Best Mystery Shot
You're in a crowded, windowless former bowling alley packed with young dive-bar aficionados and older honorary dive-bar citizens. There's so much going on at Cully's Spare Room (4830 NE 42nd Ave., 287-5800)-—an inebriated woman screeching out what sounds like "Careless Whisper," a KJ blowing a sax solo, a small man in a sequined hat playing air guitar—that you can't be burdened with choosing a drink. So let fate do it for you with the Mystery Shot. Give the nice lady $2.50 and roll the dice, literally. She'll look at the number you roll, then walk to a row of six fifths concealed in paper bags. She'll pour you a generous shot of what could be anything, but will probably be butter schnapps, amaretto, cheap cinnamon whiskey or some other sugary shit nobody would actively choose to drink—or, worse, some combination thereof. You will laugh and ask what you just put in your mouth. The bartender won't tell you. But regardless of what unholy concoction you just drank, that warbling massacre of George Michael's velvet voice is instantly better. Must be fate. AP KRYZA.
Best Bong for Lovers
Imagine this soon-to-be-common newlywed conundrum: You and your partner plan to save a slice of wedding cake to eat on your first anniversary—only to get baked, forget why you saved it and eat it a week later. Had you ordered The Original Wedding Water Pipe from Factory West Studio—a two-headed bong customized specially to commemorate your nuptials—then perhaps you'd have an even more appropriate way to celebrate your decision to remain couch-locked and in love for the rest of your lives.
"It's a beautiful thing that will last a while," says co-creator Heidie McCall. "People can use it on birthdays, their anniversary—it's a two-chamber event!"
Like most great ideas, McCall hatched the idea for the bong with her husband, Doug, while spit-balling concepts in a haze at their studio in Vancouver. With a four-week lead time and a price tag of $350, it's a whole different beast from a plastic Roor bong you'd grab in a pinch from Mellow Mood. But this is for your wedding.
The McCalls have been bringing their pipe dreams to life since 1985 and are known for the Bing, a customizable bong that's a mere 4 inches high. Heidie McCall is pursuing a collaboration with Tres Shannon and Cat Daddy of Voodoo Doughnut, and has an optimistic outlook on what the normalization of marijuana culture might bring to the commercial prospects of an ambitious pipe maker such as herself.
"Paraphernalia is gonna be everywhere in the next few years," she says. "Shoe stores will have bongs that look like shoes—it's coming! I'm always thinking about the future. This is gonna happen, I just know it!" PETE COTTELL.
Southeast Portland paperboy, Vietnam veteran, natural foods and herbs merchant, running partner, style king, visionary, entrepreneur, risk-taker, raconteur, great boss, philanthropist, son, brother, loving father and grandfather, beloved husband, loyal friend.
These are the ingredients listed on the side of a handsome, dark-gray tin containing Steven Smith Teamaker's Blend No. 1949. Of course, they're really bits and pieces of the story of a fabulous local's life and times in the exotic world of tea. If you've had a sip of tea the past few decades, you've probably had one of his creations—first Stash, then Tazo, then his eponymous label. Blend No. 1949 (the year of Smith's birth) was created as an homage to Smith after his death in March from cancer at age 65. It sold out two months later. Memories of Portland's singular tea shaman, though, remain with us. As the tin says, Smith is "the most uncommon name in tea."
No. 1949 is a blend of first and second flush Darjeeling—known outside the U.S. as the Champagne of tea. More important, Darjeeling was Smith's favorite, as he always felt a strong connection to the small municipality in West Bengal from which it drew its name. He was married there. He knew every producer there on a first-name basis. And now he's remembered by the product that binds that city's name with his own.
For those interested in sampling Blend No. 1949, stop by his company's atelier on Northwest Thurman Street and ask for Bungalow. It produces the same light-to-medium-bodied, aromatic, flavorful brew. RICHARD MEEKER.
Best Side-Street Roadhouse
Let's make this clear: The Deer Lodge is not a bar. It's not entirely uncommon for newish homeowners to transform an otherwise disused garage with a built-in bar top, a vinyl-based sound system, and muted Mariners games shown on a TV overhead. Three separate taps of craft beer might be a tad extravagant, but the Deer Lodge can't be the only backyard watering hole selling T-shirts online. Still, Ezra Meredith's Foster-Powell garage haunt, music venue and recording studio feels like a well-worn dive bar, and wears its heart on its walls, with Kris Kristofferson set lists overlapping vintage beer signs, rumpled Blazers banners chock-a-block with faded Nashville glossies, and the keepsake that inspired the whole thing: a deer head Meredith got as a gift.
"A friend of mine killed it with a bow when he was a kid," he says, "and he gave it to me because his wife didn't want it in their house. So, we put it out here in the garage and made a bar around it—mostly because we thought it would be funny, but also as perfect conduit to the studio."
The deer is now the lodge's namesake and logo, wearing the goggles of Seattle street performer Spoonman given to a young Meredith by his mother. The studio has since recorded a who's who of local Americana luminaries over a dozen years—Star Anna, Fernando, Hook & Anchor, Copper & Coal—and released albums from Drunken Prayer and Hearts of Oak (along with an all-star George Jones tribute) on its own in-house record label. A performance venue seemed the next logical step, so Meredith had a sizable covered cedar stage constructed across his smallish backyard from the bar and instated a summer concert series with monthly shows from local and touring artists. This year's lineup includes appearances from Sassparilla, Mike Elias of Denver, and Sarah Gwen.
While crowds max out at 50 or 60, parking remains a continual worry. But there's talk of an eventual bike rack. After all, at this especially Portland honky-tonk, the most precious bit of memorabilia lies propped up on the Deer Lodge stage. "Yeah, that's Elliott Smith's bike," Meredith shrugs. "We're storing it for him." JAY HORTON.
Best Delicious Brand Betrayal
You know the story: Stumptown put Portland coffee on the map, and it did so by carefully sourcing beans and then roasting them lightly enough to preserve subtle flavors that were baked out by Starbucks. Most of the city's other finer coffee houses do the same. Which, great: light roast coffee makes excellent drip and French press coffee.
However, in my personal opinion, which should in no way be construed as an official statement on behalf of Willamette Week, light roasted beans make for terrible espresso drinks. When condensed by steam and pressure, those pleasant fruity notes become acrid and sour. To me, light roast espresso usually tastes like spoiled orange juice. Which is why my favorite espresso drinks in town come from Umbria, which roasts traditional Italian-style beans to pull wee shots of fudgy, nutty, rich espresso.
Well, third-wave heroes Stumptown now finally make an Italian roast that's quite suitable for Italian-style espresso.
Sadly, when it comes to making it, you're going to be on your own. None of the Stumptown's company shops carry the beans, and neither does any other coffee shop where you can get a skilled barista working on them.
"That's retail only," said a very nice barista at the original location on Southeast Division, clearly bending over backward to not be an insufferable coffee snob. "It's not really what we do, but we have it for grocery stores."
Specifically, they carry it at New Seasons. If you have an espresso maker at home, you're all set. If not, invest $30 in an Aero Press, grind your dark brown, glistening, almost leathery beans, to between medium and fine and get your water to 200 degrees. Then put in two filters to increase resistance and press as hard as you can. You won't get true crema, but it's still the best espresso I've had from Stumptown. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Best Downtown Hideaway for New Moms
Tucked behind the employee-only Coke machine on the first floor of Portland City Hall is a tiny, hidden oasis for working moms. This oasis is, technically speaking, a "lactation room," i.e., four beige walls, a few chairs and a couple of electrical outlets. It exists so City Hall employees who are new moms have a private place to pump breast milk. But the room is often empty, and guards won't blink if any old mom stuck downtown for a meeting and toting a Medela Pump in Style backpack asks to use it. A whiteboard in the room attests to the space's community value. On it, grateful moms, including elementary-school teachers leading field trips downtown or lawyers on break from the nearby Multnomah County Courthouse, scrawl heartfelt thank-you notes to city leaders. BETH SLOVIC.
Best Best Place to Pregame for Timbers Games
Bring cash to the best place to pregame for a Portland Timbers game. Otherwise, you can't tip.
"Tipping's against Fred Meyer policy," says the bartender, rolling his eyes ever so slightly. "So, no need to tip."
You'll want to tip. Because if you hang out at the little pub tucked by the deli inside the newly remodeled Stadium Fred Meyer on West Burnside Street, you're going to be filled with the spirit of generosity that comes from beating the system. At nearby bars, poor, dumb bastards suffer a slew of indignities while trying to drink one $5 non-Widmer beer before having to join their bescarfed brethren in taunting injured players from opposing teams with a complete lack of pity.
The Fred Bar (my name) has been open since late last year, and it has pretty much everything you want before a soccer match. The bar consists of 12 stools, tucked away by a deli case, with Elvis Costello's "Radio Radio" playing from a stereo, and a handful of other Timbers fans milling about. Behind the bar are two TVs showing soccer, a handful of beer taps and a long lineup of wine available by the glass.
Food-wise, it's over to the hot deli case, where on my visit pulled-pork sliders with coleslaw on pretzel buns were selling for $1.50.
Oh, and one other thing—there's free parking at the store's lot across the street from Providence Park. Technically, you're not supposed to stay in that lot long enough for stoppage time, but what are the chances they're gonna tow you? MARTIN CIZMAR.