When the Thirsty Lion sports bar left downtown Portland after 10 years, its owner John Plew said it was because the streets of Old Town had become too rough.

Our bartender at Alderman's Portland Tavern (71 SW 2nd Ave., 971-229-1657) thought that was ridiculous.

"Compared to the downtowns of other major cities?" he says. "I mean, this place is safer than downtown Eugene."

IMAGE: Abby Gordon.
IMAGE: Abby Gordon.

Indeed, it's hard to imagine terrible things happening inside Alderman's, a sparsely decorated pub in the former Thirsty Lion space loosely themed after the elder men of Portland. A drawing of city founder Francis Pettygrove adorns the window, while Stephen Skidmore presides over the shuffleboard table declaring that there should one day be a fountain that could slake the thirst of "men, horses and dogs."

The new owners have made a few upgrades since the Lion fled town, notably a copper bar, a much-improved taplist including both of the best Pilsners in Oregon (Pfriem and Upright), and a stiff and cheap cocktail menu that includes a very boozy $8 IPA Manhattan whose ingredients are exactly as they sound.

A cavernous sports barn with Blazers banners on the walls and eight TVs showing FIFA World Cup qualifiers on our visit, the pub has also made efforts on the food menu. The tortillas on the pulled pork nachos ($10) were baked fresh, the kraut is house-pickled and the pastrami house-smoked. The bacon and blue cheese burger, though a hefty $15, included an estimable quantity of both beef and pork.

It is, all in all, an admirable clean-up job. As for what had to be done in Eugene?

"Well," our bartender told us, "they banned all the dogs."