Friday, August 14, 2009

Produce Row Cafe

Tucked away on the wrong side of the tracks on the eastside, close to the river with only a roaring jumble of expressway lanes in between, is a gem of a pub: the Produce Row Cafe. It's also a part of Portland's craft beer scene history: it was the first bar owned by the McMenamin brothers, before they launched their sprawling brewpub/hotel/concert venue empire. Don't worry, there are no garish faces painted on the walls or hour-long Grateful Dead jams on the stereo -- not that there's anything wrong with that -- it hasn't been a McMenamins joint for many years.

Produce Row has that British Isles pub feel about it, with about 20 nicely chosen beers on draft, a decent whiskey collection, and hearty pub food. The beers are mostly Northwest selections. When the Pub Nighters were there Tuesday evening, there was a good selection including a couple beers from each of Laurelwood, Lagunitas, Terminal Gravity, and Anderson Valley, plus Hales Cream Ale and Stout both on nitro. There were five lagers available, one of which was Miller High Life, in case there are some drinkers of wimpy downstream beers in your party. There's also a reasonably-priced menu of beer and whiskey pairs ranging from $6 - $9 -- that gets you a pour of a designer whiskey plus a little 5-ounce glass of beer.

The interior is a very cozy place to hang out, but a lot of people consider the back courtyard to be the best real estate on Produce Row. It's so popular that there were several tables full on Tuesday night, even though it was so rainy that the tables and benches must have been soaking wet and the barmaid refused to venture out onto the slippery planks of the deck.

With a somewhat hidden location, out of sight sometimes leaves Produce Row out of my mind. That's part of its charm: it's not part of any trendy pub district, so it feels kind of like a hideout in among the warehouses and off-ramps. But it's not that hard to get to, and there's even pretty good bike access from most parts of town, since the Water Avenue bike lane dumps you off at Stark just a block away. It's also open for lunch, if you'd rather visit the warehouse district during the daytime. Check it out for a relaxing pint and a taste of local beer history.


  1. Produce Row,

    Please bring back the Cheese-Plus sandwich and make the patio smoke-free.


    Patron since the '80s.

  2. Berg: Was there smoking inside before the smoking ban? And now it got moved to the patio?

    If you want to get technical, I think the patio at Produce Row is an enclosed space for purposes of the ban, and can't allow smoking.

  3. "Produce Row has that British Isles pub feel about it.."

    Yes! It's dirty, old, worn out and it smells funny. You're right! Just like a lot of British pubs. ;-}

    Anybody notice the menu has changed...for the worse?