When craft-beer bistro Ankeny Tap and Table moved into the Buckman neighborhood, it posed a lot of questions.
Why drink there when Holman's and Beulahland were so close? If you wanted craft beer, why wouldn't you just go across the street to Coalition or around the corner to the Captured Beer Bus? And why would anyone pay $13 for a burger at a beer bar?
Related: Bar Review: Ankeny Tap & Table
As it turned out, Tap and Table thrived in a neighborhood occupied by transplants who preferred a fresh, clean and cozy place with a decent beer selection and food a tad more thoughtful than dive-bar fare. Its ownership has smartly taken a similar gamble in Northwest Portland, taking over the space recently vacated by one of the city's oldest brewpubs, Lompoc Tavern.
Avenue 23 Tap and Table (1620 NW 23rd Ave., 503-755-5055) won't ever be the best place in the area to get a beer—barring catastrophe, that honor will be held by Breakside for a good long time. The thing with this neighborhood, though, is that no one needs it to be Breakside, or the Old Lompoc. Like in Buckman, most residents just want above-average beer and a food menu that isn't an Oregon Liquor Control Commission-mandated afterthought. In that regard, Tap and Table is likely to succeed.
The 16 taps are diverse and gratifying, with equal attention given to mainstays like Ecliptic and Fort George as well as relative newcomers like Ruse and Rosenstadt. Offbeat picks from known breweries, like a cucumber gose from Buoy or an imperial IPA from Fremont Brewing, are respectable additions. There's something for everyone, save the occasional chin-stroking beer geek who probably won't be going here in the first place.
The food is mostly upgraded pub grub, with items like cauliflower elotes ($9) and an $18 New York strip cheesesteak sandwich sharing menu space with basics like truffle mac ($14) and fries with a duck-fat and rosemary option ($9). Your best bet, though, is to keep it simple with the Ankeny Burger ($13), which uses Munster cheese and a housemade fry sauce to add a bit of zesty smoke to a thick, juicy patty. It's not exactly fine dining, but you've definitely spent more for less in the same ZIP code.
Which brings us back to the age-old argument of Old Portland versus New Portland. The neighborhood loved Lompoc until it didn't, which reinforces the point that nostalgia will only get you so far in a place like Nob Hill. What gets you further these days is a sincere effort at filling a niche. So far, Tap and Table seems poised to export its winning formula to a part of town that hasn't strayed as far from its roots as some might think.