Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sunshine on a Rainy Day

Dave and I had our first date at a tavern in The Dalles called the Sugar Bowl. These days it would be one of those neighborhood dives, with its smoke and stale beer smell, but back then it was a place to go after work and share a pitcher. This was before the advent of microbrews, when rebels drank Miller instead of Bud and Tuesday was Dollar Taco night.

Since then the old neighborhood tavern with its don't-look-too-close shag carpeting, worn barstools and pre-noon regulars leaning over the bar has become a disappearing species, replaced by bright brewpubs and shiny upscale restaurants with downscale menus that serve beer and wine. And I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing.

Take the Sunshine Tavern, the new Division Street venture of Lincoln's Jenn Louis. Decidedly casual, with a shuffleboard table as a retro-tavern centerpiece, it's aiming to attract that je ne sais quoi eastside Portland crowd of young families and hipsters.

We went with a friend the other night to have a bite and a beer and found it populated with the aforementioned demographic plus a sprinkling of gray-hairs like us. Dave's roasted pork belly was rich and very well made, though he could only finish half due to the fat content, and the fries were decent. I had their version of an oyster po' boy (top photo) with a fennel slaw that didn't overwhelm the crunchy freshness of the fried oysters, though the bun was just kind of bready and uninteresting.

The drawback here is the noise level, which even when half-full can get deafening, so my advice would be to go mid-afternoon when it's not as busy if you want to have a conversation with your tablemates. I've also heard the burger is good, and the rest of the extensive menu looks worth exploring. Expect a rotating selection of draft beers from NW breweries, as well as bottled beers and a selection of shandies and cocktails.

While it's not exactly the Sugar Bowl, I could see someone meeting a co-worker here for a post-work pint. After all, you never know what might develop after a few beers.

Details: Sunshine Tavern, 3111 SE Division St. 503-688-1750.

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