Bar Review: Marthas at Revolution Hall

With the opening of Marthas, the renovation of Washington High School has entered its “community hub” phase.

YOU'RE IN HIGH SCHOOL AGAIN: Gizmo is being a very bad boy. It's just after quitting time on one of the first truly autumnal days of the year. The runt of the dog park edging the patio at Marthas (1300 SE Stark St., 288-3895 ext. 3,, the cafe and bar on the ground floor of the Revolution Hall complex, is threatening to take his rubber ball and go home. This is in direct defiance of his mother, a dark-haired woman in a Nirvana T-shirt. As entertainment goes, this is it for tonight. But hey, it's not too bad, especially with a pint in hand. When Mississippi Studios and promoter True West teamed up to revive the long-dormant Washington High School as a mixed-use building centered on a concert theater, they envisioned the neighborhood that initially fought against it would eventually gather here, even on nights when the venue is dark. With the opening of Marthas, the project has entered its "community hub" phase.

On its own, the bar is fine. It is bright and high-ceilinged, mixing modern furnishings with reclaimed pieces from the building's school days. Sandwiches include caprese ($7) and barbecue tofu ($8). There are pizzas, and a $9.50 breakfast special that comes with a bagel, hard-boiled egg, double espresso, juice and a copy of The New York Times. The two-dozen rotating taps are filled with staple Northwest microbrews, available for $2.50 at happy hour. Compared to the refurbished auditorium and the stunning roof deck—now called "Marthas Lookout," though still only available for rentals—this place is the least remarkable aspect of the property. But through the chill of fall, it's possible to imagine its small patio filling with summer crowds watching people chase their mutts around the former football field before going inside for, say, a live podcast taping in the evening. Buckman could get used to this.

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