Portland Notebook: The Barley Mill

I HAD A HANKERING – I wanted meat, and I wanted beer. But a simple burger joint would not do; I also craved atmosphere, a dark pub corner where I could hunker down over a hearty ale and dive into a book, or a place to sit back and feel the currents of Portland’s Southeast side. Belly grumbling and mind determined, I straddled my bicycle and set out into the streets.

I cruised over to Bellmont; at first I found only a rowdy sports pub, but I hopefully explored the sidestreets. Delightedly I stepped into an apparently quiet, candlelit spot only to find a couple pounding shots at the mostly-deserted bar, hooting and cheering after each drink they threw back. This wasn’t it.

I wheeled back to Hawthorne Boulevard. I paused at several spots, and even stopped to ask a couple dining al fresco at a pizza joint for a recommendation. They pointed me towards a restaurant down the street that looked a little too fancy for my mood, but I thanked them anyway and meandered in that direction. Standing on the sidewalk and feeling the onset of hunger pains I considered settling. But then I saw it, a corner bar with red neon light oozing from its windows; my thirsty soul had an inkling, and I followed my intuition beyond the doors of The Barley Mill Pub.

Hung on the walls was decor paying tribute to the Grateful Dead; the interior was cozy, all wood with dim lighting. I took a booth seat and looked at the menu to find that my search had been well worth it; there were burgers galore and local microbrews on tap. I ordered a burger with Canadian bacon and local Tillamook cheese and a pint of the “Terminator” stout. I sat back for a moment, feeling victorious, and then cracked open my book to dive into the dark world of Frederic Prokosh’s Asia.

The burger was phenomenal, the beer both rich and quenching. The atmosphere of the moment felt as thick and finely crafted as the brew I sipped.

After sitting for a while, a friendly couple named Danny and Daria – both with dreadlocks flowing from their heads – came up and asked me about what I was reading (Daria said she’s always looking for book recommendations). We learned snippets of each others’ stories, and as they moved to leave I said out of habit, “Well, maybe I’ll see you around.”

But I was just a traveler passing through; Danny lived in Portland, and Daria was about to catch a plane to Florida that night. And so she replied with an honest smile, “No, you probably won’t.” I reflected on her words for a moment as they walked out the door; the pub was just a juncture, a venue for the random occurrences of life, from which we would all eventually depart. Then I burrowed back into my book, turning page after page, my head swimming in the night.

Edited: 01.15.2008

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Recaps from the Road:
This is a snapshot from TDT’s Tour de Cascadia.

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2 Responses to “Portland Notebook: The Barley Mill”


  1. 1 Geean January 16, 2008 at 7:14 am

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  2. 2 So Cal Kango Beach Girl January 26, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    as always, delicious.

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