In our brief stay in Pendleton, multiple locals recommended Cimmiyotti's, a much beloved place that went out of business a few years ago and has been revived by new owners. It is a very night place in terms of both ambiance (elegant Victorian house of ill repute) and food quality. They were very busy the night we visited and did a very poor job of even touching base with us as we waited an hour and half for our food. There was no excuse for this (even when you are swamped you should touch base with a each customer once in a while), but it appears that under normal circumstances there are no such problems.
The current Rainbow Cafe is the oldest business in Pendleton, Oregon and the first brick building in town, est. 1883 as State Saloon and Banquet. It is now a classic diner and dive bar, with historic photos and collectibles on the walls, along with some nice neon, much of it capturing the town's old west theme and famous rodeo. It had a major remodel in 2006, removing many layers of paint to expose the original brick facade and restoring the original neon sign. We chatted with some nice folks there, especially Rocky, who gave us some tips on this and other places in town.
209 South Main Street Pendleton, OR 97801 - (541) 276-4120
Est. 1883 (as State Saloon)
"The Pub," in Kennewick is like a typical neighborhood dive bar that has been stretched out to ten times its rightful size. Walking along outside it, the building seems to go on forever, and when you step inside a good part of one side is filled by a 70-foot bar -- the longest in the state of Washington.
7001 W Clearwater Ave, Kennewick, WA 99336 - (509) 735-7868
Est. year - Building constructed: year
WaMu Theater is a medium sized (3,300, 4,000, or 7,000 seat configurations) event hall just south of the ballparks which for some reason retains the collapsed bank's name. It is utterly charmless, but the sound is decent after some upgrades, and there is a bar area behind the grandstands where they are happy to serve you dive bar quality drinks at craft cocktail prices.
800 Occidental Avenue South Seattle, WA 98134 - (800) 745-3000
Est. Nov 3, 2006 - Building constructed: 2006
Previous bars in this location: None
Web site: wamutheater.com
Owned by the same folks who own Pearl Bar & Dining, this new place in the Bellevue Hyatt aims for "a new American Tavern," with craft cocktails, and "approachable" American regional dishes. (In order to form an opinion, I must come back for more than this quickie bite and drink in their off hours.)
900 Bellevue Way Northeast #100 Bellevue, WA 98004 - (425) 623-1125
Est. March 1, 2012
Previous bars in this location: Twisted Cork
This is another craft beer public house from Seth Howard of downtown's Collins Pub and Lake City's Hudson Pub. This one is very much in the model of Hudson, with a good selection of beers, a woody but fairly plain design, and slightly upscale pub food. With all the places one can get great beers, the attractiveness of this place for me will depend upon the kind of crowd it attracts and vibe they create. During this visit it felt a little lifeless, but they were just getting started, so it remains to be seen if it manages to establish a sort of neighborhood vitality.
The Cloverleaf is an old neighborhood bar known for its unique pizza,
and particularly the thin, compressed shell pizza crust. It's a kind of
hybrid of an old dive bar, a sports bar, and the sort of family
restaurant that has photos of the long-time customers and colored
pictures by kids on the wall. The help are hip and friendly, with a
reasonable set of beers on tap. The first time visitor certainly must
have the famous pizza, but be prepared to wait 45 minutes for their
special special crust to bake.
Their menu describes the ownership history:
"Pat Nolde and Mike Ball started the Cloverleaf Tavern in 1950. Jack
Collimum and Al Moody were owners between then and October 1960 when
Larry Turco purchased the business. In 1961, Larry brought in the pizza
recipe from a business interest he had in Ponders. Larry did well at the
Cloverleaf Tavern, but decided to sell to Lennard Manke January 1,
1971. Lennard continued a thriving business until his retirement. He
sold the business to [his employee and daughter-in-law] Debbie Manke on January 1, 2004."
6430 6th Avenue Tacoma, WA 98406 - (253) 565-1111
Frosty's is a big, bustling, barn-like place that has been in Napavine, Washington for a long, long time. The bartender told us that Frosty's has been a bar in its current
location and with the name Frosty's since 1901. I haven't seen any
primary sources verifying this, but they have liquor licenses going back
to at least 1903 framed right on the wall. The oak back bar itself is said to date to 1902.
The building is roughly split in two with a family restaurant side and a bar side. The food is American pub food, with burgers, salad bar, etc. The bar sometimes features a ghost, which is dressed like an old logger and is presumably an old customer who has found nothing in the afterlife to compare.
113 W Front Ave Napavine, WA 98565 - (360) 262-3980
The Merwin Tap is one of those places that you assume is a tiny dive from outside, but more capacious -- with an area for live bands -- than expected. It seems like a fairly typical dive bar, although bartender Jen gave us a colorful illustration of some of her experiences with a ghost that frequents the place, and showed us a photo where mysterious faces show up in the window of empty building, over the shoulders of a group shot out front. She believes the building was constructed in the 1930s.
Ghostly faces in background detail, Merwin Tap photo
134 Davidson Ave Woodland, WA 98674 - (360) 225-7339
The Timber Room folks do not appear to be big online types, so basically all I know about the place is what I heard from the folks there when we visited. We heard it is now the oldest building in Estacada -- exact age was unknown, but "18-somethin" (the town was founded as a camp for dam workers and incorporated in 1905, but it's possible some structures pre-date that). We heard it used to be the bank, with a whore house upstairs. We heard explanations of some of the history painted on the walls outside, including the naked bikers coming through, the naked horse rider, and one or two people shooting up the place. We heard the room next door used to be the Trails Cafe, but it was now just part of the Timber Room. And we heard that people sing karaoke in the cafe room, while everyone else sits in the room with the bar.
Before describing this weird and wonderful bar in a small town 30 miles southeast of Portland, I feel obliged to offer a personal note about, well... the future of mankind.
My personal view is that as of the late 20th and early 21st century, big game hunting for sport is an atavistic, and borderline neurotic activity. I don't seek to impose that view on others (beyond protecting endangered species), but it seems fairly clear to me that society is moving increasingly to embracing this view, and that at some point in the future the common view will be that such activities are aberrant symptoms of a possible sociopath, comparable to our view of someone who violently beats their dog.
That is while humans once felt that watching wild animals kill and eat humans in a coliseum was a delightful sort of entertainment for adult and child alike, as they once believed it was bemusing to hang a caged cat over a fire and listen to its howls as it fried, and as they once thought it unthinkable that society or neighbors should interfere with how a man might choose to beat his own animals, the general extension of human compassion to ever larger groups of humans and other sentient beings changes what we find acceptable over the generations.
That said, I don't think we should impose these values upon the past, and we certainly should not seek to avoid reality -- realities such as the natural role hunting has played in history of mankind, or that the fate awaiting many big game animals in the wild was much more savage and painful than a bullet from a hunter's gun. That savagery, along with simply the extraordinary range of wildlife around the world, is the major theme of the "Legendary Safari Club" in Estacada, Oregon. And while I might not support a newly created place like this, I am delighted that some new owners preserved and restored this one.
The Safari Club is a restored wonderland of taxidermied animals from around the globe. Most of the animals were the property of famed hunter and Estacada resident Glen Park, who sold his lumber company and built the place in 1970 to display his trophies from 23 hunting trips in 6 different countries. The animals are arrayed in several very large displays, and with an emphasis on predation. Most the large exhibits include faux blood running from the gashes of some unfortunate beast become a meal. Full size polar bears (yes, plural), every kind of bear, lions, tigers, buffalo, big horn sheep, hyenas, a mountain goat, a muskox, moutain lionso, elk, on and on -- they attack their prey in natural museum quality displays, leap out from over the stage, stalk each other around the bar. The club claims this is the only place of its kind in the world, and it is easy to believe.
"During the '70s and well into the '80s, the Safari Club boomed under the
management of Park's son, Mike Park. Residents recall the packed dining
room, the dancing and live music, and the lounge waitresses dressed in
leopard print uniforms." (oregonlive) But as the lumber industry in the area died out, business waned. It became a Chinese Restaurant -- the Jen Jen Safari Club, and the Hong Kong Lounge. The animals were increasingly damaged and gradually removed from view.
Finally, they were almost sold off just before the current owners had a chance to restore them:
"Negotiating the Purchase of the business in Aug.,
2011 we learned that all of the animals had been sold & would be
removed from the Safari Club. So, we made the Animals part of the
negotiations in order to 'save' them & they will be staying where
they belong...at the Legendary Safari Club." (legendarysafariclub.com)
In September 2011, business partners Cindy Smith and Betsy Clester purchased the club, and after preventing the animals from being sold out from under them, restored the taxidermy and displays, and reopened that October. The drinks and food are pretty average, but unless you live in Estacada, this is entirely beside the point. Despite many trips to the Portland area and friends in the area, I had never heard of the "legendary" club until I won a free dinner there in a tiki event in August 2012. It is basically out in the middle of nowhere but such an extraordinary stop that it is well worth the drive for anyone living or visiting in northwestern Oregon or southwestern WA.
116 Southeast 4th Avenue Estacada, OR 97023 - (503) 630-3208