For all its supposed trendiness, Northwest 23rd Avenue's pub life is in a sad state. Especially before New Old Lompoc reopened recently, when Nob Hill Bar & Grill was the only barlike bar between two McMenamins that sit 10 blocks apart. So while The Fireside (801 NW 23rd Ave, 477-9505, seemingly splits its ambitions between bar and grill, you'll find us up at the boxy counter that greets you as you walk into the former Music Millennium space, now all dark wood and open windows. The fire is in the back—a pit with a sleek, black bottle-shaped ventilation hood that climbs up to the soaring ceiling—but you'll be comfortable in the padded, button-emblazoned bar stools up front. The Flat Creek cocktail ($8) was a little flat in flavor—an upmarket toddy with bourbon, Bärenjäger, black tea syrup and a dull froth of egg white and lemon—but the beer and wine lists are solid, as are the salty snacks. Grilled bread with olive butter ($3) would rightly be called buttered Grand Central Bakery toast with more butter, and postcard-thin strips of carrot and beet are rendered into salty, crispy chips ($4) with such zeal that they end up more like bacon. But that's welcome here, on what may be the most trafficked Portland thoroughfare in which beer and bacon are not in plentiful supply.