BarFly’s Take on Foster

Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 7.29.43 AMFoster does some things well.  Not all, but some.

For example, Foster is very accommodating to OMMP card holders.  Foster also does an amazing job of getting cars quickly from outer SE Portland to closer-in neighborhoods, even if with little regard for people living/walking there.  Tires and boobs?  Foster does that well, too.

What we really do well, though, is get people drunk.  From the Pod Bar at 52nd and Foster, all the way to Shimmers at 81st, there are at least 18 places to get a drink.  In other words, on average, you’d never have to walk more than two blocks to fill up.  On some blocks, all you have to do is turn left or right and you’d be at a different bar.  My inner alcoholic loves that.

But not all Foster bars are created equal.  And Portland BarFly has a particularly candid, and sometimes unflattering, take on what the Foster bar scene has to offer.

Smokey's Renovation IIHere’s a look:

Smokey’s Tavern
        “Creepy little dive inhabited by Foster Blvd.’s undesirables.”

Undesirables?  Come on, Foster doesn’t have any of those.  Ok, how about a bar held in higher esteem.  Well, a sorta-bar:

Bar Carlo
        “It’s a bar only sort of: it’s open till merely 10 pm, brunch is its biggest draw, and the liquor is served from a coffee bar. Really, it’s like a cozy living room for a decidedly un-cozy neighborhood, where old ladies might get dotty on some Bailey’s and coffee in the early afternoon, and the old-school, floor-to-ceiling paneled windows keep the place impossibly bright till sunset…”

Un-cozy neighborhood?  Sure, there are some un-cozy features, but Foster’s come a long way.  Let’s try one that’s decidedly more bar:


        “Never too crowded, there’s almost always a pool table open, drinks are stiff and reasonably priced with bizarre daily specials likely invented that morning, and the patrons – a blend of blue collar types and aging hippies dotted with those laborer bohemians peculiar to the area – couldn’t be friendlier. An honest to god real jukebox spins a connoisseur’s blend of metal, blues and classic rock….
         “…And how’s this for unexpected quality booze cushioning: stone-hearth-fired pizza, with homemade dough and sauce. Totally wouldn’t have seen that coming; so glad it’s there.”

Ok, that’s better.  Still, a quick generalization of the clientele.  Moving on…

Gemini Lounge
        “Remember Brown’s? No? Remember Reno’s? No? Well, the Gemini Lounge is taking over that space on Foster, hopefully to greater effect.”

Not Brown’s…not Reno’s?  That’s BarFly’s stamp on the place?  I’ll go ahead and throw in that it’s not Lizard’s Bar and Grill either.  This is a review worth updating.  Here’s a start:  “rad bar and lounge that can please many tastes.”

What about the universally-liked Slingshot?  Even folks from outside the neighborhood like Slingshot.
        “Another once-great bar that’s run downhill, fast…..”

Whoa, whoa, whoa…wait.  Stop right there.  Slingshot…downhill, fast?  Alright, BarFly, you just lost some serious credibility.

Let’s leave it to the locals.  What do you all think?

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13 Responses to BarFly’s Take on Foster

  1. Nicole says:

    Meh. The snark on that site is on par with the WW “newspaper”.

  2. Spiffy says:

    Smokey’s: I’m just not brave enough to go in there… it seems like an “old man’s bar” to me… although there’s no parking lot filled with American pickups (yeah Foster Gardens, I’m looking at you) the place just isn’t inviting at all… oddly they have more bike parking than Slingshot so I’ll probably man-up and go in some day…

    Bar Carlo: my first favorite on Foster because of great breakfast with vegan options at noon… they’ve evolved a lot over the years to really define themselves… yeah, I miss the pool and shuffleboard tables, but I like the extra seating now that it’s more popular… remember when they had a Nintendo you could play in the dumpy easy chair in the back? who cares if they’re not open past 10pm? walk across the street in any direction to keep drinking later…

    O’Malley’s: I only recently started going here and I agree that it’s a friendly place… for some reason it was a little off-putting just passing by but once inside I felt much more comfortable…

    Gemini Lounge: the other “lounge” on the strip definitely seems to be doing better that its predecessors but certainly shouldn’t be defined by them… decent food, and more bar than Carlo is…

    Slingshot: did they even go in there? that place couldn’t be more uphill… since adding the back patio they went from cool to awesome… a solid main room with a game room that alternates artist’s work…

    • Give Smokey’s a go…even if just to take in a dying breed of bars in Portland.

      As for Bar Carlo, I, too, miss the Nintendo. And as long as they’re the only ones doubling as a proper restaurant, they get a thumbs up here.

      The others? All good in my book. Pizza, grinders, and pool at O’Malley’s (kids are welcome before 9, too); good vibe and cocktails at Gemini; and the bar that would do well in any neighborhood—Slingshot.

      And the list goes on…but perhaps that’s another post.

  3. Rhonda says:

    Slingshot burgers are amazing!

  4. maushard says:

    All these bars absolutely degrade the quality of life along and near Foster Avenue. This street is used as a dumping ground for liquor licenses within the city limits. We will be so much better when these establishments are gone for good. There is nothing remotely beneficial about these watering holes for the alcohol addicted among us.

  5. Wishdish says:

    O’Malleys: have to give my love for the foosball table. They use to have two! There are other great reasons to like O’Malleys.

    BarCarlo: Although I haven’t been very often its worth mentioning I’ve enjoyed it. I wasn’t around for the Nintendo; or maybe didn’t notice. Do they still have neighborhood meetings?

    Slingshot: I always hear good news about slingshot and the improvements have made them awesome @Spiffy

    Gemini Lounge: The ladies seem to recommend this place quite a bit. Cool.

    Can’t wait for the street renovations. Should be an opportunity for businesses to diversify and the neighborhood to be more comfortable on Foster.

  6. Sia says:

    As someone who has sampled much SE Foster’s offerings, I will say that if you disagree with the assessments you can always put up your own review on BarFly. Some are older reviews. And also for those of you that are into reviews. . .Yelp the hell out of places you like. And the people I talk to in these places along SE Foster are pretty appalled by the coming “improvements” And the snark about folks east of 82nd who travel via car down SE Foster. . . . .really, dude? Come on . . . .

    • Appalled? That’s not the sense I’ve gotten. Not even close…unless it’s folks concerned about travel times. Then again, that’s well beyond the point of this post.

      As for the snark, it’s not directed at the drivers. Rather it’s a poke at current road design, configuration and general aesthetic.

      Sorry if this somehow offended you.

  7. We have some great places to go in Foster Powell. Have you tried Tortalandia? How about NWIPA? They could be included in the article since they included Bar Carlo. How about DaHui? I love the individual nature of the night spots in the area. There is a new place on Foster at about 59th….not sure what it is, but it doesn’t look like a “dive”. I’d go to any of the above spots and feel the flavor of our unique, improving, and “full of potential” FOPO area.

  8. All great places that you mention, Robert. And depending on the day/night, they’ve all been a favorite of mine at some point. Is the new place at 59th Nayar Taqueria?

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