Blue Moon Tavern & Grill

Last night I was disappointed and pleasantly surprised by McMenamins, all at once. Which pretty much sums up my life's experience with them.

The disappointments generally are outweighed by the pleasant times, which is why I keep going back.

Last night my wife and I and a bunch of friends (including JLowe and his missus) were all going to go to the Mission Theater to watch a movie, drink beer, and eat. When we got there, we found that the movie time was different from the listing that we'd read, so we scrambled to find an alternative. As I looked, through the magic of web-enabled cell phones, for other movies, the rest of the group agreed that, really, they were mostly just interested in the eating and beer. Which was fine with me.

So we headed a few blocks west to The Blue Moon, a McMenamins restaurant and bar located on the southeast corner of NW 21st and Glisan.

I've learned a few things over time about McMenamins restaurants. Don't expect good service. Don't expect consistent food. Always order tots. And only go there if beer is an essential part of your meal.

There were four couples in our party. There was plenty of seating, at 7:30 on a Friday, which was curious to me. The restaurant itself is neat looking, has a section near the bar with some pool tables for folks who want a more tavern-esque experience, and yet also has substantial sections of wall that can slide open on nice nights such as last night, to give the open-air effect. The only reason not to be there would be if you were looking for consistent food and/or good service.

Each of the fellows in our group ordered themselves a pitcher of beer. Really, that's the only cost-efficient way to handle things. Each pitcher is 3 pints, and for most guys that's just the right amount for a nice sit-down dinner where you plan on hanging with friends for awhile and chatting. My wife had a Ruby, JLowe's wife had a lemondrop of some sort, my friend Dave's wife stuck with water, and I don't remember what the fourth wife got. I had the Nebraska Bitter (which I liked quite a bit). JLowe opted for the porter, and the other two fellas got Hammerhead, which is my usual choice.

To start, we ordered two orders of tots for the table. I highly recommend the Cajunized tots, which are sprinkled with spicy stuff and are always delicious. We also had the regular tots, which I didn't like because they exposed some sort of odd taste in the oil. Of course, that didn't stop me from eating some of them.

We went on to scan the menu, which for me is generally a mere formality. My food choices at the McMenamins joints are usually pizza of some sort, or the Communication Breakdown Burger. I decided to diverge from the norm, though, and go with the Captain Neon. Something about bleu cheese and bacon was sounding mighty tasty last night. And, on the side, more tots.

Now, the surprise. Our server was (for the most part) very attentive last night, and the food was served rather quickly. And it was delicious. All perks, because I generally resign myself to poor service and slow food delivery at McMenamins, the trade-off being ample beverage.

For my wife and I (and keeping in mind that I had a whole pitcher of beer and we decided to pay for the two orders of tots we'd bought for everybody) the bill came up to about $37. Not that bad, really.

My parting thoughts? If you're looking for pub-type atmosphere, McMenamins is never a horrible choice. You'd do better, generally, at Concordia Ale House. You'd do worse, generally, at Widmer. If you're going to McMenamins, though, don't expect great service, order some tots, and buy pitchers, not pints.


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Anonymous said...

The last time I was there was a rainy Sunday early afternoon. There were fewer than ten tables and the server forgot our order! I ordered the special and my husband ordered a burger. We watched two tables come in, order, and eat before the guy (not Florian!)even realized. I know we could have/should have been more assertive, but as you say lousy service at almost any McMenamins is a given that we just expected it. We didn't tip.

Service at any McM's is so uniformly subpar, you wonder if it's by design.