Lulu and I have a Sunday night ritual here in Newport. After I get done with my afternoon shift at the Aquarium we stroll over to Hoover's Bar & Grill for a couple of beers and dinner. Hoover's is about a 10 minute walk from the boat and is the only tavern on this side of the bridge. We first went there a couple years ago when we brought Siempre Sabado down from Anacortes. At the time the draw was a.) it was close, and b.) it wasn't an upscale "fern" bar. Over the years we've come to really prefer the places that might be dubbed "dive" bars but that we prefer to call "locals" bars. These are the places that look a little down at the heels and might even be considered a little too scary for respectable folks to enter. When we first lived in Silverton, we went to the Wooden Nickel Tavern. At the time, several long-time Silverton residents warned us that it was a dangerous place to go. It sounded like we were just asking to get knifed if we darkened their doorstep. But we went anyway and found it was nothing of the kind. It was just a low-key, frinedly, economical place to have a couple of beers and maybe a burger and fries. Ironically, today the Wooden Nickel is one of Silverton's main eating establishments, attracting everyone from the old crowd to teetotalers and blue hairs looking for a good deal on prime rib.
Several years ago, when we were heading to Cape Lookout for a camper weekend, we decided we needed some dinner before we reached the campground. We tend to prefer taverns for eating to restaurants and so, when we saw the "101 Camp" tavern just outside Beaver, Oregon, we figured we might as well stop. Now this place looks like the kind of place that outsiders shouldn't stop at. Its dingy and rundown exterior spoke of bar fights and pool table rapes. But we knew that looks are almost always deceiving in these cases and stopped in anyway. It was definitely a locals' place. We were the only people sitting at a table but that was mainly because the bar was full of local house painters, loggers, carpenters, etc. Everybody was drinking beer and having a non-threatening good time. The funniest moment of the evening was when an older lady at the bar, obviously an owner, in reaction to some pretty salty language ( you know, "f*ck this" and "motherf*cker that") that was taking place at the bar among the locals shouted, "Hey! Let's take it easy on the 'motherf*ckers'! We have guests!" Completely cracked us up and melted any ice that might have been lurking around our presence. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and they had the absolute best burgers we may have ever had. No frozen Costco patties here, these were hand-pressed from genuine high quality ground beef.
Anyway, here in Newport Hoover's has become our bar of choice. Oh sure, we like the ambiance and the free peanuts at the Sandbar. And, when we have the boat hauled out at the River Bend Boat Yard we'll enjoy becoming reacquainted with the folks at The Mad Dog Tavern. But our hearts belong to Hoover's. There's Deb, the bartender with the softest heart of gold you ever saw. Then there's Richard, the cook, who doesn't even flinch when we ask for something special like grilled onions and mushrooms on our ribeye steak. Of course we have the regulars: Chris, whose health we worry about; Dave who likes to make cookies and would really like to find a worthy foosball opponent; Suzanne and Ken who have great stories about their boats, and the places they've been and the things they've done; Beth who owns a used baby clothes consignment store and plays guitar and sings occasionally at Sunday night's open mike; and, of course, our old buddy Roger. There are others but, frankly, I just don't know everyone's name.
What is it we like about these places? First it's the really friendly people we find. Oh sure, there are always some buttholes that one has to endure, but they exist anywhere. But these places that are a little lower down on the economic scale just seem to have a friendlier, more family-like atmosphere than the fancier places. At least if you give them a chance. Then there is the 10 oz. ribeye for $10.95 and, on Sundays, draft Pabst Blue Ribbon pounders are only $1.00. And you just can't bet a deal like that.
So, if you happen to be in Newport on a Sunday evening, stop by Hoover's and we'll buy you a beer. Hell, at $1.00 each, we'll buy you two.
(Credit goes to Matt Love of Newport for the photo. The one I took from the bus this morning was out of focus. Matt's a kindred spirit as you'll see if you read his book, "Super Sunday in Newport".)