Welcome to your new favorite bar, Portland.
Rose City Book Pub (1329 NE Fremont St., 503-287-4801, rosecitybookpub.com) has all the makings of a Portland cliché—craft brews, staged poetry readings, rows of old and obscure books and bargoers chatting in hushed tones about their favorite James Joyce and Virginia Woolf novels. But don't be deterred by appearances. The simple bar manages to fuse two of the city's trademarks—beer and used books—without a drip of pretension.
That's in part thanks to owner Elise Schumock's decision to keep the décor and layout nearly identical to the convivial and well-loved Irish pub that inhabited the space before Rose City Book Pub—County Cork. The public house's scuffed wooden booths, makeshift stage and Irish beer signs are still around. The few small aesthetic changes include repainted teal-and-yellow walls and, of course, added rows of bookshelves.
The drink menu is simple: 18 local beers on tap and four wine options. An appetizer-heavy menu boasts a hearty cheese plate ($9), chopped Italian salad ($10) and pulled pork shoulder with roasted Brussels sprouts ($15).
The pub's books, Schumock told WW prior to opening, are from her and her parents' own collection (her father used to interview authors on KBOO's Between the Covers, so look out for signed copies). During the bar's grand opening celebration Nov. 3, poets and bands performed as hoards of beer-guzzling bibliophiles shuffled through the small space, browsing the rows of books stacked endearingly without a semblance of organization.
This isn't a bookstore you enter seeking something specific. It's a humble, well-curated selection, presented for carefree browsing and happenstance discovery. Plus, the bar's inviting atmosphere and free-flowing beer taps are a recipe for a rare Portland occurrence: chatting with strangers. Don't go expecting opulence. Do bring a childlike eagerness for discovery in the pages of beautiful books, and don't be surprised if you unearth similarly novel tales in conversations with the people sitting right beside you.