorgonzola creme sauce to waffle fried chicken the menu pops with style and delicious offerings.

HopBoxer wants me to mention that they have 20 taps running with everything from Bud light to Total Domination IPA.  They also carry Cider, Framboise, Guinness and a rotating selection of very enjoyable items.

I’m going back as soon as possible, the place doesn’t allow minors but it is a comfortable locally owned spot and I would love to see the place succeed.

One thing to note is that the location is ballstastic.  There is a dry cleaner smack in front of them which means you can hardly see them from the street.  Parking isn’t fantastic but the little business park is seldom busy.  Drop by if you get a chance, maybe I’ll see you there.

Bar Review: Kask

One of those hidden gems in the Portland landscape is a tiny bar called Kask.  Situated on the back side of the Grüner restaurant on SW 12th it is so small you could blink and miss it.

With the bar it couldn’t have more than 25 seats in the entire place.  It is tight and close, dark and loud.  All of which is totally irrelevant.  The minimal decoration is all on the walls and around the front window.  There is some fantastic chalkboard art on the walls and behind the bar, but really what catches the eye is the bar itself.  It’s a smooth but uneven wooden bar that has character coming out the eyeballs.

Once you’re seated you’re in the power of a squad of well dressed cocktail masters.  The night I chose to visit was mid week and it wasn’t busy so we were able to bogart the attention of at least one of the two on duty at any time.

Their appetizer menu is short, but even item on it is crafted with precision.  The beet pickled, deviled eggs were purple and fantastic.  Their meat and cheese plate is presented on the menu front and center.  At $10 for two items and $18 for four it is a rather expensive appetizer.  I don’t think it’s intended for more than one person, the size of the portions wasn’t big enough to keep you going for long.  What is does do is play merry havoc with your taste buds.  The cheeses are all pungent and wonderful, the meats salty and thin.

Their antique looking bar menu breaks down drinks into base spirits and then gives three or so each of shaken and stirred.  Every single one we tried was amazing.  They have their skills in hand and know exactly what they’re doing.  Everything from their $5 daily punch to their negroni flip is worth taking out for a spin.

Their stock of bottles behind the bar is impressive compared to many places I’ve been.  I think only Oven and Shaker has a bigger stock from the places I’ve reviewed.  Their new bar manager was on hand that night and he was more than willing to indulge my curiosity with a couple of off menu choices.

I was able to order an original aviation with Creme Yvette , and we made up a cocktail on the spot with Coole Swan, House Spirits Coffee Liqueur, and cherry liqueur.  They didn’t have any Galliano but I think they will the next time I go.

I’m going back as soon as I can, hope to see you there.

Bar Review: Rogue Distillery and Public House

The Rogue Brewery out of Newport Oregon is a State treasure.  One of those fantastic stories of local guys doing things right and managing to employ a lot of people in the process.  They have, since their inception, expanded to distilling and from there have opened over a dozen pubs, meeting halls and drinking establishments around the state.

One of those places is the Rogue Distillery and Public House on 1339 NW Flanders.

Walking in the door is like being smacked in the face with fun.  It’s a well decorated paean to their products and their dedication to making a good quality potable.  The menu is a wonder, with everything from Kobe Beef meatballs to pulled pork sliders.  Almost everything on the food side looked amazing and I could barely make up my mind.

I was a bit disappointed that despite the name their distillery didn’t offer anything in the way of a tasting tray for their hard spirits.  They did have a taster board for their beers and with 38 multi-taps there is plenty to choose from.

The only downside is that you might want to pick your time to attend.  The location is in a good position to be close to Jeld-wen Field (about 9 blocks) and a Timbers game in the evening means a bunch of Portland style soccer fans whooping it up loudly in the bar.

There is a solid cocktail menu on hand, a good selection of full meals and bar snacks.  The Rogue distilled liquors are on prominent display and the prices are well within the average budget for lunch or a night out.

Bar Review: Gustav’s

While from the outside Gustav’s may look like a chain restaurant similar to the Red Lobster next door you will find a local establishment of very fine construction within.  Part of a chain of three German restaurants in the Portland area it does several things very well.

I went with a large party, the food here is somewhat expensive for everyday eating.  It’s also very filling which makes it a hard meal to throw off in an afternoon. We were celebrating a birthday and there aren’t a lot of great close in places in the suburbs where you can do family style eating before a night of good drinking.

A couple of bowls of fondue with sausage and some side plates of roast pork in apricot sauce started the night out right.

Now, I’m not an expert in table service.  I have never been a waiter or run the front of house, but it seems to me that you want to pay particular attention to groups that are having a mandatory 20% tip applied to their bill.

Drinks are usually the thing that comes first.  Regardless of what you order, how many plates, how many people or what is being bought, you get the drink orders started first so that the bartender can get stuff cracking.

Not everyone will drink. Out of a party of 15 let us assume that 7 of us are drinking and that 3 of those are beer, 1 wine and the rest are cocktails.  It should not take 15 minutes to make 2 cocktails.  On a busy Saturday with at least two bartenders working I should not get my fondue before my cocktail.

Now, the cocktail I ordered was a simple one.  A cocktail as old as time itself in some quarters.  I ordered a sidecar.  A sidecar is Brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice.  Depending on how you get your lemon juice it should come to the table relatively clear and with a sugar rim.

What I failed to see was that on their cocktail menu there was a drink called a Tuaca Sidecar.  Which is Tuaca, Orange juice and triple sec.  I’ve had a bad experience with Tuaca straight which I will relate at another time.  Now Cointreau is triple sec but triple sec is not Cointreau, and Tuaca is not a replacement for brandy.  So calling it a sidecar is doubtful when only one ingredient is the same.

The failure here was about 50/50 between myself and the server.  When she took my order she didn’t clarify that what I said sidecar meant the same as what she knew as a sidecar,  And I didn’t read every side of the cocktail menu to ensure there weren’t any landmines.

It took me a couple of sips to figure out there was a problem.  To be fair the drink was fine, but I wanted what I ordered.  They were very apologetic, and brought me an actual sidecar which was excellent and didn’t charge me for the first drink.

Other cocktails ordered off their menu were great.  The food was fantastic and everyone who ate came away stuffed.  I’ll go back, and I’ll eat, but I don’t think I will have anything but beer if I do.  Too much waiting for nothing all that fancy, and I don’t enjoy looking over the server’s shoulder to make sure I got what I asked for.

Cocktails average about $7.  Beer tasking menu if you’re curious.  Limited stock of top shelf stuff on hand but don’t try to get creative, they don’t have the stock for anything fun.

Bar Review: Jolly Roger – Johns Landing

Parked comfortably between I-5 and the Willamette river in a trendy semi-residential neighborhood the Jolly Roger appears to be a happy place to kick back.

I arrived in the company of friends, with nothing much in mind.  Adjust expectations accordingly.

I would classify this as a Beer Bar.  In the beer friendly environs of Portland the microbrewery is almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks.  It is therefore curious to find places where the PBR and bud light still reign supreme.  There were taps of various well known and well like concoctions but nothing that struck me as being particularly unique.  I’ll let the HopBoxer expand on that at some point.

The bar itself seemed to be poorly laid out for the space.  The door to the walk in freezer was situated smack dab in the middle of the bar area.  This means that shelves have to be built around it, and when the door is opened you can’t traverse the bar putting fully 3/4 of their inventory on the other side.  There was a nice selection of a couple of things. They seemed to have their Svedka selections down pat and more than a few top shelf items to round out.  All of their one off items and liqueurs seemed to be afterthoughts rather than solid inclusions.

Their drink menu offered something nice, each of the staff was allowed to make up a cocktail and put it forward for the public.  A nice touch that gives you an idea of what different people like.

The down-side of this appears to be the limited staff.  I saw two people on staff on a busy pre-holiday four day weekend, with only one behind the bar at any given time.  I chose an interesting sounding drink from the menu and when I asked for it the bartender didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.  I pointed it out on the menu and was told that it was a new menu and they weren’t all familiar with it yet.  When she made the drink she mistook one of the ingredients and I had to point it out to her, not sure how you misread splash of cream as splash of *cran* but there you are.

The atmosphere wasn’t bad, the inside seemed a bit cramped but there were plenty of seats outside on the sidewalk under an awning.  I’d go back just to give them another try but I don’t think it’s going to make anyone’s bucket list.