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New eastside bars a cozy adventure

Bread & Brew


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Powerful brews and woodsy appeal are the thing at aptly named Beer on Southeast Stark Street, where owner John Stewart works up one of the beverages.Cozy is the new black. Sleek industrial spaces are gradually developing a softer side, as exposed brick gives way to reclaimed wood and the utilitarian glare of exposed filaments makes way for glowing hurricane lamps.

This trend was very clear to me during the past few weeks as I toured some of the eastside’s newest bars. With personalities of their own, they all created some version of gathering around the fire.

Well, OK — at the Cardinal Club it was just space heaters. On an especially cold night, they were scattered across the dimly lit space. The owners, working the bar and floor, were extremely kind, and even wheeled one of the heaters to our table.

The new club is on Northeast 28th Avenue’s restaurant row, in a space that had held a superannuated Chinese restaurant. The Cardinal Club is still very new, but right now, it’s an unpretentious oasis in a very busy scene. There isn’t a cocktail menu — just order what you want — and the food is an eclectic mix of calamari, empanadas, sandwiches and deviled eggs. We enjoyed the music all night, only noticing as we left that it was coming from a genuine, vinyl-playing record player.

Farther east on Burnside, the austerely named Skin and Bones Café has been transformed into the more artisanal-sounding Tannery Bar. Here the cocktail menu requires careful consideration. Locally made spirits and esoteric liqueurs go into house creations like A Pear in the Forest (with Clear Creek pear brandy) and vintage recipes such as the Bee’s Knees and the Seelbach Cocktail.

I could taste the quince in the Quince Jones — a slightly funky fruitiness, sweet and sour — rounded out with bitters and citrus, on a base of House Spirits’ White Dog, a kind of moonshine. The Remember the Maine is a very 1890s mixture of rye, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering, absinthe and bitters. It’s milder than it sounds, a mellow manly drink in tune with the old-fashioned food on offer.

The Monte Cristo sandwich is impressive — surprisingly light, yet totally fulfilling. Not weighed down by batter, the layers of bread are airy and crisp, draped with savory meats and melted cheese. A side of marionberry jam is not an afterthought. It adds a new dimension to the sandwich, making each bite a trip from breakfast to lunch to dessert, like Willy Wonka’s three-course-dinner gum.

The Tannery also gives shepherd’s pie a much-needed makeover, with strata of rich lamb and tasty mashed potatoes.

Cocktail paraphernalia and flickering light make the space feel like the little hut in the forest where a mysterious old woman concocts herbal remedies. Apparently the villagers are a little afraid of her — during happy hour, the Tannery was peaceful and quiet, while the Tabor Tavern next door was mobbed.

There’s a different kind of woodsy appeal to Beer, the bar attached to the sandwich shop Meat Cheese Bread. Here the look is more 1970s aprés-ski, with lots of powerful beers to keep you warm.

Beer hides in plain sight, both on the Internet (try Googling “beer Portland”) and on Southeast Stark Street, where its unlit sign and deceptively small facade make it easy to miss. In fact, back behind the narrow front bar there’s a big, wood-paneled social room. It’s all decked out with vintage beer signs and rows and rows of bottles. It’s a bottle shop as well as a bar, but there is no food or hard liquor. Until 7 p.m. you can bring in the excellent sandwiches from next door, and after that, other food from the area.

But really the name says it all — this is a place to sample some rarer local brews on tap, or delve into an imported bottle. You’re surrounded by scruffy beer geeks, yet you somehow get a funny feeling that at any moment, a man with a very fluffy blonde mustache and a cable knit sweater might sidle up to you and ask if you’ve ever skied by moonlight.

Just a few blocks away, Base Camp Brewing brings the outdoors in, with tabletops balanced on boulders and a giant canoe hanging from a high ceiling with little lights that imitate stars. A sensitive young lumberjack plays acoustic guitar in the corner, and the bartenders use a small torch to toast marshmallows for the beer.

Yes, the stout is served with a toasted marshmallow, stuck to the rim of the glass like a wedge of fruit. It’s a gimmick that works surprisingly well. The full-flavored stout leans to the bitter, coffee side and a whiff of caramelized sugar goes nicely with the taste. The IPA is good, too, with a subtle finish rather than a typical Northwest wallop of resin-y hops. There are nine house beers on tap, and a little wood-burning pizza hut outside the front door, as well as a food cart serving Middle Eastern food.

The theme at Base Camp is outdoor adventure. Lighted panels behind the bar depict various strenuous activities involving rivers, snow, dogs, helmets, and a cabin in the woods.

Cardinal Club, 5 p.m. to midnight Wednesday-Thursday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday-Saturday, closed Monday, 18 N.E. 28th Ave., 503-348-0763, www.cardinalclubportland.com

Tannery Bar, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday), 5425 E. Burnside St., 503-236-3610

Beer, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, 1410 S.E. Stark St., 503-233-2337

Base Camp Brewing, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to midnight Thursday-Saturday, 930 S.E. Oak St., 503-477-7479, www.basecampbrewingco.com

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