Sandy Huts second wind
Driving by, it's not hard to imagine the Sandy Hut in its early days, in an America flush with postwar moxie: crisp martinis, jukebox Sinatra and sizzling steaks at a time when red meat had no known downside.
Inside, a mural by the late New York Times caricaturist Al Hirschfeld Ñ rumored to be an original Ñ still adorns one wall. But there isn't much else to tie the place to that earlier epoch.
The atmosphere now is more along the lines of thrift-store chic, '80s music and $2 Pabst Blue Ribbons in the 16-ounce can, yet the smoky, low-ceilinged place at 1430 N.E. Sandy Blvd. is enjoying a new heyday.
'Now, it's a total freak joint at night,' says former owner Neil Anderson, who sold the establishment three years ago after a six-year run but remains a regular. 'The people that go in there don't eat. They just drink. Wait till
1 o'clock, and it'll be wall to wall.'
Juan Coronado, an unemployed bike messenger and skateboard enthusiast, lives a block and a half away. 'I've been coming here for seven years at least,' he says. 'It's never been like this. It's far busier.'
'During happy hour, we have a crowd of people that have come in for years, all of your blue-collar workers,' bartender Christen Galipeau says. But that group is gone by late evening, he says, replaced by a vibrant mob with an average age that drops into the low- to mid-20s.
Coronado, 33, approves of the new demographics. 'Old men are great. I love partying with the old dudes. But when there's girls around, you're going to choose girls. A dive bar is a dive bar, but girls are girls.'
The place occupies one of several small triangles of real estate carved by Sandy Boulevard's diagonal journey through inner Northeast, where there's a good chance the next-door neighbor is a car dealership or a storage warehouse.
'It's had so many peaks and valleys, it's unbelievable,' says Anderson, the former owner. 'It's been a hot spot before. Everybody in town went to the place in the '50s and up until the mid-'60s. In effect, it's a landmark.'
The landmark and its rock-pile exterior are painted a bright lavender now, which seems to work for the young hipsters who inhabit the modest neighborhoods west of Laurelhurst.
At 11 p.m. on a recent Thursday, every bar stool was filled and only one booth sat empty. The jukebox, loaded with everything from Leonard Cohen to Nickelback, got a nonstop workout. Televisions had been calibrated to a deft mix: an all-sports network, the movie 'Beetlejuice' and a disturbingly graphic reality show. The pool and shuffleboard tables and video poker machines were taking heavy play.
'We'll get hit around 1 o'clock,' Galipeau says. 'I think that's people that are coming from downtown. This is a little safe zone for that last hour and a half.'
'I like the fact that it's crowded,' says Josh Ogden, a delivery driver for Pizza Roma on Southeast Woodstock Boulevard. 'People are cool. I have no beef with anyone in here. Why would I have a problem as long as the bartender is serving me?'
And here are the numbers that matter: Microbrews and well drinks, $3; domestic drafts, $2.25; 16-ounce PBR cans, $2. Call brands start at $3.50 and top out with the bar's one cognac and two single malt scotches at $6.50. The kitchen offers a full menu until 10 p.m. Ñ 11 p.m. on Saturdays Ñ and serves appetizers until closing.
'Because there's so many regulars, you get to know everybody,' Galipeau says. 'Everybody gets along really well. It's kind of like your own living room.'
Northwest Oregon Conference