Follow the boats for a fine evening
- Paul Duchene
- Portland Tribune - Features
Blinn's Boathouse in Lake Oswego offers seasonal delights
Blinn's Boathouse & Marina in Lake Oswego reflects the city's relationship to the seasons.
In the winter, patrons huddle cozily in the dark-paneled bar behind rain-streaked windows, perhaps contemplating the 46 malt whiskies on hand.
Then when summer warms the lake, they swarm onto the decks for barbecue specials, to bask in the sunshine and admire the boats.
Adjoining Lake Twin Cinema, the rambling building dates to 1939, when it was called Ireland's (the out-of-town one; there was another near Lloyd Center).
'There used to be dining in back and a cafe out front,' recalls Jim Borovicka who owns Blinn's with his wife, Barbara. 'There's a great picture in the (Lake Oswego) Heritage Council book. I have to get them to make me a copy.'
Blinn's has been expanded numerous times Ñ a captain's club is the most recent addition, planned so boaters could make reservations and be sure of getting dinner. Being on the lake has some disadvantages, of course; Blinn's was flooded to bar level in 1996.
'I walked by with my dog,' Borovicka recalls. 'They were swimming in here.'
But it's an ill wind Ñ or rain Ñ that brings no good, and Borovicka bought the place after the flood from a discouraged developer. He had actually owned it from 1984-87 as the Beachcomber but was happy to return.
Since 1997, Borovicka has expanded the outdoor aspect of Blinn's. He's added 20 slips where summer boaters can tie up, raising the total to 28. He reckons there are 800 boaters on the lake, and the restaurant has an antique boat parade annually Ñ this year it's on Aug. 24.
Accommodation for 120 diners jumps to 200 in summer when the decks are pressed into service.
'We have the barbecue going every night, it's a whole different atmosphere,' he says. 'It's a seasonal restaurant, no doubt about it.'
Tropical Tuesdays are another summer feature, adding a Jimmy Buffett atmosphere.
Veteran Portland pianist Daryl Kaufmann plays from 7:30 to 11:30 every Saturday night, as he has for the last five years. Before coming to Blinn's, Kaufmann played at the Heathman Hotel, and some of his regulars still come by.
'He brings in people,' Borovicka says. 'If I had music five nights a week, nobody would want to leave.'
Borovicka, 48, traces his start in the restaurant business to John Rian's Fish and Ale House in Raleigh Hills in 1970, followed by a stretch at the Veritable Quandary beginning in 1979, before he bought the Beachcomber.
Gloria and Randy Hale are regulars at Blinn's and even have their names on brass plates on the bar, 'though I don't know what my mom would say about that,' Randy says.
The Hales say that even though it sounds like a clichŽ, they like the place for the same reason the television bar Cheers was so popular.
'It is like everybody knows your name Ñ we always feel welcome here,' Gloria says.