10350 N Vancouver Way, 503-345-0300, jubitz.com/ponderosa-lounge-country-bar. 9 am-midnight Sunday-Wednesday, 9 am-2 am Thursday-Saturday. Happy hour 3-7 pm daily: $2.75 domestics, $4.50 select micros, $3.50 wells, food specials.
Jubitz is a self-contained trucker universe in the far north of Portland—maybe the only trucking empire whose family donates to charities and Democrats. The Ponderosa is its crown jewel, a 49-year-old country music institution that, on weekends, is a rollicking swing-dancing hall, home to secret after-shows by a touring Miranda Cosgrove or Brad Paisley. Some things are new at the old Ponderosa, however: After a seven-month renovation that finished in December, the depressingly fluorescent-lit game room is gone, the stage moved, and there's a second bar and better sound. For no particular reason, a woman on a recent visit was giving out free 1-ounce samples of Miller Lite off a serving tray. "I've had that," we tell her. She looks at us like we're a little dim. "Well," she says, "it's free."At the Ponderosa, Portland as a city seems to fade. The beer flows cheap, and it's the color of straw. You slow dance on the slow nights and fast on the busy ones. If it weren't so damn big, it'd be a small-town bar. Except here, everyone brings their own small town with them through the door.