At first glance, the Davis Street Tavern seems like the kind of place that a scruffy, dirt-poor college student has no business frequenting. The interior has the sort of Northwestern rugged-yet-exceedingly-expensive look so popular in the restaurants of the foodie-sphere.
A patio to die for
At first glance, the Davis Street Tavern seems like the kind of place that a scruffy, dirt-poor college student has no business frequenting.
The interior has the sort of Northwestern rugged-yet-exceedingly-expensive look so popular in the restaurants of the foodie-sphere. There is art for sale on the wall that carries four and five-figure price tags. The seasonal menu features items like apple, turnip and cheddar fritters with cumin-scented kale and masa harina. Clearly, this is a space designed for those already in possession of their college degrees.
At least, that’s what it seems like at first glance.
Faced with some beautiful warm and sunny weather in recent weeks, I felt myself compelled to find dinner and drinks somewhere with a patio. Walking past Backspace and the Someday Lounge, I discovered that Davis Street Tavern has, conveniently, all three.
It was something out of an Animal Planet television special on Portland, the way myself and other passing 20-somethings stopped, noticed the patio and hesitated, trying to figure out if this was some kind of yuppie trap. One by one, or sometimes in groups of two or three, we would cautiously approach the menu hanging outside by the door, examining it for signs of overt costliness. While most left, my food-adventurer friend and I decided to give it a try.
The secret to eating cheaply here is the “Tavern” menu and its subsequent offspring, the happy hour menu. Unlike the dinner menu (itself, a reasonably priced rainbow of fresh produce and standard meat offerings), the Tavern menu at Davis Street is a selection of typical bar fare with some creative twists. Instead of a cheese and bread plate, Davis offers an artisanal cheese plate complete with pistachio brittle, apples and honeycomb. Calamari comes not with marinara sauce, but a green chili hollandaise, and so on. Even with these unusual additions to the standard bar menu, prices are $10 and under for everything listed.
The happy hour menu pulls several items from the Tavern menu and cuts the price of each down to $5. Happy hour beer selections are $2-3 and wines are $5-6. Between the two of us, we had two beers, one glass of organic wine, a happy hour portion of oysters in the half shell ($5 for 3 with a tangy cucumber, shallot and roe topping), the strip loin burger (complete with braised pork belly, sharp cheddar cheese, tomato jam and pickled veggies on the side) and a bratwurst sandwich for $26.
And yes, it was all fantastic.
The sauerkraut on the bratwurst tasted homemade, as did the pickled vegetable salad that came with the burger. The veggies tasted fresh and clean, complimenting their respective meats perfectly. While my burger (which I admittedly ordered done “medium”) did come out a little on the dry side, it was all-in-all satisfying and delicious. I have definitely had better burgers in Portland, but not this close to campus and for $5.
The staff was friendly and attentive, giving us plenty of time to look over the menu, but not leaving us stranded without water or refills on beer when we needed them. If you’re looking for a change of pace from the porch at Paccini’s and want a light dinner with your beer, Davis Street Tavern is a solid choice.