Nobody buys rounds anymore. But a photocopier saleswoman had just pulled $350 off the video poker machines at the Lighthouse Restaurant and Bar (10808 NW St., Helens Rd., 503-240-8827, lighthousepdx.com), and she figured it was her moral duty. "If you spread it around," she explained, "It comes back. That's how it works, right?"
Not everywhere. For 67 years, Linnton's nautical-themed Lighthouse has been a small-town bar at the edge of Portland, the sort of place where the owners also buy bar rounds on their birthday while long-bearded regulars play cornhole on the sidewalk out front with drinks in hand. The bathrooms are reserved for either "Gulls" or "Bouys," in a folksy misspelling preserved for decades. Except for the updated menu, you might not even know the place got new owners a year back.
New stewards Alex and Julie Bond have made a vocation out of buying and preserving die-hard spots for the people who still go there, from twee bakery Saint Cupcake to Clyde's Prime Rib on Sandy. They fell in love with the Lighthouse while on a motorcycle trip and took it over, keeping on the bar staff and the bottled beer selection. What changed was the food, with a much-improved menu from former Woodsman Tavern sous Will Boothe. The nachos are baked fresh, the voluminous Cobb salad is the same beauty served at Clyde's, and the chowder is filled with so many clams it might as well be a stew. Both the mammoth, airy onion rings and the tangy-sauced burger hit every mark they were meant to.
The bottled and canned beer selection stretches across four coolers, and nothing costs more than $4.50. The cocktails aren't fancy, but they're stiff. The next time anybody complains that all the good old bars are gone, the Lighthouse is where you should send them. Who knows? Maybe somebody will still be spreading the wealth from the last round.