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Beer lovers not fooled by bars droopy decor

Bread and Brew • Migration, Apex and Fixin' To offer serious outdoor drinkin' fun
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT, The Landmark Saloon, a new bar on Southeast Division Street, has a large outdoor patio with smoking and non-smoking tables, beanbag horseshoes and ancient fruit trees in a huge side yard.

The mosquitoes have died off, and the evening air has that soft, affectionate feel that it gets when it's the same temperature as your skin. It's time to sit outside and drink.

A lot of bars have opened in this town since last summer, including a number that have dedicated serious space to outdoor seating - I've had time to visit four, so far.

Beer lovers will want to check out Migration Brewing Company (2828 N.E. Glisan St., www.migrationbrewing.com) and Apex (1216 S.E. Division St., www.apexbar.com).

Migration, which opened this spring, is serving its own brews - a pale ale, a cream ale and something called Honey Dew Ale - as well as guest taps from the likes of Oakshire, Upright Brewing and Double Mountain.

Salads and sandwiches form the bulk of the menu, and the outside seating is a wide-open lot full of picnic benches. It's not heavy on the atmosphere, but it feels homegrown: renovated warehouse meets Northwest picnic ground meets German beer garden.

With a very similar setup, Apex offers lots of picnic table seating in the open air - and, sometimes, the glaring sun. On hot days, it's more pleasant to grab one of the round tables on the shady threshold that is created by two open garage doors.

Apex has several draws. It's extra bike-friendly, with lots of bike parking and, inside, wooden cubbies to hold your helmet. There's a side room with pinball machines, and there's also one of the largest selections of beer in the city: more than 40 rotating taps.

Apex has no kitchen, but keeps a binder behind the bar containing the menus of nearby restaurants. Right next door is Taqueria Los Gorditos, an unremarkable burrito joint that specializes in vegan and vegetarian food. You can also get sustainable sandwiches from Artemis Cafe, across the street, or order a Hammy's pizza and have it delivered to you at the bar.

If you want to impress your beer geek friends, take them here - the beer selection is dizzying. But if dogs or cigarette smokers are included in your party, better head over to Migration, where both are allowed.

If you don't have a dog, you might want to borrow or rent one for a trip to the Landmark Saloon (4847 S.E. Division St., www.thelandmarksaloon.com). A droopy-eyed hound would be an appropriate accessory for this rambling old farmhouse. There are ancient fruit trees in the huge side yard, along with a shabby shed and tables made of rough wood.

Inside is an old-fashioned back bar and several sepia-toned rooms. The beers on tap include Rainier, and the cocktails are Southern-ish, including a sweet Sazerac. Outside, you can play beanbag horseshoes and chose between smoking and non-smoking tables.

The food menu is small: sandwiches, including grilled cheese and grilled peanut butter and jelly; chips and salsa, artichoke dip, and a 'Haystack' of chips with chili, cheese, salsa, sour cream and green onions.

A similar nostalgia hovers over the Fixin' To (8218 N. Lombard, www.thefixinto.com), a bar which also, coincidentally, serves chips topped with chili. Here they call it a Frito pie. The recommended cocktail is a St. Johns Sweet Tea, made with Old Crow whiskey, triple sec, muddled fruit and sweet tea.

The large patio of the Fixin' To is enclosed by corrugated metal sheets and a row of weathered doors. Strings of lights hang overhead. You could easily lose track of time, here - don't fight it.

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