It’s the theme song to Cheers, the TV sitcom on lifelong bonds made in a Boston bar. Yet the words of the song ring true. My husband and I have always enjoyed a drink or three, especially at a local pub. When we lived in the Chicago area, we had a local spot, named Harry’s and my 6 year old had been there since he was three weeks old.
It had good food, good beer and a lovely beer garden. It was our Cheers.
But let me back up a bit. McMenamins are a big thing out here in the Northwest kind of like Lettuce Entertain You is in Chicago. However, McMenamins feels more authentic. It’s not a hodpodge chain of yummy restaurants of various fares. The McMenamin brothers started with a restaurant in the mid-1970s and it just grew from there. Today there are 65 McMenamins and each one is generally a historic structure, often on the National Historic Registers. They are former (and current) hotels, old movie theaters, elementary schools, farms or pubs that date back to the turn of the century. The preservation of the history really speaks to me.
Our Cheers is a longer stumble from our house than Harry’s was, but it’s got so much more. The now six-acre property belonged to the Imbrie family, which came to Oregon in the mid-1840s. There’s the main restaurant that I believe was a farmhouse, an octagonal barn that seemed to hold wedding receptions most weekends last summer, a super cool whiskey shack, a vegetable garden, an apple grove, outdoor seating area with picnic tables and fire pits and grassy plots of land where kids love to play among the 130-year-old trees.
And the food is yummy. It’s got typical bar fare, burgers, sandwiches, large salads, etc. But remember, Portland is a foodie haven, so there’s nothing typical about the grub here. The ingredients are seasonal and from local and regional growers. My favorite is the turkey sandwich. Sound boring? Oh, but it’s not. There’s this insanely yummy and perfectly tart cranberry relish, swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and a “secret sauce” (that must have a dash of crack in it) all between two slices of whole wheat grain bread.
I get it with their Tavern Green salad, which is a regular spinach-based salad, marinated red onion, grape tomatoes, cucumber, Parmesan cheese and garlic croutons. But the kicker is this smooth, thick balsamic vinagarette that has a huge dose of crack in it because I’m addicted. One night, I was writing there (free Wifi!) and I had to order a second salad because the first one disappeared too quickly.
The drinks are also pretty divine, it’s a brewery, so Hubby loves the beers, I like the selection from local wineries and the whisky shack, called the White Shed, has some spirits that will make hair sprout from your chest.
Clearly, we love our new Cheers, and I could keep going on and on about it, the homemade soups, the employee with 14 children, the flirty six-month pregnant waitress and so much more. But you’ll just have to go see it for yourself.