Episode 5: Steinhaus (June 8, 2018)...For Tony...

Anthony Bourdain...a fellow enthusiast gone too soon, but never forgotten. 

On Friday, June 8, 2018 we lost our muse. And it really hurt.

Our previously scheduled History by the Glass visit to Steinhaus in NE Portland went on as planned that night, but took on a special significance as we mourned the loss of our philosophical patron.

Anthony Bourdain never met us and, of course, never knew about this journey through Portland's most venerable drinking establishments. But I'd like to think, if he'd somehow learned of it, that he might've given us a quick nod of approval and lifted his glass in appreciation of our Quixotic mission.

Over the past week, I've learned how far from alone I am in my appreciation of Tony Bourdain and how many others there are like me who experienced his profound impact on our world view. To see the outpouring of mourning and personal testimonials from friends and celebrities, both expected and unexpected, has been quite uplifting. It gives me hope that there just might be enough of us on to keep this planet spinning along in some measure of harmony.

While I'm still shocked and stunned by his sudden and self-determined departure, it's hard to find the words to adequately express my appreciation for Tony's role in illuminating this path to world exploration -- be it 5,000 or five miles from home.

I was inspired by his relentless pursuit of human connection, even in the most unlikely places. He was earnest and authentic in his passion for the places many casual observers would dismiss as "ordinary" or "obsolete."

From Tony, I learned to be unafraid of being weirdly creative...and that even in the midst of darkness or cynicism, there was room for biting humor and a little laughter. Certainly that served us well last Friday as we celebrated and mourned.

There was simply none better than Tony at sharing the immense joy of travel and the deep, even if momentary, connection to people and places that moving outside of one's comfort zone creates. And of course he did it while only showing the iceberg's tip of his personal pain, for better or for worse.

Despite what your #wanderlust friend's Instagram feed might tell you, there is no cure-all for feelings of sadness and inadequacy. Even somebody who seemed to have it all and experienced the best sights, sounds, and smells our world has to offer was left wanting and, ultimately, empty.

I wish we could've helped him find his way back to the surface for a few more trips around the sun, but now we forge ahead on our own.

This blog and this quest is all about two honorable fools (and hopefully more of their friends) attempting to discover, become reacquainted with, and embrace the often underappreciated places that make our city and neighborhoods and lives wonderful...before they're confined to history or urban legend.

It's about the moment that occurs when the second or third drink goes down and you start melting into the ambiance and living history of whatever place you're in. You become a part of the affable din -- slipping in and out of conversation that can be alternatingly interesting, funny, nonsensical, cringe-worthy, maybe even borderline menacing, but yet always a bit magical in the end.

We wouldn't be here doing this if it weren't for Tony. At the end of the day, he inspired me to move...discover...indulge my curiosity...appreciate the unknown, the foreign...and celebrate the unique.

I'll never ever stop. I'll never forget. And I'll never quit believing in the transformational beauty of this worldview. It's worth fighting for and doggedly pursuing as often as possible.

Go forth and seek out connection and joy. Overcome the mental, philosophical, and physical walls before you and discover an appreciation of ALL our fellow humans -- different and certainly flawed as we all are.

Through the mutual pleasure of tasting, imbibing, savoring, talking, and smiling, everything is possible. Viva Tony.

Steinhaus | NE Portland

Not Pictured: Motionless guy in parking lot playing Rush on unseen body speaker for all to hear. 

Established: 1963

First Drinks: "Mystery Beer"...dark and Germanic in nature...$5 for a 1/2 liter...a tip o' the cap to Steinhaus for being(allegedly) one of the first in Portland to serve "dark" beer back in the days when taverns only had one domestic lager/pilsner on tap (and you liked it)
That dark beer all the hipsters were drinking in the late '60s! 

Second Drink: Normally not anything we'd note, but NPG spontaneously comes up with a new method to reduce the decision-making curve...roll one die and whatever it lands on is what you order...it results in a raspberry lime brew for Nate, who immediately asks for a redo...the bartender is so excited about the mystery dice concept that she allows it.

Men's Room:  4/5 urinal pucks (rock solid effort, checking a lot of the boxes into what makes a memorable lavatory...no doorknob, narrow door, geometrically irregular ceiling, great view of the street through jail-like window, AND soap in condiment squeeze bottle)
Given the choice, I'm going squeeze bottle soap each and every time. 

From the minute we stepped out of the car in blue collar SE PDX, we knew the Steinhaus was just what we needed on a damp, melancholy night. It was slightly battered, but well cared for and unique without being pretentious or twee. And while not a time capsule, it knew and understood its history.

Immediately we encountered a mystery person in the parking lot, standing under an umbrella, facing away and never turning to look at us (like a bizarro Morton's Salt Girl), and playing Rush loudly from an unseen speaker. It was a great omen.

Originally opened as Steinhaus back in the '60s, this joint went through a variety of identities over the decades, including Agenda (a music venue), Assets (a strip club where a dancer once absent-mindedly wore flip-flops on stage), and some misguided place called Bananas. It was re-dubbed Steinhaus (2.0) in 2011.

The fact that our friendly bartender shared all of this history with us spoke incredibly well of the caliber of the establishment. Later, we got a sneak peek at a couple different sheets of the staff's "Bartender Bingo" cards and when we left, we were bid an incredibly warm, sincere farewell like we were actual friends. A true joy.

Here's hoping "drunken bar anthropologists pop in" is the next square added to Bartender Bingo!


  1. I find myself thinking I'm sorry that Tony had to eat that harthog's rectum. Wish he'd said no to that, put himself first but admire his dedication to causing his hosts no offense wherever he went. Wish his life had brought him more joy. Glad you are doing the enjoying in his honor.

  2. Thanks Ma. I think you can take comfort that he did his show 100% the way he wanted to do it with minimal corporate oversight during his final CNN run. They had several wonderful No Reservations episodes on the Travel Channel, but the CNN work was really his legacy on screen. I appreciate you reading! (as if you had a choice)


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