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Bar of the Week: East Burn

Odd seating, Skee-Ball keep bar swinging
by: DANIEL SAVICKAS, Joe Mitchoff (right) and Terry Amundson talk up a possible Skee-Ball league in the East Burn’s Tap Room.

Don't let the name fool you: The East Burn, on East Burnside Street in the building that once housed Nocturnal, is not as uncreative as its name makes it sound. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

Mike Bender, a 10-year resident of Portland, enlisted the help of his brother, Matt, a bar owner in Philadelphia, to move to Portland to join him on the East Burn venture - and their two-month-old bar provides plenty of options.

The main level of East Burn is spacious with table seating for dinner and a nice lounge area, which relies on skateboards as tables. The menu contains everything from a $7 burger to a $23 hand-cut N.Y. strip steak, some vegetarian options and salads, and plenty of creative appetizers, which make up the majority of the late-night bar menu.

The nonsmoking bar is large, with plenty of types of liquor and eight beers on tap. Live acoustic music is featured on the stage at the front of the house Wednesday through Saturday nights; Thursdays feature local singer-songwriters.

Off of the main room an outdoor patio with a retractable roof hosts several concrete-top tables that have swings for chairs. The wooden seats, with back support, hang from chains fastened to the patio high above.

In addition to the swinging chairs, which are comfortable and fun to sit in, the patio features tabletop fire pits and the area is friendly to smokers.

The annex, which is an additional kitchen-style lounge off of the patio, offers wine and scotch tastings as well as beer pairing events.

The basement of East Burn, a separate bar area called the Tap Room, offers a different feel from the relaxed, yet fine dining, ambience of the main floor. The dimly lit bar contains two of the Bender brother's favorite things from their childhood, 25-cent Skee-Ball and a free slot-car racetrack built in to the wall in the corner of the room.

The wraparound red tile bar features two flat-screen TVs and a pair of old snowboard decks for additional counter space. A couple of hanging wicker chairs provide some unique seating, in addition to the bistro tables spread throughout the room.

The Tap Room, a separate bar area in the basement, has eight different draft beers as well as the same liquor selection as upstairs. Happy hour, known here as 'recess,' is daily from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. with deals on draft beers and well drinks. The Wednesday drink special is $2 off all call whiskey, while Thursday offers the same deal for tequila.

A booth near the slot-car track hosts DJs Friday and Saturday nights, and Sundays feature two movies with five-for-$5 cans of PBR and free popcorn.

The recess crowd is laid-back and not all that big. But the crowds grow, as do the games of Skee-Ball and races at the slot-car track, as the night progresses. The outdoor patio often turns into a place for smokers to congregate.

Bender says to watch out for an eight-week competitive Skee-Ball league in the fall.

The entire menu can be ordered from the Tap Room, and although its fancy presentation requires a fork to eat it, it's a nice touch to be able to get a $9 order of calamari peppadews with basil and a balsamic reduction sauce over a bed of marinara while playing a game of Skee-Ball.

- Daniel Savickas

1800 E. Burnside St., 503-236-2876, www.theeastburn.com, 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, the Tap Room 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. daily, 'recess' 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily