Friday, April 09, 2010

Going Old School

Old school. Clubby. The kind of place where the bartenders know that a proper martini is made with gin and perhaps a whisper of vermouth, where umbrellas are in stands by the door, not put in the drinks. And the only fruit purée in evidence comes on the desserts.

Every city has them. Tadich Grill and Sam's Grill in San Francisco, and Jack's in Redding are a few that we've wandered into. Portland has Jake's and Huber's, the former now owned by the McCormick and Schmick's chain and a mere shadow of its former self, the latter so old my grandfather used to go there in the early part of the 20th century when he would bring his cattle to market from Eastern Oregon.

Then there are the newer places that have an instant old-school feel, like the bar at Higgins, popular with a certain class of upper-crust businessmen and lawyers feeling the need for a drink after a day at the office and before heading home to their families (with likely another drink to dampen the din).

And no wonder these guys like this place…it feels like a library or private club, the barmen (and women) in white shirts and ties taking your drink order almost before you settle into your seat at the bar. Its draft list is a well-curated selection of Northwest microbrews with a smattering of Europeans, backed by an impressive list of bottles from all over the globe.

The food I've had there on two separate trips was good if not great. The burger is of the less-is-more variety, with a medium-sized, medium-cooked burger on a nice bun with trimmings on the side. It's considered one of the better burgers in town along with those from Paley's Place and Castagna Café, but I had one that was just as good for four bucks less at Kevin Sandri's Garden State cart.

The house-made charcuterie board (above left) is very good, with a wide selection of owner Greg Higgins' best, more than twice the amount of meat you'd get for about the same price anyplace else in town. The bucatini pasta with nettle pesto and walnuts (above right) sounded good but would have benefited from less cooking on the pasta side and more zip in the sauce.

What it comes down to is that for a place to meet friends for drinks downtown, you can't go wrong here. Especially when you're in the mood for some schoolin' in old school.

Details: Higgins Bar, 1239 SW Broadway. 503-222-9070.


Anonymous said...

"more than twice the amount of meat you'd get for about the same price anyplace else in town" is that a recommendation?

The amount?, and what about the taste?

I reconstructed (sort of) the nettle-pesto pasta and it was great. It's the picture that inspired me so thanks a lot!

kab said...

Considering Greg Higgins is known for the quality of his house-made charcuterie (and rightfully proud of it), the comparison fits other charcuterie offerings that have a similar reputation. Order it with impunity!