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Weekend Life: Bar of the Week

The Lucky Labrador Beer Hall

The new Lucky Lab in Northwest is eerily like the original Lucky Lab on Hawthorne. Same high ceilings, same warehouse ambience, same wooden furnishings, same long bar and same outdoor picnic table seating area packed with dogs and their owners adjoining the parking lot.

Lower Hawthorne wasn't much to speak of when the first place opened in 1994, so it's not surprising that the Lucky Labrador Beer Hall sits in an area of Northwest Portland that is still, to put it nicely, developing. This Lucky Lab location seems especially challenging - each time I've met someone there, they've called me, lost, for directions.

But the uniformly excellent microbrews should attract plenty of seekers of Beervana. The long list behind the bar advertises what's available from the many taps - and reveals the beer's potency as well. No one can say Lucky Lab brews don't provide bang for the buck - in many cases the alcohol potency tops 6 percent, and some hit double digits. This beer is complex, though; it deserves to be contemplated rather than chugged.

The menu doesn't deviate much from the mother ship, with sandwiches, a few salads and a range of bar snacks. I'm a longtime devotee of the delicious chicken and rice bento bowls with curry and sweet chili sauce.

But, after all this time, it seems like someone would have realized that a brew pub named after a dog that doesn't sell sausages is missing a real opportunity. And even the bartender one night agreed they should put in a pizza oven (they already serve pizza at the third Lucky Lab, located on Southwest Capitol Highway).

The beer list can be a bit overwhelming, and on two occasions the barkeeps have proven themselves exceedingly helpful, freely offering suggestions and tastes. But, a couple of other times, the people behind the bar have been so bizarrely unfriendly and disdainful of serving, the waiting customers were making jokes about ordering in NYC.

That's probably not going to fly in Northwest Portland where the population that thinks surly = cool is greatly outnumbered by young parents - with toddlers in tow and often a lab of their own, too - who just want a beer, and without any grief if little Violet or Henry dumps it over.

Tightwad Tuesdays have very friendly prices at least, with $1 off the in-house brewed pints.

- Audrey Van Buskirk

1945 N.W. Quimby St., 503-517-4352, 11 a.m. to midnight Monday- Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, minors until 9 p.m., $3.95-$6.95