The cops were onto them, right from the drop.
The very first night of business at Devil's Dill, the late-night sandwich-delivery shop on Southeast Hawthorne, a man walked through the door and introduced himself as an off-duty policeman.
"We hadn't advertised, we didn't have a sign—there's no way anyone could have even known we were open," says owner Chris Serena. "He came in about 12:30 am and just grilled us about our business. I explained about our business, and it didn't really stress me out."
Well, until the shop started getting drive-bys.
"I started seeing police officers go by very slowly on Hawthorne, just looking in, then drive off," Serena says. "Then I had police officers following me a couple times. And only then did it occur to me, 'Oh, they probably think we're some sort of front.'"
Deputy Fife didn't make detective by busting Devil's Dill—despite sounding like The Simpsons' code for marijuana, devil's lettuce, it really is a sandwich shop that delivers house-smoked pulled pork rubbed with Chinese five-spice and topped with sesame slaw after last call.
But it turns out that Devil's Dill was a front of sorts. Because it was only through the successful sando sales that Serena was able to open No Fun bar.
No Fun sits next to Devil's Dill in a building that was once a Christian bookstore and is now a bar, a late-night sandwich shop, a marijuana dispensary and an iPhone repair store. It's a very rare bird in Oregon: a brand-new, bar-themed bar.
In a city where every new drinking establishment with a full liquor license needs to be themed as vermouth quaffery or Peruvian pisco palace to satisfy the Oregon Liquor Control Commission's food sales requirements, No Fun has No Shtick.
"Those are the kind of places I like to go—places where you go, and you're just there to hang out and drink," Serena says. "That's always the place I've wanted, a regular bar, and we could do that because of Devil's Dill. Most places have to end up running some sort of restaurant, and a restaurant needs more of a theme than a bar does. But since we had a restaurant that met all of the OLCC's requirements, we were able to just do a bar."
And it's been appreciated.
The inner eastside has seen a crop of flawed pubs in the past year, becoming a warren of stuffy cocktail spots and beery warehouses where ladies in Talbots petticoats stand around old wooden barrels drinking bière de garde that tastes like malted sweat.
No Fun is quite the opposite—a no-frills spot where you'll find the cool kids, like uber-scenester Bim Ditson, drinking Pacifico and singing karaoke on a Wednesday night. It's what Portland bars were before the moneymen decided to sell Henny slushies to the Beavertrons or create a tourist trap where you wait in a waiting-room-themed bar to get into a library-themed bar.
"We're just a cool hangout spot,"
Serena says. "All we wanted to be was a neighborhood bar in Southeast, and because of Devil's Dill we had the
flexibility to do that."