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Bar of the Week: The Hutch

Weekend!Life: It's easy to be a regular at this friendly spot
by: ©2006 DAVID PLECHL, Kevin Bishop, head chef at the Hutch, holds up the smoked ham, jack cheese and avocado burger, and grilled pork loin with an apple butter IPA cream sauce, served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

From the outside the Hutch looks pretty much like any dive bar you can find on any given street in Portland. But this place has history. The restaurant opened in 1925, making it one of the oldest bar and grills in the Portland metro area.

Walking in, you're greeted by exceedingly friendly bartenders and waitresses. Peanut shells litter the floor; you're free to help yourself to the roasted nuts from a huge plastic bin.

The current owners took over in 2005 and are appropriately named Mark and Marti Hutchinson. (The former owners actually had the same surname, although they are no relation.) After a year in business the latest Hutchinsons decided to give the joint a major face-lift. Their first move was to renovate the kitchen, a $30,000 endeavor.

Currently the front end is boarded up while they tear out some of the aging wood to install large windows, letting in sunlight and the street scene. They're staying open throughout the construction, and plan to keep some of the charming touches like the worn, yellow easy chairs and quirky little tables, reminiscent of the décor you'd find in an Astoria or Cape Cod beach cottage.

There's plenty to do at the Hutch besides drink from the full beer and liquor menu: pool, shuffleboard, Wi-Fi, good video poker machines (I've been running into lots of sticky, stiff ones that are hard to manipulate), live music most Saturday nights and occasional surprise karaoke. Even though it's chock-full of gaming options, the Hutch doesn't feel cavernous or crowded, just cozy.

On a recent Tuesday night, a nice-size crowd ranging from college students to hipsters to 40- and 50-somethings mingled and watched ESPN on one of the flat-screen televisions.

Eating at the Hutch may seem a little sketchy, but the food is solid, and the kitchen is one of the cleanest you'll see in a tavern. Thank new chef Kevin Bishop, who has been putting in long hours to revamp the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.

Basics like burgers, Buffalo wings and egg sandwiches remain, but there are surprises, like panko fish and chips and potato pancakes with bacon, sour cream and green onions. Bishop, who also owns Culinary Dreams Catering and formerly worked at the Rose Garden, plans to offer lots of pasta, seafood and chicken specials.

Dinner ends around 10 p.m., but the bar menu is served until close. If you like fried food you're in luck. The late-night menu is devoted to it, from shrimp to jalapeño poppers and wings, even a plate of deep-fried gizzards.

'The old guys love 'em,' one waitress said. It's sort of hard to tell the calamari from the shrimp from the chicken; they're all so deeply and uniformly battered and fried. But, after a couple of cocktails and smokes who really cares?

Happy hour is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday with $2.25 well drinks and a dollar off the beers on tap, which range from Budweiser to Stella Artois.

Breakfast, served from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, includes bloody marys, chicken-fried steak, biscuits and gravy and the usual montage of eggs, potatoes and meats.

Note for potential regulars: If you buy a cute, black Hutch T-shirt for $10 and wear it on Tuesdays, you're awarded happy-hour prices all night long.

- Brooke Myers

4606 N.E. Glisan St., 503-235-4729, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday