As a girl who grew up in Portland for the last 26 years, McMenamins has always been a part of my life. Whenever there was a causal celebration within our family, we seemed to be lured to McMenamins Fulton Pub right off of Macadam. I remember my parents loving the beer and us kids loving the garden burgers.
Now that I’m 26, my friends and I are on a quest to visit as many locations as possible to see what each historic building has to offer. Out of the 57 locations we have had the pleasure of exploring 40. Each has they’re own unique qualities.The Kennedy School at 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave. for example was originally an elementary school.
McMenamins has reconstructed it without taking away from the heritage. The walls are filled with historic pictures of the students, which will certainly give you the chills, the bathrooms are a flash back to 1915 with what looks like original fixtures and each little room has it’s own theme; The Detention Bar is an adorable cigar bar. All of the locations have similar stories that are clearly written on the walls.
But with all the choices I still prefer the Fulton location. It is a no drama, tiny location with amazing outside seating, that does everything right. They don’t try to get to fancy with crazy specials, they are what they have been for 25 years. Friendly and real. If you’re food is taking forever, they tell you why, or if you have to wait for a table, they quickly pour you a beer and tell you to take a seat on the curb. It’s a neighborhood joint. This similar feel is obvious at every location. And that is why I adore McMenamins as much as I do.
During the last few months in class at Oregon Culinary Institute, McMenamins continues to come up in conversation. Other students, most who are transplants from other cities, claim that McMenamins has terrible beer, horrible food and even worse service. If the new beer and food generation doesn’t understand their concept or for that matter like anything about them, then why are they soooo profitable I ask. The answer is “we” the locals simply understand and appreciate it for what it is.
We can’t get enough of the legendary crisp raspberry Ruby Ale, created at the Hillsdale location in 1985, or their wonderfully soggy french fries drowning in ketchup and Terminator Stout grain mustard. Not to mention you must give credit to Brian and Mike McMenamins for helping to create of modern-day brew houses, pubs and craft breweries, here in the Northwest. Without them we wouldn’t have the beer movement that is spreading like wild-fire throughout the nation. Maybe it’s because I’m so deeply rooted in being a “local” but I don’t care about occasional bad beer or long waits, I love it for the innovation and creative that McMenamins stands for.
I will continue to buy growlers of expensive beer and stay in rooms without bathrooms because I’m choosing to support a local business that I am proud of.