Morgan’s Pub

If there are three things Tall, my gentle giant, loves, they are food, being included, and terrorizing villagers for sport.  When he found out I would be doing restaurant reviews as part of this blog, and that he could help, he was onboard.  He was upset when he found out we wouldn’t be stomping on any thatch roof cottages, but you can’t have everything.

We headed down 17th Avenue one Saturday afternoon, after deciding we would eat somewhere based solely on its outward appearance.  We noticed how many shitty facades line 17th.  There were places with their windows covered in brown paper, buildings with signs that hadn’t changed since 1952 in the worst way possible, and just a bunch of ugly restaurants.  Tall kept admiring the wrong buildings.  He pointed and said “That would make a nice restaurant.

“Tall, that’s a bank.”

“I know.  I’m just saying, it would make a nice restaurant if it wasn’t a bank.

Eventually we saw 1410 World Bier Haus.

Not a bank

It fit our ascetic standards, so Tall charged across the busy road, glaring at cars like the Incredible Hulk.  Brakes squealed in horror, and I waived my apologies at the terrified grandmother as I followed behind him.

1410 had a line at the door.  It was supper on Saturday, and there was a playoff hockey game on T.V., so the place was packed.  Tall wasn’t waiting for food.  He tried to scare the villagers, but Canadians care more about hockey than hungry monsters, so we started to backtrack.  Then we saw Morgan’s Pub

This guy danced for us

We headed in, and even though there were big screens on every wall, facing each seat, broadcasting the Canuck’s game, the place was half empty.  There was a stage for live music, but the radio was playing.  Tall noticed the music was great.  It was all classic rock or hard alternative, but never so heavy that it would alienate people who weren’t fans of the genre.

The only problem was the ceiling:

What is that and what does it want?

Look at that.  What is it?  I’m sure it’s not a problem, because there’s no way a health inspector could miss it.  It just looks terrible and dirty.  Tall went red in the face because he was afraid to breathe.  It was seriously disconcerting, and we both kept noticing it.

Our waitress came, and my initial read on her was she was used to being one of the boys.  You know, that cool chick who drinks beer and never orders just a salad, and plays video games and talks smack, and you almost forget she’s a girl when you’re not looking at her.  On top of that, she was friendly in a brash sort of way that I think exudes confidence.  Tall didn’t take such a liking to her.  She was a couple of years older than us, and while she was in good shape, she also had an asymmetrical haircut, really short camo shorts, and Ugg boots.  He thought she was trying too hard to act younger than she was.

I really don’t care why a girl is wearing short shorts and boots, as long as they wear them.

I started with a vodka coke and chicken spinach dip.

Brilliant!

  Honestly, I don’t know why I never thought to add finely chopped chicken to spinach dip.  It was tender and delicious.  It made a good thing better and more filling than usual.

Tall felt that a restaurant can be judged by their steaks, as a cooked slab of beef on an open flame is the highest cooking art in Alberta.  So we both tried it.  I won’t be making that mistake again.  The cut was weak and it was pretty bland and chewy.  Tall’s was undercooked.  It wasn’t inedible, just very disappointing.

Looks good, but once it's in your mouth, you'll be sorry.

Then the bill came and turned everything around.  We paid next to nothing for our food, drinks, and appies.  The bill showed the truth of Morgan’s Pub.  It’s a place to go and hang out for hours.  Seriously, I don’t think I’ve found a pub downtown where I could afford to do that until Morgan’s. 

I’ve decided that while as a restaurant, the steak leaves them with 4 stars, they score 4.5 as a bar, because if I had considered them as such, I would have just had the delicious appetizer, and only the ceiling would have bugged me.

Tall is less forgiving than me, and awards only 3 stars.

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Star Breakdown:

Joey As Restaurant:

Drink Star

Price Star

Staff Star

½ Food Star

½ Atmosphere Star

Joey as Bar:

Drink Star

Price Star

Staff Star

Food Star

½ Atmosphere Star

Tall

Drink Star

Price Star

Food Star

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A Cabin in Bend

Chris and Akiyo asked Gilly and I if we wouldn’t mind leaving Portland for one night during our visit.  They seemed hesitant, like they thought we might say no.  Chris believes the city is an endless source of constant amusement.  As it’s not Vodka City, capital of the Island of Hot Desperate Women, I don’t feel the level of awe that he sometimes seemed to expect from me.  There’s a resort town in Eastern Oregon called Bend, and Chris really wanted Akiyo to see it.  Gilly’s up for pretty much anything, as long as it’s not my idea.  Akiyo was able to convince her boss to give her a day and a half off in the middle of the week, so we made reservations for Wednesday.    

As Bend is a three hour drive, we couldn’t take Chris’s car.  It’s a two-seater green convertible, and it’s as cool as it is impractical.  We decided to rent a  car, a Toyota Corolla, and we headed off after lunch.  We went through Gresham, an endless suburb of Portland.  It goes on into eternity, a hopeless wasteland of strip malls and lower middle income housing.  I quickly learned why Chris calls it “Fucking Gresham” under his breath every few moments; the place begs for contempt.    

We continued on, and Akiyo fell asleep in the back.  Apparently, she does this on any trip over 10 minutes long.  Gilly was reading beside her, some kind of smart person book with a title I can’t be bothered to remember.  (And to think, someone gave me an English Literature degree).  As we headed through the mountains, Chris and I kept playing with the radio, trying to keep a strong signal on a decent channel.  Gilly politely informed me if I didn’t leave the radio alone, she may resort to murder.  Concluding I would be the most likely victim of such an act, I turned the music off.    

Canadians, have any of you ever used chains on a car?  As we headed up Mount Hood, sign after sign insists they are required.  When I asked Chris why, he said they’re for snow.  I still don’t understand.  Are they to tie to a trailer hitch to pull you out of a snow bank?  Do you wrap them around your tires like tank treads?  I’ve driven in snow since about the first time I got behind the wheel, and I have never needed them.  Chris seemed certain that any snow would mean sudden death for all of us, a tragedy that would be easily averted if only the rented Corolla had chains.  My offer to drive if he got scared did not go over well, and we kept going, chainless, due to my challenge of his manliness.    

Really?

Really?

Seriously, though, fuck chains.    

We crossed the mountains without incident, and the landscape became more familiar.  It was full on prairie, interrupted by river valleys full of coolies.  The rest of the car is amazed at how sparse, flat and dry it is.  I was worried I would fall asleep, so I glance back at Gilly to see if it’s safe to turn the radio back on.  She reads me like a children’s book and shakes her head.  Murder was still on the docket.  Chris and I started telling tasteless jokes about nuns.  Gilly decided we could have the radio back.    

One of several entrances

One of several entrances

In Bend, we were staying at Old St. Francis School.  Chris told us the story of the McMenamin Brothers.  They started running a micro-brewery several years ago.  Using the profits, they started buying several interesting properties in Oregon, and turning them into resort hotels.  This used to be a Catholic school, but now the classrooms have been turned into hotel rooms.  The rest of the school’s facilities have been converted into guest services.    

At the front desk, we found that because we booked our rooms together, we had use of one of the cottages.  It turns out that the school used to provide lodging for some of the teachers on the grounds.  Eventually, these homes were used for classes, before they were converted back into cottages.  We were in the Art House.   

Our Cabin

Our "Cabin"

I don’t know why they called it a cabin or a cottage.  It looked like a house, just with exceptionally bad paintings on the wall.  The faces were scary, and the colour was a bit like old puke.  

Those walls *shudder*

Those walls *shudder*

  Apart from that single visual complaint, it was amazing.  We had a private kitchen, a breakfast nook, a full living room, and the bedrooms and bathrooms were off a little hallway.  It cost about what I would have expected for hotel rooms, not a full on set of conjoined suites, which we literally had.  

Out our backdoor was a courtyard with tables and bonfires. 

Bonfires don't photograph well...

Bonfires don't photograph well...

  Yeah, full on bonfires.  There was a cigar bar with a complete food and drink menu in one corner, and anything purchased there could be consumed around the fires.  However, you couldn’t smoke cigarettes, just cigars.  I really don’t know how that worked.   

There was a normal restaurant, but we were more interested in the eccentric parts of the resort.  They had a movie theatre with a bar and food, but we couldn’t agree on any of the movies.  Chris likes cheesy 80s movies, like Romancing the Stone.  Gilly goes for chick flicks or kid’s movies.  Akiyo speaks English really well, but really prefers if a movie has subtitles, either in English or Japanese, to make sure she understands what’s going on.  No one but Kodie shares my taste in movies, so they weren’t even playing The Convent.    

 

  

The Greatest Movie Ever

The Greatest Movie Ever

 

We decided to give theatre a pass.    

Old Saint Francis School also had a soaking pool, which is like an extra large hot tub.  When we lived in Japan, the four of use used to go to onsens together, which are Japanese public baths.  Chris glanced in through the window in the door to see how similar the facilities were.  He quickly jumped back with a devil’s grin and said something in Japanese that I didn’t catch.  Akiyo was aghast and Gilly laughed. I peered through the window.    

The room on the other side was gorgeous.  An old chapel had been converted to hold the pool.  A skylight and high stained glass windows let in natural light.  The walls were painted with murals of monks working vineyards.  Steam rose from the water, which entered the pool through a gentle fountain in the center and the lion statue in the corners of the pool.  The eye was most drawn, however, to the long haired man sitting on the edge of the pool.  He didn’t appear to be wearing anything, but details were blocked by the girl in the tiny bikini and a tramp stamp.  She stood in the pool, pressed against him, and trying to crawl down his throat tongue first.    

“Oh,” I said as I stepped back.  Gilly took a peek but Akiyo was too crept out.  That would never happen in a Japanese onsen..  We decided to go get our swimsuits, on the official hope that they would stop by the time we returned.  I tried to hurry everyone along because I think it would be funnier to interrupt them and see what they would do.  Despite my best efforts, Poolguy and Trampstamp are gone by our return.     

We soaked, and discussed how that would never happen in Japan, partially because onsens are nude and gender segregated.  Co-ed onsens came up, but Akiyo told us only creepy old Japanese grandfathers go to those.  Gilly piped up “No, creepy young English teachers go too.”  She inclined her head to indicate me.     

“So that’s a no on making out in the soaking pool then?”    

She didn’t answer, as more people came through the door, providing her resounding no.    

After an hour or so, we dressed, and passed an old gym which had been converted into a live music venue.  Like everything they had a full food and drink menu.  A bunch of middle aged dudes were playing slow folk rock.  Akiyo wasn’t familiar with the genre.  “Are they good?”    

“Not really,” I told her.  “I doubt the good bands play on Wednesday night.”    

We decided to spend the evening in the Fireside Pub instead.  The place had an enormous hearth and pool tables.  We had an incredible meal.  I loved their Devil’s Grin beer, and the garlic knots and wood-baked pizza were superb.  We were there for quite a while, mostly because Akiyo wanted to grab a seat by the fire.  We waited until the girls at the nearest table left, and ate desert by the fire.  The chocolate brownie was a s good as the rest, but we may have overeaten a bit. 

Fireside for dessert

Fireside for dessert

We headed back to the cabin in time to catch The Daily Show and Colbert Report.  Akiyo had trouble following either show, and feel asleep by the first commercial break.  Chris and I prefer different programs, so I insisted Gilly decide which was better.  She chose Jon Stewart either to spite me or, more likely, she didn’t quite get Colbert yet, and needs to watch more of him to really get him.    

Here’s the very best part though; in the morning at Saint Francis, someone leaves a basket on the front porch.  Inside are a newspaper and fresh ground coffee.  It was right there, waiting for me, and it was amazing.  I drank a little over half a pot before we had to check out.  If you’re ever in Oregon, you need to check out a McMenamins’ resort.    

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Just try to follow Joey on Twitter.  Just try.