Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lunch in the Very Real Bar of an Imaginary Hotel

Snow, Insanity and Lloyd Not Included
The Central Hotel was not very long ago a dive bar called St John's Pub or something. I went to a dancehall party in their back room a couple of times and it was the most black people I've ever seen converged outside of church since I moved to Portland. This historic building, the center of St Johns' charmingly antique downtown area has seen a few inhabitants over the past decade. As it stands, it is very much the dive bar of it's recent past, with a fresh coat of paint and new stemware, however the owners are working towards rebuilding the historic building back into it's former glory as The Central Hotel. The plans are grandiose to be sure, and it will be no small feat to build a multi level, ultra modern hotel in the middle of itty bitty St Johns. Well, as long as the cafe serves burgers I'm all good with it.

BURGER: A half pound of grass fed northwest natural beef on a lightly toasted grand central sesame brioche bun. With a few healthy leaves of butter lettuce, slices of tomato, red onion and  a slathering of mayonnaise (aioli? are we still calling it that?) The burger was beautiful, carefully constructed and  lit by a soft St Johns sunset filtered through an IPA. It's arrival was a bit of a swoon moment hampered only by the gut feeling that it was arriving much to soon to be medium rare. And then I bit into it, and my fear was confirmed. Just south of rare, just north of edible. Look,  I like a bit of the gore, but that shit needs to be cooked too. Halfway through the burger I had given up on the idea that at some point my tongue would hit paydirt of medium rare meat. HOWEVER, the potential for this burger was astounding. Just 3 more minutes on the grill would have guaranteed full marks. The meat was nicely seasoned and of high quality, and all the accouterments were on point. Crazy what can go down in 3 minutes, amirite?

FRIES; Run of the mill shoestrings with  a dash of kosher salt. No big whoop. I appreciate the tiny paper cup of ketchup because I know someone thought "Hey, you know what would class-up this plate? A paper cup half full of ketchup!"

SERVICE; I kid you not, as we were leaving the bartender/host/apparent owner called out to us, "If you have any investor friends looking for new projects tell them about us!" That would have been charming had she not said it to every patron that had left before us. After five or six good natured laughs it just seemed kinda sad. Kid friendly during daytime hours.

WHERE: 8608 N Lombard St. Portland. www.centralhotelstjohns.com