As part of my 2017 challenge, I will be reviewing both intriguing eating establishments and strange locations throughout the greater Portland/Vancouver area. My first choice of the year was the Jolly Roger at 1340 SE 12th Ave, Portland, OR 97214.
Whenever you eat at a themed-restaurant/pub, you expect a certain type of decor. For the exterior of the Jolly Roger, as seen in the images below, they have the mast with their logo and some pirate-themed phrases on the side of the building.
Not over-the-top, but enough for some random passerby to recognize that they are about to walk into a themed-restaurant.
Once you walk inside, however, almost all the themed decor disappears.
When you step inside, you’re standing inside of a dimly lit bar. I guess you could argue that the dark and dingy lighting re-creates the feel of being in the hull of a pirate vessel, but that would be stretching the truth. If I were to transport you from wherever you were into this bar, it would take you a while to recognize that you were actually in a pirate-themed place.
Just check out these pictures if you don’t believe me.
By the way, PLEASE forgive the quality of the interior pics. When I say dimly lit, I am NOT exaggerating!
It’s not that the area is devoid of any pirate-themed attributes. It just feels like whoever did the decorating either went with the most Hemingway-minimalist approach possible, or, after they were done decorating a bar, they remembered, “Oh yeah, pirate stuff. What do we have?”
Most of the pirate decorations are pics on the wall, though there are a few mirrored portholes to give the vague implication that you might be inside of a ship. All of the walls are wood, which is a nice touch. Some of the wood is more shingles rather than paneling, which I thought peculiar.
Here are the few bits of pirate paraphernalia inside the Jolly Roger. I think my favorite has to be the bathroom signs.
Even though they have very few pirate decorations for a supposedly pirate-themed restaurant/bar, I do give the owners massive girl points for including this little gem in the bathroom:
I cannot tell you how many bars I have been in that did not have a place to hang my purse and coat in the bathroom. Heck! I’ve been at upscale stores and restaurants that neglected this one detail! I’m not sure if the owners of the Jolly Roger chose this shape of hook specifically, but I kind of hope they did, because to me this shape always looks like a fighting octopus, which would work well with a pirate-themed place.
How’s the Grub?
My partner and I were in this area of town running some other errands, and we chose to go to the Jolly Roger for breakfast – believe me, I was just as surprised as you were that a pirate-themed bar was open for breakfast. I was equally surprised to see a food menu with so many options.
Most of the food was simple, good old-fashioned home cooking. You get a good amount of food for what you pay, and the low prices make this cheapskate one happy camper!
I ordered the breakfast sandwich. The buttermilk biscuit bread had a good texture of softness, but thankfully didn’t crumble as I bit into it, as can happen with biscuit bread. Delicious and savory bacon! The scrambled eggs were average, but cooked appropriately. I am not normally a fan of melted cheddar – I just don’t like the taste that much – but on this sandwich it worked. Besides the sandwich, I was given a heaping helping of hash browns. I prefer cubed hash browns, and these were the fried mass of grated-up potato kind, but they were cooked enough that they were decent.
I did a cursory scan of the rest of the menu, which included sandwiches, burgers, and other common meals cooked-up fast and fresh at diners. That said, nothing really stuck out on the food menu. After all, this place is a sports bar first. It is NOT family friendly, and doesn’t allow anyone under 21 inside. Their priority is to get you drinking, and the food is only there to either help you sober up or give you a reason to stay a little longer and drink some more.
In other words, the food is decent and tasty, but not necessarily anything to write home about. Since this Jolly Roger is located in a neighborhood full of unique food trucks and other local restaurants, they are not even trying to beat out there competition in terms of food. What makes them stand out is that they have a nice, warm building, lots of alcohol, 10+ TVs for sports watching pleasure, and a small gambling gallery.
Would I Go Back?
If I were in the area, I might try their lunch or dinner menu, because they have good prices, but with so many other interesting food places nearby, I don’t think I would go to the Jolly Roger for food. As it is a sports bar, and I’m not exactly into sports, I’m not even sure that going there for drinks would be all that interesting for me. If they had more pirate stuff and kept up with the pirate-theme, then that might make it a more interesting bar for my personal tastes.
Ultimately, I see this sports bar/diner like a frat boy going to a Halloween party.
He didn’t plan out his costume, and/or he didn’t realize he had to have a costume until literally an hour before the party started, so he ran to the nearest store and put something together that vaguely looked like a pirate costume. After all, he’s just going to the party for his friends, the food, and drinks, so what does he care about how he looks?